by Chelsie Anderson
Out of habit, people sometimes complain about conditions that they cannot change. Gardening is often one of those things that Calgarians like to complain about, as gardeners here feel hard done by. I tend towards optimism, however, and instead of seeing lemons, I can’t help but see lemonade.
Here are five reasons why we are fortunate to be gardening in Calgary:
We can grow cold crops with ease. If nothing else, focus on the crops that love these conditions which include roots, leafy greens, peas and the entire cabbage family. All of these do really well in cooler climates and can stay in your garden much longer than any other crops. These vegetables can handle -8 degrees Celsius and sometimes even cooler.
In autumn when leaves start to change from green to brown, red or yellow, then fall to the ground, they add minerals to the soil. In Calgary, because we have only about a week of true “fall”, the minerals get trapped in the leaves more-so than they do in other places where this transition takes longer. With this mineral capture in effect, our gardens (if the leaves are left in place for the gardens to use) are fed a wider and more dense variety of minerals to help grow mineralized crops the following year.
Some might find it hard to imagine that this is a benefit as it tends to be the #1 complaint I hear from Calgarians about gardening, but clay is our friend. Soils that lack clay, also lack CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) that hold on to minerals in the soil. Sandy soils are always depleted, and this is why things like cactus and alpine plants grow well in sand, they don’t need minerals. Vegetables on the other hand, are heavy feeders and need minerals to thrive. The more mineralized they are, the more minerals we humans also get to enjoy, and we all know there are benefits to that!
Calgary is a sprawling city, which could be criticized for the need of more resources to make it run well. Because I live here, however, I am going to make the most of this available land and grow as much food as will fit in my generous sized inner city plot. We have these amazingly huge properties that could feed many people locally if we converted it all into vegetable production. Not only that, but this land that we have access to also sits right where glaciers used to live. These glaciers left amazing mineral deposits that, again, our vegetables as well as ourselves, benefit from in a great way.
There are more self-defined gardeners per capita in Calgary than anywhere else in North America. The Calgary Horticulture Society boasts a higher subscription rate than any other of its kind. As a result, we have access to a wealth of opportunities, from chatting over the fence to our neighbours while fishing for tips and tricks, to having access to professionals on the radio (Donna Balzer on CBC), in person through workshops and through articles. With all of this available knowledge, there is no reason not to grow your own food!
If you are new to gardening, experiment with converting your existing weed patch, lawn or perennial bedinto simple root crops; potatoes or carrots always impress!
Learn how to garden in Calgary!
Put these principles into practise by joining Chelsie and Donna as they teach beginners how to garden at our GrowFood Calgary event.