100 foot diet

Adding Garden Plots in Strathcona Centre Community

Strathcona Rail Garden, located at 105 Street and 86th Avenue, is a very successful community garden that was established in 2009. 46 families currently grow and harvest fresh produce from the garden, and it acts as a benefit to the entire community as a beautiful green space in which all are welcome.

"Informal" Road
The gravel roadway to the west of the garden is actually not supposed to be there. At some point along the way, motorists started using it as a short cut, and then the city put gravel on it (probably at the request of those using it). A picture of the roadway is attached to this message.
The city is now undergoing a process to transform this informal roadway. This presents a major opportunity for gardeners to further beautify and enhance the area by creating additional plots to our community garden.
The garden wait list for plots was capped at 25 families last year. Since we decided to limit the size of the list, we have turned away 25-50 more potential gardening households. Clearly there is a huge, unmet demand for garden space in this area of the city. 
The problem is, in September 2012 the Parks department brought the issue of removing the informal road to council. Two residents who live near the garden presented concerns to council. One resident complained about a lack of parking in the area due to nearby bike lanes, and the other stated that he needed the road in order to pull his trailer (that he uses for business purposes) onto his property.
To address concerns like these, the city initially proposed to have a paved key shaped area allowing for parking and for average sized vehicles to turn around. this area would be north of the two houses located west of the gravel road. Anyway, city council postponed the decision about what to do until more consultation was done (see "public meeting", below).

It is very important that the garden be respectful of its neighbours, and we will continue our efforts to foster good relations with them. However, it is also okay for us to respectfully disagree with them. The garden allocation committee estimates that we could create up to 16 more plots (depending on final design specifications) from the space that the road currently occupies. The creation of the new plots would not only help to alleviate the high demand for gardening space, it would also improve neighbourhood security and ambiance by getting more people outside, and it would create a beautiful space out of a gravel flat-top.

It is the opinion of the garden and the Strathcona Community League that the best use for the space occupied by the road is to convert it back to a garden.
Public Meeting

The Sustainable Development Department is holding a public meeting about the road closure on April 17, 2013. It is very important that supporters of the road closure attend the meeting to have their voices heard. Please consider attending the meeting so that we can create more garden plots for nearby families and make the Strathcona community a more beautiful, livable place.
Date: April 17, 2013
Time: 7pm-9pm
Where: Strathcona Community League Building, 10139 - 87 Avenue

Looking for no carbon man

Courtesy of Kevin Ma and the St. Albert Gazette:

One family's quest for a net-zero life



Sharecropping. Or, Potato, Staff of Life

A good friend of mine has been building a house single-handedly for seven or eight years now, and it occurred to me this spring that his front yard would make a great potato patch.

In what was admittedly a great gardening year in terms of rain, I only visited the potatoes four times: once to plant, twice to weed, and a final time to harvest the taters. Our efforts were rewarded with about 100 pounds of beautiful Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold potatoes.


the patch, late September



there is potato scab, a harmless toughening of the skin in some places, in the soil at this location



our kids know where their food comes from

Much maligned in our overfed times, the potato is a miracle food. The potato is the Edmonton gardener's only chance to really make a dent in how much of his food comes from his backyard, since one cannot grow more calories worth of food in a smaller space than with this nutritious vegetable.

Granted, the latest research does show that, if you are inactive and eat a lot of them, the simple carbohydrates in which their energy is contained will encourage weight gain. Still, I believe that potatoes can be "part of this nutritious breakfast".

Did you know that 100 grams of potatoes contain 24% of a day's vitamin C? And 14% of a day's iron? (source)

I celebrate the homegrown potato as a delicious, nutritious, near-zero-carbon super food. I add them to soups and stews, fry grated potatoes into hashed browns, add them to coconut curries, and bake them with cheese and leeks into scalloped potatoes.

But the best part is the harvesting. Digging up potatoes in the Fall is one of the great pleasures of being an urban farmer in Edmonton.

Growing from seed - great success!



Tomato plants, started from seed on March 25 and planted May 21, 2011.

Gardening is one of the greenest things you can do. It also saves you money, increases the quality of the food that you eat, increases your food security, and gives you a fun and healthy summer activity.

If you’re already gardening, the best way to “green” your gardening and save a ton of money is to start plants from seed instead of buying them as seedlings at the garden centre.

This year I started 60 tomato plants and 100 yellow onions from seed. I follow the Vriend’s planting calendar, which specifies the dates of February 25 and March 25 to plant onion and tomato seeds, respectively.

I am happy with my results. My tomato plants would cost about $3/each if I were to buy them, so I “made” $180 by putting seeds in pots and watering a few times. It’s really about the fun though. Gardening at the end of February is a great way to kick yourself out of winter mode a bit early.


Yellow onion seedlings


Onions planted in the ground from seedlings at the end of April.


Tomato, leek and eggplant (background) seedlings – all obtained for a few dollars in seeds and a couple of cans of water.

The critics will tell you that local organic food is elitist and out of reach and that it can’t feed the world. They’re leaning on a tired old paradigm though. If all or most of us become involved in our food, if we all become farmers to some degree, we can put an enormous dent into so many problems at once that it dizzies the mind.

It amazes me that solutions to such big problems can be so enjoyable, simple, and, in the end, delicious. It’s all pretty damn satisfying if you ask me.