Monday, January 23, 2012

What not to plant in Calgary!

Harold wanted to know: Is there a list of plants that should have warnings attached to them? He gardens in the cold plains of Calgary. Between the mountains, wind and short frost free season he is hesitant to start vegetables. He had so much trouble with parsnips and carrots in particular I enlisted the help of Dawn, a friend and client in Calgary. But first I sent Harold the usual list of plants to avoid- warm season crops are "out"- such as eggplants, tomatillos, peppers, okra and artichokes (pictured left). Just simply too much work for a new gardener in a cold climate. In fact we give these crops a "red light" meaning difficult in my new book No Guff Vegetable Gardening.

I asked Dawn to comment on growing parsnips because his were so impressive last year (he left them in a little package on my front step last spring) I wrote a whole article about them - an article reprinted across the country.

Dawn wrote: We consider carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, beets,and the lettuce family as "What should be planted in Calgary". Parsnips,like carrots, can stand a hard frost.
Parsnips are very slow to germinate (2 weeks), but don't presoak(and never transplant tap root vegetables - the roots will go fibrous). I recommend you (Harold) try them again, normal seeding at the same time as carrots (as soon as the ground can be worked),and never let the seed bed dry out-just moist,not wet.

Create as deep a soil bed as you can, with lots of compost, and we give 3 foot row spacing to these heavy feeders. As Donna mentioned, we grow 2 rows x 40 ft of parsnips per year, rotating all these crops and with soil 2 to 3 ft deep. We dig 1 row in the fall and 1 in the spring, the overwinter frost gives them a slightly nutty flavour. The parsnips are 3 or 4 inches in diameter and up to 3 ft long, although most of the "meat" is in the top 18 inches. Try planting with a few radishes to mark the row - sow one seed at a time with 2 inch spacing and thin to 6 to 8 inches. We have had good results with both 'Arrow' or 'Albion' as varieties, from Veseys or Dominion seed houses. Good luck with this, and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions - this is my 'passion' in outdoor living in Calgary.

okay I have to say I love it when clients help clients. What could be more fun. As Dawn was writing me this note and copying in Harold he was chipping up Christmas trees for use in his hen house. I love these people!


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Jody Urquhart said...

ooo very detailed. I am slowly learning to be a better gardener thanks to your inspiration.
Cant wait for some good blooming weather

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