When To Plant And Cultivate A Garden in Edmonton
Gardening is coming back into vogue again. Partially because it is one way to cut down your food costs, provide nourishing food for your family, and it is the single most defiant, non violent act of revolution.
Seasoned gardeners know when to plant, what to plant where, how to get maximum production and when to harvest their gardens. Those of us who are just getting into this adventure, don't have this kind of experience. Being as how I am one of those, and last year was my very first gardening experience in Northern Alberta, I discovered there was a lot to learn.
Spring tends to come much later in the Edmonton area then it does to our more southerly neighbors, so starting plants indoors is the best bet unless you want to spend a fortune buying those same plants from a greenhouse. You'll need good potting soil, individual planting containers, preferably the kind that decompose so it makes your life easier, a shovel, a trowel, a rake, a hoe and a pitchfork for a start. A wheelbarrow is very handy as I discovered, so look for a second hand one since these can be quite costly.
If you haven't gardened before, mark of a plot ( or more than one plot) in your yard that you will be converting to garden. Gardens don't have to be square, they can be any shape you like, just make sure you leave enough room to access all the plants in the center from the edges if you aren't having rows. (you don't need to have rows by the way - that's actually a waste of good growing space) If you don't have a roto tiller, there are plenty of guys on kijiji that will come and till up your garden plot for you for a small fee which is always much less then the cost of a tiller, or a hacked off foot when you don't know what you're doing. Once the frost is out of the ground, till up the earth, removing any grass clumps and weeds after it's tilled. You can also add your fertilizer (preferably organic manure rather then chemical) and till that into the soil. Then rack it so it's nice and smooth. Mark out where you will plant what, and arrange it so the taller plants are in the center or back. Beans, peas and other vine vegetables should be planted near the fence where nothing more than some chicken wire will give them something to cling to, and it makes a really pretty edible backdrop in your yard too.
Your seeds should be started indoors in Late March so they are ready for transplanting outside in May. Traditionally, the long weekend in May (Victoria Day Weekend) is considered the best time to plant your garden. That seems to be the safest date for not having to worry about another snow fall or heavy frost, (although nothing is guaranteed).
Make sure you can reach every corner of the garden with a hose. I prefer soaker hoses as less water hits the top of the plants and evaporates in the sun with those. Plus, once you've laid them down, you don't have to worry about stepping on anything to move the hose. This is a good way to recycle broken hoses. You can piece them together with duct tap or special connectors. Turn the kids loose with a hammer and a nail to poke holes in them. It will keep them busy and give them a part in the garden they will enjoy.
Our friends over at the Old Farmers Almanac have created a handy guide for planting and which plants should be planted when. Just go here and put in your information http://gardenplanner.almanac.com/gardenplanner/gardenplanner.html#
During the summer you won't be buying lettuce, spinach, carrots, peas, broccoli , caulifower or cabbage if you've planted them in your garden. Tomatoes and potatoes come later, but they're so delicious it's worth the wait. Believe me, once you've picked a tomato ripe straight off the vine, and had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into it' sun bathed warmth, you'll be spoiled for life. That alone should start your gardening addiction. Don't worry about growing too much, you can always share your bounty with those who haven't discovered the joy of gardening yet or who cannot grow a garden. Take some over to the Seniors Residence, or the food bank. No one ever turns down garden fresh produce.
If you don't have garden space, there are literally hundreds of creative ideas for planters. We'll be going over some of these in future posts so stay tuned. For now...check out these to give you some ideas.
Having your own garden reconnects you with the earth which too many of us, especially in the inner city have lost touch with. The deep sense of accomplishment when you know you are providing the highest quality food that you grew with your own hands and love for your family is a reward that cannot be replaced.
Happy gardening! Welcome to the fertile revolution!