Sara had the pleasure to work with members of the Sarcee Meadows Housing Cooperative last week to develop a plan for growing more food in their yards and creating opportunities for team building and fostering a sharing economy. Here is an excellent overview of how the sharing economy is being used around the world: CBC News Sharing Economy
During our short 1 hour together, we mostly discussed how to grow food and do it better in our challenging Calgary climate. Some of the participants are new to Canada and others were born and raised in the area. This blog is a reflection of what people wanted to know more about with lots of links and resources to hopefully help your food and flower production be more successful this year.
To begin with, when choosing your seeds for the year be aware of the "days to maturity". In the best year, Calgary will have an average of 114 frost free days and we are located in zone 2-3 (the lower the number of zone, the colder winter temperatures are). If you have lived here for more than a few years, you will know that we often will get snow in June...or July... or August. Choose seeds with less than 90 days to maturity and buy from a local source if possible.
Check our our Free Resources page for some of our favourite local seed sources.
If you are completely new to gardening, consider growing cold-hardy, fast growing plants that can be directly seeded in a prepared garden bed, raised bed, wicking bed, or straw bale garden. Here are some of our favourites: lettuce, arugula, spinach, peas, beans, chard, kale, shiso, and mizuna. Remember to start "Small and Slow" to help ensure success. In other words, don't attempt convert your entire backyard into food growing space at once. Make a multi-year plan and start with one project at a time, become comfortable with maintaining that space, then start your next phase.
Now, we know not everyone is growing 100% edible plants, so here are a few suggestions for the flower growers out there on how to attract pollinators to your yard from Chinook Honey: Pollinator Plants
Many people who get into gardening (or avoid it at all costs) do so because they hate weeding. There are several permaculture techniques to make gardening more enjoyable and avoid having to weed while building soil quality at the same time--triple bonus!
1. Cover Crops
3. Increase your soil quality with Dynamic Accumulators
4. Eat your weeds! Here is one of our favourite recipes for dandelions: Dandelion Syrup
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Gardening does not have to be an expensive endeavour. Use what you have and develop your social networks by asking around for supplies and advice on how to grow your garden...
--Would you like to have an apple tree in your yard instead of the crabapple? Consider grafting an apple on the existing crabapple.
--Did you save seeds from last season's harvest? Ask around to see if you can exchange seeds with friends.
--Start your own seeds
--Don't have mulch for your garden? Visit a leaf drop off location in the fall and use those leaves in your garden and compost.
--Save on your water bill by harvesting rain water by using a bucket or buying a barrel (that has not been previously used for chemicals--ask for "food grade")
--Trade vegetables for flowers with your neighbours
--Search out Kijiji for free materials to make your garden out of
--divide perennial flower bulbs, herbs, and vegetables in the fall to share with others.
--If you see falling fruit on a neighbours tree, ask if you can pick it and return some of the produce as pie, jam, juice, or chutney. Way too much food goes to waste in the city because people are afraid to ask if they can take it. Your neighbour may be relieved to have you pick it!
Thank you all for attending our session last week on food growing and community building. There are more links specifically for Co-housing and team/community building ideas on our Free Resources page.
Hope to see again soon!