for the record - our first hail of the year! at least there's not much growing yet to actually get damaged!
don'tcha just love spring in Calgary?
Ack! Considering I just had the first 4 days of decent gardening weather so far this year, it is hard to believe it's amost time to start direct-seeding certain vegetables outside. (Actually I probably could have done it this past week-end if I'd been ready but I wasn't.)
Feeling slightly panicked, I just turned in 180L of vermiculite into my raised veggie beds on Monday, and then ordered some good quality "garden mix" from Western Canada Compost to top them up with this week-end so they are ready to plant. I really should have done this last fall.
I hope to be planting beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach and chard outdoors next week. How 'bout you?
For tips on growing vegetables in Calgary, see my previous posts:
If you would like a beautiful and successful vegetable garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
I had a GREAT holiday week-end, how about you? In honour of Earth day and spending time with family, I didn't turn my computer on over the week-end. I spent lots of time trying new recipes, working in the yard, and hanging out with family. I feel rejuvenated!
So let me fill you in on what I am now calling the 'North Patio Project.' Here's what I did this week-end (snow is still melting today in shady spots and it was generally too wet to walk around the garden):
Friday: french toast for breakfast; started lifting patio bricks around the area where the pergola screen is going go to (I've made some changes to the plan which I will tell you about later - sorry this picture doesn't show it well but essentially there was an awkward triangle of patio bricks between a retaining wall and where the greenhouse used to be - I am digging it up to turn it into garden space); lit a fire in the chimnea and had our first meal outside of the year (BBQed hot dogs and roasted marshamallows - yum!)
My five-year old helped pry an amazing number of bricks up from around this tree! The bricks used to go right up to the base of the trunk and were heaving and always covered with fallen spruce needles and cones - it looked awful! By making a mulched space around the base of the tree, it already looks better and I will have a place to sweep the needles to, making it easier to clean up the patio. I will be lifting a lot more bricks than what is shown here, but at least we made a start!
Saturday: homemade muffins for breakfast; errands in the morning, including a trip to the garden centre to buy vermiculite for the new raised beds (read about how much to add here); a little more brick lifting, plus a trip to the playground in the afternoon!
Sunday: Easter egg hunt!; eggs benny for breakfast; amazingly warm day and started putting the seedlings outside to begin hardening them off; continued lifting bricks and digging out the gravel from underneath; cleaned and set up rain barrels; siblings and their family over for supper, kids running all over the backyard, hooray for being outside!
Monday: I am fortunate to work for a place that makes Monday a holiday too! Perhaps just a little more brick-lifting is in order today. Plus I think I'll walk around the garden and see what's coming up. I tell ya, after a long, snowy winter and no sign of spring until 3 days ago, a few days outside in the yard has me feeling fantastic! What did you do this week-end?
As I sat inside this past week-end staring out at my frozen raised vegetable beds, I at least got time to plan exactly what I am going to put in them once I get the chance... (I'm trying to look on the bright side, here!) Since a few of you recently sent in questions regarding this topic, I thought it was worthy of a post.
Last spring I emptied the contents of my compost bins (which also contained quite a bit of soil) into these raised beds (above) and topped them up with leaves. This spring I will be adding vermiculite, turning them over and then topping them up with good topsoil. According to Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, a good vegetable garden soil should be made up of at least 25% (up to 50%) of soil amendments such as compost or leaf mold. Another good rule of thumb is to add 10 - 20% by volume of coarse vermiculite to a new vegetable garden for good moisture retention - vermiculite is like a sponge.
But once you've prepared your initial soil, how do you keep amending it each year to maximize production? Mel Bartholomew has lots of recommendations. He says (and I agree), "trying to grow crops in any kind of soil without constantly adding organic matter is sheer folloy and a waste of time, no matter how much fertilizer you add to it. On the other hand, to garden in soil that is rich in organic matter but contains no added fertilizer is not only possible but also very practical." He recommends:
Basic, all-purpose fertilizer recipe
High-nitrogen fertilizer recipe
I haven't been nearly as diligent as I should have been in the past and still got decent results, but this year I am vowing to follow his recommendations to try to maximize my harvest. What do you do in your vegetable garden? Please share in the comments section below.
For more tips on growing vegetables in Calgary, see my previous posts:
If you would like a beautiful and successful vegetable garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
I'm running this workshop for the Hort Society - should be tonnes of fun! Hope to see some of you there.
Jun 04, 2011 9:30 - 12:00 at the Society office
Janice will be your garden guide as you and your child help design and plant the “Children’s garden” display garden at the Horticultural Society office. Learn plenty of skills and creative ideas for you to implement in your own garden, and pot up some fun plants to take home with you too!
There's not much happening in my garden yet - the snow hasn't even melted on the shady side of the yard. But I noticed this little weeping pussy willow was starting to open its catkins yesterday. This is a cute little tree I purchased at Safeway last year just for the cuteness of those fuzzy little catkins, and I plunked it in the garden later in the summer, in a fairly shady spot near a downspout (willows are not known for their drought tolerance!)
I just noticed they're for sale again this year so if you're looking for something to perk you up in early spring, head out and pick one up for yourself! (Sorry for the messiness of the background in these pictures, I guess it will be time to head outside and start doing some clean-up soon! Hooray!)
So I volunteered at the Garden Show yesterday afternoon and several of you came by and said hello - thanks and it was so nice to meet you! I definitely had more fun working the Community Gardens booth than I would have had wandering around on my own because I got to chat with so many people.
I must admit, I haven't usually gone to the show in the past. First of all, I hate crowds. The only thing I hate more than crowds is shopping in crowds. Plus I feel like I keep up with all the current gardening trends and information already, and I'm not shopping around for a landscaper, so I didn't feel there was much need to go. I do know that the speakers were all excellent this year and I also heard great things about the workshops. I can also say that it was superbly well-organized. And I will definitely volunteer again.
And it turns out there were quite a few unique and interesting things I saw there that inspired me:
Above: this cute little arbour was one of the prizes from the Hort Society's raffle. I have scaled down my expectations for hubby to build a pergola but I wouldn't say no to this!
Above: These musical water sculptures by Douglas Walker were AMAZING. Not exactly in my budget though...
Above: ...but I did manage to do a little shopping and picked up this pot fountain from Elemental Gift and Garden. I've always wanted one and I thought this one was a deal. I coveted that rain chain too, but I was a good budgeter and passed it up. Maybe next year!
I also picked up a pot of pansies for the front step, two new pairs of gardening gloves, and a free tomato plant as a thank you for volunteering. Score!
I would like to find instructional resources specific to vegetable gardening in Calgary. I live in the far north west and have a small garden on the north side of the backyard that is protected by a fence. I have had reasonable success in the past but I don't seem to be able to get the hang of the timing and then how to properly harvest and not have to eat 15 lbs of carrots in one day before they go wilty. I grow carrots, beets, peas, radishes, strawberries, lettuce nothing crazy. I would also like to know about container gardens for vegetables and even herbs.
You're smart to ask about information for Calgary, because as everyone who gardens here knows, there are some specific things you need to be aware of! But the good news is, gardening here isn't difficult if you know the tricks (and have realistic expectations!) I wrote a post recently Vegetable Gardening in Calgary 101 that has a few important links you could check out.
But for a hard resource, the book The Calgary Gardener by the Calgary Horticultural Society (is not limited to vegetables but) has tonnes of information about timing of planting and techniques for extending the season, etc. I recommend it as a good all-around resource.
Also, the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is extremely useful regarding general gardening techniques and skills that are appropriate anywhere, including planning succession planting so that you don't have everything ready to harvest at once. Even if you don't plan to use a square planting pattern, this book is an excellent resource.
And you are in luck! Donna Balzer and Steven Biggs' new book just came out: Garden Coaches Chat. No Guff. Lots of fun. I haven't seen it yet except for a few page previews and it looks great. Again, not exactly specific to Calgary but Donna does garden here and her perspective comes through.
Hope that helps and happy gardening!
I will be volunteering at the Community Gardens booth at the Garden Show this Sunday from 12:30 to 5:00.
Drop by and say hello!
The full program is available in the Calgary Herald today and also online here.
Here is Jim's answer to the Calgary Gardening question competition sponsored by the Calgary Horticultural Society:
While a wide variety of shrubs and evergreens grow very well within the microclimate of the City of Calgary, the more exposed outskirts can be a challenge.
The first step on the path to any successful garden is to improve the environment for growing shrubs and evergreens. Good soil is the foundation of a good garden—regardless of where you live—so it’s important to ensure there’s plenty of organic matter in the soil. Therefore, compost, well-rotted manure or rich topsoil to your garden is an essential first step.
Keeping the landscape well watered and using that water efficiently is the next critical step. Remember soils with plenty of organic matter hold more water than sandy soils and have less surface run-off relative to clay soils. Watering at the base of trees and shrubs, rather than irrigating overhead, will also get more water to the roots and reduce evaporation loss. And collect rainwater whenever you can. It’s a great free resource!
Lastly, choose tough, drought-tolerant shrubs and evergreens. Some of the toughest are buffaloberry, caragana, Russian olive, sea buckthorn, junipers and mugo pines. Most importantly, remember that gardening is about the experience, so don’t be afraid to try things that might fail. After all, nothing is ever a mistake if you learn from it. Enjoy gardening!
Thanks Jim, thanks Calgary Horticultural Society, and thanks to all you readers for playing! See you at the Garden Show!
A reader recently asked this question in the "ask Jim Hole a question" competition:
"We had such a nice day today in Calgary. I went into the back yard (south facing) and I see that quite a bit of the snow has melted,leaving behind lots of what I think is snow mold. What should I do about it, should I rake it off or what? Because the front is north facing there is still at least 2 feet of snow on that lawn. It is uaually still there into May."
This question didn't win, but fortunately it is easy to answer as two other gardeners recently wrote a post about it! The answer: rake it.
It was tough to choose a winning question from those that you all submitted. They were all good questions and I could sense the pain and frustration in some of your words!
I grouped the questions into several themes:
I was really wishing I had been more specific about the criteria for choosing a winning question, because depending on whether I grouped the questions into broader (and fewer) or narrower (and therefore more) themes, the most frequent question came out differently! But the other criterion was being most relevant to Calgary, and considering that criterion as well I think shrubs and evergreens for tough conditions comes out on top. I think this is an especially great question for Jim because while his What Grows Here books are written for Alberta, we all know Calgary is special and what grows well in say, Edmonton or St Albert, doesn't necessarily grow as well here.
So there you have it! I'll send in the question and post his response in the next few days. Thanks again to everyone for your excellent questions! I am going to answer a few of the others myself over the next few weeks so keep checking back!
Thanks also to the Calgary Horticultural Society for organizing this. See you at the Garden Show next week-end!
It feels like winter will never end at this point, doesn't it? But despite the disgusting weather, I am feeling energized and ready to get going in the garden as soon as opportunity arises (maybe that's because I was in Edmonton this week-end, where it was sunny and the snow was actually melting all weekend!) I will be making some big changes this year and I am getting my plan ready for the whole season to try to make sure I can get it all done: totally rearrange the garden beds in the front yard in preparation for putting in a little patio next year (in May, the best time to move plants), fill and plant up my new raised vegetable garden beds that were built last fall (also May! yikes! things are going to get busy soon!) and build a lattice screen and small patio in the backyard (as soon as I can get hubby moving on this... July perhaps?)
So what needs to be done in April to prepare for all of this?
From the archives:
Other posts you might find useful:
If you would like a beautiful and successful garden that nourishes your body and soul, view My Services for consultation details.
Thanks to everyone who participated this fun giveaway event! And a special thanks to the Calgary Horticultural Society for organizing and supporting this. This post announces the easy part of the contest - picking the winner of the free tickets to the Garden Show next week-end. I used a random number generator to pick................. J. Speers! Congratulations! I will send you an e-mail directly with information on where & when to pick up your tickets.
An announcement regarding the winning question that I will ask Jim Hole to answer on this blog will follow soon... this one will be much harder to choose as they are all so interesting and I wish he could answer them all!