Gardening 101

Friday May 21st, 2021


Gardening 101

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, it’s finally starting to feel like winter might be done. And you want to try your hand at gardening this year! But where do you start? If you have never tried gardening before it can feel a little overwhelming to get started. What do you plant? When should you plant? Pots? Soil? Seeds? Shade vs. sunlight? Watering schedule? Take a deep breath, go find a sunny spot to sip your coffee, and read the following for some great tips, tricks & ideas to get your green thumb sprouting this Spring.

First Steps

Know Your Space

The first step to a successful gardening season is to know your space. Will you be planting indoors? Outdoors, in full sun, full shade, partial sun, or a mix of all three? Will your plants be protected from the elements or will they be in direct sunlight, wind, and rain (hail)? Is your garden going to be in the ground? Or will you be utilizing containers? Or perhaps a combination of the two? If you are planting in the ground, what is your soil like, will you need to prepare it in any way? Or need to add nutrients?

Calgary gardening can be complex; the season is relatively short, and the climate can change dramatically throughout the season. According to the Hardiness Zone Map, Calgary is in zone 4a; which means that you can grow plants that are rated to zone 4a and lower. **Link in More Resources for more info on plant hardiness

Watch how the sun tracks across your yard. Are there spots that get more sunlight than others? Are there certain areas of your yard that get sunlight all day long or no sun at all? How the sun tracks in the winter is different than the summer, knowing how it changes and how much sunlight areas get is important in determining which plants will thrive in your space. One benefit of container planting is that if you notice a certain area not getting enough sunlight or too much, you can move the container to a more suitable location. Full sun plants prefer 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, whereas partial sun plants do best with 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. Full shade plants fare better with less than 4 hours of direct sun per day.

Determining what your garden space has to offer is the first step in planning out your gardening project. Once you have figured out which areas you would like to garden in, the next step is to plan your garden. This includes figuring out what you are going to plant and how.

Seeds or Saplings

With such a short growing season in Calgary, it is important to know how long things take to grow. If you are determined to start from scratch (seeds), then you may want to consider starting your garden indoors and transplanting once the last frost has occurred. There is a link to a great starting your seeds indoors tutorial below.

3 Reasons to start your garden indoors

  1. Diversity
  2. Save money
  3. So satisfying

The garden centers in Calgary have an array of pre-grown seedlings. Starting your garden this way is easy. You can see what the plants look like and they come with tags so that you know what kind of sunlight they prefer.

3 Reasons to buy transplants

  1. Quick and easy
  2. Location (don’t need to worry about having room indoors for your seedlings)
  3. Time (starting seeds should be done 6-8 weeks before transplanting them)

Some people do a combination of both. They will start the more unique plants that they want, indoors and then head to the garden center (around May long weekend) to grab the rest of their plants.

Pots or Ground

Do you have limited space? Do you like the look of a ground garden over containers? Does your soil condition leave something to be desired? Deciding on how you want to garden is the next step in your green thumb project. There are a lot of people that do both, depending on their space. Regardless of how you decide to design your garden, you need to make sure that you are using the correct soil for the plants you are growing.

Next Step

Get planting! You have planned out your garden project, decided where you would like things to go, what kind of plants you will grow, and whether they will be in containers or the ground. Now it’s the fun part! Planting. Make sure you read the tag instructions on planting depths. Prepare your planting bed or containers with holes. When removing transplants, push up from the bottom to release the plant. If the roots look root-bound (grown into a big ball), use an old fork or your fingers to untangle some of the outer roots prior to planting. Pat some soil into place around the roots and then soak the soil with water. You don’t want to compact the soil too much around the plant, just enough to secure it. Have fun!

Growing season

Now that your garden is all planted, what’s next? Make sure you are watering at the right time. Seedlings need to be watered daily so that they don’t dry out, as they mature you can taper off the watering schedule. The best time to water is early morning to minimize evaporation. Water slowly, so that the water has time to soak into the surface instead of running off.

You want to make sure your garden looks fresh and fabulous all season long. Pruning, deadheading flowers, weeding, and harvesting are essential to maintaining a healthy garden.

Helpful Gardening Resources

Be YardSmart

Calgary Horticultural Society

Hardiness Zones

Starting Seeds Indoors

Best tip… Don’t give up! If something doesn’t work this year, try something new next season. Start small and work your way up to the more complicated planting projects. Your green thumb will grow with time. There is nothing quite as therapeutic as gardening.

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