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Grow Your Own Food: Know Your Canadian Gardening Zone

Grow Your Own Food: Know Your Canadian Gardening Zone

Grow Your Own Food  is an information series on gardening in Canada that will get you started on the right foot and help you every step of the way to having the garden you dream of! This series was originally written for and published on the Food Bloggers of Canada.

Grow Your Own Food Know Your Canadian Gardening Zone on Nutmeg Disrupted

Whether it’s a backyard garden, community garden plot or a balcony container garden you’ve decided, 2018 is the year you want to have a garden.  The idea of growing our own food is something most people envision and it is easier then you think. With a bit of information you will have a basis to start planning for Spring.

Canadian Hardiness Zones

The first thing you need to know to grow a successful garden is what hardiness zone you live in. Hardiness zones are based on temperature and climate and are numbered from 0 – 9, zero being the coldest and 9 the hottest. You will also see the designation of a or b.

The purpose of hardiness zones identifies how well plants will withstand the cold in these areas as well as the hardiness and heat tolerance for growing.  Knowing your zone gives you helpful information about what you can and can not grow for a successful harvest. It will save you time and money and is an important number that you need to know.

The hardiness map for Canada will show you exactly the zone you are in and that number will give you valuable information about gardening in your area such as:

  • what plants such as perennials, trees and shrubs are hearty in your area
  • what types of seeds you should buy
  • when to start your seeds
  • how long your growing season is


Grow your own Food - Know your canadian gardening zone on Nutmeg Disrupted

It is important to know this number when you start planning your  yard and garden.  Fruit trees, shrubs like blueberries and perennials  can be expensive so you want to be sure to purchase plants that will survive winter in your area.

It is also important because our goal is to pick plants that will also thrive and be able to survive not only the cold but the heat. It disappointing to have a plant freeze but heatwaves can kill plants as well. The next time you are at the garden center take a look at the tag on a tree, shrub or perennial. You will find information about that specific plant, its sun and water needs and its hardiness zone number.

Now you have looked at the hardiness zone map and you have found that you live in a zone 4b. Great, but what does that mean? That means that you should be looking for plants that grow in zone 4b or lower. A tree, shrub or perennial that is marked anything over a 4b will die over the winter from freezing temperatures. The higher the hardiness zone number the less cold tolerant it is.

The Master Plan

This is a good time to create a Master Plan for your yard, garden and flower beds. I like to use a binder and loose leaf paper for my garden plans. It is handy for taking notes and making drawings of the yard and the garden. And it will become a great resource for you to look back at year after year to see not only the evolution of your garden but to look at the notes to see what did or did not work.

A garden binder or master garden plan is especially handy if you have long term plans for the space. Perhaps you are starting from scratch and are looking at tree placement or adding structural elements, a Master Plan makes the vision manageable and helps you identify what projects you want to tackle in the first year.

While it is too early in the season to purchase plants you can now sit down and start planning for the season. If there are trees, shrubs or perennials you have seen and thought that would be great for your space you now have the tools to do a bit of research to see if they are viable options for your zone!

And if you have no idea what you want, pick up a garden magazine. They do not always offer a lot in the way of information but they showcase gorgeous gardens and are a great resource for ideas and inspiration. It is a great way to beat the winter blues and get you excited about the gardening season!



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Grow Room 101. Indoor gardens.

Grow Room 101. Indoor gardens.

My dream job would be to run an indoor grow space year round and sell fresh herbs and vegetables to local chefs.

Gardening indoors under lights

Living in northern Alberta makes for a very short growing period with gardens usually going into the ground around the 18th of May and the first hard frost usually by the second week of September. That is roughly 16 weeks. To have a heartier harvest I start my seeds in January and plant semi mature plants outside during the first week of June. Depending on conditions, that may not even be enough of a head start for fully ripe crops of peppers, tomatoes and melons.

With such a short season,  growing indoors is a fantastic alternative. With a little bit of thought and good planning you can recreate mother nature in an indoor space and grow successfully year round. It does cost a bit to set up your grow room but with the capability of growing home grown produce year round you will be saving money and have an endless healthy, chemical free supply of some of the best vegetables herbs and fruits available.

This is just a quick run down of what it takes to put together a grow space. If you have any questions about what is discussed here or anything I did not cover please leave a comment or shoot me an email! Talking about grow spaces and indoor gardening is one of my passions and I would love to hear from you.
You have a few things to consider when putting together your grow room.
The space I am talking about below is based on an 10×10 foot room. That is some serious gardening!
You will need 2 lights for your space.
The first is a Metal Halide. Metal halides are the most efficent source of white light availble on the market. They come clear or phosphor coated. Go with the clear. The coating changes the specturm a bit. Clear is better.
Next you will need a HPS – High Pressure Sodium light. They are also one of the most efficent lights available.
Those 2 lights combined will give you the perfect light spectrum for your grow area.
I used strictly 1000 watt bulbs. Yes that is a lot of light. Your $$$ value is best spent on the 1000 watt systems.
You could go with 400 watts with each bulb/system,  but considering the cost of each system will be very close to the price of 1000 watt systems,  the 600 watt jump with each bulb seems to make sence for getting the best bang for your buck.
Look at it this way – Would you rather garden under full sun, or a cloudy day?
I love 1000 watt lights. They are amazing for indoor gardening!
Do you need 1000 watt lights? Perhaps, that is one of your choices.
Now we need to discuss shades.
You NEED big round 4 foot shades. They are an absolute must. They push 100% of your light down and out.
They increase the light intensity substantially. Try and find shades that are white on the inside, the more light reflection the better. Both lights will need a shade. They are cheap, so be sure you get them. They make all the difference in the world.
Using a 1000 watt metal halide with a small 2 foot shade and no reflective walls give you and effective growing area of only 36sq feet.  Using that same light with a 4 foot hood and flat white walls your effective growing area has now increased to 100 square feet. Big shades mean much more powerful light.
Next thing to look at is your space. What is on the walls? You have a few choices.
Lets talk reflection of light.
If you are painting I do suggest the use of flat white paint.
Using a flat white will bring the reflectiveness of the wall space back into the growing area by 85 – 93%
Want to kick that up even more.
There is a white agricultural plastic on the market. It is black on one side, white on the other. We are talking 90 – 95% reflection of light back into the space!
Any farm supply store will carry it. It is used for silage.
Bonus, it protects your walls from any moisture.
Now we need to discuss light coverage.
Each bulb emits a different spectrum which affects the growth of the plants differently.
As with any plants it will grow towards the lights. But we want even growth.
Now you could go in and rotate your plants every few days, which works. For a while.
But to really make it the ultimate indoor grow space you want to emulate the rise and fall of the sun.
To do this you need a light rail/tracking unit.
I promise, this is the last thing you need to buy.
But again, it really is a must. With using a light rail/tracking unit to move the light you will have an increase of 25 – 35% of light coverage with using one light rail to move the lights over the garden. With just simply moving the lights over the garden it emulates enough light as if you were actually using 3 bulbs.
Now that is getting the absolute most of your space, money and light.
You will need to make the rail that you hang the lights off of then attach it to the tracking unit. It slowly goes back and forth over the garden. Get creative here, you should be able to find a nice light metal bar at your local building supply store.  Even some plactic pvc pipe with the lights at each end is sufficient. And it works like a charm. This will give your room an amazing amount of useable light.
We need to go over movement of air.
These lights are hot and it is imperative that you have a fan in your grow space. Just as it is outdoors, you need to have air movement in your indoor garden. Not only will it reduce humidity and cool the space, plants do much better and grow stronger when there is a breeze present.
Also as a final thought, just kind of  be aware of where you have been before entering your room.
Like say you were at a greenhouse and were touching plants, maybe bought a few. Wash up before going into your room. Even change your clothes.. Because like outdoors those little bastards like spider mites love warm sunny grow rooms. And to battle them is just a nightmare. No need for extra work.





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It was the summer of bumper crops in the Nutmeg Disrupted gardens. By gardens,  I mean flower beds and numerous containers. The “garden garden” was covered with grass a few years back because of time constraints with work and travel.

I miss my garden. The original garden I first started with turned into a 4000 square foot growing oasis. I had huge tubs set around the perimeter to collect rain and to help make the task of watering not quite such labor intensive work. And it was easier on the well  Each row was mulched with layers of newspaper which I then covered with a thick layer of freshly cut grass, which was topped up weekly. I was cutting 7 acres so there was always a fresh supply.

Then in the fall the garden would be put to bed for the winter with a thick layer of leaves. The complete farm was surrounded by trees, by time you raked and loaded the 20th truckload you stop counting!

Then in the sping a farmer from over by Radway would come with his magic tractor sized tiller and for $30 turn it all into 2 feet deep of  pure black gold!

Gosh I miss that garden!

But downsizing does not mean you can not have success. With a bit of creativity and good gardening practices you can have a fantastic harvest from limited space.

I start my seeds under lights in the winter. Being in northern Alberta I like to get a bit of a jump on the growing season. Espically for things like peppers, tomatos and celery. My growing season is relatively short and you never know if those super hot temperatures will be acheived so the more mature the plants are the better success for a bountiful harvest is possible.

Tomato plants from the Nutmeg DIsrupted gardens, Grande Prairie Alberta      Tomatos from the Nutmeg DIsrupted gardens, Grande Prairie Alberta

This year I grew tomatos in containers and in the 2 flower beds out back. It was an extremely early Spring followed by a record breaking summer. And my garden showed it. Off of 8 tomato plants I harvested well over 100 pounds of tomatos.

The salsa recipe is a combination of a few recipes.  Having never made salsa before I am extremely impressed with how it turn out. The depth of flavor is just fantastic. Tangy and smokey with a nice freshness to it. I did a few different takes on the recipe making one mild and one with a nice kick of heat.

A bumper crop of tomatos from the Nutmeg Disrupted gardens


fresh tomatos for salsa


24 cloves of garlic – minced

20 large tomatos – diced

2 large red onions – chopped

1/2 teaspoon of dried corriander

1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of chili powder

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of cumin

2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of pepper

4 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of dried parsely

1/4 teaspoon of celery salt

1 cup of vinegar

*additions for hot salsa

*3 habanero pepper

*5 red thai chili peppers

*1 serrano pepper

Processed hot peppers for salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted

If you have a food processor do use it to chop the hot peppers. Beware of the pepper fumes when removing the lid if the processor. If you are chopping by hand wear gloves if you can. If not be aware of the hot pepper oils on your skin. Wash immediately after prep. Hot pepper oils can burn.


Straining tomatos for salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted      Tomato water, making salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted

Place the chopped tomatos into a colander over a bowl. Allow to drain for 15 minutes to remove some of the tomato water. You would be suprised at how much water you collect.

Fresh garlic for salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted      Fresh ingredients for salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted

In a large pot combine all the ingredients and stir well to mix completely.

Slow simmer for up to 2 hours on medium heat stirring occasionally. Cook until desired flavor and consistancy is acheived.

Canning fresh salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted      Processing salsa in a hot water bath on Nutmeg Disrupted

Ladle the salsa into hot jars. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean cloth. Add rings and tighten until just finger tight. Place all the filled jars into a hot water bath and process for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Fresh made salsa on Nutmeg Disrupted







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A blank slate.

A blank slate.

My first garden was larger then most.  It was an extreme reaction to a nightmare situation.

Deep in the dark lonely hole of grief, I was desperate to find something good in the world. Something to busy my mind. My hands. To have purpose.

My youngest son had died at the end of October. I was heart broken. Lost. Angry.  Estranged from my family. My husband, at the time worked 10 hours away. I was alone with 2 young kids on 160 acres in the middle of nowhere, barely hanging on.

It was a long cold winter, which only compounds ones darkness and despair. On one of the rare trips out I picked up a copy of Organic Gardening. Something on the cover grabbed my attention.  I took it home and devoured it from cover to cover. Seemingly it was the distraction I needed.

I bought some seeds and potting soil. I used an old set of floresent lights and 2 plastic milk crates to hold them up off the floor. I planted 2 full trays and began the wait for sprouts to appear.

My garden was 4000 square feet that summer.

It became my therapist.

My passion.

Where I could work myself into a state of exhaustion for days on end. Where I could be alone. And think. Or not.

It truly is what got me though the darkest days of my life. When you don’t have any support from family or friends you lose the strength to face life. Funny, how no matter how close the friends, the death of a child changes everything. In those days when you need someone the most their fear keeps them away. Sad isn’t it.

And then one day you find joy in the littlest thing, you take that spark of hope and you run with it. It is amazing where you can find strength.

I have since moved off that little piece of paradise. The yard was on the edge of a forest, with trees so big you could not wrap your arms around them. Where the sunlight would stream through the trees in perfect silence. The floor an combination of moss and wild flowers. Something out of a book. Almost magical.

My yard now, is the size of my entire garden back then.

A downsize like nothing I could imagine.

The yard was in such bad shape it took 2 years of work to get it where I could even consider planting a garden. A blank slate.  A complete tear out of everything was in order. From shrubs, and sick trees to a 50 foot poplar that someone so thoughtfully planted less then 4 feet from the house. Seriously. It took a full year just to dig out the roots from that monster.


With a lot of hard work and determination the day finally arrived where the fun work could begin.

The pictures below show  my first plan of action in the backyard. The goals here were clean lines and eventual elimination of needing the weed eater in the future.

For just over $200 I got 10 tonnes of nice clean gravel.  I used a double thickness of landscape fabric. Plastic brick guides and a bag full of 4 inch spikes.

It made for the perfect edging around my garden as well as the north side of the garage and was a great start to redesigning my backyard.



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