Gardeners are like farmers who like to complain about the weather. It is always too wet and cold or too hot and dry.
Each area has a distinct climate and gardeners tend to think that it is greener on the other side of the fence. The truth is that each area comes with its own trials and limitations.
Gardeners in western Alberta have a shorter growing season than their eastern counterparts. The weather might be cooler in the west, but the moisture that comes with cool weather keeps the plants growing and green.
Eastern Alberta is much drier. Water restrictions or expensive water is part of their everyday life.
Southern Alberta contends with wind, heat and lack of insulating snowcover.
On the other hand, Northern Alberta has lots of snow. They also have longer summer days that add many hours of sunlight to the growing season. Plants thrive in some areas of the north but not others as productivity also depends on the soil.
Gardeners in each region have learned to cope with their own growing season. Moving to another area makes gardeners reassess their techniques and try new methods. The majority of gardeners are hardy and adapt quickly to the differences in climate.
Areas along the mountains or foothills have a very short, cold growing season and a large number of roaming animals that like to eat what does grow. Banff’s solution was to start a community greenhouse.
Gardeners can garden most of the year under glass. The crops are safe from frost, snow and hungry animals.
Further east gardeners protect their crops by covering them with plastic tunnels or a poly-spun cloth. Both protect plants from a few degrees of frost. The cloth can come in contact with the plants without causing damage; not so with plastic. On a cold night, plants will freeze if they are touching the plastic.
CozyCoats can be placed around individual plants to keep them warm on a cool evening. A ring of two liter pop bottles filled with water have a similar effect. The water in the jugs warm up in the sun and radiate heat during the cooler hours.
In the eastern part of the province where rain is scarce, water barrels are a must. Water is collected each spring and used throughout the season to keep plants moist. Enterprising gardeners will set up a gravity flow irrigation system to avoid the hard work of watering by can and buckets.
Mulch is spread around plants to protect the ground from the hot sun and drying winds. Mulch can be anything from old jute backed carpet to grass clippings to wood chips. It must be thick and dense enough to keep the sun out and moisture in.
Soil is a universal component of every good garden. Good soil makes gardening easier in any part of the world. A healthy soil that is light and full of humus will supply the nutrients needed for the plants to thrive. A light loose soil will hold enough water to keep the plants moist and let excess run through as not to cause the roots to rot. Roots spread out easily in soft loose soil. Weeds might also thrive under these conditions but they will be easy to pull.
Gardening in Alberta comes with many challenges. Take the time to try other people methods of growing and see it wit works for your area.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org