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It’s hard to believe that we’re getting ready to call an end to the gardening season. For most gardeners, when the plants are growing, the garden is the place to be, crafting our gardens like huge paintings, adding texture, depth, splashes of colour, and dabs of highlights. The more we work on our craft, the more skilled we become.
As with artisan’s collectives, we learn even more when we get together with other gardeners and share plant recommendations and growing tips. That is how the Society’s Open Gardens tours play an important role during the summer. We saw some pretty raw canvases on the tours, but when time was taken to talk with the gardener and listen to their story, there was a nugget to take away: an experiment tried, a plant choice, or a growing method.
Other gardens were the works of master craftsmen. Aside from the beauty of the plants they grew, the cold-hardiness zone boundaries they are pushing with some plant choices, and the overwintering methods used, a common takeaway from these amazing gardens was they made their own compost.
We are not talking about a small mound, or the product of a single composter (though that is a place to start), these were cubic metre sources of humus-rich, nutrient-filled, moisture-holding goodness. This compost is added to beds in the spring and fall and as a mid-season nutritional boost. Often, these gardeners are backlane leaf scavengers who negotiate with their neighbours to gather up prized leaves, such as birch and ash, in the fall. The leaves are first used as a mulch to insulate late-season crops, garlic beds, and tender or chinook-impacted plants. In the spring, the leaves are moved to the compost area. The compost area becomes a key working part of their gardens, with the mound or bins planted with heat-loving plants like squash, cucumbers, potatoes, or tomatoes that will mask the area while it does its work. “Build your soil” was a common recommendation from these gardeners. Good soil takes and holds moisture and makes gardening much easier. Plants grow to their maximum potential, and weeds are easier to pull.
While learning by being in a garden is a gardener’s first choice, it is not always possible, especially with Calgary’s short and unpredictable growing season. At the Horticultural Society, we don’t stop learning about gardening just because snow may be on the horizon. In fact, fall launches our learning season, and we’ve been planning. We are continuing our City of Calgary-sponsored circular economy series Seed to Table, and sharing information about how we, as gardeners, can reduce waste throughout the growing cycle and make the most of our harvests. Member Talks, daytime and evening Q&A programs, and a whole suite of online and in-person classes return, and so does our 19-week Master Gardener program. The Master Gardener program is for gardeners who want to take their knowledge up a notch and want to share what they learn with other gardeners.
The Society is also working on the plan for Think Spring! It’s our online day of learning dedicated to gardening in the Calgary area. So, save the date, Saturday, February 10, 2024, to join us for a day of online talks. Then, spoiler alert, we’re working on bringing back an in-person spring market-style event at the end of April. Watch our website (calhort.org) for details about the Calgary Horticultural Society’s Gardeners’ Market. If you’re interested in exhibiting at this event, use the Contact Us form on our website and let us know.
We may not be able to garden outside year-round, but our seasons open a window to learning that lets us prep for spring when we rush into the garden again. The growing season is wrapping up, but the garden still needs to be put to bed – top dressed with compost, spring-flowering bulbs and garlic need to be planted – with a side of compost, and leaves need to be collected for mulch, that will later be turned into compost! When that is all done, we can say, “That’s a wrap” to this year’s growing season, and really dig into the learning season.
For details about What’s Happening at the Society, visit our website calhort.org.