Small budget gardening, penny-pinching, planning over a number of years, chemical-free, water wise, easy care, drought resistant, discourage rabbits from killing plants, compost, amendments, large total area, fairly good original top soil, huge old spruce tree, poplar tree, fruit trees, laneway garden beds

My mix for most garden beds

1/3 peat moss (Canadian Tire, Home Depot)
sheep manure (Canadian Tire, Home Depot)
my own compost
black soil from Home Depot annual $1 a bag sale April 12-15?


I add this in some beds to the natural occurring on-site soil.

sometimes I add spent mushroom compost.

The free City of Calgary mulch from the landfill site gradually becomes compost too.

My mix for most herb garden, raised beds, greenhouse, earthboxes

peat moss
my own compost
black soil from Home Depot annual c. $1 a bag sale

In the last few years I think I purchased an average of 20 bags of soil from $1, $2 or more a bag from SuperStore, Canadian Tire, Walmart etc.  If I purchased in bulk it would be a lot easier in some ways and I am sure the soil is better. But it also costs c. $100 a delivery. ” According to this useful website ” in one cubic yard there are 765 liters or c. 27 store bags!  That’s a lot to carry and a lot of trips to the store…”

I also purchase about 6 bags of peat moss, and 6 bags of sheep manure.

This web page also helps visual 1 cubic yard.

The Calgary Horticultural Society cautions that animal manure should not be used in “food gardens because the Na+ content is too high for vegetable gardens.”


I add compost in the early spring and late fall. When transplanting or dividing plants or digging out large clumps of invasive plants or grass I add compost to the resulting holes.

On-site composting

Two City of Calgary composters similar to this one: FreeGarden™ EARTH Compost Bin one for kitchen, one for clean garden debris,
Two open bins for easier regular flipping with pitch fork. Lots of prairie sage added, leaves from trees, constant pruning. I flip the compost often even the compost in the compost bins. Ants were a problem once.

One open pile compost for sod that may contain unwelcome seeds for my outside-the-fence garden beds, beside-the-garage and other garden areas where I only grow robust native plants and perennials that are stronger than invasive plants, survive almost anything, are easy to divide, low maintenance and hard to kill

Coffee grounds

I’ve been adding these directly from the kitchen surrounding different perennials throughout the year as well as adding to the compost bins.

Mushroom compost

All Seasons Mushrooms

All Seasons Mushrooms near Crossfield have been celebrating Gardeners Appreciation Week (May 7 to 13) for over two decades providing free mushroom compost (spent mushroom substrate). This compost is very inexpensive any time of year and All Seasons Mushrooms sells mushrooms on site at a very good price in all seasons (cash only). Mushroom compost needs to sit for about six months before using in the garden so it won’t burn plants so it is better to pay a little for the compost, buy mushrooms at the same time and stock up in the fall or early spring.

Calgary Horticultural Society provided this information about All Seasons Mushrooms’ location and contact information:

on the east side of Queen Elizabeth Highway (Highway #2), between Airdrie and Crossfield and east of the Dickson-Stevenson Rest Stop. Go 10 kilometres north of Airdrie to the Crossfield/Drumheller exit (Highway 72). Take the Drumheller exit and drive east for 0.5 kilometres to the service road. Turn right on the service road and follow it back south to the farm location. 1/2 Mile S of Crossfield Overpass JTN 72 – East side of Highway off Service Road, Crossfield, AB T4A 0H4 (403) 946-4396 For more information, call 403-946-4395

Green manure or cover crops

Calgary Horticultural Society recommends green manure or cover crops

To improve soil fertility plant cover crops of oats, or buckwheat and then when they are a few inches tall, turn the plants back into the soil. Inexpensive seed in bulk can be purchased at Apache Seeds at 10136 149 St NW Edmonton, AB T5P 1L1 (780) 489-4245.

Mel’s Mix 2008

This is a more expensive soil mix used in square foot gardening because of the vermiculite

1/3 vermiculite
1/3 peat moss
1/3 compost (from as many sources as possible)

It cost Mel:
In 2008 this the cost of Emily’s SFG mix
2 large bags (3.5 cu ft) vermiculite, $18.00 each
1 large bale (3.8 cu ft compressed, expands to be more) peat moss, $9.00 (WalMart or Home Depot)
8 bags (1 cu ft) compost, $2.00 each (average price)(WalMart or Home Depot)
6 extra bags (1 cu ft) compost, $2.00 each (average price)(WalMart or Home Depot)
TOTAL COST (three 4′x4′ boxes): $73.00


bloodmeal, bonemeal: Garden suggested sprinkling tulips and lilies with bloodmeal or bone and bloodmeal early each spring.


Solarize soil

This Land suggests this method for getting rid of invasive plants.

External links

I look forward to purchasing more compost from Western Canada Compost. On Saturday mornings from c. 9-11 we can pick up compost on site near High River using the trailer. I learned about them from Calgary Garden Coach recommends them and so does the Calgary Horticultural Society.”Western Canada Compost also supports the CHS as well as community events such as Seedy Saturday, so Calgary Garden Coach likes to give them her business.” She orders  5 cu. yards (c. $250) every other year!) plus delivery charges.

In 2014 these were the prices as listed on their website:

  • Pine & Spruce Mulch $44.95/cubic yard
  • Screened Garden Mix $54.95/cubic yard
  • Screened Compost $54.95/cubic yard

Delivery charge within Calgary is $94.95 for a single axle truck & $124.95 for a tandem axle truck.

Green Calgary Compost Guide Inc., a private company working in partnership with the Federation Of Calgary Communities, provides useful information on garden soil and gardening in Calgary in general in this one-page article

“Probably the most important part of the site is the soil. The soil can affect plant material in many ways. If the soil is hard, and poorly drained it will be cold in spring. Sandy soil, on the other hands, will warm sooner but will not retain heat in the fall and therefore will result in the danger of early frost. Ideally, the soil should be a loam or clay loam with no salinity or evidence of a high water table. Work the soil in the fall to allow it to warm sooner in the spring, hold snow melt moisture better and drain properly to prevent excess moisture. The condition of the soil should be improved by adding organic matter but, when adding organic matter in the fall, it should be well decomposed. Too much raw organic matter will cause the soil to be slow to warm up in the spring as it holds frost much longer. Fall is also the time to have your soil tested. Soil fertility and pH can best be adjusted if an accurate picture of the nutrient levels are known. An accurate assessment of nitrogen levels is doubly important. There must be sufficient nitrogen for good growth, especially in the spring, but too much would result in delayed maturity. This could often mean the difference between a crop being ready for harvest before the first killing frost or a whole season’s work lost. Adequate amounts of phosphorus will offset the effect of nitrogen to a great degree and will hasten maturity.”

Organic fertilizers

Dirt n’ Grow Fish bloom plant fertilizer $12.99 for 1 litre 2-3-4 : 2 tsp a litre of water, every 10 days during blooming season

Alaska Morbloom Fertilizer 32 oz. 0-10-10 $5.97 Home Depot


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