Sure growing your own food is trendy, but it’s also a lot of work. It takes careful planning, dedication, maintenance and not to mention time. A lot of Albertans don’t see the value in planting and growing their own food, because we have such a short growing season.
While this may be true there are some tricks that will help you grow an abundance of fresh fruit
and vegetables even when a
short growing season threatens your prospects.
The ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen team
ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen’s team is filled with enthusiastic gardeners, with true passion for the garden to table concept. We spoke to chef instructor and avid gardener Jessica Willott who was happy to provide us with some tips to have the vegetable garden of your dreams in your own Albertan backyard.
- Plan ahead – research what grows in your zone. Check out Plant Maps, they use historical climate data and cover all of Alberta, which ranges from Zone 2a to 5b. Once you know your zone, visit Gardening Canada and sort by zone to help determine what grows well.
- Understand your growing season – most seed packets will say when to start them inside and when to plant them outdoors. Start more delicate herbs inside and keep them inside for 3-4 weeks before planting them in the garden. Delicate plants like thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, dill, kale, arugula, mixed lettuces, nasturtiums (edible flowers), and beet greens should be started indoors due to our cooler climate.
- Plan your storage method and what you plan to do with your surplus – Storing herbs is simple. Tie them in a bundle and hang them to dry, or put them in a dehydrator. You can also make pesto, or freeze them by pureeing with olive oil and portioning into in ice cube trays, this way they are easy to add to soups or pasta. You can also preserve your bounty by canning or preserving. For tested methods on preserving, visit our Preserving How-to page.
- Planting – Whether you are starting your crops indoors or outdoors make sure you have moist soil and a sunny warm place. If you are starting your crops indoors, we suggest keeping them indoors for 3-4 weeks until they are hearty enough to survive outside.
- Water once a day or every couple of days depending on your location.
- Use a little bit of fertilizer, or bone meal – an organic alternative.
- Pull out weeds around your crops regularly.
- If your garden is exposed, you may need to use netting to keep bugs, birds, and rodents at bay. Sprinkling cayenne pepper around your crops is also a great trick.
- Trim or prune your plants if they grow too big or get too heavy.
- Ensure your crops have proper sunlight exposure.
Whatever you choose to plant in your garden, we hope these tips help you achieve your goals and the vegetable garden of your dreams!
- Harvesting – try and harvest everything before the first frost. Keep carrots, potatoes, and onions in a dry, dark cool place so they last longer.
- Discover your plants growing companions – Many plants grow better when they are planted next to a growing companion, for example basil and parsley grow well together because they both love moisture. To learn more about growing companions, check out Gardening Know How’s website.
- Getting the garden ready for next year – scoop up any bulbs that you can save for the following year and store them in a dry,temperate place. Remember if you leave them in the ground, they will likely die. Pull out anything that is dying and clean out your garden for next year. Also be sure to remove the watering handle from your hose and store your gardening tools properly and your seeds in a dry place. Some herbs might survive if you transplant them indoors.