Saturday, 10 May 2008

Creating an Edible Landscape

Earlier this week Gord and I attended a class put on by Edmonton's Urban Farmer, Ron Berezan. The class was held in the lush environs of Salisbury Greenhouse - I can't remember ever having a greener classroom! Plants everywhere, nicely humid air, the sound of fountains in the background, filtered light coming through the greenhouse roof and later, the sound of rainfall.

Here is the description of the class:

"Creating an Edible Landscape - Growing your own food can be extremely satisfying with great benefits for your health, your pocketbook and the environment. Based on permaculture principles, this workshop will explore unique approaches to integrating fruits, berries, herbs and annual and perennial vegetables throughout the landscape. "

This was a fantastic class, and all for the great price of 5 dollars! It was very well attended, and almost everyone there was scribbling notes about all of the different types of edible plants that are suited to our Zone 3a plant hardiness area.

I'm amazed at the variety of plants we can grow here! For example, we can grow several varieties of pears and plums in addition to apples. There are even several types of cherry trees that are hardy enough to survive our winters, and get this: grapes! There is a hardy kiwi tree that will grow here, too. There are lots of berries that are native to this area, such as Saskatoons, and Sea Buckthorn. The Beaked Hazelnut tree is native to Alberta as well.

The instructor also talked about the beauty of food plants, and how they go well in any garden, whether it be for decoration or not. As you can see from the picture, Rainbow chard is gorgeous, and there are so many different colors of kale too. He described how to create a 'spiral herb garden' which is made from a small mound of earth, that takes on different micro climates depending on which side of the mound the herbs are on-- oregano and rosemary go on the sunny side, parsley on the shady side, and lower down. Plus, the mound creates more surface area, and visual interest, than a flat spot would. I couldn't take notes fast enough! Fortunately, a comprehensive list of plants native to Alberta and edible are available on his website, here.

He spoke for a while about Thomas Pawlick's book, The End of Food, and how for example, a tomato contains fewer vitamins and more fat (!) and sodium than it did 30 years ago. He recalled how a nutritionist at one of his workshops had commented on this being the reason why the Canada Food Guide has to keep revising its portions of fruit and vegetables upwards, because the industrially grown varieties just don't have the vitamins and nutrients that they used to.

It was a most informative and enjoyable way for Gord and I to spend the evening, and work on the Independence Days challenge at the same time!

Gorgeous rainbow chard picture courtesy this flickr site


Anonymous said...

Wow! I would love to take a course like this. I'll have to ask around here and find out where and when. Thanks for the great description and links. I read End of Food, btw and was shocked to find out just how nutritionally deficient our mass-produced produce is. I planted rainbow chard this year and hope to get something as lovely as in that photo!

Anonymous said...

Hi Theresa. Thank you for sharing these links! I want to plant apple trees and, while we have an orchard about an hour from us with every imaginable apple ever grown, I've been struggling to figure out exactly when they bloom, how long they last and what will work for us. We're supposed to be zone 5A, but I don't entirely believe it. Our rural winters can be a little more extreme than Peterborough, just 20 minutes away. Anyway, this info is wonderful.

And Saskatoons. My dad grew up on the prairie and talks about his mum's saskatoon pie. I think it's time to look for one!


Theresa said...

RA - that chard is lovely, isn't it? I found out about this course by looking the courses that the local nurseries offer - maybe you could start there?

Hi Liz. We're about 30 minutes north of Edmonton, and the climate is definitely cooler here too, away from all those concrete buildings and asphalt. We have some wild Saskatoon bushes on our acreage, and those are quite tasty I must say! Saskatoons should grow where you are for sure!