photo: CJP/iStock

Welcome to AMA’s Good to Grow

By Sandra Sperounes

More and more gardens are sprouting up across Alberta and the rest of the county.  

In 2020, almost one in five Canadians started to grow their own food at home, according to a report by Dalhousie University and Angus Reid.

Whether you’re an aspiring green thumb or longtime gardener, AMA’s new online community Good to Grow will help you connect with other gardening enthusiasts in Alberta, share tips and get expert advice.

Meet one of our experts—Calgary master gardener (and AMA member) Sheryl Normandeau, co-author of the Guides for the Prairie Gardener. She’ll be posting regular updates from her garden throughout the summer.

How did you first get into gardening?
Although I did offer my mom some “help” in the garden as a child, I didn’t seriously take up gardening until I began working in a garden centre after graduating from university. I completely fell in love with plants at that point, but space was an issue for me as my husband and I lived in a tiny apartment with no balcony or deck. I started gardening in a co-worker’s backyard, then explored community gardening.

What was your first attempt like?
The very first year I planted a garden, my pepper plants succumbed to transplant shock because I didn’t know any better, but the peas were fantastic that year. I was hooked right from the get-go. The excitement I had then with growing my own food has never diminished to this day. 

headshot of Good to Grow community contributor Sheryl Normandeau
Sheryl Normandeau

What’s your favourite vegetable to grow?
I love to grow potatoes. They are one of the most versatile veggies in the kitchen and they are extremely fun to grow.   

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever planted and grown?
When I first started gardening, I struggled with—believe it or not—carrots. It seems I wasn’t keeping the seed bed consistently damp enough and they were failing to germinate, or I’d only get a handful out of several rows that I had planted. Once the carrot conundrum was solved, they became a staple in my garden.

What’s your favourite gardening success story?
Many years ago, my bed at the community garden was completely trashed by a severe hailstorm. I was devastated and thought I would have to call it quits for the season. But careful watering and fertilizing and some help from the sun got things going again and while I didn’t get the big harvest I was looking for that year, all was not lost. Plants can be quite resilient, and I just needed to be very patient and not give up.

What do you wish you could grow in Alberta?
Wouldn’t it be absolutely fabulous to stroll outside into your backyard and pick a banana to eat with breakfast?  Or a mango?

What’s your No. 1 tip for beginner gardeners?
Gardening is a continuous learning process! Focus on the journey and have fun while you’re on it. It seems corny (pun intended!) to say that, but it’s true. Take any setbacks in stride and be creative in generating solutions. 

For more gardening tips, watch our first Good to Grow Q&A with Sheryl Normandeau and Janet Melrose. The session covers everything from seeds to soil to small-space gardens to getting rid of slugs.

The Guides for the Prairie Gardener are available through Indigo. AMA members earn up to 5% back in reward dollars on online Indigo purchases—including books, giftware, electronics and more—made through the AMA Rewards eStore.