May 2018 Wellness Article

Calgary Corner by Karen Ogilvie

Calgary - May Newsletter

Gardening—Not just for people with a yard

What do you think of with spring? When the weather turns warm, we tend to think of things outdoors: walks along the river, hikes, and gardening. As an activity, gardening has more benefits than just getting in some time in the sun. We tend to think of gardening as a privileged hobby to those that have the space to grow and time to develop it. Pictures tend to feature a big yard with lots of space, layers of different plants and the occasional gnome. Those are the basic requirements for a garden, right? Wrong! You don’t need to have a yard to have a garden. Especially for those living close to the city center, a yard can be a luxury addition. Urban gardening is a trend that is increasing in popularity and it’s something that you can make as big or as small as you want, as gardens come in all shapes and sizes. And just because you have a balcony instead of a yard, doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own vegetables and flowers.

Why build an urban garden?
There are lots of benefits to urban gardens. Aside from the obvious self- satisfaction and time spent with the sun, it is a step towards sustainability you can easily take. Growing your own fruits and vegetables will give you fresher produce than you’ll find in the grocery store, making it more enjoyable while also incentivizing you to eat more produce. A quick google search will offer thousands of suggestions for how to build a vertical or container gardens, which help to maximize and beautify the space you have. There is also an evolving trend in recycling unusual household products like old tires or dresser drawers into planter boxes that add another level of sustainability into this activity, while also helping with spring cleaning.

Here are some tips and tricks to starting up your own balcony urban garden:
Assess the sunlight. Pay attention to how much sunlight your balcony gets and how often. Don’t pick plants that require 8+ hours of sun if you don’t get much, and vice versa. While lots of veggies do require fun sun, there are lots of herbs and some greens that thrive in partial shade.
Pick herbs and veggies you enjoy, and would use. This one is a little more obvious. Do you hate cilantro? Don’t grow it.

Mix and Match plants in your containers. As long as there is enough space for each plant, you can plant different things in one container. This will give you more variety in your plants. Talk to a greenhouse garden for suggestions on plants that pair well!

Watch out for wind. Sure, we’re not in Lethbridge, but the wind is still a factor. Don’t baby your plants because they can build up strength against the wind. However, if you have a very exposed balcony, you might need to devise some windbreaks so that your plants don’t get broken down by the aggressive wind.
Talk to an expert gardener for advice. Don’t know any “Expert Gardeners”? Hit up a greenhouse and talk to the staff. They are usually quite knowledgeable, passionate, and paid to help you. Here are a few in Calgary that could help you out:

  • Sunnyside Green House | NW Calgary
  • Golden Acre Home and Garden | NE Calgary
  • Greengate Garden Centre | SE Calgary
  • Country Gardens and Nursery | Springbank

Whatever you do, get outside and enjoy the sunshine now that our long-anticipated spring has arrived!