Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring has sprung...

We woke up this morning to the expected April snowstorm.  Ten to twenty centimetres of snow should land on us by the end of the day.  I had originally planned on taking pictures of some of the perennials poking up around the yard (chives, hollyhocks, poppies, sigh.)  Instead, this is what is facing us right now.....

There are some gardening challenges that come with living in Alberta.  Our climate is harsh, with very long winters, late spring frosts and early fall frosts.  Our average daily high in July is around 17-18 degrees celcius.  This means when you read a seed packet and it gives you an estimate of how long til maturity, we have to add on a week or two.  However, all is not lost.  We have really, really long days in the summertime up here.  (We are not that far from the land of the midnight sun.)  This means that although our growing season is short, our gardens can catch up pretty quick with all the extra daylight.  The town we live in actually has very fertile ground.  Our garden is over 25 years old, and the previous owners were very dedicated gardeners who left some beautiful soil behind for me!  I have also developed some gardening strategies that help me get the most out of the ground in our short summer.

Some things I start from seed, some I buy as transplants, since I don't have cold frames or a greenhouse for starting seeds.  Our south facing windows are shaded by a very large willow tree, so starting seeds indoors on a sunny sill is out of the question.  I read seed labels very carefully to make sure that the vegetables have a short growing period.  I also grow dwarf varieties of other vegetables, because they tend to ripen earlier.  I plant tomatoes in pots because I can move them in and out of the garden shed on frosty nights, and move them around the yard to chase the sun during the day.  If an unexpected frost warning comes, my garden ends up wearing any number of old sheets, towels, whatever is available.  Some things I don't bother with, like pumpkins.  (Well, I did bother last year, and had a huge pumpkin vine with a tiny little pumpkin attached to it.  That was a colossal waste of garden space.)  Every year I have successes and failures, and learn a little more.  We have had great gardens over the past few years, and it's a wonderful way to get kids involved in the growing process from start to finish.  They will often eat something they have grown that they wouldn't normally try.  And nothing beats the wow factor of an overgrown zucchini or sunflower that stretches to the sky.  This is why we keep planning and planting every year.

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