A Cochrane resident and avid gardener is hosting a pair of virtual vegetable gardening workshops in partnership with Rocky View County (RVC) on February 16 and 23, to help prepare residents for the upcoming growing season.
Workshop coordinator Andrea Blonsky, who is also president of the Cochrane Community Gardens Society, said the two separate workshops will cover a variety of topics. The first will understand the basics of growing vegetables and the second will instruct residents on what to do with the annual harvest.
“With all the bounty at the end of the year – other than throwing an abundance of zucchini on your neighbor’s doorstep, what do you do with all this?” she said laughing.
The Feb. 16 workshop will also help residents navigate the different challenges of each growing season as they relate to their location in the county.
“We’ll often start our course by asking participants which side of Highway II they live on,” she said. “Because there are different growing conditions the closer you get to the mountains, the challenges are greater. We have fewer frost-free days as you head west and into the foothills region, an abundance of wind.
She added that the course will begin with a discussion on how to extend the growing season and maximize its ability to grow and cope with soil quality. It will also cover topics such as early planting, seeding know-how, and more.
Additionally, the course will equip green hands with the skills to create physical structures and environments in their garden to protect their seedlings and crops from threatening weather conditions such as frost, wind and hail.
“Around here, frost is always a risk for us,” she said. “The joke is, if you have a freeze around the summer solstice in late June, is that your last frost of spring or your first frost of fall?”
She added that the topics covered also include information on suitable and ideal crops for each growing season and each location in the county, including various planting methods.
The course will also help residents learn what is needed to make their garden space more conducive to plant growth in order to meet temperature and soil quality challenges.
As for why residents should attend either workshop, Blonsky said there are various benefits to growing your own food, including fresher taste and better value for money.
“The taste of what you produce is incomparable to anything you can buy anywhere else,” she said. “By the time you get them, whether at a grocery store or at a farmers’ market, it’s not the same quality and it doesn’t have the same nutritional content as what you pick fresh from your garden.
“You have the advantage of taste, of knowing what your food source is – you know it won’t be unnecessarily sprayed with herbicides or pesticides [and] you control this growth process.
She added that there is also a financial benefit to growing your own vegetables, which is an important consideration for many people as the cost of food is high due to inflation this year.
“It gives you that continued sense of security to face whatever the world throws at you at any time as a challenge,” she said. “I still eat cold storage potatoes that we harvested in the fall.
“My freezer is full of vegetables we own, berries and fruits that we have frozen and will enjoy throughout the year – it’s food safe in terms of quality and quantity and It’s a great way to engage with those around you.”
Following the initial presentation, the workshop on February 23 provides the techniques with which gardeners can preserve their harvest well, whether it is cold storage, dehydration, freezing, pickling or syrup methods.
“The process is constantly evolving because you’re always learning,” Blonsky said. “There is always something new to learn.”
Lawyer by day, Blonsky said her love of gardening stems from her love of cooking and good food, adding that it is a “self-fulfilling process”, which nurtures her mind, body and his soul.
She said that no matter how much space one has, they too can get their hands dirty, whether it’s an acre of land or the balcony of their apartment.
“Whether it’s very small scale or very large scale, if you’re a beginner gardener, we’ll cover the basics,” she said. “And if you’re an experienced gardener, we’ll share the different varieties we’ve discovered, it’s always a fun exchange.
“So whatever your background, goals, or experience, the course contains a wealth of new information or tiny little gems that you might want to incorporate as you grow this year.”
Laura Poile, agricultural service provider at RVC, said all residents are invited to attend the workshops, which will be held virtually over Zoom.
Poile added that, like all workshops offered by the county, they hope to educate residents on a current topic of interest, adding that the vegetable workshop has always been a popular choice for those who want to grow their own food. , regardless of the size of their garden plot. is.
To register for either workshop, visit the RVC website at rockyview.ca/events