Urban agriculture is on the rise in Edmonton. With tough economic times ahead and food prices steadily increasing, it’s a good time to turn that overgrown patch of lawn into a garden.
Gardening can seem overwhelming, but it is simpler than it sounds. All you need is a few square feet of the great outdoors along with water and time. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can still grow food. Consider container gardening if you have a sunny balcony or patio, or even a herb garden on a bright windowsill. It’s amazing how many tomatoes or peppers can grow out of one pot. Another option is to take advantage of a community garden.
Starting a small co-op with neighbours and friends is both cost effective and a great way to involve everyone. Some people have yards ideal for full sun, high heat crops, while others may grow cool season crops better. Variety in your own garden is important, but why not expand and vary harvest, having fun with others doing it?
Edmonton has a relatively short growing season due to late snowfalls and frosts. This limits the crops we can grow; however, this can easily be overcome by sowing seeds indoors beginning this month and into April. This will also allow ensure the plant matures. Starting seeds indoors can be fun for everyone and an important way to connect with where our food comes from.
Some of the easiest crops to start indoors are herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, artichokes and onions. Watermelons need extra time indoors before being transplanted into the ground.
Most vegetables are so easy to raise from seed that you can become overrun with them. Seed packets contain far more seeds that you’ll need in a season, so don’t sow the whole packet. The most affordable seed is usually in bulk, which you can buy from catalogues such as Stokes, Veseys, and OSC. Brands like McKenzie are great.
Growing plants need space, so start small. If you are growing with friends or neighbours, share the seeds to provide smaller quantities and keep costs low.
You can also buy seedlings from stores. Canadian Tire’s prices are very reasonable, giving the best return for your money, with the plants in great shape. Additionally, the Edmonton Horticultural Society has a plant exchange and sale in May and has information on local sales. You can also check out the Green and Gold Garden’s sale at the University of Alberta.
But don’t buy seedlings too early to plant in your garden. Many garden centres start bringing out plants in April. Unless you know how to cover pots and protect plants from frost, seedlings may not survive in the garden that early. Instead, wait until end of May.
With a little bit of effort, you can grow all kinds of vegetables, fruits, greens and herbs in large and small containers, window boxes and gardens. There are so many good reasons to start gardening and really no reason not to.
Nikki-Karyssa grew up in the Okanagan Valley working in orchards and vineyards before moving to Edmonton in 2007. She received her BSc in Production Horticulture in 2012. She lives in Alberta Avenue and is the plant growth manager at the University of Alberta’s research greenhouse.