There isn’t much room for Tracey Cook’s children to do cartwheels in their backyard anymore.
The Fairfield resident has transformed her backyard, roughly the size of a school basketball court, into a year-round urban food garden.
“When we moved in, there was a little vegetable plot in the back and the rest was grass,” Cook said. “It was a good place to start. I soon discovered it was something that fed me on all sorts of levels and the garden just grew and grew every year.”
For the last 15 years, Cook has expanded the garden, which now grows garlic, basil, summer squash, lettuce, kale, potatoes, green beans, leaks, cabbage and summer char, raspberries and strawberries, among other things.
She even built a greenhouse nestled in the back right corner to grow tomatoes.
“It’s one place in my life that I feel I can be a producer, not just a consumer,” said Cook, adding she hasn’t bought green beans, potatoes, garlic and basil from the store in years. “It’s a creative thing for me. I just love it. I like growing it and watching it grow. There’s nothing like pulling food from your backyard and putting it right on your table.”
It is definitely a labour of love for the mom of two. She spends several hours a week — first thing in the morning and late into the evening — harvesting, hand watering and planting.
But the benefits far outweigh the time spent tending to the garden.
“It’s become a lifestyle and I couldn’t imagine not doing it,” said Cook, noting in one year they picked 1,200 pounds of produce.
“It’s just a way to be outside and connect with the season and where your food comes from, which is really important. Most of us don’t think beyond the supermarket. It’s good to know where your food comes from.”
Cook’s garden, along with 13 others around Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich and Esquimalt will be on display as part of the first self-guided Urban Food-Garden Tour on Saturday, Sept. 12.
“It’s a community event where people have the chance to get into other people’s food gardens and learn how people are successfully growing food on postage-stamp size lots and great big back lots,” said Elizabeth Vibert, a professor at the University of Victoria and event organizer. “It gives people who already grow food and want to learn more a chance to be inspired by fellow gardeners and also people who are just thinking about it.”
Tickets are $15 and are free for kids 15 and under. They can be purchased at GardenWorks, and Haliburton Community Organic Farm stalls at the Moss St. and Oaklands markets or at the garden entrances on the day.
All proceeds go towards Haliburton and Hleketani Community Garden in South Africa, where women have been growing their food for the past 20 years.
For more information visit vicurbanfoodgardens.wix.com/tour.