This month there’s no preamble – no pithy story to serve as an introduction. This month we’re serving up a chaotic buffet of facts.
Here are the 10 Random Things that Calgary Gardeners Ought To Know:
1. Your Zone changed.
You used to be a Zone 3. Now you’re a Zone 4. The world is now your oyster.
2. There are, on average, 115 frost-free days in a Calgary growing season.
This is especially important when you’re planning your garden. Every seed pack has a days-to-harvest number on it. Play your cards right and you can get more than one planting in!
3. Most trees prefer to be pruned while dormant and the prime-time is February through April. Spruce and Pine can be pruned in the summer.
Birch and Maple prefer June and July. Elms, well, elms are special. Dutch Elm Disease (DED) is such a horror that most cities have laws that prevent pruning elms from April through September.
4. Not all perennials are created equal.
Some are short-lived, like Lupines and Delphiniums, some are long-lived, like Bee-balms and Coneflowers, while others may last a lifetime, like Peonies.
5. Chinooks are tough on plants due to the sudden rise in temperature, followed by a quick freeze.
Deep watering practices throughout the year can help plants develop a deep root system which helps them to withstand the harsher conditions closer to the surface. A mulch layer will also help to insulate your plants, keeping them safer from the fluctuations in temperature. The chinook wind can be tough on evergreens, like cedars, so installing a wind break of burlap can save them from winter-kill.
6. Make mulch your new best friend.
Not only does it help to keep down weeds, it helps to keep your soil moist, provides a place for your beneficial bugs to hang out, and, if you’re using bark/tree mulch (as opposed to gravel), it adds nutrients to your soil as it decomposes. Watch the City of Calgary’s website in late spring for free sources of this miracle product.
7. You can keep honeybees in Calgary.
There are regulations to follow but if you’re interested, there are plenty of resources available online and through local associations. In order to prevent the further decline of an important species, this is a great opportunity for anyone with a large enough yard & a constant water source.
8. Compost is a nutrient goldmine to a gardener.
Nothing is easier than tossing green & brown yard/veg waste into a container and letting nature take its course. For those without the space, there are indoor options, such as a worm composter that sits under the sink. The Green Cart program is likely to be rolled out by mid-2017 so that will be another avenue for your compostable waste.
9. There are no permits required to install rain barrels or other gravity-fed water-harvesting devices in the City, providing they’re above grade and you’re using the water outdoors for watering.
Free water – need I say more?
10. Acadia loves its Cotoneaster hedges but they are plagued by Oystershell Scale Insects.
Perhaps you’ve noticed neighbours cutting their hedges – this is why. If you’ve got Cotoneaster on your property, take a look at the branches for the telltale sign: a squiggly pattern that covers the bark. If you see it, you’ve got it, and it won’t take long before you’ll start to find bare patches appearing in your hedge. Cut down the hedge and have the branches hauled away. Unless the Scale has damaged the root system, the plants will regrow and your hedge will fill out within a couple of years.
If you’d like to connect with us from the comfort of your own home, find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or through our website at www.growingacadia.ca. We’re always happy to answer any questions you might have.
See you in the garden!
Joanne Klein is a Master Gardener who lives in Acadia