Yesterday's post contained notes from Frank Ferragine's workshop "Gardening 101" as presented at Edmonton Home and Garden Show. Today I am focusing on Frank's tips - ideas to fulfill the goals and ideals discussed in his "Gardening 101" workshop. Some of this information is supplemented with hardiness maps and related information that I researched for this post.
Know Your Soil
- To roughly determine the composition of your soil without sending it off to a soil analysis expert you might try this. Go to the middle of your garden plot and remove enough soil to fill a mason jar 3/4 full with soil. Next add water and dishwashing liquid. Shake. Allow to sit at least overnight. You will find the soil will have separated into layers. You might see sand, loam, clay in the jar. This will give you an idea of what types of soil amendments you should consider to make the best of your garden plot.
- Amend your soil in the fall. Why? The freeze and thaw cycle through fall, winter and early spring will work in the amendments and loosen your soil to make it easier in the spring to finish the amendment in preparation for planting.
- If you get manure from a friend who is a farmer, get aged manure and ask that it be dug out from the center of the pile. The center of the pile heats a great deal thus killing any weed seeds that may be present. Also, Frank likes to use sheep manure as it has fewer weed seeds to begin with. There's something about the sheep's digestive system that makes it so.
- Frank loves to plant in raised beds. He has tried and currently uses 4' x 8' boxes constructed from plywood. Don't use pressure treated lumber nor treated railway ties as toxins in these woods will leach into the soil and, subsequently, your vegetables growing there.
- Frank says the higher the elevation, the lower the zone. For example, a balcony on a high rise, say 14 floors up, will be a lower zone than the ground floor. The ground floor might be a zone 3 but the balcony 14 floors up will likely be lower, zone 2 for example. Interesting. The closer you are to sea level, the milder the climate, thus the higher number zone. ie. Vancouver is zone 8, Edmonton is zone 3b.
- Canada's hardiness map zones and USA's hardiness map zones are different. According to the USDA Edmonton is zone 3b while the Canadian hardiness map indicates it is zone 3a. The USDA hardiness zones are informative: the extremes of winter cold are a major determinant of whether a plant species can be cultivated outdoors at a particular location. Canada's map takes into account other variables such as median highs and moisture.
For more information see plant variables.