Tag Archives: Chelsie Anderson

Turning Garbage into Garden Gold


Chelsie Anderson, Garden Expert

Chelsie Anderson

Compost piles require four things; a source of Nitrogen, a source of Carbon, water and air.

Nitrogen (aka “greens”)

Nitrogen is found in anything that is green and/or wet. Think kitchen scraps, fresh cut weeds, fresh cut grass clippings and even human urine. Nitrogen is akin to stepping on the gas, as it speeds up the rate at which your compost pile decomposes.

Carbon (aka “browns)

Carbon is found in dry compostable items. Cardboard, newspaper, dry leaves, dry grass clipping and straw. This is important to keep your compost pile from becoming too wet and turning anaerobic.

When a pile turns anaerobic it smells bad, but so long as you have enough Carbon, then your pile will smell earthy and like the floor of a forest. Add more carbon than you think is necessary and always have bagged leaves available next to your pile so that you are able to add a handful after every addition of Nitrogen.


For a compost pile to decompose there must be a certain amount of moisture involved. Remember, food scraps are loaded with moisture so if you have a lot of food scraps you may not need to add any additional water.

Ideally, the contents of your pile should feel like a wrung out cloth; damp, but not soggy. You want to encourage the aerobic (oxygen dependant) microbes in your pile if you plan to use the end result on your food garden.


Air is essential for keeping your pile at the right temperature as well as at the right moisture level. You can achieve an air-filled pile by having holes in the sides, top and bottom of your bin, by adding sticks to your pile to provide spaces, or bulky items such as wood chips or cardboard chunks. Sticks, in all honesty, will drive you crazy when you try to turn your pile, but it is a thought for those who aren’t interested in turning the pile.

The best way to add air is to turn your pile, and to do so as frequently as possible. Monthly at minimum. Having a second or third compost pile will help with this as you can novel out the contents from one bin and as you are adding it to the next bin over you are actively turning the pile and can adjust the Carbon/Nitrogen ratios as you go.

My Speedibin Composter
Top Tips from a Compost Lifer:

Put your pile somewhere close to your house so that you don’t have to make any grand efforts at getting to it in the back alley, or at the far end of your veggie patch. If it is accessible, you will use it and maintain it more often. You will also be more motivated not to let it go anaerobic (stinky) if it is closer to your living space.

Chop everything to help speed up the process. The more surface area that is available, the more access the microbes will have to your scraps and the faster the pile will heat up and biodegrade. Consider buying a machete to keep next to your pile along with a tree stump to use as a chopping board. This can be very therapeutic, or a great job for a child with lots of energy!

Add some garden soil, and more than you think is necessary. Your native garden soil will have all kinds of beneficial microbes that will help to speed up your pile. If your soil is more or less dead, therefore not adding any new microbes, add it anyway. In Calgary we have high clay content and this clay helps to hold onto valuable minerals making your finished product more mineralized.

The more different items you can add to your pile the better. Try all kinds of different ingredients, and don’t be scared to try new things; egg cartons, sand from your child’s sand box, egg shells, coffee grounds, or your neighbour’s lawn clippings

Have fun with it and feel the thrill as you turn your garbage turns into garden gold!

How to Learn to Garden

Shelley Goldbeck

Much of my early garden education came from books, magazines and of course, trial and error in my own garden.

The internet exponentially increased our choices, almost overnight.

You can learn almost anything online, including garden techniques.

But how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? How do you know whose advice to take?

Some gardeners rely heavily on chemical solutions to disease and bug problems. These poisons cause great damage to soil.  They cause great damage to human health.

If you follow these gardeners’ practices, you may get their lush instant results, but the “drugs” sterilize and starve your soil. The food from it is nutritionally compromised, poisoned, the kind that kills slowly and stealthily.

Mimicking Mother Nature in the garden has always intuitively made sense to me. I tend to get my gardening information from people who garden the way I do: in cooperation with Mother Nature.

Chelsie Anderson, Natural Gardener

That’s why I joined forces with Chelsie Anderson, the Natural Gardener and her mom, Donna Balzer, Garden Guru to create Grow Food Calgary.

Donna Balzer, Garden Guru


We three believe that gardening skills are valuable and sorely lacking among our fellow Calgarians.

We felt that if we could provide Calgary gardeners with (Calgary specific) information and handholding throughout an entire growing season, we could successfully guide them into growing some of their own food, every year.

So we invited a bunch of garden experts to share their expertise with you. From April to October, we’ll cover soil, seeds, seedlings, bugs, pests, harvesting, storing, everything you need to get growing.

We know and enjoy the benefits of gardening.  We want you to enjoy these benefits too. They include:

  • reducing grocery bills,
  • eating tastier, healthier food,
  • improved mental and physical health,
  • building community
  • reducing our footprint on the earth.

Learn how to Grow Food in Calgary now! Register.

Our first session for our season-long program begins on April 22, Earth Day, at the Calgary Zoo.

See Donna’s latest blog.



Composting 101

While most of you were having a great date night on Friday, Chelsie Anderson, the Natural Gardener and I were on a fascinating tour of the Hop Compost facility in Calgary.

Kevin Davies created Canada’s first inner-city compost facility, Hop Compost, right here in Calgary (expanding to Vancouver and Toronto.)

On Friday, Kevin graciously toured ten gardeners through his facility and thoroughly explained all the steps involved with converting mostly restaurant food waste into compost: garden gold.

He shared some of the problems with creating a viable composting business. When he began, the closest composting facility was an hour outside the city. Delivering waste to the facility and bringing finished compost back to the city required  up to four hours of driving! The environmental impact was not acceptable to Kevin.

Kevin explained that NIMBY (Not in MY BackYard!) is a real concern for composting facilities. It’s about smell.

The “Hoperation” uses technology to manage the  process and virtually eliminate odors. A sophisticated computer system measures heat, moisture, oxygen, even pH, via probes in the huge “cookers”.  As required, the ingredients are churned with giant electric motors.

There was almost no smell. In fact Kevin said  we were smelling the food waste in the bins ready to go into the next batch.

The final product is rich, brown, fluffy compost awaiting delivery to gardens across the city, where it will feed your soil and the micro-critters (as Chelsie calls them),  the farm hands.

Red Wrigglers

When asked his advice for home gardeners, Kevin said without hesitation, “worms!”

He said worms produce consistently, high quality compost with minimal effort and are ideal for home gardeners.

Compost is an integral component of the Natural Garden. Worms and worm farm receptacles are available from Chelsie Anderson

Learn more at Grow Food Calgary, starting Earth Day, April 22 at the Calgary Zoo.  Register.

We are delighted that Kevin is one of Grow Food Calgary’s experts.

Hop Compost site.

Vegetable Gardens Trending

At Grow Food Calgary we know the importance of growing food.

We’ve noticed the growing interest in gardening.

And we’re not the only ones!

At the Calgary Home and Garden Show in early March, HGTV Host Carson Arthur discussed ways to improve the value of your home for resale.

One of his tips was to add a garden to your yard. Millennials are buying homes and they want vegetable gardens.

Chelsie Anderson spoke with Carson at the show. The  author, editor, speaker, gardener, landscaper and goodwill ambassador loves the Grow Food Calgary concept, and he graciously agreed to speak on camera.

Here’s what Carson told us:


Learn to grow your own food starting Earth Day, April 22, 2017 at the Calgary Zoo.

See our panel of experts.

See the list of free stuff (Value: $400) included with every ticket.


Carson Arthur’s web site.

Grow Food Calgary Scholarships

A frequent question is,

Do you have scholarships?

Many of the people who are interested in gardening are on a tight budget.

We can’t really reduce the costs.  We already give to each participant, $400 worth of garden goodies,  consultation and other benefits, in addition to 18 hours of “veducation”,  with garden experts like Donna Balzer and Chelsie Anderson. (See our experts page).

Our early bird tickets cost $400 each (until April 1). The value is tremendous!

Some of our partners asked how they can  send some of their staff.

Some of our garden friends would like to share their abundance with new gardeners.

So we developed a “scholarship” program. See our Scholarship page for full details.

Here’s how it will work:

Grow Food Calgary will welcome any donations to their “scholarship fund”, which is designed solely to pay for Grow Food Calgary education sessions.

There are three partner categories, Ladybug, Butterfly, and Honeybee. See our Scholarship page for details on the levels.

By donating one free ticket to the scholarship fund, Grow Food Calgary is the first Scholarship partner at the Ladybug level.

Donations may be designated to certain persons, if desired, or put into the general fund.

The fund will pay for the tickets of those designated persons.

All other donations to the fund will go towards other, non-designated applicants.

Grow Food Calgary will accept applications for scholarships. Email us with Grow Food Calgary Scholarships in the subject line.

Prior to our first session, based on the funds in the scholarship pool, we’ll select x scholarship recipients.

Do we have scholarships?

We do now!