Cheap winter gardening is possible even in Alberta — these residents are doing it

Forget the fancy hydroponics. Shannon Keepch started her winter herb garden with just a $ 4 onion from Dollarama.

Well, it took two lightbulbs, plus a $ 2 shard, a reused lamp stand, and a bit of aluminum foil to reflect the light exactly where it was needed.

Rosemary, sage and mint came from her summer garden.

“It’s simple; it doesn’t take a lot of imagination,” said Keepch, a social worker currently on leave who is closely monitoring food costs like many Calgarians.

“People shouldn’t be intimidated by growing things indoors,” she said. “It was so great. And when you live on a tight budget, you say, ‘Well, how can I make this work for me?'”

When CBC asked Calgary how people are coping with rising food costs, several people pointed out their indoor gardens. Others gave tips on growing sprouts and storing root vegetables.

It is a myth that these techniques require complicated technology and a large upfront investment.

Planting an herb garden can be as simple as buying flower bulbs for $ 4 from the dollar store, a community member told CBC Calgary. (Submitted by Shannon Keepch)

Community member Emerson Dunlop made hot peppers an indoor hobby last winter. Instead of buying the branded appliances from a specialty store, he bought a $ 25 fluorescent lamp from Home Depot and full spectrum light bulbs. It came with chains to hang it at just the right height.

“Just a cheap shop lamp. The light bulb costs a few cents a day,” he said. “Don’t tell me you can’t grow peppers in Calgary.”

Even in winter, small starter plants are still available for as little as $ 2 each at some indoor garden supply centers like NuLeaf Farms.

CBC’s The Homestretch called their gardening expert on Friday to see what else we could learn.

Joanna Tschudy, community gardening coordinator for the Calgary Horticultural Society, said she had seen many people lately who started gardening indoors.

Community member Emerson Dunlop says he’s starting to grow indoors with these $ 25-a-year lights from Home Depot and full spectrum lightbulbs. (Submitted by Emerson Dunlop)

“You won’t overcome food insecurity here by gardening in the winter unless you have a greenhouse,” she said. “But it’s an addition. It keeps the green atmosphere going and it’s fun to cut off some herbs or leafy greens.”

She says a lot of people buy special setups, but it’s easy to build a system yourself. Use a full spectrum lightbulb for growing herbs and lettuce and get a grow light that focuses on the red part of the spectrum for plants that will bear fruit, such as: B. Tomatoes.

Inexpensive sprouts

As for sprouts, many people buy special seeds and containers to water them, but community members told CBC Calgary that it is possible to start with the seeds that are already in your closet and an empty glass of spaghetti sauce jar.

Our team tested that. It’s true. Our green lentils, rinsed with water twice a day, germinated and grew large enough for a salad in about a week. We covered the end of a jar with a piece of old nylon stocking, but community member Connie Seidle said pounding drainage holes in a metal lid with a nail also works, depending on the size of the seeds.

Basic green lentils germinated and filled this bottle in about a week if we flushed it twice a day. They were kept in a dark cupboard until the first leaves appeared. (Elise Stolte / CBC)

You can also regrow plants like celery, lettuce, and spring onions by placing the root end in water next to a window. A community member told CBC Calgary that she harvests spring onions this way throughout winter.

“Give him some sunlight and just wait,” Tschudy commented. “After about a week, two weeks, you will start to see some new growth.”

But this technique doesn’t grow much.

“The celery will probably grow back four or four inches … and probably enough lettuce for a sandwich.”

Store root vegetables

Potatoes, carrots and beets are often cheaper in autumn in large quantities. But we asked ourselves, how can you store root vegetables without a root cellar?

Calgary-based Mary Miller shared her solution. The gardener says that when she lived in an apartment, she simply put a box next to a window, insulated inside and above.

“It was an older house and it had those wide window sills,” she said. “You’re just doing a small area that can hold out the cold.”

How do you store root vegetables? Connie Seidle sent this photo of carrots buried in peat moss to keep them from drying out. (Submitted by Connie Seidle)

An old cooler also works, says Tschudy. She puts vegetables in it and puts them right in front of her kitchen door in spring and autumn.

“But it’s deep winter and you don’t want your products to freeze,” she said. “So you can bring your cooler inside and find a cool spot by a draughty window or often in the basement.”

Other people who have written to CBC Calgary have said they store their root vegetables in sand or burying peat moss, sometimes in a refrigerator or isolated in a garden shed next to the house. The peat moss seems to hold in moisture well. Then they dig them out little by little as they are needed.

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