Friday, January 23, 2009

Green Thumb (Not)

Calgary has been caught in a deep freeze these past few days.  I think the temperature is hovering at a balmy -20C this afternoon.  It's been cold!  Last week's chinook teased us into thinking spring might be just around the corner, but of course, we have several months of winter still ahead.  It is certainly a dreary prospect.

At least I can dream about an end to the snow, can't I?  This will be the first spring Ben and I have our own yard to contend with (for good or for ill).  I figure now is the time to decide what we'll do with it! Hopefully, we can get right to work in May when the city finally thaws out.

I've been reading a couple of excellent books (loaned to me by my Mom and my dear neighbour).  The first is a book I would gladly recommend to any Calgarian:

I am only a few chapters in to The Calgary Gardener and I've already learned a great deal.  As anyone who's lived in this city knows, our climate is unpredictable (at best!).  I am slowly becoming more aware of our changing seasons and am learning the names of some plants that grow well here.

I've found the above book to be a great general reference.  (My book's pages are full of sticky notes at the moment.)  I've found terrific information on topics like composting, laying a stone path, hanging a gate, planting trees and caring for a lawn.  I love any book with glossy pictures and illustrated diagrams, so this one is tops for me!

Ben and I have also found this book helpful:

We referenced Lois Hole's book extensively when we planted a tree in our front yard this fall.  The book specifically features trees and plants that grow well in Alberta.  Ben and I plan to plant several trees in our back yard next fall and will again use the book as our main reference.

So, what do we have planned?  All my reading, research and pondering has led me to the following conclusions:
  • The next couple of seasons we should focus on building good foundations for our landscaping.  (Work on the basics.)
  • We do not have the time or energy for fancy gardening plans!
  • Like most families this year, we are watching our budget carefully and our modest landscaping will reflect that.
  • Vegetable gardens are a lot more work than I had first realized.
Slowly but surely, a series of goals are starting to gel in my own head. My natural tendency is to get carried away with elaborate plans, therefore, I am trying my best to keep things simple!  Here are the areas I think we should work on outside:
  • Take good care of the front and back lawns.  (Aerate them in the spring, deal with the weeds more effectively.)
  • Hang gates at the entrances to the back yard. 
  • Stain the fence in a natural shade.
  • Spread bark mulch in the beds along the driveway and around the tree.  Run plastic edging along the sides.  (I dug out these beds last fall.)
  • Install moonlights in the beds along the driveway.  (We bought the lights last fall.)
  • Plant two or three containers with annuals to brighten up the porch.  (I already have the pots.)  Buy a couple hanging baskets (an annual fundraiser at the school) to brighten up the back deck. 
I am still debating the wisdom of planting a small veggie patch.  Will it be worth the effort?  I've read that a tiny garden (only one square meter) can supply a family with salad veggies for the season.  A garden twice that size can provide a fair amount of vegetables.  Should we do it? Maybe I could plant a few tomatoes and peppers in a sunny pot out on the deck.  That sounds less intimidating to me!

I also have a couple of goals for next fall:
  • Plant some bulbs in the beds along the front driveway so that next spring we can enjoy the colours.
  • Plant three or four trees in the backyard.  (The trees go on sale 50% off in the fall.)
I am slowly coming to realize that "slow and steady wins the race".  We plan to live in this house for a long time.  We'll have many years to slowly build up the yard.  In a few years, when our kids are a little bigger, we may also have more time to devote to gardening.  Until then I will be satisfied with simple plans!


AlisonVeritas said...

Depending on how big your pots are...there are almost no vegetables that won't do as well in a pot as they will in your garden. So if you want to experiment without digging up a big garden, container veg gardens are a great way! I've had lots of luck(on my mom's sunny porch) with peppers, tomatoes and even lettuce!

Strutt's said...

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this information. We too have found our permanent home and am I dreaming vastly of the gardening possibilities. I wouldn't endeavour to embark on a vegetable garden, but do have high hopes for pretty colours and expiramenting with flowers. I have written all your wonderful suggestions down. THANK YOU!