Ok, you've been hounding me as to why my garden is so seriously out of control, even though I live in Edmonton, which is a Zone 3a garden. I however, am in the suburbs – almost in the country- and I have to battle slightly harder than someone who has an inner city garden lot, for sure. My yard isn't as warm and doesn't hold the heat through the night as well as a cozy inner city garden does, just a plain fact.
Let me start with the caveat of “I am not an expert in gardening.” I'm just sharing what worked for me!
Zone 3a gardens can be tough! We have a short growing season, it seems that it doesn't warm up as early as it used to and we can get low temperature dips well heck, all the way into June it seems!
So everyone has been wanting to know how the devil I am getting cucumbers and zucchini already, not to mention that everything is incredibly ahead of most people's gardens here in Edmonton.
It's July 10th and we are eating baby carrots, full size cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, beets, swiss chard, radishes are long eaten and peas are almost there.
And my seeds were in late, late late this year. No early sowing, no cold frames, nada.
No chemicals, no fertilizers, no growth products.
First things first.
1). The Soil. I have a garden mix of soil that is Topsoil, Manure/Compost, Peat and was brought in from a local company. It also has weeds. I'm totally ok with that.
2) Start with as many seedlings as possible. However, I started incredibly late this year. I forgot. So my seedlings were only a few weeks old.
The secret to planting squash seedlings is to start them around 2 weeks ahead of time, no sooner than that, in a peat “cup” full of planting mix. Then, when you transplant them, remove as much of the peat pot as you can without disturbing the roots and then you plant them deep enough that you cover the little vines up and you only have leaves sticking out. Trust me. Squash gets really cranky when you transplant them and this is the secret to strong, healthy plants. It took me a few years to figure this out. When you don't, the stems can start to brown and wither and the plants aren't as healthy. When you bury the stem, the plants flourish.
This is because squash should be hilled, so start right away!
Yes, we are already eating cucumbers. It's crazy.
3) This one is almost as important as the soil. Location, location, location folks. This right here is my major secret. My last two city gardens have been planted along – and I might right alongside- a south-facing fence. In this yard I also extended it along the west facing fence as well.
My secret? Radiating heat.
This is why my garden is so much further along than most people. I discovered in my old yard when I was standing by the fence that the heat was literally bouncing off my fence and scalding me compared to the heat in the middle of the yard.
This soil is hotter earlier and it stays warm all night long far before most other areas in the yard do. I had ALL my plants out May 19th, even my finicky tomatoes because the soil stays warm.
It also allows you to have a beautiful lawn. I'm not a “food not lawns” girl at all.
I'm all about Food AND Lawns. I want it all. I want the kids to have a trampoline, a space to run and play games and Mama wants her massive garden.
The space along your fence is absolutely, 100% wasted space and if it faces the right direction you are missing out on AMAZING garden potential, then you leave the rest of your lawn free to enjoy.
So to sum up, a South facing fence radiates the most heat, however a West facing fence is a very close second. The sun radiates all evening long onto those plants. I also have a large 2 story house and it doesn't matter; the sun hits these areas.
This pic was taken three weeks ago.
Here's that south-facing fence today, three weeks later. It's a jungle.
The West facing fence. Here I planted the lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, peas, swiss chard and beans. And more that I am most likely forgetting but my point is, the heat loving plants are on the south-facing side.
Three weeks later.
4) Know Your Plants.
The trifecta: squash, corn and beans. All grown together and flourishing.
Peas are mere days away from being ready.
My only failure this year, (so far, touch wood) 4 of my cabbage perished and this is my only one. Sniffle.
This Ukrainian girl loves cabbage, dang it.
5) Water, water, and more water. Rain isn't going to cut it. My Grandma was the most water conserving person I know – they had to pay for cistern water on a pension- and she collected rainwater to supplement the cistern so that she could water her garden every…single…day and she grew enough to “put up” for the family for the year.
I prefer a good soak every two days thanks to my slave labour. I wait until the ground is dry again – and with that radiating heat it doesn't take long- and then soak it again.
Child labour at it's finest.
Any questions or comments just ask below!