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Building Market Garden Field Blocks on the Canadian Shield

The time has finally come and the ground has finally thawed enough for us to tackle building our field blocks for our market garden for this upcoming growing season.

Building a market garden in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories comes with many challenges, one of them being that Yellowknife is located on a very exposed part of the Canadian Shield. The Canadian Shield is a large area, mostly in Canada, of exposed Precambrian rock. So to build a market garden to any scale you need to import a lot of soil and amendments.

Part of the reason we chose to pursue a property within the City of Yellowknife was that it had already been blasted, the process of blowing apart the surface of the Precambrian rock to level the area for future development.

We were fortunate that upon purchasing our commercial property for our market garden we were also able to purchase soil that was left on the property from a previous tenant. This saved us from having to have dump truck loads of black earth brought in from other locations last fall before freeze-up.

Due to space restraints however before we purchased the property the soil was mainly piled up against the west side of our property, with some areas being significantly deeper than others.

Our goal over the May Long weekend, through the use of a borrowed antique rototiller (we know, we know, we are going to implement no-till methods once the plots and beds are shaped) from an awesome neighbour, many shovels, wheelbarrows, and human power, is to spread out the soil where it has been compacted in greater depths and square it off within our field blocks.

Field blocks are large plots of soil that are typically squared off to accommodate the development of standardized growing beds.

All of our field blocks on our property will be 50’ in length, meaning our growing beds will always be that same length. This is great when designing an irrigation system, you know that drip tape always needs to be 50’, and for other tools like low tunnels and row covers.

The width of our beds will also always be 30”, which is a standardized width for many human-scaled market gardens. And with a 12” pathway between each bed we know that a bed and pathway together is 42” or 3.5’.

We are currently planning four field blocks, two 50’ by 30’, one 50’ by 21’, and one 50’ by 24.5’. The varying widths are to accommodate the undulating and protruding rock face.

By the end of the May long weekend, we hope to have all the field blocks built for our first season and if we are efficient, have the beds and pathways defined.

As the years go by we plan to bring in and build up more soil so we can develop more field blocks on the east side of the property.

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