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YYC foodies: do you grow your own food? [Moved from Prairie Provinces]

I'm curious how many chowhounders garden as well. Anyone?

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  1. Last year I grew a small patch of Red Pontiac Potatoes, some lettuce that died, some beets, garlic that didn't seem to do well and a single carrot (the seeds were too old).

    I expected them to be good but was pretty surprised still at how good something you pulled up washed and ate fresh that day is.

    1. I just moved from a condo to a house. I don't have space for a garden but I'm going to try some basics this year, like lettuce, carrots and radishes in beds. Can't wait.

      3 Replies
      1. re: TSAW

        I forgot I put in radishes and they were too old too so I never saw any come up.

        1. re: The Gut

          Doesn't sound like you had a lot of luck Gut! I hope my first try turns out a little better. Are you going to give it another go this year?

          1. re: TSAW

            Yes. Mostly since it was the first time we did one and some of the seeds were too old it went pretty good. I hope to give it another go this year. I would rather move somewhere with a longer season but my wife loves winter too much.

      2. I have a pretty good arrangment. My husband grows the food and I cook it! Last year's garden included potatoes, swiss chard, onions, carrots, radishes, peas and shallots. The carrots and radishes were disappointing but everything else grew wonderfully. I actually don't know anyone who got any decent radishes this year. Was it just a bad year for them?

        This year we have plans to expand the garden and add beets, various herbs, raspberries, saskatoons and a crabapple tree. We had a crabapple tree at our old place and we really miss having crabapple juice all winter.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Lucki

          that is really interesting about the radishes, I had the same problem, they went straight to seed, this was my first year for them. This will be my 3rd season for a veggie garden, I have promised that I will always try something for at least 2 seasons. I guess radishes will get another try! We also do all the basics plus winter squash, cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, brocoli. We had a generally bad year last year, birds ate a lot of my seedlings as they sprouted and slugs got the rest. We have some work to do this year!

          I am dropping peppers (except a pot of jalepenos) they take up too much room and I just don't get a high enough yield.

          I have learned that we are actually a bit better off up here in Edmonton, we have a bit more heat and rain for the garden, we can grow almost anything in the garden.

          I am planting an apple tree this year as a memorial to my late father, I cannot wait to have apples....in a few years :)

          We also have plans for raspberries and saskatoons grown wild up here in the river valley. They are such a short season, and such a wild bushy 'tree' that I don't want them in my yard.

          1. re: cleopatra999

            Cleopatra, I sympathize with you as I live north of Edmonton. There is little difference between a zone 1a and 3a. Regardless the growing season is very short. My husband built me fabulous raised beds in an area that gets tons of sun. As beds dry out earlier we can plant earlier. They are also easier to cover and try to extend the season a bit. I am a Master Gardener who also wishes for a longer growing season - I would be thrilled with a zone 5 or 6!!

            Having said all that, it is amazing what CAN grow here. Last year I grew 17 herb varieites (sadly nearly all are annual), asparagus peas, several types of beans, strawberries, many greens including arugula and radicchio, carrots, etc. In fact, even in my limited space, we gave away bags and bags of greens to neighbours.

            Lilies do best in the prairie provinces. We have scads of hazelnuts as well as intensely sweet wild blueberries and wild strawberries.

        2. We do, but we're bad at it. Last summer we attempted Swiss chard, lettuce, parsnips, peas, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries...I think that might be it. The Swiss chard and peas did okay, and we got a few strawberries, but that's about it. The parsnips and carrots were tiny, and the broccoli and Brussels sprouts didn't get anything you could eat on them. I'm not sure they came up at all (I can't remember).

          The year before that, we also tried radishes, but they went straight to seed. No idea why.

          I would love to put in some Saskatoon and raspberry bushes. I'd like a huckleberry one, too, but I understand they won't grow here. But I discovered last summer that I really love Saskatoons.

          1. Carrots usually do quite well. Make sure to till the soil deep so that they can grow properly. Never buy 'Imperial', that's the cultivar you see in stores, it tastes terrible. I recommend at the very least 'Nantes'.

            Carrots, radishes and peas should be started early, put into the garden early May or even the earliest you can till the soil.

            Carrots and radishes should always be sown thickly to ensure enough germination; thin them out as they mature. You can also sow them together; the radishes grow much quicker than the carrots and break the soil for them.

            Garlic should be planted in fall, not spring. They will keep growing as long as the soil is not frozen.

            Vegetable gardens should always be amended with lots of compost. In Calgary, if you are starting from scratch, I recommend adding at least 30% compost of the volume of the soil. Some sort of liquid fertilizer should also be applied once the seeds germinate, as it takes at last two weeks for cold compost to get activated here.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Shazam

              Fun to hear everyone's adventures! I hear Hotchkiss was a foodie first, he couldn't find a good tomato in Calgary so he started growing his own out of desperation :)

              Yes I had the same prob with radishes bolting.. I read over this winter that they need to be in partial shade or grown and harvested in early spring. I have been completely inspired by a book called 'Four Season Harvest', which is about extending the season using cold frames. A friend of mine had spinach sprouting outside in DECEMBER (in Calgary) using the methods. So there's hope for us snow bound gardeners...

              Re: bushes, my neighbor put in a haskap berry bush. It started producing after one year.. and the berries taste like blueberries crossed with huckleberries. yum.

              1. re: ilovealbertabeets

                Yup radishes need to be sown very early spring. They can't handle the heat of summer.


              Absolutely I grow my own food! I don't trust to many people to provide me safe food.. but what I grow I know and adore. I have been learning to harvest my own seeds too, and I have 3 years of successful heirloom organic gardening under my belt, and I just can't imagine my life with out my summer abundance!

              Where else can you get handfuls of organic tiger tomatoes and rainbow swiss chard, along with bushels of basil and giant zucchini's and buttercup squash for free?

              My garden is my favourite place for dinner inspiration!

              1. Every year we expand the garden and every year we grow a little more. Last year we had 2 kinds of peas, two kinds of green beans, limas, broccoli, 2 kinds of tomatoes, ancho and sweet peppers, red and white onions, carrots, mixed leaf and Tom Thumb lettuces, chard, spinach, 2 kinds of beets and 2 kinds of turnips, sweet corn, kohlrabi, cabbage, 2 kinds of summer and 2 kinds of winter squash, cantalope, watermelon, strawberries, 12 (or so) varieties of herbs, and figs. Until our orchard fruits come in we're picking raspberries, blueberries, peaches and apples from local orchards. We scavenged blackberries, paw-paws and autumn olives this year . We raise chickens for broiler/fryers and eggs. My husband hunts so we have venison in the freezer. Our unheated covered winter garden lasted us into January this year and would have gone longer if ice hadn't brought the plastic down. A lot of the grains we use and all of the flour comes from a mill about 40 minutes from us. Local honey and sorghum and maple syrup from the VA highlands supply most of the sweeteners we use. We drink local wines and also make vinegar from them. Oils are, unfortunately, an ongoing problem. Haven't figured that one out yet.

                This spring we're putting in an asparagus bed, grapes, kiwis, passionfruit, goji, and more orchard fruits in addition to the regular veg beds. Potato and sweet potato beds are going in. We're discussing bringing on a lamb this year to add to the freezer and the possibility of a Dexter cow in the future to supply our dairy and beef needs.

                We have approx 2.5 acres that we're developing into a smallholding. We have 2 B&B suites in the house and pride ourselves on feeding our guests as many homegrown or local foods as possible and demonstrating how much food can be produced on very little land.

                Now if I could just get my husband to build that preservation room and root cellar!

                3 Replies
                1. re: morwen

                  WOW! Morwen sound like you guys are doing wonderful things! What is the growing zone where you are?

                  1. re: CookieGal

                    If he's in Virginia then somewhere between USDA zone 5-7.

                    1. re: CookieGal

                      We're in zone 6b, southwest VA, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. What got us started was Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". Ms. Kingsolver lives about 45 minutes southwest of us and we figured if she could do it, so could we. We're using a combination of square foot/market intensive gardening along with Eliot Coleman's methods of extending the season with unheated plastic covered hoops. We got a lot of "pshaws!" and "hope that works for ya!" reactions from our neighbors but now they're coming to us to help them with their gardens. Honestly, working the land and the B&B is a full time job for me and we couldn't accomplish this much if I had an outside job, but even when I did we were still able to mostly disengage from the grocery store during the summer and put up some produce for the winter.