Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series on gardening from Cochrane Eagle reporter Howard May. The third and final instalment will be published in both print and online next week.
Gardeners looking to design their dream backyard can follow a simple three-part process outlined by local expert Callandra Caulfield in a recent presentation in Cochrane, specifically targeted at how to contend with the town’s tough growing conditions.
Last week’s Cochrane Eagle story outlined the first step – imagining your dream garden and gathering ideas.
The second step includes evaluating your values, lifestyle, and priorities. Ask yourself what matters to you. Your garden could be a hobby, a place to gather with friends and family, or a place of quiet contemplation. Or it could be a place for the kids to play, or for the dog to romp around.
A number of considerations come into play at this stage: do you want to produce food? Attract bees or birds? Reduce water consumption? Regenerate the soil? Use native plants? Recognize biodiversity?
A big factor, according to Caulfield is deciding whether you intend to grow a low- or high-maintenance garden.
Caulfield recommends taking a good hard look at how maintenance-free you want your space to be, as many first-time gardeners make mistakes with this estimate.
“Time investment is a huge one. Some people plant high-maintenance spaces, and then camp every weekend, for example," she said.
“Another common mistake I see is when people plant a bunch of food they don’t eat. They plant all these veggies and they don’t realize that no one in the family is going to eat bowls and bowls of spinach.”
A very common error she sees is when people do not pay enough attention to how the space is already being used, before deciding on how they are going to change it. They then design a space, only to find it is no longer functional for the family.
“If your kids or your pets use that space in a particular way, sometimes there’s only so far you can shift that,” Caulfield said.
Caulfield offers an in-depth look at gardening in Cochrane, and an opportunity to share experiences and ask questions about what might make your yard pop, in her classes on gardening design. For more information, go to backyardprojects.com.
To help new green thumbs get started, the Town of Cochrane’s organics program is offering free compost to anyone showing up with their own tools (shovels, pails, bags, etc.) at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre on consecutive Saturdays, May 7 and 14. The limit is two pails per vehicle (approximately 40 litres or 30 kilograms).
Next week: Step Three in the design process: Observation and Mapping.