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St. Albert gardener paves way for sustainable living

Urban Gardening, a self-published book available on Amazon, was written by Albertan who has developed a system that allows him to harvest about $3,000 worth of produce each summer. 
St. Albert gardener Charles Schroder is an avid fan of sustainable gardening. He has written a book titled Urban Gardening.

In the early morning, gardener Charles Schroder steps outside onto his terraced garden and gazes at all the vegetable plants and fruits that will feed his family for the next six months. 

“It’s a relaxing thing to do in the morning, and a good start to the day,” said Schroder. Within the past decade, the St. Albert resident has developed a degree of prominence as a speaker, newspaper columnist and advocate of sustainable gardening. In addition, he just released Urban Gardening, a self-published book available on Amazon. 

The Grandin community resident has every right to be proud of his achievements. Through research and experimentation, Schroder has developed a system that allows him to harvest about $3,000 worth of produce each summer. 

“It’s for home use. It might seem like a large amount, but we have regular Sunday dinners with eight or 10 people — my kids and grandkids,” he said. 

Much of Schroder’s enthusiasm is directed at instilling a love of gardening and nature in his grandchildren. 

“I enjoy the satisfaction of growing my own vegetables and sharing them with my grandchildren. When my kids were young, I built a garden plot for them. And my grandson will be helping me this summer.” 

In fact, gardening and nature are firmly planted in the Schroder family DNA. Raised in Evansburg, his father worked in forestry and his mother, an avid gardener, grew vegetables out of family necessity.  

“I started helping when I was five or six years old weeding and watering. She looked after the garden, but I was her little helper.” 

Schroder put gardening on pause while earning a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. However, he resumed rooting around in the soil after moving to St. Albert in 1963 and purchasing a house with a large south-facing backyard. 

As a retired engineer, his approach to gardening is one of organization and attention to detail. As a gardener, he knows all living things have a life of their own and it’s impossible to predict a project’s exact outcome, especially when dealing with Mother Nature. 

“I was always busy in life when we had our company. Now that I’m retired, I’ve taken on gardening as an intellectual challenge.” 

Schroder has always experimented with detailed planning, combined with new ideas borrowed from horticultural books and studies. As a lifelong learner, the passionate gardener has kept a detailed logbook of successes and washouts he shares with other enthusiasts. 

“If I tried something out and it succeeded, I would do it again. If I failed, I’d write, 'This is not what you should be doing.'”  

One challenge was constructing many raised beds from untreated wood lumber, typically 16 inches high and four feet wide. Initially labour-intensive, the beds made unexpected problems easier to handle. 

“Gardening with raised beds is a major time saver. Thinning and weeding can be done at any time, wet or dry. Crop rotation is easy to plan. You don’t compact the soil by walking on the planted area.” 

Each year, he plants almost as many types of vegetables as there are seed packages: cabbage, broccoli, rutabaga, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, beets, corn, zucchini, peas, beans and potatoes. 

And his fruit garden is equally impressive: raspberries, Saskatoon berries, currents, strawberries, cherries and apples. 

“Last year we planted plums, but it takes about four to six years before plum trees start producing.” 

Eager to share his wealth of gardening knowledge, Charles Schroder writes a monthly column for St. Albert Gazette

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