April 03, 2020 | Donna Balzer
How to grow and harvest your own food gardenThanks to COVID-19 – and the associated anxieties around grocery shopping and keeping occupied during long stretches at home – food gardens are suddenly fashionable.
Whether you have a window box, a small patio or a luxurious, pie-shaped lot, there is room to grow something on your property and now is the time to start.
First, shop in your garage or shed. Second, trade among friends and family. Finally, buy online. Old radish, carrot, tomato and lettuce seeds last for several years. Other seeds, such as onions, leeks and corn, lose vitality in a season or two.
If you can't scrounge seed, buy it online from local suppliers like Wild Rose Heritage Seed in Lethbridge or heirloom seed suppliers like Baker Creek Seeds.
Many plants can be started now for planting later outside. Long-season plants like tomatoes need 8-10 weeks from seed before planting outside in late May, so start them right away. Broccoli and cauliflower need 4-6 weeks of growing indoors, but are planted outside earlier, so get those started now, too. The West Coast Seed Company publishes seed-starting charts, so look there for ideal starting dates.
Make use of household goods to grow seeds if you can't get out of the house to buy planting supplies right now. Toilet paper rolls – cut into thirds then taped together or propped up in half a plastic clamshell – work well.
Scope out the ideal spot
Go outside during the day. There is always at least one small sunny part in a yard or garden and this will determine where plants will grow best. In a new house, there are no trees, so everything south facing is sunny. In an older yard, watch for overhead trees.
When I lived downtown, I gardened on my second-floor balcony because everything else was too cold and shaded. Find the sun and start planning.
If sod covers your whole yard, simply grow over it. It's time to use up all those Amazon boxes you've been getting with your deliveries. Load wood chips, compost and soil on top of the cardboard in a 25-30-centimetre layer. If you're short on soil, it can be ordered online for delivery from companies like Eagle Lake Professional Landscape Supply.
There is no need to take the old lawn out first, as the organic material on top of the cardboard will suffocate the grass underneath.
Customize over time and space
If you only have a tiny space, you could grow miniature tomatoes in your window box with tufts of chive and parsley in between. If you have a massive garden, you could shift into commercial production and become the neighbourhood farmer, as you supply seniors and children with the garden goods they'll need going forward. Either way, summer here we come!
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