Top tip for a full flower garden in Alberta


Gardening in Central and Northern Alberta can be challenging. We have a relatively short growing season and cold winters that seem to last forever. Here in Lacombe, we're in Zone 3A, which is pretty cold. But that doesn't mean you can't have a garden bursting with beautiful flowers.

I have one top tip that will guarantee you'll have a garden overflowing with flowers every year.

Top Tip: In January every year, get really excited about gardening, find your favourite seed catalogue, and order as many seeds as you can afford for your garden.

Include some vegetables so you don't feel too guilty about the purchase, but make sure you pick plenty of flowers. When they arrive, buy the biggest bag of starter soil that you can find, then PLANT EVERYTHING and place your trays under lights. Within a few weeks you'll realize you have enough seedlings to fill every flower bed in your own yard and probably the neighbours’ yards for several blocks, and then some!

When you transplant the seedlings into bigger pots don't thin them out. Save every last one. DON'T COUNT THEM. At this point, you might need to invest in more grow lights, tables, and at least 1 giant bag of potting soil.

By April, will be totally overwhelmed and have no idea what you're going to do with all of your plant babies. You may want to start investing in more pots or figuring out what areas of your yard you could dig up to create new flower beds. This might be a good time to start gifting them to friends.

Be creative when looking for planting containers. For example, you could use your kitchen pots. Large pots will hold several plants! You can just cook on the BBQ until winter, right? Got old hiking boots and or old shoes no one seems to be wearing? Plant in them! Scavenge garage sales and thrift stores in your area for any type of container that could hold some dirt and a plant.

When it comes time to start planting outside, your garden will be bursting with flowers, and your eclectic collection will be the talk of the town.

Ok, all jokes aside (I was joking up there... sort of? Why do I have 250 petunias, 40 dracaenas, and 130 pansies...) starting your own flowers from seed is pretty easy, and considerably cheaper than buying bedding plants from your local greenhouse.

Don't get me wrong, shopping for bedding plants is basically my absolute favourite activity in the world. But seriously, if you're looking to garden on a budget, this is probably the cheapest way to do it.

If you're lucky, $5 will get you 1 or maybe 2 bedding plants from your local garden centre. $5 from a seed company can get you about 250 Zinnia seeds. Because haven't you always wanted 250 Zinnias?

Potting soil is also relatively cheap. Last night I bought 50 litres of potting soil for $8 from Peavey Mart (Disclaimer: this soil later proved to be awful. Don’t be quite as cheap as I was).

And, as mentioned above, you really can be creative about what you use for potting your plants. You don't need to spend a bunch of money on pots from the gardening centre. You can pick up all sorts of containers from baking dishes to pots, and cups to boots, at thrift stores or garage sales.

Another great feature of seed catalogues is that many of them will indicate your growing zone on your address label when they mail your catalogue to you, so it’s easy to choose seeds that are appropriate for your region. Just make sure you order your seeds fairly early as they do take a while to germinate.

This year, I started my pansies on February 3rd. They're definitely growing, but they're not nearly as big as some of the ones I've seen in stores already. Most seed packets and catalogue descriptions will tell you how long plants take to sprout. If you do some googling you can find guidelines for when to start different types of seeds so that they're at safe maturity to plant outside when you get to April or May.

So if you want to start gardening, but you're on a tight budget, give seed starting a try next year.