January 18th, 2021

Garden preparation

By Submitted Article on May 11, 2020.

Alison Van Dyke


Spring turns many people’s thoughts to vegetable gardening, and this year even more so. People have become increasingly aware of accessing adequate safe and nutritious food as we collectively experience the impacts of a global pandemic on our food supply chain.

We are entering a season which allows us to shorten that supply chain to a few steps from yard to table. Whether you have a neglected existing plot in your yard or have decided to turn some of your lawn into a new garden space, the following are some steps to take to see the best results from your labour.

1. Determine where you will locate your garden. Choose the sunniest location in your yard as most vegetables need a minimum of six hours of full sunlight each day.

2. Build raised beds as opposed to in-ground plots. They are much easier to maintain and access. You can build them yourself or purchase them as a kit from most hardware or home supply stores. There are differing views on what types of soil should be in raised beds. Many climates require soil with good drainage as they receive a lot of rainfall. Here in Southern Alberta we have the reverse, we want to hold some moisture in the soil. I asked Donna Balzer, author of the “No Guff Vegetable Gardening” book, what she would recommend for our southern climate and her suggestion was the following ratio:

1 part coconut coir

1 part compost

2 parts peat

Before filling your raised bed with the soil mixture, be sure to layer cardboard or newspaper over the lawn or ground and water it down. This will prevent weeds and grass from growing up into your raised beds. If you have restricted outdoor space, such as a balcony or front step, container gardening is a good alternative for you. Be sure to pick pots with drainage and fill them with light-weight packaged potting soil such as Pro-Mix.

3. Plan what you will plant. Some vegetables can be started from seed, but others need to be started indoors earlier in the year or purchased as plants from a garden centre as they require a longer growing season than we have in Canada. Those typically include plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and melons. Follow the directions on the packaging to know how deep and far apart you should plant your seeds. Be sure to plant vegetables that you know you and your family like and will eat. Then, if you still have a bit of space, try something new!

4. Mulch your plants and seedlings. This is especially important in southern Alberta where we have limited rainfall and drying winds. Mulching will prevent weeds and reduce watering significantly. Some of the best and most accessible mulching options are chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings or compost.

There are a multitude of helpful tutorials on YouTube for a variety of gardening tasks, as well as gardening books available at your local public library. Local gardening centres are also a great source for information, staff are usually glad to help answer your questions over the phone. Many communities also have horticultural societies where experienced gardeners are happy to give helpful advice and guide you on your gardening journey.

Alison Van Dyke is the Food Security Coordinator with Community Food Connections Association. For more information please see http://www.foodconnections.ca.

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