Food and Recipes, Gardening, Independence

First Year of Gardening: Part 2

It’s late July now and it is sure feeling like summer! Calgary has had some record amount of sunshine and heat the last few weeks and so our garden is exploding in the color green.

Here’s another 4 things I want to share from my gardening adventures, which is all stuff I wish I knew before we started growing!

5. To Till or Not to Till: That’s the Question

gardeningTilling is simply turning over the soil before planting with the goal of aerating and un-compacting the soil. However, as I said above, the soil creates a very complex system in the ground and by disturbing it too much, it can take away from the benefits this system provides. As long as you keep planting and rotating crops, the roots will do a fantastic job of aerating and turning the soil. Really, when it comes down to it, plants are the by far best gardeners. And think about it, nobody is tilling the ground out in a forest, nature knows what it’s doing!

6. Starting seeds.

In the winter I attempted to grow veggie seeds in trays, indoors next to a big north-facing window. I planted them according to the instructions, fertilized, watered, and watched. And watched. And kept watching as they barely grew over the next three months. What went wrong!? I thought I did everything right but I slowly learned what I should have done. For one, the house was warm but those few inches beside the window were probably 10 to 20 degrees colder than room temperature, which froze my little seeds.

I should have had a heating pad under my trays. Secondly, I put them in a north-facing window which got little sun, so I should’ve gotten a grow light to supplement the sun. To summarize, keep your seeds in a warm and sunny place. And have at least 2 inches deep of soil so you don’t have to constantly water.

And my recommendation for the casual gardener, don’t fuss over starting from seeds: buying starter plants in the spring are usually cheap in small quantities and are ready to stick in the ground!

8. What Plants Should I Grow Where I Live?

There’s lots of information on what plants grow best in different cities, I’m sure that’s obvious. But, the crazy thing is there are microclimates within cities! So for example, our house up on the hill is a cold zone compared to down in the valley where the river absorbs big temperatures swings and provides a more temperate place.

So those people in the valley can grow pears and peppers which would otherwise wilt and die up in our garden. It comes down to a lot of trial and error, as what works for one area might not for your location. Also, try and get organic, local and possibly heirloom seeds/plants. ‘Heirloom’ varieties are sort of the tried and true, most-likely-to-succeed plants that have been grown successfully for many years.

9. Keep a Gardening Journal

Here’s another useful idea from Verge Permaculture: keep a gardening journal! It doesn’t matter if you learned something or had a revolutionary gardening idea if you can’t remember it come next spring! You will be much less likely to make the same mistakes if you keep notes on what works, what doesn’t and what you want to try next time.

This is only scratching the surface of stuff to know about gardening, but don’t get overwhelmed and let it stop you from trying: Plants are cheap and at it’s most basic all you need to do is stick it in the ground, give it some water and see what happens.

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