Calgary Herald

Reap the rewards of your vegetable garden

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Food gardening in Calgary is an old-fashioned tradition that’s suddenly become new again. However, growing vegetables in Calgary can be a challenge.

“We have a uniquely challengin­g climate for food production, mainly because of our short growing season, which on average is 115 frost-free days,” says Calgary Horticultu­ral Society garden animator Janet Melrose.

Calgary’s cool summer nights, which can go below 5C, are another limiting factor. “Once the temperatur­e at night goes below 5C, plants stop growing,” Melrose explains. “This really affects plants that are setting fruit, for example tomatoes.”

However, the fact that Calgary is a windy place with low humidity benefits gardeners because fewer diseases, fungi and pests have a chance to take root.

The best edible plants for the Calgary area are cool-season crops, which germinate and grow in cool weather. They will also tolerate light frost. Peas, carrots, spinach and potatoes are all examples of coolseason crops. With some cool-season crops, you can get a head start by direct seeding them in the fall. This often means, you will have lettuce or spinach in early May.

Warm-season crops are those that need warm soil and warm nights to germinate, grow and mature — for example, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and artichoke. These are best grown indoors from seed, and transplant­ed out after the nights are reliably above 5C, Melrose says.

“Avoid corn unless you have just the right spot for it. Generally, it will not have enough time to mature. Most winter squash will not mature for the same reason.”

Vegetable gardening is something that everyone in the family can enjoy and help out with. “Kohlrabi is a great kid’s vegetable,” Melrose says. And Brussels sprouts “are so fun, watching them popping out like crazy along the stalk.”

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