Our yard is still mostly covered with snow! It’s mainly because of last weekend’s 48 hours of snowfall. But according to Environment Canada, there are also remnants from our first winter 2012/13 snowfall – more than 150 days ago!
So despite a strong urge to be out in the yard, my time in the garden has (so far) been limited to daydreaming about shades of green, splashes of colourful blossoms and the possibilities of harvest. About a month ago I opted to start converting those dreams to some rough plans for this year’s edible garden.
Calgary’s growing season is short. Our last spring frost is usually around May 26 and we can usually count on the first fall frost by September 14, so it’s a good year if we can sow/grow/harvest veggies labelled “120 days to harvest”. To extend the growing season, options include starting seeds indoors, using a cold frame or investing in a small greenhouse.
I had every intention of starting some seeds indoors this year. To begin, I cleaned up a few planter pots, filled them with some leftover potting soil and planted some winter salad mix and basil. Long before any green sprouts poked through, the house was infested with fungus gnats. I don’t know whether they were in the potting soil when I bought it (I only used it for outdoor planters last year) or whether the gnats found the open bag in our garage. Whichever, after hanging sticky flycatcher tape in a couple of spots and moving those pots to a separate room, I decided to give up on starting anymore seeds indoors this year.
Plan B (and my usual approach) is to selectively use outdoor planters for some of the edibles. Last year I was picking cherry tomatoes off a potted tomato vine in mid-November. I’ve also used planters for herbs (they are helpful for containing mint and chives, which can otherwise spread like crazy). Thoughts of getting a little more adventurous with my outdoor planters prompted me to visit the nearest branch of the Calgary Public Library to borrow a copy of Pot It Up by Frankie Flowers.
I really appreciated that this book is aimed at gardeners living in Canada. The book includes 150 designs for container gardening. Most of them are decorative, but a careful search yielded 8 designs for edible arrangements. Using those as a starting point and building on the 3 main design elements (thriller, filler, spiller plants), I’ve been roughing out edible arrangements for most of my outdoor planters. But I’m reserving one of those empty pots for the Red Rust design on pages 156-7 – stunning!
My planning for this year’s edible landscaping also includes the four small raised beds in the backyard (and we planted one of those in raspberry canes last year). I started by reviewing my end of season post on our 2012 successes and failures. Then I studied Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens – The Best Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs by June Flanagan, also aimed at Canadian gardeners. The two things I most appreciate about this book are 1) the recommendations for specific varieties of different fruits and vegetables and 2) the list of online suppliers for seeds, sets and plants. I ordered three types of seed potatoes (only 4 of each) from Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes, one of the websites on the extensive list. And I’ve made a note in my calendar that I should place an order through Boundary Garlic Farm’s website in late July/early August.
At this point I’ve got a little box of seed packets, some empty planter pots and big plans for our 2013 edible garden. I’m not-so-patiently waiting for Ol’ Man Winter to finally wave goodbye. In the meantime, I’ll keep daydreaming. And maybe, during this weekend’s forecast snowfall, I’ll head to the nearest gardening centre to pick-up some tomato plants to baby along until gardening season finally arrives in Calgary!
Let me know if the weather’s cooperating with your plans to enjoy gardening in 2013 by leaving a comment describing your gardening plans, how your crops are growing or with links to your favourite gardening resources.