The Northern Vegetable Gardener
A vegetable garden in MacKenzie, B.C. (2004.)
Vegetable gardening is regaining popularity
More and more people (myself included) are getting excited about the possibilities for back-yard vegetable gardening in short-season climates. North-central B.C. used to be famous for the quality of its farm products; potatoes, cabbages and carrots were grown by the ton and shipped south as well as being sold locally. Now most of our food comes up the highway, after having arrived at the distributors in the Lower Mainland or Edmonton from far-flung parts of both Americas as well as the rest of the world. It’s great to support your local farmers, wherever possible, but even better when you are your local farmer, even on a very small scale, and a fresh organic salad is only a few steps away out your back door.
Growing vegetables is simple – people have been doing it since the beginning of time. In the northern zones 2-5, the climate is the limiting factor, and the possibility of unpredictable first and last frosts can keep gardeners awake at night – or give them nightmares. Success hinges on knowing which varieties to plant, when to plant, and how to protect the crops from the elements and the wildlife.
Gardening for health and hobby
As we become more aware of the poor quality as well as the precarious supply-chain of our food, backyard vegetable gardens are once again becoming a necessity, as well as a hobby. One major difference separating today’s new vegetable gardeners from their predecessors is that many of us didn’t learn to grow our own food from our parents or grandparents while working along side them in the garden. (Or we have only vague and negative memories of forced-labour weeding.) The basic “how-to” and even more important “when” knowledge of the very “hand’s on” practice of vegetable gardening seems to have been lost along the way.
Putzing in the garden is good for the soul as well as the kitchen table, and a huge array of hardy vegetables can be grown in cold climates – it’s not just cabbage and potatoes, and it’s certainly more than zucchini.
Vegetable gardening – even in the north, with a 90 day frost free period in good years – is not complicated, and it doesn’t have to be hard work. This section of the Northern Gardeners website is intended to help both beginning and experienced gardeners succeed in their edible endeavors. You will – in time – find the best of both old and new knowledge gathered here. We are going to work through a gardening year together in real time, as the snow comes off and the beds are readied for spring planting.
And it’s almost spring, so I can’t wait to get gardening instead of just talking about it!
Comments and questions – and photos – welcomed, as always.