Digging in For Summer

May in Fernie. We are heading into busy times. Squeezing recreation in with work around the home, a job and often children. Some of you would love to include a garden this summer. Gardening is an invaluable skill to learn and the produce we eat is much more nutritious when it goes straight from our garden to our plate. It also teaches our children that some of our produce need not come from a store, and demonstrates a process of life from start to finish. A fun and healthy activity for the whole family, there are a few important factors when choosing to start a vegetable garden.

Time: If you already have a busy schedule, don't bite off more than you can chew. Start out small. Plant easy and rewarding vegetables. After the initial time it takes to create and plant your garden, make it part of your daily routine and take 15 minutes a day to love your little plot and it will grow.

Sunlight: A vegetable garden needs at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Eight to ten hours is ideal.

Soil: It does not need to be ideal but it should be easy to till, loose and well drained. Heavy and sandy soil can be improved by adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. Organic matter should be added to any garden in the spring and even worked into the soil around plants as they grow. It can take several years to build up really good soil depending on what you start with. Your garden will only improve year after year.

Water:
Mother Nature doesn't always provide enough water. You will need a water source and irrigation system that works for your type and size of garden. Make sure you water deep once your plants have well-established roots. Try not to over-soak. A light spraying nozzle works for keeping newly planted seeds that are close to the surface moist without washing them away.

Proximity to your house:
The closer it is to your door the more it will draw you to it making it easier to incorporate into your every day routine.

Zone:
Fernie is considered a Zone Four gardening zone - frost free from June until August. Plant accordingly.

A few easy and rewarding plants I enjoy having in my garden.

Rhubarb - Give it a permanent home. Great to freeze for fruit crisps, muffins, compotes, pies. Fun to harvest with kids.

Chives - A perennial herb for the edge of the garden. Tasty in spreads, salads, omelettes and more. They are often found already growing under melting snow in spring.

Salad greens, mesclun mixes, spinach, Swiss chard -
A 6'-8' row will provide as many as three to six harvests in one season. Harvest leaves regularly by cutting back and leaving 1 1/2” to re-grow. Ask garden centres for non-bolting, heat tolerant spinach varieties.

Strawberries - Wonderful for grazing children. Plant at the edge of your garden, in containers or a raised bed on their own. Ever bearing type is good for providing berries all season.

Carrots - If you’ve made sure your soil has good drainage and provided some organic matter to loosen it up, carrots are easy, high yielding and fun to grow. A bit of love after they germinate to thin the seedlings is needed. Seed tape may save you some time and makes planting carrots easy for children.

Peas - Children love picking peas and the seeds are large enough for little hands to plant. Innoculating your pea seeds with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria before planting will help with thier growth. This is available at garden centres. Compost your pea plants, they contribute high levels of nitrogen to your soil. They will need something to climb.

Sunflowers - There are so many small but tall, beautiful varieties that are able to mature & self seed in our zone. Seedlings transplant well if you want to move them from where they have seeded in the spring to a more practical area of the garden. Leave them standing for the birds to feed off in the fall.

Valuable information can be obtained from neighbours, garden centre experts and the Internet about our growing area, soil improvement, pest control and for creative ideas. Never get discouraged - gardening is an ongoing learning experience for even the most seasoned growers.

Lived in homes are full of people, pets, ongoing chores and love. Katharine is excited to contribute her old and new ideas, tips and recipes this summer and fall with the Fernie Fix. “I do not operate a magazine-perfect home. I am just a Mom with a love for exploring ideas, cooking and gardening. Trying to squeeze it all in with everything else I enjoy doing. Sound familiar?”

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