Reflections on a Growing Season

Photo by Calgary Horticultural Society

It was another atypical gardening season with a lot of planting being driven by what was on hand. To ensure I had seeds, they were ordered online in the fall. The spring plant browsing at the garden centre didn’t happen. Nor did the garden centre shopping trip that would normally recover a significant portion of my membership fee with its discount for Calgary Horticultural Society members.

While I missed the garden centre visits, my garden didn’t lack for plants. It just looked different. Creating this garden provided great opportunities for learning.

In February, I noticed that the seeds in the tomato that I was eating were starting to sprout. I’d seen it before and while normally I’d think nothing of it, this year I selected five seeds and put them in a pot to grow. The seedlings were potted up twice before being ready for the garden in June.

These plum tomato plants were in addition to the cherry and ox heart tomatoes that I started in March, and the cherry tomato cuttings that I’ve been overwintering. That’s a lot of tomatoes! Have I mentioned before that my garden is quite shady? Regardless, I ate my first homegrown tomatoes in early July.

In March, I read a social media post questioning the ability to start seeds from garden store produce. “Of course, you can!” I exclaimed. Proof was needed, so I sprouted the seeds from peppers I had in the fridge, to be able to share a photo with my response. What to do with the sprouts? Plant them of course! Now, what does one do with 48 sweet long pepper seedlings when the garden is shady and cool? I gave away as many as I could.

Last fall, a Society Member Talk speaker said that she loved zinnias. So, my fall online seed order included a package of zinnias. There wasn’t much choice as seed suppliers had sold their selections out quickly. Fortunately, I just wanted to try growing them.

And they were amazing! During an online class that I attended, the presenter mentioned grasses as a choice to add movement and interest to the garden: the grass was added to the seed order. Once again, the supplier had run out of the one that I wanted, so another was selected. It was a sun-loving plant.

Normally, my containers for sun are planted with annuals bought at the garden centre. This year the tall interest plant was a tomato. The middle green layer was a pepper plant—they have nice foliage and produce a flower. A grass seedling was added to four pots.

Alyssum and snapdragons started from seed and geraniums that were overwintered were included to add a splash of colour. Cuttings from heart-leaf ice plants (Mesembryanthemum cordifolium), which is a type of succulent house plant that tolerates many light conditions, was the spiller.

So, what did I learn?

  • Full sun and full sun to part shade plants do best if they can be in a midday sunny environment.
  • Not all grasses are drought tolerant.
  • Choose a grass wisely or there won’t be enough season for them to develop the seed head that makes them hailed as an ornamental beauty.
  • Tomato and pepper plants can look beautiful in an ornamental container
  • Ox heart tomatoes don’t perform as well as the smaller cherry and plum tomatoes in my garden, as they don’t receive enough direct sunlight. Their soil must be kept consistently moist, or they develop blossom end rot.
  • The basket weave staking method works well for a garden bed of tomato plants.
  • Zinnias are great plants to grow. They like warmth, sun, and moisture. They will produce side branches without pinching.
  • Pepper plants thrive in heat.
  • House plants can make great outdoor container plants. Don’t be afraid to give them a try.
  • A package of ground cover sweet alyssum can fill flower needs of humans and pollinators alike.
  • A plant is a plant—ornamental or vegetable. Try some experimentation with what you have on hand, you may be pleasantly surprized at the results.

The next challenge … what to do with the houseplants that thrived outside?

If you are interested in learning more about gardening in Calgary, including growing house plants and propagating them, visit our website for more information.