Growing season may still be a few months away, but local green thumbs can get their gardening fix, regardless, during Rocky View County’s (RVC) annual vegetable gardening workshop March 28. Andrea Blonsky, the chair of the Cochrane Community Gardening Society (CCGS), leads the introductory course, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at the County Hall in Balzac. “It’s very interactive – we bring in a lot of materials, whether it be soil samples, seeds [or] seeding demonstrations,” she said. According to Blonsky, who has been gardening since she was five years old, the workshop’s overarching theme is how to address the climate- and weather-based challenges of growing veggies in RVC – particularly to the west. “Coming here from other areas, it’s easy to think that you can garden the same way, but you can’t,” she said. “As we get closer to the mountains, we have issues with climate that come with our altitude. It’s dramatically different. There are a good number of more growing days – frost-free days – in Chestermere and Strathmore than we have here in Cochrane.” The workshop will also delve into another significant challenge for local gardeners, Blonsky said – how to grow food despite the region’s poor quality of soil. “With a few exceptions, most of the soil in the whole Calgary area is either rock or clay,” she said. “So, how do you meet the challenges of not only the climate, but also the soil we’re blessed with here?” While these issues can make it seem like gardening perhaps isn’t worth the trouble, Blonsky said, the local horticulture community is thriving nonetheless. Along with organizations like CCGS and the Calgary Horticultural Society, she touted the impact of Facebook groups like the Calgary & Area Hippie Gardeners. The page boasts more than 3,000 members, Blonsky said, who share their gardening experiences as well as tips and tricks for finding success. “There’s definitely a desire to dig in the dirt,” she said, adding a growing interest in food security has spurned new gardeners. “The ability to contribute to your own family’s food security by growing your own food is immense. Not to mention the great taste of home-grown produce [and] the benefit of introducing your children to growing their own food, so there’s an awareness of their food sources and the nutritive value.” The March 28 workshop will also touch on which vegetables thrive in RVC’s climate, which ones are more of a challenge and what techniques gardeners can employ to find the most success, according to Blonsky. “Maybe you need to grow them in pots so you can bring them in on a frosty night,” she said. “Maybe they need to be under glass. Maybe you need to create a microclimate for them – we go through all of that.” The workshop will wrap up with suggestions for how to properly preserve your harvest, whether its through cold storage, freezing or canning, so your veggies can be enjoyed throughout the winter. To register for the vegetable gardening workshop, visit bit.ly/2Hls0wg or call 403-230-1401.