Archive for May, 2013

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, both on the home front, at work (some more writing amongst other things) and in my volunteering capacity as Vice-Chair of the local Canada Green Building Council Chapter.

I’ve spent some time in the back yard this spring. I’ll be honest, it started with merely trying to repair damage to the grass caused by man’s best friend over the winter. I bought some topsoil, some seed, and started watering and looking at the forecast to see when I didn’t need to water.

This went fairly well, as I’ve now got some baby grass sprouts returning to the bare areas. This came as a surprise for me, because I’ve never been able to keep a plant alive. Encouraged, I decided I want to grow some tomatoes and maybe some peppers. My son added raspberries to the list, so now it’s a full-blown project.

After googling “how to grow tomatoes for dummies”, I decided that I’ve only got one location good enough to try this, along the fence. My backyard is on the north side of the house, and features a giant pine on one corner and an oak on the other, so there is a LOT of shade. I’m also dubious as to soil quality, particularly under the pine. Cedars line my neighbours fence, enclosing the yard nicely. A plan forms – build a raised bed, get some compost soil, and a rain barrel to stop using potable water for my backyard project.

A trip to my father-in-law’s and some pleading results in a trip to a City of Toronto compost station and an F-150 full of compost. Soil problem solved.

The home builder was nice enough to leave a pile of extra bricks under the deck, so these have been appropriated to act as walls for the bed. Some rebar pushed into the soil should keep the bed stable. A mason would mock my build quality, but it’ll do. Total cost so far – <$10 for coffees on the drive for compost and an IOU to my father-in-law.


Finally, my rain barrel. Home Depot’s options seemed just a little too pricey, so I started looking through the classifieds, and found, who partners with non-profits to raise funds through truck-load rain barrel sales. For $65, I picked up a barrel, filter, downspout diverter, spigot and overflow hose. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see how much rain will make it into that downspout.

We’ve now planted a couple of transplanted of raspberry bushes and the tomato plants are next.

Most of my other posts have been focused on energy in one way or another, for transportation, home or commercial use. It’s where the majority of my experience lies, although water use and efficiency is related, particularly with green buildings. With this project, I hope to grow some food for our table, teach my son something, while seeing how much water I can actually capture from the roof. I have a second barrel for the front yard, or possibly to add in series to the first.

I won’t pretend to be single-handedly saving Toronto’s storm drains or keeping Lake Ontario full with my 55 gallon rain barrel, but it can’t hurt can it? Canadians are amongst the worst per capita users of water in the world, with residential use averaging 327 litres per person, per day. We don’t need to be.

I will update this post when I succeed (silence will mean I don’t want to admit that I really can’t grow a plant to save my life).

I’m already anticipating those tomatoes and raspberries – and to proving that I can do it with as little potable water as possible.