One of Grow Food Calgary’s new gardeners is blogging about her garden experiences.
“It’s been a busy first two weeks in our garden since our first Grow Food Calgary class on April 22. Since the class ended, I’ve created a small indoor garden area in front of two large west-facing windows in my kitchen where I’m nurturing two kale seedlings destined for transplant outdoors, experimenting with pea shoot and wheatgrass microgreens, and growing basil, cilantro and dill.
“My kids have 2 sunflower seedlings growing in the window sill which are destined for transplant outdoors, too”. Read here.
As Julie and her husband, Gideon move through the program they will share their victories and defeats.
We invite all participants to record their experiences with us, through a blog, pictures of your garden or a video of you demonstrating something you’ve learned about growing your own food.
Our May session covers water, weeds, and warm crops.
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.
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!
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.
First it was a five-year drought and recently the weather switched to torrential downpours in California.
“With over 90% of North America’s lettuce supply coming from California we have been and continue to be in trouble as the climate shifts” says GrowfoodCalgary.com instructor Donna Balzer. “And here’s the thing, we have got to stop meeting California like this, in the lettuce aisle.”
But seriously, if you are the least bit concerned about your food supply it is time to start growing your own food, and Balzer has the solution: “Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow.”
Luckily, growfoodcalgary.com and seed supplier Rennesgarden.com have just made it easier to grow your own lettuce. Rennee’s Garden Seeds just agreed to send a packet of “Garden Babies” lettuce seeds, enough for all the registrants in the Calgary program. So every participant can start growing their own food on the first day of school: March 10, 2017.
“Lettuce is easy to grow indoors in seven days as micro-greens even if you don’ have grow lights. You just have to get the seed started and it will grow.
Or you could save your seed and start it in spring outside in a shady area where it will take about 60 days from seeding to eating.”
And in really good news your life just got easier: Instructors and garden experts, including Balzer, are lined up to help you grow food faster. From soils to wild foods and bugs the growfoodcalgary.com team is on standby to help participants through your first season whether you are entirely new to growing or if you are new to growing in Calgary’s challenging climate.
The eight-month program begins April 22, 2017 with earlibird pricing until April 1 so if you are waiting for the California weather to change, give it up now and start fending for yourself.
Call Donna at 403-827-6390 or register online at growfoodCalgary.com
I have learned everything that I know about gardens from gardens. Nature, itself is the best teacher, but you have to pay attention in order to learn the lessons.
People throw around the word “organic” a lot these days. It is certainly trendy these days to grow organic food, and to eat organic produce. It gives us warm feelings knowing about “organic” practices, and paying more for specially grown organic foods. In this article, however, I am going to talk about why not to practice necessarily organic gardening, but instead why to practice “natural” gardening, and what the difference is.
Natural gardening means we are adhering to and are inspired by the wisdom of mother nature. We hold a deep respect for natural systems. Mother nature has worked out a fool-proof system over millennia that does not require human intervention in order to grow amazing, natural and (by default) organic foods. If we know what our gardens truly need, then they will grow in a way that limits the attention we need to give them. It turns out that natural gardening is also lazy gardening, a natural benefit to this approach.
How to garden naturally?
Feed your soil, not your plants. Leave the leaves as a food source for microbes and worms, add in home made compost, which is full of humus. Humus sequesters carbon and greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil where it is harmless. Humus also stores water for plant roots and creates an amazing soil structure that enables roots to forage for space, water and nutrients. Feed the soil with biodegradable materials, and let nature take care of the rest.
Why Not Organic?
Organic doesn’t necessarily benefit the health of a garden. There are organic pesticides, for example, that destroy natural systems so that our ladybugs still starve. Ladybugs need to eat, so if you kill off their food supply, even through “organic” means, the lovely ladybug will also die, or move in to your neighbour’s yard, meaning bug control will be an ongoing problem in your garden. The war will continue, where you try to eradicate aphids year after year.
Furthermore, organic fertilizers might not have been designed specifically for your soil. This means the minerals being added may not benefit your garden, and you may be feeding your garden ingredients that cannot be put to good use. This practice may cause a tight soil structure, for example, which can suffocate plant roots. Too much magnesium in Calgary soils will create just this situation. It might be organic, but this doesn’t mean it will be beneficial, and create a sustainable environment.
Pay attention to natural systems. Watch what happens when humans don’t intervene and be amazed by the wisdom of mother nature. Practice gardening naturally, and enjoy more time on your patio sipping lemonade instead of battling with invading species as a result.
Learn more about Natural Gardening by signing up for GrowFoodCalgary today!