Gardening for Life!

Aboriginal First Nations Gardening


  • Start with group gardening. 
  • Include a  gathering circle into the garden plan. 

Spiritual Foundation: 

  • Ask an Elder to bless the garden site before starting the garden and again once the garden is ready for people to enjoy.


  • Always open and close each gardening time with a prayer to the Creator.


  • Bring an eagle feather for discussions.


  • Start with a medicine wheel garden to create a spiritual place.  Use Medicine Wheel Booklet (Saskatchewan) as a guide.  It includes suggestions for perennial plants for each direction which will be successful in Calgary and the Foothills.




In a Medicine Wheel Garden  use plants with  yellow blooms  in the east for the rising sun, red in the south for the heat of summer, black in the west for the setting of the sun  and white in the north for ice and snow.



Search Google Images with "medicine wheel garden design" to look at photos of these gardens.



The Medicine Wheel Garden: Creating Sacred Space for Healing,  Celebration and Tranquility (book) by E. Barry Kavasch  Bantam, 2002



Respect for the land:

  • Take care of the earth and the plants will grow. Soil is a living thing.


  • Use lasagna gardening method of no-till gardening to leave the land as undisturbed as possible.


  • Help restore the soil to fertility by adding compost.


Group Gardening:

  • In the first year find out who is interested in making a small shared garden (not separate garden beds). Gather them together.


  • Talk about what they would like to grow.  Sweetgrass and sage for ceremonies, Saskatoon berries for pemmican,  and the Three Sisters of squash, corn and beans are popular.

Sample Group Gardening Plan:

Meet as a group on specific dates

  • May - meet 2 times and prepare the land site for the garden. Plant root crops such as potatoes, beets and onions in the first season so that there is a fall harvest.  Then if gardening participation drops off in the summer the crops are not wasted by going to seed.  Baby beet greens can be used for salads. Beet peelings and onion skins can be used as  natural dyes for crafts.


  • June - meet 2 times to plant seeds and seedlings. Plant berry shrubs such as Saskatoon, Currants (gold, white. red),  Kinnikinnick / Bear Berry, Chokecherry, Buffalo Berry, Gooseberry, High Bush Cranberry, Thimble Berry, Elder Berry


  • July - meet once for tending plants (gardeners come on their own or with a friend the other weeks of the month)  People may be away attending Pow Wows, Rodeos, Stampedes etc.


  • August - meet 2 times to tend the garden plants


  • September - October - meet 2 times as a group to harvest, share recipes and put the garden to bed (dates depend on the weather).



  • September - October Seed collecting


  • Start making earth (composting)


Recipe Sharing: part of the gardening experience is to either eat and share what you harvest or preserve it to eat and share later.  Gardeners bring a dish they have made from garden crops and share it with others at a gardeners' potluck.

Pemmican Cakes
    1 package beef jerky
    1 cup dried berries, such as dried Saskatoon berries, raspberries or cherries
    1 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds
    ¼ cup beef suet or vegetable shortening
    Honey to taste (1 to 3 teaspoons)
    12-cup muffin tin


  1. Line muffin cups with paper liners (or grease cups well)
  2. Grind or chop beef jerky into very, very small pieces to make about 1 cup.
  3. Melt suet or shortening in a saucepan.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in beef jerky, dried berries, and seeds. Stir in honey.
  5. Spoon about ¼ cup of the pemmican mixture into each muffin cup.
  6. Press down firmly to make a cake, smoothing the top.
  7. Refrigerate until well set.

Serves 12.

Three Sisters Soup

    3 cans chicken broth or soup stock
    2 cups frozen corn, thawed
    1 cup green beans or yellow wax beans, washed and ends trimmed off
    1½ cups of  squash or pumpkin
    2 bay leaves
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Optional spices: ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 teaspoon each fresh (or ½ teaspoon each dried) parsley, basil, and oregano


  1. Pour the broth into a large saucepan or kettle.
  2. Heat until the broth begins to boil.
  3. Add the corn, beans, squash, and bay leaves.
  4. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. Add optional spices if desired, and simmer 15 more minutes.
  6. Remove the bay leaves, and transfer the soup in batches to a blender to puree if desired. Soup is good served without blending.
  7. Serve with bannock (bread).

Serves 8 to 10.

Source: Food by - Aboriginal

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