When the warm weather finally thaws the ground, you can start getting your garden and spring lawn care in order. To increase your chances of a full bloom, try out our spring garden tips below.
Prep in the Colder Months
The idea of spring alone is enough to excite anyone with a green thumb. Unfortunately, early spring doesn’t typically come with the right conditions for outdoor gardening in Alberta. Consistently warm temperatures might not arrive until May or June.
Just because you can’t start your outdoor gardening doesn’t mean you have to wait months to start on your spring garden care. There’s plenty of prep you can do before the warm weather arrives. Consider these spring gardening tips:
- Plan out what you are going to grow and where you are going to grow it.
- Clean and prepare all of your gardening tools and tune up your machines (lawn mower, edger, etc.). This could be part of your regular spring home maintenance.
- Start planting indoors (more on this later).
Don’t Let the Heat Fool You
This tip for spring gardening is especially pertinent if you’re new to Alberta and not completely used to the local climate. Short stints of warm weather might come in early- to mid-spring. The warmer weather can make it tempting to start work on your spring garden. However, early in the spring season, cold weather could come right back and possibly ruin all the work you’ve done.
Keep an eye on weather trends to get an idea of when the warmth is more or less here to stay before you start working on your outdoor spring garden. As you wait out the colder months, you can get started by planting indoors to prepare for the warmer months ahead.
Start Growing Indoors
Alberta’s long cold season and relatively short warm season creates a shorter amount of time for your spring garden to be in bloom. By starting seeds indoors, you can help ensure your garden is in peak form for as long as possible. For many plants, it may be ideal to start the seeds indoors in early spring, meaning you don’t have to wait for warm weather to start your gardening!
Why start seeds indoors rather than buy grown plants from a nursery? Besides the fact that you get to start your gardening early, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, some nursery plants may be of poor quality. By growing the seeds yourself, you play a role in the quality of the plant. Also, planting seeds may be cheaper than buying several nursery-grown plants, and you are likely to have a wider selection of plants available from seed packets than at a nursery.
Some general tips for starting seeds indoors for your spring garden include the following:
- Check the seed packets for the best time to plant and sowing instructions.
- Flat containers with separated compartments are great for starting several seeds at once.
- Use a high-quality starting mix for your new seeds that is lightweight, drains well and contains a mixture of different organic ingredients.
- Label each section with the type of seed you planted.
- If a plant outgrows its compartment before the last frost, transfer it to a pot.
- Avoid keeping seedlings near windows where they may get too cold at night or too warm during the day.
- Use heat mats to control the warmth of the soil.
- Use a spray bottle to gently keep the soil moist.
- Harden off the plants to ease the full transition outdoors: About a week or two before leaving your plants outdoors full-time, leave your budding plants outside for a few hours at a time, slowly increasing the amount of time outdoors with each day. Hardening off will help your plants acclimate to the elements and temperature changes that were not present indoors.
Know Your Zone
If you’re an avid home gardener, you may already be aware of plant hardiness zones. For those who are planting their very first spring garden, plant hardiness zones help gardeners determine which plants thrive best in certain regions. When you buy a plant or seed packet, you might find a label that tells you which zones that plant is best suitable for.
Canada’s plant hardiness zones take into account several different climate factors, including:
- Minimum temperature in the coldest month
- Maximum temperature in the warmest month
- Number of frost-free days
- Rainfall from June to November
- Snow depth
- Wind gust speeds
Take a look at the plant hardiness zone map from Natural Resources Canada to learn which zone you are in. Then, you can select plants, fruits and vegetables for your spring garden that are likely to do well where you live.
Keep in mind that things like sun exposure and microclimates may also factor into what plants grow well in your area. When determining what you want to plant in your spring garden, do some research into what grows naturally in your area and talk to neighbours about what they have successfully grown in their gardens.
Canada vs. U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones
Canada and the United States have different criteria for plant hardiness zones. This is important for you to keep in mind as you browse for seeds and plants; some labels may use U.S. zones and others may use Canadian zones.
Where Canada’s plant hardiness zones include several climate factors, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) bases plant hardiness zones solely on the average minimum temperature of any given location. Take a look at the map of USDA plant hardiness zones in Canada from Lowe’s Plant Guide for an idea of which U.S. zones apply to your region.
Know When to Plant
Knowing when to grow various plants may go a long way in determining whether or not you have a successful garden. This may be especially true in Alberta where the shorter warm seasons give plants less time in full bloom. Many seed pack labels include the best time to plant based on the plant’s hardiness zone.
If you already know which fruits and vegetables you’ll be planting, refer to the Farmer’s Almanac for a complete planting schedule specific to your region and produce preferences.
Perennials vs. Annuals
When you are doing research and planning out what plants you can grow in spring, you’ll probably notice your options fall into one of two categories: perennials or annuals. Knowing the difference between these two plant types may help you decide on which spring garden plants to grow.
Annuals are plants that flower and die within a year. If you want an annual plant as part of your spring garden, you’ll have to replant it every year (or until you no longer want it as part of your garden).
On the other hand, perennials are plants that grow for part of the year then go dormant before re-growing from roots. Perennial plants may be appealing to gardeners who don’t want to replant every year. However, annuals tend to have brighter and more visually pleasing blooms than perennials. For this reason, it is a common practice for gardeners to incorporate both perennials and annuals into their gardens.
As your Alberta energy company and neighbour, it is a pleasure to see the gardens that are a result of your care and hard work. We hope our spring garden tips help your blooms reach their fullest potential. To learn about how we can help with you understand more about electricity in Alberta, contact us at 1.866.420.3174.