The constant gardener

Brodie Thomas
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La Poile man likes his fruits and veggies homegrown

Cecil Francis of La Poile has discovered the secret to having fresh carrots year-round. The answer lies in the two tubs of mud in his basement.

"When we start pulling our carrots in the fall of the year, we fill those two boxes full of mud, then put them carrots in just like this," he says, plucking a carrot from the tub as if it was in the garden.

Cecil Francis' garden keeps his household going in carrots, beets, rhubarb and strawberries, grown in these repurposed satellite dishes. Photo by Brodie Thomas/The Gulf News

La Poile -

Cecil Francis of La Poile has discovered the secret to having fresh carrots year-round. The answer lies in the two tubs of mud in his basement.

"When we start pulling our carrots in the fall of the year, we fill those two boxes full of mud, then put them carrots in just like this," he says, plucking a carrot from the tub as if it was in the garden.

The stem is still green, and the carrot looks as fresh as anything you would see in September.

The carrots he replants in his basement don't grow during the winter, but they stay alive and are as bright and fresh as the day he picked them.

"They say put them in sand and they'll keep but they'll turn pink," he says. "I don't

know because I haven't tried it."

The stores in this small southwest coast community carry fresh vegetables, but you never know when a shipment will be delayed because of bad weather.

That's one of the reasons why Francis grows his own. He has tried different crops over the years, and has settled on four essentials.

"Strawberries, beets, carrots and rhubarb," he says. "Those are the only things we use."

With spring in the air, Francis is back working in his garden again. He says it's important not to start too early - a lesson he learned the hard way about four years ago.

"I planted those carrots over twice," he recalls. "It came too cold and killed the first lot of seeds. Then we cleaned it up and planted them all over again. You know what? We never got one carrot - that was the first time that ever happened to me."

His garden is hard to miss as you walk along the main road. There are several wood boxes filled with soil, but what catches most people's eyes are the two satellite dishes filled with dirt and propped up off the ground with poles. They look like big white bowls.

"We find they grow better - it's up off the ground so you don't get insects," he says.

He has two types of strawberry plants in the dishes and they come back year after year. One produces berries all through the season, while the other gives better berries but only for a short period of time.

Francis' carrot output is nothing to sneeze at, either. He says he often gets between 2,000 and 3,000 carrots in a season from what looks to be a rather small bed.

He grows enough beets to end up with two cases of bottled beets in the fall. The rhubarb and strawberries are picked as needed over the summer.

As for soil, which is sometimes thin along the rocky coast, Francis mixes his with sand to give it added weight. He says that keeps the mud from drying out and blowing out of his satellite dish planters in the winter.

Other than the mussel shells that turn up in the sand, Francis uses a bit of store-bought fertilizer.

"I buy one bag of fertilizer," he says. "One little bag, about nine kilograms, of 5-10-15.

"The rest of it, Mother Nature takes care of it."

The Gulf News

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  • Susan
    November 24, 2010 - 10:22

    awesome article - there is so much we could be growing here in newfoundland!