Welcome to Grow Your Own Food, an informative series on gardening and growing your own food in Canada. Each month Redawna Kalynchuk draws on her extensive gardening experience to guide you through a year of growing your own food - planning, planting, maintaining, harvesting and putting your garden to bed for winter. Today she demystifies the important first step in having a successful garden: knowing your garden's climate zone.
Whether it's a backyard garden, a community garden plot or a balcony container garden, you've decided that 2017 is the year you want to start gardening. The idea of growing your own food is something most people envision and it’s easier than you think. With a bit of information you’ll have a basis to start planning for spring.
Canadian Hardiness Zones
The first thing you need to know to grow a successful garden is what hardiness zone you live in. Hardiness zones are based on temperature and climate, and are numbered from 0 to 9, 0 being the coldest and 9 the hottest. You’ll also see the designation of a or b.
The purpose of hardiness zones is to identify how well plants will withstand the cold in these areas, as well as the hardiness and heat tolerance for growing. Knowing your zone gives you helpful information about what you can and can’t grow for a successful harvest. It’ll save you time and money and is an important number that you need to know.
The hardiness map for Canada shows you exactly the zone you’re in. That number gives you valuable information about gardening in your area such as:
- what plants such as perennials, trees and shrubs are hearty in your area
- what types of seeds you should buy
- when to start your seeds
- how long your growing season is
It’s important to know this number when you start planning your yard and garden. Fruit trees, shrubs like blueberries and perennials such as raspberries can be expensive, so you want to be sure to purchase plants that will survive winter in your area.
It’s also important because our goal is to pick plants that will also thrive and be able to survive not only the cold but the heat. It’s disappointing to have a plant freeze, but heat waves can kill plants as well. The next time you’re at the garden centre, take a look at the tag on a tree, shrub or perennial. You’ll find information about that specific plant, its sun and water needs, and its hardiness zone number.
Now you’ve looked at the hardiness zone map and found that you live in a zone 4b. Great, but what does that mean? It means you should be looking for plants that grow in zone 4b or lower. A tree, shrub or perennial that’s marked anything over a 4b will die over the winter from freezing temperatures — the higher the hardiness zone number, the less cold tolerant it is.
Your Garden Master Plan!
This is a good time to create a master plan for your yard, balcony, rooftop or community garden plot or planters. I like to use a binder and loose leaf paper for my garden plans. It’s handy for taking notes and making drawings of your yard or garden plot. And it’ll become a great resource for you to look back at year after year, not only to see the evolution of your garden but to look at the notes to see what did or didn’t work.
A garden binder or master garden plan is especially handy if you have long-term plans for the space. Perhaps yor’re starting from scratch and are looking at tree placement or adding structural elements; a master plan makes the vision manageable and helps you identify what projects you want to tackle in the first year.
While it’s too early in the season to purchase plants, you can sit down now to start planning for the season. If there are trees, shrubs or perennials you’ve seen and thought would be great for your space, you now have the tools to do a bit of research to see if they’re viable options for your zone!
And if you have no idea what you want, pick up a garden magazine. They don’t always offer a lot in the way of information but they showcase gorgeous gardens and are a great resource for ideas and inspiration. It’s a great way to beat the winter blues and get you excited about gardening season!
- Gardening for Food Bloggers by David Ort
- Creating Your Own Edible Small Space Garden
- Our Top Five Herbs to Grow Indoors This Winter
Through the Garden Gate: Know Your Zone was written by Redawna Kalynchuk. Redawna is the writer, photographer and content creator at Nutmeg Disrupted. She has over 20 years of gardening experience and has gardened from indoors under high-powered lights to frosty zone 2b gardens in northern Alberta. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional gardening and loves empowering others to grow their own food. You can follow her at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.