Grow Your Own Food is an information series on gardening in Canada that will get you started on the right foot and help you every step of the way to having the garden you dream of! This series was originally written for and published on Food Bloggers of Canada.
Whether it’s a backyard garden, community garden plot or a balcony container garden you’ve decided, 2018 is the year you want to have a garden. The idea of growing our own food is something most people envision and it is easier then you think. With a bit of information you will 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 – 9, zero being the coldest and 9 the hottest. You will also see the designation of a or b.
The purpose of hardiness zones identifies 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 not grow for a successful harvest. It will save you time and money and is an important number that you need to know.
The Canadian Hardiness Map will show you exactly the zone you are in and that number will give 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 is important to know this number when you start planning your yard and garden. Fruit trees, shrubs like blueberries and perennials can be expensive so you want to be sure to purchase plants that will survive winter in your area.
It is 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 disappointing to have a plant freeze but heatwaves can kill plants as well. The next time you are at the garden center take a look at the tag on a tree, shrub or perennial. You will find information about that specific plant, its sun and water needs and its hardiness zone number.
Now you have looked at the hardiness zone map and you have found that you live in a zone 4b. Great, but what does that mean? That means that you should be looking for plants that grow in zone 4b or lower. A tree, shrub or perennial that is 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.
The Master Plan
This is a good time to create a Master Plan for your yard, garden and flower beds. I like to use a binder and loose leaf paper for my garden plans. It is handy for taking notes and making drawings of the yard and the garden. And it will become a great resource for you to look back at year after year to see not only the evolution of your garden but to look at the notes to see what did or did not work.
A garden binder or master garden plan is especially handy if you have long term plans for the space. Perhaps you are 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 is too early in the season to purchase plants you can now sit down and start planning for the season. If there are trees, shrubs or perennials you have seen and thought that would be great for your space you now have the tools to do a bit of research to see if they are viable options for your zone!
And if you have no idea what you want, pick up a garden magazine. They do not always offer a lot in the way of information but they showcase gorgeous gardens and are a great resource for ideas and inspiration. It is a great way to beat the winter blues and get you excited about the gardening season!