Recently, I was watching a young British television chef known for his irreverent style and “brilliant” food (you know who I mean), and he was cooking up some glazed Chantenay carrots. These carrots are short and stubby, about six inches (15 cm) long, and 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) wide at the shoulder. Chantenays are good for growing in rocky ground because their flesh is concentrated toward the top and they don’t extend down very far into the soil. They’re ideal for growing in containers and in shallow garden soil, the kind of growing conditions that might be encountered in urban gardens. And that’s when a new idea began to take shape.
I’ve been thinking about city gardening, and remembering the true joy that came from a civic allotment plot I once shared with my friend Marianne. Our space was 10 x 15 feet (3 x 4.5 m), and we planned every square inch to accommodate successive sowings of vegetables. Growing food plants in urban conditions is always challenging, because space is at a premium and the available soil may be in poor condition. Many city gardeners have persevered to rebuild their soil and grow successful food crops, and I have to admire their ability to grow beautiful organic vegetables in less than ideal circumstances.
I’ve really caught their enthusiasm, and will be taking some online continuing education courses in sustainable urban crop production this autumn and winter, offered through the University of Guelph Office of Open Learning. You can see more about this program and a similar one on sustainable urban horticulture at urbanhort.ca. (Another intriguing course is an introduction to woodland ecology, if you happen to have your own woodlot.)
Whatever your gardening interest, I hope you’ll consider taking a course someplace this coming season. There is more information about plants and growing than we can ever know, and we should always strive to keep learning. If you want to order seed for Chantenay carrots next season, look for ‘Chantenay Red Cored’ (veseys.com), ‘Royal Chantenay’ (westcoastseeds.com), and ‘Danvers # 126’ (damseeds.ca).
Other posts this week by Judith Adam:
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