Gardening Tips

How can I start the growing season?

 

  • Make a list of some of your favorite vegetables, herbs, and flowers. It’s fun to grow what you enjoy eating, and you’ll enjoy eating what you have grown yourself.
  • Do some reading about the plants that are on your list. Are they cold weather or warm weather plants? Are they suited to our climate (hardiness zone)? Are they shade- or sun-loving plants? How long will it take before you can harvest them? You can find detailed information about a wide range of vegetables in this useful how-to-grow guide (the link takes you to another website).
  • How challenging are they to grow? Will they require special soil amendments, trellises, etc.?
  • Measure your garden plot. Draw your 4’ X 8’ (32 sq. ft. of planting space) on a piece of paper. Plan where you plan to put the plants. Some gardeners follow the planting instructions on the seed packet, some don’t.

Should I plant seeds, seedlings, or a combination?

 

  • Those who plant in small spaces (VCG plots, containers) may prefer to seedlings because they can buy 1 or 2 varieties in small quantities (singles, 4- or 6-pack). Another advantage of seedlings is they have been outdoors where they’ve hardened.
  • Some prefer to start seeds indoors. Allow 6-8 weeks before outdoor planting if you do this.

What seeds or seedling should I buy?

 

You can find the list of veggies and their varieties that grow well in Calgary here on the Community Crop website. This list of cold-hardy vegetables can also be useful.

Hybrids or heirlooms?

 

Both have advantages, of course, and you can plant both kinds of vegetables.

Heirlooms Hybrids
are adapted to the soil and climate of the area in which they have been successfully grown by generations of growers are usually genetically modified varieties
typically was grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides engineered to exhibit certain traits, such as resistance to certain diseases or to have larger and blemish-free fruits
you can collect and plant their seeds you cannot collect and plant their seeds
preferred by organic gardeners

Where can I get seeds and seedlings?

 

Garden centers, e.g., Sunnyside, Golden Acres, Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Superstore, other such outlets are convenient sources. Many organic gardeners go to Seedy Saturday held at the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Centre usually in April. This is a place for seed exchanges and for buying good quality heirloom seedlings and seeds.

What about my soil?

 

  • Vegetables require more nutrient-rich soil so it is highly recommended to add organic material to your veggie beds once a year. It can be aged compost, manure, etc.
  • The soil should drain well so as not to have the roots drowning in water. It should, however, hold enough moisture so you don’t have to water your plants frequently to keep them alive.
  • Remember, raised beds tend to dry faster than in-ground beds. Therefore, you may need to water more often if you have a raised bed, but not as often if your soil holds moisture. Adding compost can help in this, too.
  • pH, a measure of alkalinity and acidity, is also important. Most plants can grow reasonably well at the Varsity Community Garden.

Should I put a layer of mulch?

 

  • Mulch is good.
    • Mulch reduces water evaporation caused by the wind and the sun.
    • It improves soil fertility, structure, and water retention.
    • It increased biological activity, eliminates dirt splash and disease associated with it.
  • Mulches can also have disadvantages:
    • Some have weed seeds and pests,
    • Some prevent the soil from warming up faster in the spring.
  • A layer of 5 cm or more can protect and nourish the soil. No-dig gardeners apply as much as 15 cm or more.

What can be used as mulch in vegetable beds?

 

  • Straw, grass clippings, strips of newspaper covered with dirt, leaves, sheep manure can be used as mulch on veggie beds.
  • Bark and sawdust are not recommended for veggie beds, but good around the beds.
  • You can read more about different kinds of material used as mulch here.

Some general guidelines

 

  • Put up a personalized sign with your name and garden logo to indicate whose plot we’re admiring.
  • Plant just enough vegetables to consume and to share. Waste not.
  • Exchange surplus harvest with your fellow-gardeners. You’ll come home with more variety of produce than you personally grew.
  • Rotate your crops to prevent disease.
  • Offer to water your neighbour’s plants when they go on holidays.
  • Don’t shade your neighbour’s sun-loving plants with trellises and tall plants.
  • Keep your plot neat and weed-free.
  • Take pictures of your garden.
  • Take notes to remember what worked and what didn’t.

Your garden plot is not just a garden. It’s part of a community garden! We all have the opportunity to share the joys of gardening with friends and family by sharing seeds, seedlings, harvest, recipes, stories, and know-how. Have fun!