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Rain barrels, mid-season planting and front yard veggies: 3 Questions for gardening expert Jim Hole

Mid-season planting, rain barrels and front veggie patches. A mid-summer Q and A with Alberta garden guru Jim Hole. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

It's the height of growing season: how is your garden growing? Tall beet and carrot tops, dill waving in the wind, squash spreading its vines across the soil--and if you've harvested early crops, can you re-fill the empty spot? What about water from the rain barrel to help it all grow? Time for a few mid-summer questions and answers with Alberta gardening expert Jim Hole.

Q: I have space in my front yard. Can I grow vegetables there?

Hole: Front yard vegetable gardens are legal in many places (Edmonton is one), and they're a great idea. If you have the space and good light conditions, why not grow a container of green onions or carrots? Or lessen the amount of lawn you have to water and mow? I have containers of strawberries and cucumbers leading up my driveway. You may not want an entire patch of potatoes that make the yard look a mess when you turn them up, but having a few vegetables in raised beds or containers out front can be a philosophical statement too: in the time of COVID-19, caring about our eco-footprint, and growing our own food makes sense.

Q: What is mid-summer planting? Should I do it, and when?

Hole:  Why not? With leafy greens that can be harvested by now--chard, beet greens, spinach, leaf lettuce--you can put more seeds right back in the same spot in the soil. As long as it's not the heat-loving, long-growing vegetables, like corn or squash, you can literally get double the harvest. And if only a bit of leaf grows before frost, at least you get a small amount of greens again. There's nothing to lose but a couple of dollars for a seed packet. Pop the seeds in the soil, water a bit and off you go.

Q: I've heard mixed opinions on having a rain barrel in the yard. Yes? No?

Hole: Rain barrels are great for gathering water that runs off the house or garage roof--a natural way to save on water and not much of a down side. Watch for programs in spring that make the purchase even more economical at local stores. You usually need to raise the barrel up a bit, and you want to watch for a couple of issues: there must be a child-proof cover, so kids can't crawl up and into the barrel, and you want a screen so mosquitoes won't grow in the standing water. Some people worry about the run-off from asphalt shingles, or bird poop from the roof that falls into the barrel, but if you're watering the dirt, that doesn't matter. If it's a concern, just don't water the leafy green part of a vegetable plant, something you'll be eating.