How one local small business makes every square foot count in Calgary, AB.
It all started with a small urban yard. The yard is still small, but has gradually been reworked to accommodate the growing plans of a local small business called Nature Notes. Here’s the backstory on how growing got priority in this very small space.
Meet Deanna Russell. Spent years perfecting her salsa recipe. A few years ago we decided to grow the tomatoes needed for this project (and also canning stewed tomatoes for year round enjoyment). Last year Deanna (owner of Nature Notes) entered a salsa contest hosted by Sunnyside Hillhurst Farmer’s Market- and WON! The whole family was pretty excited. Yeah, it’s pretty good salsa. No, we’re not selling it.
Other plants grow in the raised garden beds located strategically on the property. These beds include the vegetables grown for crop sharing with Deanna’s parents as well as food grown for processing for the freezer- to be enjoyed all winter long.
One major component of the garden system is making use of the 7 rain barrels located throughout the yard. Some of them are connected together so they consistently contain equal amounts of water. Pictured here is one of the rain barrels with an overflow system connected with gutters along the fence (and drainage off the property- not shown).
New this year is a fourth garden bed- specifically for growing herbs and flowers to be harvested and and dried for future use in tea blends and for making herbal infused oils. I’m so excited to see this garden bed up and running! Since we have a serious squirrel issue, this bed is covered in netting to protect the treasures inside.
Takeaway hints and tips for urban gardening
Compost is key
We are diligent about composting! It feels so good to take food from the earth and then put some back. Here’s a quick pic of our composting system. We have this set up at the back of the yard, behind the garage, so it’s out of view. For all the pallet lovers out there on pinterest, check it out!
Try crop sharing or plant sharing with neighbours and friends
This takes some planning ahead, but is definitely worth it. We grow extra carrots so we can give some to my parents, and they grow extra potatoes so they can give some to us. I also pilfer the odd zucchini when my mom isn’t looking…my dad knows that I do this but he doesn’t tell on me. He’s so great.
Have a watering or irrigation system in place to make use of free water
We have to pay for water both coming and leaving our property. We got tired of paying for watering the yard pretty fast. I know that 7 rain barrels seems like a lot but we use all the water they collect to care for our food source. You can purchase rain barrels from the City of Calgary or you can make them yourself- like we did. If you make them yourself, be sure you know what was previously stored in that container!
Include some hardscaping elements in your urban garden
I’m speaking strictly from a design point of view now. Hardscaping is part of your landscape plan. It includes permanent items like a gazebo or fence or garden bench. These are the items that provide a focal point during the winter when the yard is bare of vegetation. I like my hardscape items to be both functional and beautiful. I especially like the garden gate that my husband Clint built (pictured at the top of the article).
Sometimes crazy things happen
In Calgary we get some wild weather. For example, snow in September. Or in late May, as happened yesterday. We must be flexible and sometimes work quickly to rescue crops before they are lost to hail or snow or scorching heat. Sometimes you have to drop everything to save those carrots!
Dream about future plans
You gotta start somewhere. Learn from all your mistakes. Dreaming is still free.