Tag Archives: No Guff Vegetable Gardening

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!

Creative Ways to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are the most heavily sprayed crop in the produce aisle. Luckily they are easy to grow and especially like the growing conditions in Calgary.

Donna Balzer, author of No Guff Vegetable Gardening and co-founder of Grow Food Calgary has a great video on her web site on creative ways to grow potatoes.

Donna Balzer’s blog 

“This is all about creative ways to grow potatoes. No space? No problem! Use wire fence planters you can make yourself to expand your growing area right now. Who says your urban farm can’t grow up?  Try this method today to increase your harvest in a small area.”



Feedback on Grow Food Calgary’s First Session

I just wanted to thank you for our first Grow Food Calgary sessions.

The information you provided and reading Donna Balzer’s book, No Guff Vegetable Gardening, has given me the boost I needed to focus on growing more food this year.

We have been at our home for ten years and focused on our      perennial gardens and fruit trees thus far.

Your guidance has given me the confidence and knowledge to try again to grow more of our own food.

Our yard and home offers us many opportunities to give it a serious try this growing season.

I look forward to the sessions ahead and I am keeping a list of     questions for the May date.

Mary’s Garden Room

The pictures are of my garden room off our kitchen that is finally being put to good use since last week’s workshop.

Thanks again,


P.S. I turned the grow light on this morning and it made me smile! The sprouts are up and green from the seeds we got last week. I think for my space getting the heating pads made a big difference.


When Chelsie Anderson and I first started discussing our vision for Grow Food Calgary, I had no idea what a wonderful resource was sitting in front of me!

Donna Balzer, Garen Guru

Turns out, Chelsie, besides having her own garden expertise, is the
daughter of Donna Balzer, the Garden Guru, author of the best-selling book, No Guff Vegetable Gardening.

Of course I wasn’t about to let an opportunity to work with a Guru pass by!

Chelsie, Donna and I decided to pool our resources and create Grow Food Calgary, where we’ll teach 150 new gardeners how to grow their own food from April to October.

Donna’s new web site was released early this week. I spent some time on it and I’m feeling pretty good about my decision to join forces with Donna! She knows her stuff!

Demand for Donna’s speaking and consulting services are growing like plants in a well-composted garden bed. We’re lucky to have her in our program.

The really juicy part is Donna is making herself available to each and every one of our 150 gardeners, who for the price of their ticket, get a 15 minute phone consultation with Donna!

Each participant also receives a free copy of No Guff Vegetable Gardening and gets to learn at the feet of the Garden Guru throughout the 2017 garden season. See complete list of garden goodies we’re giving to each ticket holder.

If you want to learn how to garden in Calgary, you need to hang out with Donna Balzer this summer.

Grow Food Calgary launches on Earth Day, April 22 at the Calgary Zoo.

Register for Grow Food Calgary today.

Shelley Goldbeck

by Shelley Goldbeck, Co-Founder, Grow Food Calgary