How a garden gnome sprouted a garden

It was the thought of throwing away her lawnmower forever that sold Robin Round on a front yard garden. That, and the fact that her Riverdale front lawn used to look like "a total wasteland.

It was the thought of throwing away her lawnmower forever that sold Robin Round on a front yard garden.

That, and the fact that her Riverdale front lawn used to look like “a total wasteland.”

This summer Round and her husband roped in a couple friends to transform their tired-looking front yard into an award-winning vegetable plot.

Round’s garden was one of eight gardens chosen to win a David Suzuki organic gardening contest.

“When I found out Tuesday night, I was just laughing so hard,” said Round.

“The whole reason I entered the contest is because of a picture on the website of David Suzuki as a garden gnome.”

The kitschy garden gnome complete with signature Suzuki glasses and white beard was one of the contest prizes up for grabs.

“I took one look at the garden gnome and thought I had to go for it, it was so hilarious.”

Round began the makeover of her front yard in May, long before her heart was stolen by a wee man in a pointy, red hat and elfin boots.

She already had a garden and a greenhouse nestled in her backyard that grew a combination of vegetables, flowers and herbs, and wanted to add to it.

The front yard was a natural answer.

“The lawn is just wasted space,” she said.

“No one plays on it; the mailman walks across it and my partner is sick of cutting the grass there.”

It took only two hours of work between Round and nine other neighbours to rip up the lawn and lay down a bed of gravel.

Atop of the gravel, Round placed several wooden plant boxes that now cover her front yard.

Round and her partner were worried that their property values would go down as a result of the garden, but they received only positive feedback from neighbours, she said.

And it became a constant topic of conversation.

The neighbours would curiously ask her about the hedge of horseradish hemming her yard and the mailman couldn’t help but comment on the thriving patch of potatoes that reminded him of his home farm in Prince Edward Island.

This year Round harvested several varieties of leafy greens, 15 herbs, edible flowers, and a dozen different vegetables, all of which are grown without pesticides or fertilizers.

Round uses the herbs and flowers to make lotions for an apothecary business she runs.

She gives all of her extra veggies to friends and, each week, drops a bag of food off to Kaushee’s Place, a local women’s shelter.

Food security is an issue that can’t be ignored, especially when you’re living this far North, said Round.

“The produce section right now at the grocery store is empty – it shows how vulnerable we are,” she said.

If the highway were blocked and a shipment of food couldn’t make it up here what would we do, asked Round.

Her garden is part of her “10-metre diet,” a reference to the 100-mile diets made popular by local foodists in Vancouver a couple years ago.

“Just the other night I made a dinner with nine different plants from my garden,” she said.

Round’s visiting friends and relatives were always commenting on how they couldn’t believe she was able to grow anything here.

“It’s not just a frozen wasteland up here,” Round said.

She grew up digging her hands in her father’s garden in Winnipeg so it’s still hard for her to accept that some vegetables, like corn and tomatoes, can’t readily grow here, she said.

“You can’t grow (tomatoes) here worth a damn.”

Learning to adapt and playing to her strengths is something Round has learned to do.

“It’s been really hard work, but I’ve really been reaping the rewards,” said Round

Round was one of eight winners in the third annual, David Suzuki Digs my Garden contest.

More than 3,000 people voted her garden as the top “cool climate” garden.

“The success of the contest reflects a growing movement away from lawn and garden pesticides,” said Jason Curran of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“Both Quebec and Ontario have strong bans in place and many retailers have voluntarily removed dangerous chemicals from their store shelves.”

Although Round never did win the Suzuki-look-alike-gnome, as that prize went to a first-time gardener in Saskatchewan, it was still nice to have her garden recognized, she said.

Contact Vivian Belik at

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