Wild Green Garden Consulting
Dear <<First Name>>,
It’s been a long wait for the ground to start thawing out. The birds have been arriving close to their regular date, and so our Red-Necked Grebes had to contend with a small opening in the ice on the lake for a few days. Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles and Tree Swallows have all made an appearance to check out the lake.
A few more days of patience...
But the early flowering plants are slow to wake up... I learned a couple of days ago that impatience can be bad for some critters. With the sudden warm weather, I was anxious to get my hands in the ground and seed some carrots and parsnips. Unfortunately, on two separate occasions, I dug up a sleeping bumblebee. I felt terrible! They were confused and shaking so I placed them in a warm, protected spot. The first one was gone after a couple of hours. The second bumblebee (see image) sat for only about 10 minutes, started crawling and then flew off. Today, I saw one just like it visiting a blooming willow by the water. So hopefully both are fine.
A further reason to practice patience is to allow the soil to dry out to reduce compaction. Also, the ladybugs and other beneficial critters still need some protection, so don’t rake up all the leaves yet.
Monday, May 14 – Make A Bucket Garden Workshop
7:30-9:00 pm; more info and registration
Take home a self-watering bucket garden at the end of class! Learn how to grow delicious tomatoes in your affordable and easy to use container. The workshop is demonstration and hands-on.

Early Spring Jobs
In a few days, I will be cutting off dead stems and bundle them for wild bee homes. Hollow stems are especially useful though stems with a soft centre (ie. sunflowers) might also be used. I cut the stems near a node so that the “tunnel” is closed off at one end. Then I tie the bundle with wire or twine and hang it facing east in a protected spot near flowers.
Spreading some drought-tolerant lawn seed on your lawn and topdressing with compost or topsoil to hold down the seed is also a good idea while it’s still cool and hopefully before rain. I seed some white clover into my lawn as well. The clover fixes nitrogen (“makes fertilizer”) to keep jackrabbits out of the garden, and the flowers are great for pollinators. Clover will move into beds unless you have good edging though.
Soon it will be time to haul the containers out, and dump and mix the potting mix with some compost.
Soil Testing and Tips
Last fall, I decided to mail off a soil sample to Crop Services International, a soils lab in the US. I was curious about the process, results and suggested action. The lab specializes in testing and recommendations for organic food production and this kind of testing is not available in Canada as far as I know. The recommendations I received are given for a 1000 square foot organic garden. According to the test, my soil is a bit high in the major nutrients (Ca, Mg, P, K) so I won’t be using any supplemental fertilizer this year. The test indicated a slight shortage on sulfur, copper and boron. Good info, but testing and shipping was rather costly and finding the recommended amendments in small enough amounts for an urban yard is not practical.

So what’s the lesson? This kind of testing is most useful for a market gardener or farmer with many acres, where regular laboratory testing and amending with specific minerals would contribute to seeing trends on a larger scale. Fortunately, our Edmonton area soils are fairly well balanced in terms of nutrients and minerals (clay is rich in minerals), and the biggest complaint is that it’s clumpy and hard.
Our best bet is to lightly dig in homemade compost every fall or spring. Worm compost is also excellent. Compost adds organic matter which helps to improve the texture and increase the number and diversity of microorganisms. The critters in the soil help our plants access more nutrients and ward off disease.
Products containing seaweed or kelp can be used once in a while to provide vitamins, amino acids and plant growth hormones to our plants. If leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, chard etc) are not growing well or if the new growth is slightly yellowish, the soil might be low in nitrogen. However, in early spring the soil is still cold and the microbes less active, so as it warms up, more nitrogen becomes available to plants. If growth is still lacking in early June, a fish fertilizer adds some extra nutrients. Peas and beans also supply nitrogen to the soil, so growing them in a bed that will be used for leafy greens in the next season is helpful.
Very well composted animal manure can provide nitrogen, but it also increases potassium and salt levels. It’s best to stick to plant based compost and use animal manure sparingly.
To avoid compaction, we must not step on our beds unless absolutely necessary, especially when the soil is wet. In the summer, I mulch veggie beds with straw to help maintain more even moisture. The straw breaks down somewhat, adding carbon to the soil and protecting the microorganisms near the soil surface. In the spring, I add that straw into the compost pile or bag it up for later use.

Tool Library
Edmonton now has a tool library, over 600 hand, power, and garden tools. The standard memberships cost $50 per year. Check out their info here.

Forest Therapy Walks
Walks in nature have many benefits. Heidi is a certified Nature Forest Therapy Guide. For more information on guided walks on May 5 and May 13, email Heidi,

Enjoy the awakening season,

Claudia Bolli, Wild Green Garden Consulting

If you would like help with your plans, please contact me for a consultation or design,
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