First Steps when planning your backyard garden in Canada

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Welcome to March! The month where spring begins and those of us with a green thumb start itching to get our tools in the ground. Unfortunately this is Canada and unless you live in the lower Mainland or Vancouver Island you are likely looking out your window to find several feet of snow. The good news is it’s time to start planning your garden and decide what needs to be started inside so you can take advantage of as much of our short summer as possible.

I’m no expert in gardening, but a have learned a thing or two along the way in the 4 years I have been tending my own and all the years I have played with patio patio gardens. Today I will be sharing what I have learned about choosing the plants you want in your garden and how many you will need. This is the first in my garden series that will appear on the blog from now until the harvest is over in the fall. If you don’t want to miss the ups and downs of trying to plant a self sustaining garden in the great white north sign up for my email list so you are notified when new posts come out.

Hardiness Zones and Frost dates

One of the thirst things you need to know are what hardiness zone you live in, what is the last frost date and what is the first frost date for your area. This information will tell you the start and end of your outside growing season as well as what plants and withstand the elements in your zone.

In Canada our hardiness zones range from 0 (the coldest) to 9 (the warmest). In my home province our hardiness ranges from 0-4. You can lol find you area’s hardiness zone here. This information is important when buying seeds online because the see packages will tell you what zone the plant will thrive in. When shopping at your local nursery they  are likely not going to supply seeds that would not fair well in your area, but it is still important to check just in case.

Plant Zone Hardiness Map
Source: Natural Resources Canada:

The first date are another important starting point because they tell you how long your outdoor growing season will last. Your frost dates can be found here. Remember the last frost date is the start and the first frost is the end. My father always says to wait until after the full moon in May, but you can find your frost dates here.

A Few Important Questions to ask yourself 

Now that you know what your growing season will look like it’s important to ask yourself what you want from your garden and what are you willing to put in to get that.

When planning my garden I ask myself the following questions:

  • What do we eat on a regular basis that can be grown in the garden?
  • How much food do I hope to get from the garden this year?
  • Am I canning this year or do I just want food from the garden for the growing season?
  • How much time do I have to tend the garden?

These are all important questions to ask yourself before you start looking through the seed catalogues and Pinterest because you will be tempted to grow all the pretty beets and radishes but has anyone in your home eaten beets and radishes? If not maybe they’re not the right fit for your garden right now. 

Grocery shopping in your backyard

One of the first places to start when planning your garden is in your fridge. Take a look at what you always buy and actually eat, this way you are motivated not only by pocketbook but also by your taste buds. In our home cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are always on my shopping list and therefore always in our garden.

Watching the vegetables we eat every day grow in our own yard is great for the kids too. They are motivated to try foods they have grown and harvested themselves and they learn where their food comes from.Because of this I always make sure to add a vegetable or two that the kids don’t really like, or are less likely to try when it shows up on their plate. This way they watch it grown, tend to it and sometimes see me snacking on it while weeding. This makes it more appealing and they may give it a try next time it shows up on their plate. Plus food fresh from the garden always tastes so much better than anything in the store so that may help your cause as well!

Thinking about the harvest

Knowing how much you hope to harvest helps you know how many varieties of seeds you should buy. If you are a single person only hoping to have enough for salads and tomato sandwiches, you probably shouldn’t plan to plant every pretty heirloom tomato plant you find and if you go through jars of homemade dill pickles on a weekly based you probably need more than just the one cucumber plant. 

It’s also important to start thinking about how you will want to preserve your harvest. Will you be freezing, fermenting, canning, drying? This not only helps you know how much you need, but looking into these projects now will help you know whether or not you even want to go this direction because now it’s time to ask yourself…

How committed are you?

As much as gardening is relaxing it can be so stressful and time consuming when you are juggling work, babies, and life when trying to tend it. If you over extend yourself you may find yourself in a rainstorm pulling weeds because it was the only time you cold fit it in that week (true story about yours truly). Ask yourself how much leisure time do I usually have? And how much of that leisure time am I going to be willing to trade for the new leisure activity gardening?

Watering, weeding, pruning, harvesting, preserving are all tasks that take time and some only have a small window of opportunity to be completed. But the bright side is even if your time is limited that doesn’t mean that you throw your plans for self sustainability out the window it just means you need to plan a little differently. (I am diving deep into this topic in an upcoming post)

No matter the size of your garden or the plans for your harvest a little planning can make a huge difference in your gardening experience.

Follow along!

From now until we turn over the garden for winter I will be sharing my garden 2021 journey with you here. We are upgrading our garden this year with raised beds, putting companion planting to the test and I have so many plans for preserving our harvest and you are invited to join us every step of the way. To be notified when new garden posts are live beside to sign up for our email list for notifications and our monthly newsletter.

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