Local couple’s yards have become garden ‘system’

·3 min read

As the weather warms, many Hatters have begun planting home gardens. One Medicine Hat couple’s garden not only beautifies their front and backyards, it also provides them with fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the summer and early fall.

Since purchasing their home in 2003, Brent and Kellie Smith have designed a sustainable home garden system, which produces between 10 to 20 per cent of the produce their family eats. The garden, which fills much of their outdoor property, includes a geothermal greenhouse and underground water reserves.

Brent, an environmental land reclamation program and agro-ecology program co-ordinator at Medicine Hat College, was first inspired to develop the garden after taking part in a permaculture design course, which focused extensively on sustainability.

“We should be trying to do as much as we can, within our yard, our neighbourhood and our city to produce energy and to grow food,” Brent said. “These are the kinds of things, I think, society is going to have to do if we want to be sustainable in the future.

“Just look at food prices. That food keeps us alive. And food prices are going to continue going up for, I think, the next couple of decades at least. People need to be ready for paying more for food, but also for energy.”

While Brent admits the garden isn’t exclusively able to feed their family, it provides a large yield, reduces waste from produce packaging and transport and promotes locality.

The garden was also designed so all aspects work in tandem.

“It’s a system really,” Kellie said. “Everything functions together, whether it’s something creating shade or something creating vertical height to grow things up. We have ground covers and nitrogen fixers. We compost all of the yard waste. We collect all of the water coming off the house.”

Kellie and Brent say a lot of planning went into the garden – especially in its first few years, but now requires little effort to prepare each spring. In fact, they say harvesting often takes more time then planting.

This year’s garden will include tomatoes, pumpkins, bell peppers, onion, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, peas, basil, dill, pears, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, arctic kiwis, several varieties of grapes, Saskatoon berries, rhubarb pawpaws and more.

While Brent and Kellie are supportive of anyone who is considering turning their front or backyards into gardens, they say it is helpful to do research and some planning beforehand.

“In terms of building a garden, it can be as simple or as complicated as you want,” Brent said. “(But you have) to be aware of what you’re planting.”

Kellie says to plan practically.

“I think the biggest advice for people starting a little garden is plant what you’ll eat,” she said. “Also look at like companion planting. What benefits each other? What’s harmful to each other? Just some quick research.”

Their final tip? Mulch and lots of it, as it helps keep the water from evaporating.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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