Tag Archives: Grow Food Calgary

Grow Food Calgary Experts Feature

At Grow Food Calgary, we are excited about the many experts we’ve gathered together to bring you fundamental information on gardening.

Mike Dorion is one of those experts.

Here’s what Mike has to say about himself:

“I am Mike Dorion “aka the Compost Kid”. I love food! Local grocery stores just can not match the memories of tastiness from my Grandma’s garden.”

His company, Living Soil Solutions focuses on handcrafted natural products and traditional methods using modern techniques to feed your soil and let the soil feed your plants. Those other guys only feed your plants and much of that leaches into our water system.

Does anyone fertilize a forest?  No! The forest takes care of itself.  Mike can help mimic that in your back forty.

If you are looking for the perfect lawn like a golf course, then Mike is not the right fit for you. Living Soil Solutions is more focused on the long term solution than the quick fix.

And here’s what we, at Grow Food Calgary, really like about Mike:

From his web site: LivingSoil.ca :

Our Vision: To build a community of growers that are working with nature, not against her, in a safe and non-toxic manner.

That’s our mission, too. And that’s why we like Mike.

Join experts like Mike at the Grow Food Calgary Vegetable Growing Immersion program, starting April 22 at the Calgary Zoo.

Register. Garden Goodies. See all Experts.

Benefits of Starting Your Own Seedlings

by Shelley Goldbeck

Shelley Goldbeck

Many gardeners grow food to save money. By buying seeds and starting your own plants, you can save even more money.

A packet of seeds is exponentially cheaper than buying bedding out plants, even when you factor in cost of soil and containers. If you order from a good seed house, their prices are often lower than your local retailer. And you get access to more variety, which is the second reason to start your own seedlings.

Most garden centres carry a limited variety of popular seeds. You might be able to choose from four kinds of peas, three varieties of carrots, and globular or cylindrical beets.

There are hundreds of vegetable varieties with their own charms like being ready to eat in 45 days, or providing an unusual colour. Vibrant colours in vegetables are signs of nutrients.

Commercial operations require tomatoes that are uniformly shaped and sized, and so they survive un-bruised in transport, skins as thick as leather. And almost no trace of tomato taste.

An heirloom tomato might be purple, yellow or black, with a skin that is almost not there, and a taste that can be described as heavenly.


Why not try seeds of a vegetable you’ve never tried eating before, like kohlrabi? This cabbage family member grows a strange bulb above ground and makes fabulous French fries.

One year I grew purple potatoes. After our guests’ initial shock they were a tremendous hit at our Thanksgiving dinner!

A few dollars for a package of seeds is a small-risk venture with potentially great reward: discovering a new wonderful food!

Another reason to start your own seeds is you can choose organic.

Organic produce is expensive and we don’t really know if we can trust every producer’s adherence to organic practices.

We can’t even trust those practices, as organic certification boards are taken over by Big Food companies who argue they can’t make money growing strawberries if they can’t spray them.


That’s why we can no longer buy truly organic strawberries in our supermarkets.

But you can raise your own.



I’m also wary of organic food from China. Their food safety reputation is highly suspect. One report showed organic garlic from China was watered with industrial polluted water, complete with heavy metals and other toxins. Plants uptake these toxins and then we eat them.

When you start your own seeds you control the soil, light and water. Doing it yourself ensures that your produce is free from unwanted, often dangerous chemicals. Starting with organic seeds is the logical first step.

A side benefit of starting your own seeds is building community with other gardeners. We don’t often need a hundred seeds of celery so sharing your leftovers is a great way to build community with your gardening peers. Sharing also saves money.

Another bonus of community is sharing the harvest. Your carrots may have done poorly this year, but the seeds you gave your friend across town yielded a bumper crop!

By starting your own seeds, you will have healthy plants. Commercial greenhouses don’t necessarily have the end result in mind: your dinner plate.

Their job is to supply retailers with good-looking, often too-large plants. In Calgary we can’t safely plant bedding out plants until the end of May, but the garden centre tomatoes are blooming May 1. By the time you can safely plant, your tomatoes are root-bound, maybe leggy. Those coveted blooms will likely fall off as the plant reacts to the shock of being transplanted.

By starting your own seeds, you can schedule your seedlings to be the right size when you’re ready to plant them. If the plant is healthy, your harvest is sure to be more rewarding.

Where can you learn more about starting your own seeds? At Grow Food Calgary, our Vegetable Gardening Immersion Program, our April session includes lessons on starting your own seeds. And some seeds to get you started. You don’t want to miss it. Register today!


Shelley Goldbeck is co-founder of Grow Food Calgary, on a mission to give Calgarians the skills they need to grow some of their own food.


150 Packets of “Garden Babies” Lettuce to give away

Donna Balzer, Garden Guru

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.

For Details:

Call Donna at 403-827-6390 or register online at growfoodCalgary.com

Grow Food Calgary Gives You a Place to Grow: Freebies Flow In

By Donna Balzer www.donnabalzer.com

Root Pouches add room to your garden

Do you wonder where you will plant everything you really want to grow this summer? Are you making choices and leaving a favourite food off your list?

It’s official. Freebies are flowing in for the registrants of Grow Food Calgary and this week we received a really big donation, and it weighs in at four packages and 77 lbs. The boxes received contain a total of 150 grow bags – enough for the entire class!

Maybe you really want to grow lettuce, but the only shady area you have is under a tree and with roots threatening to take over your soil you know lettuce can’t compete. Or you want to plant potatoes but they just take up too much space in your too tiny garden; it’s tough to decide what to grow and what to leave out.

But this week, thanks to Root Pouch of Oregon, you will have more room to grow than ever before. The donated fabric root pouch bags have a retail value of $15.00 each and are a perfect example of upcycling because they are made from recycled water bottles. The bags will be given away to Grow Food Calgary participants and, unlike other brands of “fabric” bags, these ones last forever and they are food safe.

Thanks to Root Pouch all of our participants will receive a 10-gallon bag to expand their garden. The ten gallon bags are perfect to plant lettuce under trees where the roots are kept out. And they are also ideal for potatoes.

“The best size of Root Pouch for growing potatoes,” says Root Pouch rep Ashely Fromm from Oregon, “is the 10 gallon pot because it gives you lots of room to grow. Just plant one or more potato in the bag and watch them fill up the bag over the season.”

So now you are wondering what the best potato is to plant in your root pouch? Well don’t get ahead of yourself. We have a commitment for organic potatoes for every participant. But that great news has to wait for later. Because right now, I am trying to figure out where we are going to store all this great stuff before we give it away to Grow Food Calgary registrants. Are you in yet?

Thank you, Root Pouch!

Growing Gardeners

Chelsie Anderson

By Chelsie Anderson

Are you ready to join a supportive community of people growing their own food for the first time?



Grow Food Calgary is about teaching you how to grow food and how to harvest edible native foods sustainably. But it is so much more.

“You can grow a sprout in a day, a micro-green in a week, or a radish in a month,” says Horticulturist and program contributor, Donna Balzer, who learned to grow with the help of others. A lot of help. After gardening at home as a kid, she went on to University to study Agriculture and learned all about design and soils and pests and vegetables.

But it wasn’t just the professors Balzer found helpful. It was co-workers, experience, and time. She spent two internship summers working on the University of Alberta’s vegetable plots, learning the methods and techniques shared by senior staff.

And now it’s payback time for Balzer. Grow Food Calgary participants will be guided and helped by Balzer and a full team of keen growers for eight months this year and something magical will happen.

The three co-cofounders of Grow Food Calgary, Donna Balzer, Shelley Goldbeck and myself will be “raising” gardeners to a new level, providing a platform where attendees will have access to our knowledge for the duration of the eight month  course.

We will invite participants to email us questions. In April, when you are not sure what or when to seed, or in August, when you are deciding if your potatoes are ready to harvest, we are on your team. You are part of our growing family.

Each participant will be offered a 15 minute phone consultation with Donna Balzer, our program “Garden Guru”, as part of their Grow Food Calgary package; they will be provided with freebies carefully selected by the Grow Food Calgary team and they will they take home books, catalogues and extra personalized worksheets to get them growing.

This is a valuable resource, not available to other gardeners in the city.

Grow Food Calgary will have composting experts, soil experts, organic food farmers, entertaining bug experts, native wild crafting professionals and more, giving our program a broad pallet of learning experiences to “dig” into.  During this eight month program beginners will blossom  into confident gardeners who can grow their own food!

The cost is only $500.00 per person for the entire program.
Earlybird discounts apply until April 1, 2017.
Additional discounts apply if you register with a friend.

Everything you need to know is at growfoodcalgary.com