As its name suggest, Grow Food Calgary‘s aim is to help people grow their own food in Calgary. Gardening expert and co-author of No Guff Vegetable Gardening, Donna Balzer is part of the GFC crew and knows her way around vegetables in Calgary. Here are some of her tips on growing vegetables in Calgary.
When you plant matters
Different plants are better planted at different times. Kale, Swiss chard, and garlic can withstand frost, and so can be planted as early as late March. “If they’re a very root, hardy plant, like lettuce, spinach or garlic, you can put those in early,” says Balzer. Other veggies, like zucchini, require guaranteed warm weather in order to grow, and are best planted at a time when warm weather abounds like early June.
Grow what you wouldn’t buy
A big reason people grow their own vegetables is to have healthier food options. Balzer suggests keeping in mind which pesticide-laden or disease-prone foods they can avoid in the grocery store by growing their own.
“Spinach for example, is often on a recall list in the States. It’s often dirty,” says Balzer. “Why spinach? It is so easy to grow in the off-season in warmer areas, but they don’t have the water quality that we have here in Calgary. We’re better to grow our own spinach.”
Potatoes are another good example of what to grow rather than buy, says Balzer, as commercially grown potatoes use a lot of pesticides.
Grow your own and start indoors
If you’re going to start gardening, you should start growing your plants indoors rather than buying pre-grown plants from a greenhouse, says Balzer.
“If you buy a plant that’s been grown in a greenhouse, it’s super lush, super big and super root bound. You might have trouble acclimatizing it to outdoors,” she says. “If you start it yourself in the right soil at the right time, you’ll have it at the right stage at the right time to start it outside.”
When to transplant depends on the type of vegetable you’re growing.
Spacing is key
No matter your garden size, the amount of space you have to work with is ultimately limited. Balzer suggests plotting out the amount of space available to you and designating which vegetables will go where in order to maximize your crop.
“I can tell you that one cauliflower takes up the same space as 50 carrots,” she says.
Not planting all your seeds at once is another important element of spacing your garden. “Stagger when you start plants. Who wants 3,000 radishes all at once?” says Balzer. “People get a package of seeds and they put in that whole package. They realize quickly that they are giving them away or never get through them all.”