May Long weekend is the unofficial kick-off to the garden season here in Cochrane. More people than ever are throwing on a pair of gloves and starting a garden in hopes of producing something good to eat.

Callandra Caufield started The Backyard Harvest Project to assist and teach people all about growing their own food. 

“I started the Backyard Harvest Project in 2020 during the big pause. The whole intention is to get people excited about gardening and help educate them so that they feel confident when they're out in their backyard growing food.”

She says that the first thing you need to do when you start your own garden is to get in the right headspace.

“The reality is if you're a gardener, you're going to be a lifelong learner, you will make mistakes. You will kill plants, bugs will kill your plants, hail will wreck your garden, it's just a reality here so get yourself in the headspace that it's about enjoyment, and having fun and experimenting.”

“The next thing you need to do is take care of your soil. Soil is really, really important and in Cochrane, we have a lot of clay. You want to add things to help loosen it up and you want to spend a lot of time adding organic matter like compost that will help your soil. You need a spot to grow things so find a place with lots of sunshine, and then you can start.”

Cochrane is in Plant Hardiness Zone 3 and you need to pick the right plants for our climate.

“One of the things that do go really well here is root vegetables, they’re under the ground so they're not nearly as affected by all of these weather changes. Alberta root vegetables actually are sweeter than in a lot of places in the world because our cold nights make the starches convert into sugars.” 

“If you are a very beginner gardener, a great thing to start with is carrots, beets, radishes, and potatoes.” 

“The other thing I would say is if you're new, start with a herb garden. You can grow one basil plant, and you can get 20 or 30 of those little packages that you might buy at the grocery store. You can grow them in pots, you can bring them inside if it's getting cold.”

For more on The Backyard Harvest Project, courses on starting a garden and growing your own food, go here.