Gardening with CBC: Get your hands dirty and grow, grow, grow
Our advice for helping you get started on a great garden this year
Anyone can become a gardener. You just need soil, water and seeds — and of course, patience, practice and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Many resources are available to help novice and master gardeners get started this spring. We've listed a few of our favourite articles below.
This advice has been compiled by fifth-generation gardener Catherine Larose. Specializing in perennials, Catherine worked many summers in greenhouses before joining CBC as a communications officer.
Plant for Edmonton's growing zone
If you're planning an outdoor garden, it's advisable to choose plants with proven success in our zone.
Edmonton is located in Zone 3b (minimum temperature –37.2 to –34.5 C). Plants from Zone 0 to 3 will grow best outdoors in our geographical area. The zone is always marked on the plant identification tag.
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A great garden begins with good soil. The three most important nutrients for plant health are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Another element of proper soil health is air. To get started, pick a spot with sunshine or light suitable for growing, and buy some seeds and an organic fertilizer mix.
Water and air
Make sure you have clean water available. Plants breathe through their roots, so if your soil is too compacted your plants will have a hard time getting the air they need. If your soil is too wet, your plants can end up basically drowning. One of the biggest mistakes most new gardeners make is over watering.
Light is plant food. When plants aren't looking their best people will often reach for a bottle of fertilizer. But when a plant is poorly lit, overdosing with fertilizer can be fatal. Using grow lights is the only way to make up for a shortage of sunlight. The good news is that some really good grow lights are available for home use.
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What to plant
When planting vegetables, plant a mix of fast-growing and slow-growing crops. Lettuce greens, beans and spinach are great because you can keep picking them throughout the spring and summer, and they'll keep growing back. Radishes are also fantastic because they can mature in as little as one month. Kale is another good cold weather plant that takes about two months to mature.
More substantial vegetables that take longer to develop are still worth growing, but it always helps to have a staggered schedule of harvest times so you'll never be without fresh produce. This also helps to avoid unnecessary waste, because if everything is ready to go at the same time you'll have too much food to get through.
Plan your space
Try to make the best of the space you have. If you're limited to a small balcony or patio, you can still set up a pretty great container garden with some smaller vegetables and herbs. Alternatively, if you have lots of yard space and can dig up a big garden bed — do it.
Flowers aren't just for show
Certain flowers help attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds, which have a significant impact on the success of your garden. Some plants are self pollinating, while some depend on bee and insect pollination. Without pollination, our food gardens aren't likely to produce much food.
Add some good organic material into your soil. Fertilizer or manure will go a long way in helping your vegetable plants grow faster and healthier. Better yet, if you make your own compost, you can reduce your household waste and save money, and it will deliver a steady stream of rich nutrients to your plants.
If you have limited space outdoors, or are growing indoors, containers are the way to go. Depending on what you are planting, ceramic or plastic pots might not be the only solution.
There are many innovative alternatives for containing and hanging flowers and vegetables. Potatoes, for example, can be grown in reusable plastic shopping bags, or even in bags of soil cut open at the top and rolled down.
Tomatoes can be hung upside down in inverted nylon or burlap tomato planter bags, increasing floor space. Recycled tin cans with holes punched in the bottom make great seed-starting containers. With a little imagination, your garden will be thriving.
Tune in for Our Edmonton's gardening edition!
Our Edmonton talks gardening! Join us on CBC TV or CBC Gem for a chat on everything from growing vegetables and composting kitchen scraps to starting from scratch with seeds and a new green space.
Our Edmonton airs Saturdays at 10 a.m., Sundays at 12 noon and Mondays at 11 a.m.