So I’ve survived just fine for twenty nine years without the slightest urge to grow anything, and killing the odd houseplant here and there. Until this year. For some inexplicable reason I’ve wanted a garden since Christmastime and decided to plant one. Now, I’m not talking about pretty plants here, although the way this is going I may find myself planting petunias before too long, but a veggie garden with maybe some strawberries thrown in, because let’s face it – if you can’t eat it, it hardly seems worth the effort. This is a chronicle of what I’m learning as we get closer to spring.
Now some people would simply pick a sunny spot, remove some sod, throw some seeds down and see what happens. I’m not one of those people. I come with a gene for research and analysis (at least on some topics), so armed with Amazon reviews I ordered some gardening books. After reading a few, one floated to the top of the pile as the most user friendly and most informative for a completely clueless beginner like myself. That encyclopedia is called The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions, is available from Amazon (see link below), and really helped me get my bearings around this whole gardening thing.
I already knew that Calgary had clay soil, and decided that the easiest thing to do would be to build a raised bed. That way you can fill it with whatever mix of soil you want as deep as you want and avoid the bad drainage problems inherent to clay. Looking out the backyard with an eye to plant, I tried to pick a spot for this future masterpiece. The house opens to a wide, large deck with stairs descending to the large wavy concrete pad that covers a large portion of the backyard. Along the corners of the fence are two flower beds, which left the right side of the yard along the fence. Luckily all this faces south, so the whole area gets tons of sun during the day. In the photo below we’re talking about the space between the semi-circular bed and the fence.
Given the space restrictions the bed will be 3 X 15 feet and at least a foot deep, likely more but we’re not there yet. As of today the yard is covered in snow a foot deep, so it’ll be a while before we even see the ground. Once the bed is built we’ll have to fill it with quality soil and amendments, so googling I went to find what we need. Looking at the offerings of garden centers was extremely informative but very expensive. Clearly this was meant for repotting the odd houseplant, not filling a large raised bed. Turns out that Burnco offers bulk garden soil that comes pre-mixed with compost and manure, making it more or less ready to go. At this time price hovers around $40.00/cubic yard which sounds very reasonable indeed. Further research turned up a local mushroom farm near Airdrie that sells bulk compost for about $10.00/pickup truck load if you’re willing to load it yourself, and the farm gives compost away for free during Gardener Appreciation week which this year falls the week before Mother’s Day. They’ve just changed their name to All Seasons Mushrooms but I don’t see a new site yet, so below is the link to the old one with an address. Manure was the most interesting search –turns out the govt. of Alberta itself has a manure directory which offers a variety of different manure in various locations and stages of decomposition. But hey – gardens like manure, so below’s the link.