Living in Alberta, we never truly know when spring will start. With recorded snowfall in almost every month of the year, we Canadians have learned to adapt to the cold and work around those spontaneous chilly days. Your garden, however, isn’t quite so forgiving. With such a short and unpredictable growing season, gardening is a tricky hobby to have here in Calgary. We recommend starting your garden indoors prior to planting outside so that your little guys have a chance to start in a warm, dry environment before being exposed to the elements.
If you choose to start from seeds, it’s time to start planting! Depending on the type and variety, seeds should grow indoors for 6-8 weeks prior to being planted outdoors – but always read the package for more detailed instructions. This allows the seedlings time to develop and root into the soil before having to adapt to our ever-changing Canadian weather. Whether you have a beautiful greenhouse, a spacious garage or you’re working from your living room, use these tips to start your very own garden!
Planting Your Seeds
- Choose the right containers: Plant your seeds in a flat of small individual compartments with drainage holes on the bottom, easy to divide when transplanting them outside. If you want to plant your seeds in a larger container, pots made out of peat, newspaper and other organic materials can be planted right into the soil to minimize transplanting trauma for the seedlings.
- Use the right potting soil: When choosing your soil, anything organic can be used indoor or outdoor. This way your little seeds will be ready for whatever comes at them before or after transplantation.
- How to plant the seeds: When digging the hole, place your seed beneath the surface as if three more of those same seeds could be placed on top of it. This will allow the perfect amount of dirt to cover the seed.
- Where to grow seeds in your house: Make sure to read the package as to whether your seeds need to germinate in a light or dark, warm or cool, damp or dry environment.
Transplanting Your Seedlings
Once your seedlings start to grow, you’ll have to decide when they’re ready to move outdoors. The average date of Calgary’s last spring frost is May 22, so do the math to get your seeds ready for outside planting around then.
- Transplant to larger pots: If your seedlings grow too large for their individual compartments before the outside weather permits, repot them into a larger container. This can be a larger pot, styrofoam cup or anything with sufficient drainage.
- ‘Hardening off’ process: When it comes time for your plants to move outdoors, the quick shift in temperature can be hard on them. This process will help minimize transplant shock and allow your seedlings to gradually get ready for the permanent move. Start by moving them outdoors into the shade for a few hours, slowly increasing the time day by day. After a few days of this, slowly move them into the sun, again increasing the time slowly. Once you’ve completed this process for a few weeks, your plants can be fully transplanted outside.
- Transplant to your garden: Carefully remove your plants from their containers and dig a hole wide enough to fit them in comfortably. Gently massage the dirt around the plant’s roots so that they can easily meld with the new dirt. If you do decide to bury the pot made of organic material, break apart the bottom of the pot so that the roots don’t get trapped before the pot fully breaks down. But first, prepare your garden so that it is ready!
Preparing Your Garden
Once your seedlings look healthy and strong enough to brave the outdoors and you’ve completed the ‘hardening off’ process, focus your attention here:
- Prepare the soil ASAP. Till the soil and water it well before the seedlings are ready to be transplanted so that it has time to gain moisture.
- Get those weeds outta there! Nothing cramps a plant’s style more than pesky, thirsty weeds.
- Fertilize this clean, prepped soil. Coffee grounds make a great homemade fertilizer, adding nitrogen to your compost pile or straight into the ground.
Calgary’s first fall frost generally falls around September 16, so your outdoor growing season doesn’t last very long. We recommend you start planting those little guys now because you’ll want to harvest as early as possible Calgary.