In Calgary we have an abundance of space as we are a sprawly city.
We also have amazing soil, tons of sunshine and I happen to know of crops that will succeed with very little effort in this city of ours.
I made up a bed on my front lawn, my son painted a sign and came up with the alliteration “Calgary Community Crops” (can be found on Facebook), and we started to spread the word that these crops were intended for anyone to harvest.
What I noticed?
People knew what to do with kale and lettuce, but they weren’t as certain about how to pick root crops; beets, radishes.
No one seemed to notice the beans or zucchini until I pointed them out.
Some people were too shy to harvest from my garden, so I started bagging up produce and delivering it to neighbours I thought would be grateful. This was always well received.
I have made up a laminated booklet which I will hang from my sign next year explaining when and how to harvest the crops. I realize I need to help educate people on harvesting… people who access my crops don’t know how things grow.
The most special moments for me with these crops were when I’d hear kids laughing out front, only to find they were harvesting peas with friends and dogs while the parents chatted on the sidewalk.
My front lawn started to become a local activity/hand out spot for young families, and this made my heart swell!
I am hoping to inspire others to do the same next year and will provide signage for anyone interested in turning their front yard into a community crops site.
Weeds can be the bane of gardeners, especially if you don’t know how to control them.
Many weeds are edible. In faction one of the most scorned weeds, the dandelion, was imported to North America by European settlers as a food source. You can eat all parts of it.
Some of the most common edible weeds include:
Edible? Yes, steaming and blending into a pesto is recommended
What Parts are Edible? Leaves, roots
How to Prepare them? They are best steamed and blended up to make a pesto or creamed soup.
Nutritional Value? Good for the liver and bladder, decreases levels of cholesterol, improves digestion, many minerals (potassium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, zinc, copper, etc)12.8% protein.
When do they Bloom? The purple flower blooms mid to late summer.
How do they Spread? By seed and root
The best way to get rid of them? Goats! Goats love this thistle and will eat them happily. The city of Calgary had a goat herd providing exactly this service last summer, they will be back again for 2 more years to ensure the demise of the thistle and other weeds.
(Matricaria chamomilla, Matricaria recutita) and Scentless chamomile (Matricaria Maritima)
What Parts are Edible? Flowers
How Do I Prepare Them? Make into a tea Nutritional Value? There are so many studied health benefits for chamomile tea (however we can’t attribute all the benefits to the scentless type seen as a weed.) The herbal (Matricaria recutita) is great for skin (acne, scrapes, rashes, cleaning), it can prevent dandruff and enrich your hair colour, soothe cramps and muscle spasms, boost your immunity and help to maintain glucose levels in the body. Best of all it helps promote sleep after a big day in the garden!
When do They Bloom? Mid to late summer if grown as an annual from seed. Earlier for the perennial weed forms of related plants.
How do they Spread? By seed. Some varieties are perennial while others are annuals.
The Best Way to get rid of Them? Hand dig or pull. The root releases easily when pulled by the stem.
Interesting fact? Scentless Chamomile produces 300,000 seeds per year per plant and is considered noxious in Calgary. A noxious weed means that it overtakes natural habitats therefore killing off native species. Noxious weeds are illegal to have in your garden and you can be fined by the city if someone complains!
Problem: The flowers of scentless camomile are almost identical to single-blooming Shasta daisies and Oxeye daisies so please do not encourage these commonly seen (broader leaved) daisies, as they are noxious and therefore illegal. The medicinally used chamomile have ferny leaves (very finely cut) and are annuals. Richters seed catalogue (given in first week) has a reliable source of the tea chamomile so buy that if you want to try it and compare it to anything you are seeing in your garden.
What Parts are Edible? Leaves, stems (but they are hairy).
How do I prepare them? Best eaten raw in a salad.
Nutritional Value? Rich in iron, potassium, vitamins A, D, B, C
When do they bloom? Their small white flowers bloom throughout the summer
How do they spread? Root and seed. In fact any time you break a chickweed plant each part of it can resort. Pull out entire plant root and all and never turn the soil. The seeds need light to germinate so when you turn soil you turn up new seeds they will sprout (even after 50+ years.)
The Best Way to get Rid of Them? Carefully hand dig them before they bloom in spring. Make sure to spread mulch on soil surface instead of turning soil.
What Parts are Edible? Roots, stems and flowers
How Do I Prepare Them? Eat them raw; added to a salad, soup or omelet. The blossoms make any dish look more beautiful.
Nutritional Value? Just 100 grams of chives provides you with 98% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, 177% of Vitamin K, 145% of Vitamin A and high in Folates, iron, magnesium, Manganese and phosphorus.
When do They Bloom? From early spring to late summer.
How do they Spread? By seed.
The Best Way to get rid of Them? “Dead-head” them to avoid them spreading. This mean cutting off their flowers as soon as they are done blooming. Dig them with a shovel. Their shallow roots really anchor into the ground, so you may need to really exert some muscle!
Interesting facts? Chives help ease digestive discomfort, boosts the immune system, help to detoxify the body and are extremely useful as a pollinator plant, as they bloom all season long!
What Parts are Edible? Leaves and flowers.
How Do I Prepare Them? Leaves are tastier if boiled (not considered a “choice” food, but rather a “survival” food). The blooms are tasty though, and the bees love them too! Blooms can be pan fried until crisp, or made into a tea.
Nutritional Value? High in protein (as they are part of the pea family), beta carotene, Vitamins C and B.
When do They Bloom? Mid-late Summer.
How do they Spread? By roots and stems that grow at ground level.
The Best Way to get rid of Them? Very difficult to dig with any success. I’d hire a goat/bunny to take care of it or try “lasagna gardening” as a way to get rid or large patches. It grows mainly where soils are deficient in nitrogen because there is an ecological niche. Enrich soils to limit their growth.
Interesting fact? Some people are allergic to it. Clover grows over the entire world and helps to fix nitrogen in the soil, as it has Nitrogen fixing nodules on its roots In fact it is often found in grass seed “mixes” and in pasture land for this purpose. Clover will essentially continually fertilize a lawn when it grows along side grass.
What Parts are Edible? Roots, leaves and blossoms.
How do I Prepare Them? Roots can be harvested, dried, ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute. Flowers can be used in wine making and leaves can be added to a salad or stir fry. Young plants are tastier, with older plants being more bitter. Donna has fried leaves in butter and added them to a salad and observed one thing: anything fried in butter is good! Cooked this way they would also make a nice decorative topping for vegetable soup.
Nutritional Value? Used to purify the blood, settle digestion. 100 grams gives you 535% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, 112% of the daily minimum requirement of vitamin A, they are high in fibre, Vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.
When do they bloom? Early spring- important for feeding honey and native bees in spring.
How do they Spread? By seed. The flowers will go to seed even after you have picked the flower, so dispose of the flower in the garbage immediately.
The best way to get rid of them? Hand dig deep using a knife, a digging weeder or a water weeder for the longest roots.
Interesting Fact? These were first brought over by European settlers as an early spring food source since they are almost always the first plant to grow and bloom come spring. Some sources say they are now endangered from over-collecting in their native habitat of Switzerland!