Gardening in the Prairies - The Basics

Gardening in the Prairies – The Basics

Gardening in the prairies certainly has its challenges but we continue to dig in and grow. Whether it’s big, beautiful trees, lush green lawns, beautiful blooms of carefully tended gardens, or the food we eat, we love to grow. In the last few years, the gardening industry has boomed with a staggering increase of over 18 million new gardeners in North America alone. We see it every day at the Garden Centre. As demand has increased, strategies to extend our growing season are being implemented and indoor gardening is as important as outdoor gardening for many.

There are a few basic things to know about gardening in central Alberta, this will be beneficial to new gardeners to our area or gardeners that are frustrated by lack of success. Those of us that have figured out the whims of this garden climate, can still be surprised by Mother Nature as well. Here are a few things to know:

Growing Parameters

Calgary growing parameters:

  • Zone 4a (previously 3b)
  • average 117 growing days (frost free growing season)
  • clay to clay loam soils and bedrock
  • other challenges: cool nights (summer), chinook winds (winter)

Red Deer growing parameters:

  • Zone 4a (previously 3b)
  • average 126 growing days
  • black loam to heavy clay soils
  • other challenges: precipitation (rain)

Edmonton growing parameters:

  • Zone 4a (previously 3b)
  • average 140 growing days
  • silty loam to clay loam soils
  • other challenges: cold winters, snowpack

2023 Gardening Season

As we slid into the 2023 garden season, we enjoyed a spring heat wave which brought our gardens to life quickly. Eager gardeners of all skill levels, beginner and well-seasoned alike, were impatient to get growing. However, we all must remember to proceed with caution in early spring. As such, we recommend waiting until the May Long Weekend at all of our locations. Weather watching is a must, blankets and frost covers should be at the ready. Make sure your garden soil is frost free, dry and ready to be worked. While patience is tough during mild weather, beginner gardeners should pay attention to our average growing season, especially typical last frost dates. Plants purchased early or grown indoors need to be hardened off to help them survive the change in growing environment.

On a final note, the clay soils present throughout much of Alberta do not allow for good drainage or nutrient movement. Amending soils with organic material or starting with Garden Mix should be a consideration to create a heathy foundation for all your gardens. Enjoy the anticipation of the early garden season, watch that weather channels and get ready to get growing!