Know your Canadian gardening zone and what that means.
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!
Whether it’s a backyard garden, community garden plot or a balcony container garden you’ve decided this year you want to have a garden. The idea of growing our own food is something most people envision, and it is easier than 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 Canadian gardening 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.
What Does This Tell Us?
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 cannot 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
Why Is This Important?
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’s 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. This is handy for taking notes and making drawings of the yard and the garden. It will become a great resource for you to look back at year after year. And acts as a snapshot of the evolution of your garden. You can 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. Perhaps 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!
I had no idea it was so important to know your hardiness zone. Good info!
Corinna! Thanks so much for stopping by!
Knowing your zone is the basis of having a successful garden and a bountiful harvest. There are a lot of plants out there that look pretty but do not fit the weather of all areas of Canada. It saves a lot of time and money to buy and grow plants that will not only thrive but finish their life cycle so that we can harvest the fruits and vegetables. I have learnt the hard way in the very early part of my gardening journey to have gorgeous pepper and tomato plants (planted in the ground) never fruit because they were never meant to go in my shorter growing season. Not the end of the world but all the weeding, watering and tending to plants that could have been spent on something to feed my family was a great way of learning about what to do better in the future.
May your garden be lush and bountiful in 2018!
This has some great information! Now that I am living in a house I have learned to enjoy gardening. This will come in handy for the upcoming season, thank you!
My hope is that with a bit of knowledge everyone can grow better more productive gardens. It is also pretty fabulous when gardeners have more information how it turns a hobby into a passion. With some good gardening fundamentals we can learn to push the boundaries of our yard and gardens to create and go=row something spectacular!
I hope your garden in 2018 is strong, healthy, productive and a lot of fun! Do feel free to share pictures of it through the year.
Thank you so much for stopping by!
I am completely a mess when it comes to growing and planting. This is fabulous info and hopefully will help me improve my garden. I need all the help I can get lol ?
It is fantastic that you try and garden.
So many things come into play with gardening that it can definitely create many challenges. From soil quality, garden placement, age of seeds, growing zones and length of season, it all affects what we grow and how it thrives or fails to. If you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line. And as you follow along with this series it will give you all the important information to get your garden on track.
Thank you so much for stopping by.
I’ve never gardened ever, despite my mom being amazing at it (world record holder for most tomatoes on one plant in 1985!). Apartment dwelling as adult makes gardening a challenge. I want to attempt some herbs this year though! Do you know what other veggies do well in containers? I’m 8b in Vancouver! ?
Hi Sharon, Coincidentally enough the best things to grow in containers are tomatoes! And peppers do very well also. With living in the zone that you do, you have a lot of freedom in the choices you make as to what you can grow. Yours is one of the longest growing seasons in the country. I admit I may be slightly jealous.
Lettuce, baby carrots and all herbs will do well in containers on the patio. Those as well as an assortment of fresh herbs you could have a sweet little container garden perfect for low maintenance and a great way to get your feet wet!
If you have any questions please do drop me a line, I love talking gardening and would love to help out in any way I can.
Thanks for stopping by!
I’ve had a large veggie garden for as long as I can remember. But even though I love growing our food, I am terrible at planning. I love your idea of having a master plan an using a binder. Maybe this year I’ll be more organized! Great post.
I’ve always had a backyard garden, as long as I’ve had a backyard, but I must admit I don’t pay a ton of attention to the zone I’m in! I will have to consider this when I’m doing my next planning session!
Hi Leslie-Ann! It is good information to know for the reasons discussed in the article but also for those who like to push the boundaries. In the yard I had my very first garden, all 4000 square feet of it, I learnt there was a bit of a micro climate. That spurred me into trying plants that would not usually grow in that area. It took my learning to the next level.
It definitely helps with the success of our crops when we grow plants specifically for the zones they are meant to be in.
Lots of great information coming up in the article, we discuss seed selection and how to pick the seeds that will be best for our different locations.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you have a spectacular gardening season!
I’ve never considered gardening zones before. I usually just buy seeds and throw them in the ground, and then wonder why they didn’t all grow lol. Thanks for linking to the hardiness map! That’s very handy!
Hey Shareba, I am so glad you found the chart handy. I know it changed what and how I grow my gardens. I love that a bit of extra info can help save time and money and make the harvest more plentiful. A nice payoff for all the work!
Thanks so much for stopping by!
This is such handy info! I learned about zones last year when planting my container garden. My Mom up in Canada has a green thumb, but when I asked her when she started planting her veggies, it was so different from the recommendations in my area here in NC (which obviously makes sense, since it warms up here much earlier). I feel like I learned so much last year, but have so far to go still. Not this summer, but next summer, I’ll have an actual yard to build a veggie garden in. So I might just take this summer to do some reading and learning. Bookmarking this!
Dana, so great seeing you here.
I have to admit, I may be a tad bit jealous of the zones in your area! You definitely have a lot more options for what you can grow and successfully harvest. It makes a difference knowing your zone, it is so much easier making informed decisions on plant and seed selections. How exciting to be starting a new garden. While doing your research this summer be sure to have a note pad handy, you will find that once you start getting into the process of learning about gardening the more you’ll want to know and it can be a lot of information to try and remember. Making notes to what is relevant to you and your space will help. Taking pictures of yards you admire and plants you like is a good idea as well.
Enjoy the process, it is an amazing feeling creating the perfect outdoor space and is worth the work! You may find that it takes years to come together and is a journey but one of the most rewarding projects you will do!
I love this, I started gardening 4 years ago and try and pay attention to all that goes with it. I’ve been lucky and gardens have turned out great so far. But I’m worried about this year. We still have 5 feet of snow on the ground!
It is so great seeing you here! There is so much to learn along the way, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I am still learning!
We are under a ton of snow as well this year. I recently posted an article for getting a jump on the season by starting seeds indoors great for those vegetables that have longer growing seasons. And it is fantastic for flowers as well, I know when I am shopping for flowers at the greenhouse or garden centre I can drop a lot of cash fast. Looking for a better way I started growing 90% of my flowers from seed so that I could invest my money in trees for the yard. It has been great as my yard is always full of flowers for just a few dollars!
If you ever have any garden questions please do drop my a line, I’d be more than happy to help in any way that I can.
May your 2018 garden season be specacular!
I’ve gardened before but now that I live in the country, I’m looking forward to setting up a real garden with vegetables and flowers, and trees! Thanks for the reminder to learn more about this new zone I moved to!
How exciting! It is such a great process building an outdoor space, choosing the trees, the planning, the dreaming and the hard work. It is so rewarding to create your own outdoor oasis. Be sure to take a lot of notes and pictures along the way so you can look back at all your hard work and the evolution of your yard.
It is super helpful to know your zone when you are choosing the plants and can save not only time but potentially a lot of money. And to find inspiration take a drive around the area to see what your neighbours are growing, there could be plants they have that are new to you!
I look forward to watching your journey!
May this be an amazing year in your garden!