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Naomi The Sunflower

Picture of Naomi Pahl

McCauley Gardener Naomi Pahl

What is your name and how did you get into gardening?

My name is Naomi and I have been gardening with my parents since I was a child. One of the reasons we moved into McCauley during the boom of 2007, was because this house was one of the only options(in our price range) that had a percentage of its land in the backyard, facing south. This lot, in my mind’s eye, was a potential urban homesteader’s paradise.

When we moved into our home in the middle of June, even though I was pregnant at the time, I was determined to plant a late garden. Instead of cutting sod and amending the soil, I flipped over a bunch of old patio stones, ripped up the quack infested plastic barrier and armed with vague childhood memories of planting gardens with my parents, I sewed that 8×6 foot plot with dollar store seeds. Within weeks we were reaping its juicy green benefits.
I was hooked.
I’ve had a garden ever since. More and more of my yard has lost grass and gained fruit and vegetables. What once was an overgrown forest of burdock, quackgrass, heritage lilacs and rose bramble bushes, is finally taking shape and producing vegetables, fruit and medicinal herbs.

What’s your favourite thing about gardening?

What’s not my favourite thing about gardening?!?!  🙂

Besides almost free food!?!

picture of different produce that has come from the garden.

I will try to succinctly share one of my other favourite aspects: 🙂

Gardening is therapy for me. As Audrey Hepburn opined, “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” There is something very hopeful in the act of growing and nurturing the food that in turn, grows and nurtures us. Gardening, if done sustainably is a symbiotic practise that connects us with our environment. It is an incredible way to get vitamin D, fresh air and exercise. There are a ton of other benefits as I outlined in a gardening post on my website entitled: Why You Need to Grow a Garden, and I would encourage everyone to grow something somewhere.

Picture of feet in a garden next to a basket of freshly picked beans. Text overlay: "Grow Something."

What makes McCauley a great gardening neighbourhood?

Some of the cities first ‘home gardens’ were grown here in McCauley after our Fort became a city in 1894 and a large number of settlers built houses around the train tracks located here. These immigrants brought seeds and knowledge from their home countries and shared with their neighbours, and that tradition continues to this day.

One of the first interactions I had after moving into our tiny house, was with my neighbour Qwong. He brought over a handful of squash seeds within minutes of seeing me plant my first garden. My friend, Momma Tony, who lived 2 doors down, showed me the correct homegrown tomatoes and herbs to use in her famous spaghetti sauce.

The more I immerse myself in Edmonton’s vibrant gardening culture, the more I realize that McCauley can become a beacon for what food sustainability looks like on the community level. We have 8 community gardens, and a big portion of McCauley’s residents now and in the past, have been cultivating backyard gardens for over 123 years! This community has a strong connection to this land and there is an incredible fountain of knowledge and experience that has been untapped. That’s why I am so excited to help showcase McCauley’s gardens and gardeners!

How would you describe your garden?

I wouldn’t say that I adhere to any kind of gardening philosophy or school of thought in my gardening practice. I like to learn about all different styles and ways of gardening and then choose the methods that suit my situation. My main effort is to produce as much sustainable, organic sustenance from my 1/8 of an acre as I can.

I grow as many varieties of fruit trees and shrubs as I have space available for, and am always planning and scheming about how I can fit more in. I have a large vegetable garden, a large herb garden and large perennial flower/fruit gardens surrounding the perimeter of my lot.

One day I hope to have a mushroom garden as well as raise hens for eggs!
I should also point out that I’m kind of a lazy gardener. If it’s too fussy- I don’t grow it. I got 4 kids and I don’t have a ton of time to devote to just ONE plant! 😉

Picture of child holding freshly harvested garden carrots.

What’s the best gardening advice you’ve received?

A few years back I got a knock on the door from a guy named Dustin who was interested in buying the house next door. As soon as I heard the words “I teach hydro/aquaponics and I’m super into gardening” I knew that I had to make sure he was my neighbour, so later that day I sent him a list of all the fruit trees I had in my yard, trying to entice him with the cross-pollination possibilities!
Luckily for myself and my family, that gardening guy became our neighbour and has been an incredible source of gardening knowledge and inspiration! The best advice he gave me is “MULCH!” I try to mulch every patch of dirt in my gardens- it adds nutrients, keeps down weeds and holds in moisture. It has made gardening SO much easier!!! p.s.( I use whatever free much I can find- typically bags of leaves that I horde in the fall when I go “shopping” in the alleys of our neighbourhood 😉 )

What is your favourite thing to grow?

I really love planting and growing things that can grow and flourish on their own with little maintenance, but provide a big pay off(whether its fruit trees or medicinal herbs, certain veggies). I love perennial flowers and I also really love when annuals reseed themselves- my favourites are sunflowers, squash, marigolds, and calendula!

If you were a plant, what plant would you be and why?

Speaking of sunflowers! 😉 They are resilient. If a seed finds its way into even a tiny amount of dirt, even if it’s a crack in the side of the road, all it needs is a bit of water and a lot of sun, and it will still grow strong and tall. Sunflowers are cheerful and provide nourishment to insects and birds and are prolific at reseeding themselves and spreading their warmth wherever nature plants them.

Where can people find out more about you and your projects?

I run a lifestyle blog called Renaissance Revival, where I talk about some of my passions: art, gardening, upcycling, DIY, mental health awareness, and parenting!

Are you a McCauley Gardener? Know someone else who is? Click here to answer these questions and be featured on Cultivate McCauley.

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