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Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:04 pm
Location: Edmonton, AB

Gardening in Canada

Hello all, I'm new here and newish to gardening as well.

When it comes to gardening experience I used to help my parents (in the manner all small kids help their parents) in their garden, which is really not much. I also had a garden the last two years with varying success. In 2008 I had a pretty successful garden, I had to pull up a few concrete sidewalk blocks to do it...but It was ok.

Last year we moved into our own place and my garden was a near failure. I removed the sod, did a bit of shoveling to mix some soil mix into it, and had almost nothing grow.

Lately I've been looking into a few things; raised beds, compost, gorwing veggies a more organic way. That sort of thing.

I know what I want to grow, and I have a better idea at what I'm doing since I've done some reading, but I'm stuck from there.

Here's what I'd like to grow:
potatoes, lettuce, carrots, beets, peas, swiss chard, tomatos (roma, sweetie, beefsteak), squash (butternut, spaghetti), rasberries, strawberries, saskatoons, nanking cherries, maybe some others...

I'm thinking having a few raised boxes...probably two in the front yard, maybe one in the back this year but I'd like to have some stepped ones in the future.

Here's the problems. I'm mostly broke (who isn't, lol), have 2 disconnected smallish yards, no where to put a compost pile, and little gardening experience. Oh, and I live in edmonton, ab. Our last frost is supposed to be the middle of May. I have started some seeds, but I'm not sure what I need to start inside and what can go straight outside once there's no more frost.

Basically I'm looking for information. Will my seedlings grow without lights? I have them near a window, but far enough away they shouldn't get chilled. What's a good way for a beginner to start? Does the square foot gardening work? Os there a better way to use a small space?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Lot of questions there! Do what I can to make a stab at it. Welcome to the forum and to organic gardening!

"potatoes, lettuce, carrots, beets, peas, swiss chard, tomatos (roma, sweetie, beefsteak), squash (butternut, spaghetti), rasberries, strawberries, saskatoons, nanking cherries, maybe some others... "

If all you have is three raised beds this year, you won't have room for all of that (assuming they are some typical size like 4x8' or close).

The tomatoes and squash are the main thing from that list to start indoors. And yes you really need to have some added light; they just won't do very well just with window light. Check out the seed starting threads. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. A regular shop light fixture with fluorescent tubes works great. For fewer seeds, just a clamp on trouble light with compact fluorescent bulb will help.

The lettuce, carrots, peas, swiss chard are all cool weather crops that can be direct seeded outdoors "as soon as the soil can be worked," that is when the ground is unfrozen and dried out enough so it doesn't clump up. The squash doesn't go in until the ground has warmed up. So if you start it inside, say sometime around average last frost date, it can probably wait to go into the space you pull the finished peas from.

Potatoes can be grown in a barrel or even just a large flower pot, so you don't use up the space in your beds.

The strawberries, saskatoons (I'm assuming you mean saskatoon berry, which we call serviceberry or June berry), cherries, rasperries are all perennials and should have their own spot outside the beds. Strawberries, you usually buy plants. They are difficult to start from seed and the plants are very cheap. The serviceberry is a good sized shrub. Raspberries grow on canes, which need their own space and tend to spread prolifically.

You can't hardly do organic gardening without compost and for someone mostly broke, it's way expensive to buy. And then what do you do with all your leftovers and garden waste. Surely you can find a 2'X2' space somewhere? Or you can do vermicomposting (look it up in search the forum) even indoors.

Check Freecycle or craigslist for things to build raised beds out of.... can be wood, concrete blocks, used brick, natural stone or I'm sure a variety of other things.

Don't know what happened last year. Two main things you need for a veggie garden are good, well loosened soil and lots of sunshine.

You need to find a friendly, knowledgeable local gardener to give you a little more help that is specific to your area, climate etc. But hope this gave you a few starting points.

Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:04 pm
Location: Edmonton, AB

Thanks for the tips, that definitely helps.

I'll try and find some lights on my next days off...I have some sprouts so far!

I was thinking 4x8 beds, how much can I plant in each one? I have no idea...

I have a few other places to put things. The raspberries I have a spot for by my back fence, but I'm not sure where to put saskatoons (like shade/half shade, ect).

I'll try and find somewhere to put a compost pile. My parents have a huge compost pile, so I was thinking about stealing some of theirs to start, lol

I guess I'll be hitting up my dad for some good advice. He does know about gardening, that hard part is pinning him down 'cause he's a busy man.

I'm planning on measuring my area the next few days, I'll post the dimensions to give you a better idea of what I'm working with.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7500
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 7:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

For maximizing the number of plants in a small space, I utilize the recommendations of both John Jeavons (How to Grow More Vegetables, 7th ed.) and Mel Bartholomew (Square Foot Gardening, 2005 revision).

Start with them; neither uses traditional row methods, so you won't have to re-invent the wheel for yourself. :D

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

Cool Member
Posts: 80
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:17 am
Location: Edmonton, Canada

Hey Jakhi,

I'm originally from Grande Prairie and my mom grew a wonderful garden with no grow lights and very little indoor sprouting (using natural light sources). So you don't need an expensive light setup to grow things here. Here's a cheap trick - save a couple of those clear topped containers that take out salads are served in. Poke some holes in the lid and plant your seeds inside. Voila, you have a little greenhouse. It'll help moderate temperature and moisture levels for the seedlings. Obviously you can only keep the lid on until the plants are about 5cm tall, but it can help them get through the first couple of weeks.

Another thing: you can put your food wastes directly into the soil to compost them. I don't think it's the most efficient way of going about it, but if you have no space it'll do in a pinch.

As for space limitations, try growing what you can in containers. Tomatoes and herbs are obvious candidates, but I had good luck growing beans in pots last year. Containers are great because you can put them where they will get maximum sun, and take them inside when there is a threat of frost.

btw, from what I've heard, you can sow chard and spinach as soon as the soil is workable, even here.

Good luck with the garden!

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Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:24 am
Location: Regina, SK

Saskatoons are good for full sun or part shade. I've seen them at provincial parks growing next to aspen and poplar. And they're among elm at Regina Beach.

My parents have a small bush in their garden. It takes about 3 or 4 years before you get fruit off the plant and the birds **love** them. I think my parents are getting on average a couple berries a year. Of course, they don't check everyday so I've little sympathy for them.

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