Summer camp for gardeners

A meditation garden

by Erl Svendsen, PAg

When I was a child… ok, old people say stuff like that, but really, when I was young, summer camp meant spending a week away from home, living in cabins or tents with total strangers at a lake or in the woods, learning to swim, do crafts, start a fire, make new friends, recognize poisonous and edible plants and loads more. Once you got over your homesickness, you wanted to stay forever. Now, summer camp can still be that, but there are the weeklong sleep-in-your-own-bed varieties like drama, hockey, science, ecology and art camps. What all these camps have in common are stepping out your comfort zone, meeting new people (even making a new life-long friend), mastering a skill or craft, and learning something interesting. My question is, why do kids get to have all the fun?

The answer is, of course, adults have their own type of camp. For gardeners, there are plenty of opportunities. Starting with Hort Week, July 8-14, at the University of Saskatchewan ( Participants (aka campers) can register for one the free workshops (such as Gardening Naturally: Chemical Free Gardening on Thursday), free tours and any of the many courses offered during the week including making your own hypertufa pot, basic perennial gardening, safe use of pesticides and alternatives, groundcover and vines, how to prepare probiotic vegetables, herbal medicines from field and garden, lawns and lawn care and a whole lot more. Take in one day or the whole week. For more information, email or phone 306-966-5097 (tip: take advantage of a 10% early-bird discount by registering by June 23).

For the busy gardener-camper, there are several day trips in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS) hosts two free garden tours on June 11 and July 9 (for details, see Bulletin Board @ The Friends of the Forestry Farm House ( likewise hosts free walking tours (June 25, July 16, August 27) starting from the Superintendent’s Residence, the big brick house at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. The 8th annual Nest Secret Garden Tour ( on July 30 features 8 magnificent yards in Montgomery Place, Confederation Park and the University neighbourhoods – passports are available from Dutch Growers, McNally Robinson Bookstore and Anthology Home Collection. For a longer sojourn, join the Saskatchewan Horticultural Association on their 3-day bus tour exploring The South Saskatchewan River & The Great Sand Hills (for details, contact Sheila Glennie: or 306-338-7304).

If volunteering is more your speed, there are a few garden-related opportunities. The first one that comes to mind is the Labour & Learn events at the two public gardens (the Robin Smith Meditation Garden and the Heritage Rose Garden) that the SPS created and maintain at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. While helping to beautify a small corner of Saskatoon you have a chance to learn something new from a more experienced gardener or pass on a bit of gardening lore to a new-to-gardening volunteer. Just drop in with your favourite hand tools (see SPS Calendar-2017 @ Another gardening volunteer opportunity is to join the Weedin’ Wednesday crew at the Garden Patch (3:30-7:30 every Wednesday, 900 block of 3rd Avenue North, just south of 33rd Street East and Warman Road). The Garden Patch ( is a community-driven urban agriculture initiative of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre. Since they planted their first seeds seven year ago, they have raised over 110,000 pounds of produce that has been distributed in our community. For other volunteer opportunities at the Garden Patch, phone 306.664.6565 ext 228 or email

Erl gardens in Saskatoon. He recently started tweeting @ErlSv.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS;;; Check out our Bulletin Board or Calendar for upcoming garden information sessions, workshops, tours and other events. Got growing questions? Gardenline is here to help! Email with your questions or call Helen at 306-966-5865.