Think of gardening as entering into a relationship that is about equal amounts of give and take. For your garden to give you an abundant harvest, you must give first. In most places in the Northwest Territories the soil health (fertility) needs to be helped. Organic fertilizers such as compost work best.
Before planting your garden, make sure your soil is healthy. Learning about soil fertility and the pH level of your soil is key to growing vegetables that will really feed you and your family. Learning about soil fertility takes time. There are lots of ways to learn about soil fertility, such as learning from a long-term gardener in your own area, watching videos online or reading. Learning the basics (soil needs feeding, compost and other organics) is the first most important step. Even committed, long term gardeners are continuously learning about soil fertility year by year.
If at all possible, buy a home gardener’s soil testing kit and test your soil. You will know a few key things about what your soil might need.
Remove any weeds including roots before digging and turning the soil. If your soil is already healthy and fluffy there is no need to dig. Work compost, bone meal and kelp meal evenly into the top two to three inches. Your soil test will tell you where nutrients are low and you can adjust the amount of organic fertilizers accordingly.
Your garden will now be ready for seeding. In the Northwest Territories, the four top food plants that grow and produce well from direct seeding are: potatoes, carrots, beets and peas. Other plants such as cabbage, cauliflower and tomatoes need to be started inside to give them a head start.
Get out there as soon as the snow is gone, the soil is thawed about one to two feet and the weather has warmed up and you can get going! The earlier, the better and your garden will feed you for many weeks.
Lone Sorensen is the founder of Northern Roots and has lived and grown food in Yellowknife for 27 years.