Gardening Manitoba Style

March 28, 2007

If you are wondering exactly where in the world Manitoba is located, you’re not alone.

I believe that it’s part of Canada and was just about to look it up, but changed my mind when I saw that they still have five feet of snow on the ground.

Here’s a letter that I received from Michele who grows a vegetable garden in not so sunny Manitoba:

Gardening Conditions in Leaf Rapids Manitoba

“Thank you so much for your interesting newsletter. Where I live in Northern Manitoba – North of the 56th parallel, we presently have about 5 feet of snow covering the garden. I have seedlings started and today we had rain… Yay!!”

“The sun is very warm when it shows its face, which hasn’t been very often lately. Your gardening tips are excellent; especially the ones about ‘raised beds’ which I believe is the way to go for me from now on.”

“We are located on sand eskers and we have mostly peat moss and sand to work with. I did get a worm farm last April and so far my buddies have given me four full boxes of precious castings. I use them in my planting mix and it’s amazing to see the difference in growth between the plants with casters and those without, as I am always experimenting for what grows best where.”

“I wish however that I could purchase seeds from Alaska, which have been developed for cold climates, but due to restrictions with customs, this seems like an impossibility. Do you have any suggestions regarding this? Any help you can give would be great.”

The Unfortunate Predicament with Seed Distribution

Michele, thanks for the interesting letter and I feel your pain over obtaining ordinary garden seeds, even from a neighboring country. Short of smuggling, which I’m not recommending, it’s becoming more difficult for gardeners to share seeds and plants with one another, and I no longer distribute seeds outside of the U.S. because of the various restrictions.

I can understand the governmental concerns, but the irony is the seemingly lax regulations and safety controls imposed on the companies that create and market genetically modified seeds, plants, and food products.

Genetically Modified (GM) seeds are being planted where there is a potential for accidental crossing with native and cultivated food crops. Producers of GM foods have also successfully fought against efforts to require labeling to inform consumers of their presence, not to mention the instances of GM foods turning up where they weren’t supposed to.

If you’d like to read more on the topic take a look at the entries over at Bifurcated Carrots on GM foods, GM plants, rice modified with human DNA, and crops bred to produce BT. There should be more scrutiny over safeguarding our seed supply and any hurdles should be set before the companies creating genetic seed material, not food consumers or home gardeners that are simply growing heirloom and open pollinated vegetable seeds in their backyards.

Breed Your Own Vegetable Seeds

A couple of suggestions to help in your search for cold hardy seed varieties; first of all check with Fedco Seeds to see if they can ship seeds to your area. They market a line of ice bred greens and other land race varieties that may be useful to you in Manitoba. I’ll be writing an upcoming entry to share more about these special greens that were developed at Even Star Farm in Maryland, and are now being grown successfully in harsh climates throughout the world.

You can check with the Seed Savers Organization as a potential source of seeds and plants. There may also be local seed exchange groups, gardening clubs, or heirloom vegetable growers in your city that are sharing seeds and cultivation techniques.

Another idea if you have the time and patience would be for you to learn more about seed breeding, that way you could select and develop you own varieties of plants that are acclimated and adapted to perform best under your specific growing conditions. If this interests you at all check out the book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe.

Michele, thanks again for sharing the report of life in your Manitoba garden, even though it is under five feet of snow right now. It’s always interesting to hear and see what’s going on is another gardener’s plot, so I’d like to encourage others to send in an article or pictures of what is growing in your part of the gardening universe.

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

  • Michele, I would like to followup on Kenny’s suggestion of the Seed Savers Exchange. In 2007 there were 25 Canadian members sharing seeds, including 1 in Manitoba. There is really no better way to get seeds for your climate than from other Canadian gardens. Although other gardeners may appreciate it, you don’t need to offer your own seeds in order to get most seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange, as most are available for purchase too. This may not be the cheapest option for just a few different seeds, as you have to pay for both membership and the seeds, but most members consider the cost to be worth it.

    Also unique to Canada and the UK are ‘Seedy Saturdays’, see for more information.

    Finally, be sure to save your save and replant your own seeds. With every generation they will acclimatize themselves to your garden and grow better.

  • Arlene

    I live in Winnipeg,MB. This year my (Beef steak) tomatoes started off well, but then developed some deep cracks around the stem area. Some of the tomatoes also have little holes which appear to have been poked into the flesh of the tomato… Can anyone help? Is this insects? Some sort of fungus or disease? Not enough water?

  • Kenny Point

    Arlene, the smaller holes could be the result of birds pecking the tomatoes to get a little moisture from the fruits. The tomato cracking can occur when there is drought conditions followed by heavy rain or from uneven watering in general.

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