With spring just around the corner, it is time to talk about gardening. There are many different kinds of things you can garden: Herbs, vegetables, fruit, flowers…illicit substances.. There are many different types of gardens too. However, we have lost many options within the city. Rooftop gardens are slowly coming back into favor, but there are very few of them nowadays. I am tempted to build a rope ladder and balance precariously on my balcony railing just to plant a rooftop garden all of my own. The thought of fresh homegrown vegetables makes my mouth water. What is it about homegrown food that tastes so much better than store bought? Maybe it is the fact that you actually get to eat the fruit of your own labour. Or maybe it is the lack of preservatives.
Many people don’t realize that garden plants grow better if you seed them inside first, and then transplant them into the garden as adolescent plants. But what do you plant when? It is important to know what your gardening zone, or hardiness zone is before you plant. Your zone will determine when you should plant, and what will grow. Here in Alberta we are Zone 3, which is fairly cold, so we cannot grow a lot of tropical plants without a greenhouse. Here are some basic gardening tips and some knowhow, based on cooler growing climates:
Be sure to get the approximate final frost date for your area. And be specific. The frost dates can differ greatly within just a few kilometers. The approximate last frost day for Edmonton is May 10th, but out at the Edmonton International Airport it is May 24th. These average dates do not guarantee that there will not be frost after that date.
There are some creative ways to take advantage of small available spaces. You can use multiple sets of layered netting to up your yields of peas, beans and other vines. For potatoes, you can try layering tires in a stack. Take one and fill it with good dark soil and plant a few eyes. As the plants sprout up and are ready to be hilled, put another tire on top of it and fill it with mulch. Allow the plant to grow through and repeat the process. By the end of the season you should have a whole tower of potatoes. For bushes like tomatoes, you can place them in a hanging peat net pot and allow it to grow from all sides.
Co-op gardens can be a very good way to utilize unused lots in neighbourhoods. Contact your neighbours with the idea of converting that empty lot down the block into a co-op garden, and go to the city council to get approval. Everyone pitches in on the weeding, watering, and general upkeep, and at the end of the season you all split up the harvest, sit back and enjoy!