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Calgary Gardening - A Guide to Growing a Garden in the Calgary Area

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Gardening in Calgary holds many challenges. From a short growing season, to chinook winds that can thaw and re-freeze perennial plants, hail, freezing cold temperatures in the winter, high winds, deer, squirrels... If you don't like a challenge, Calgary gardening may not be for you. On the other hand, when you grow a beautiful and bountiful garden in your Calgary backyard, it is that much more rewarding and you can feel even more accomplished!


A person standing in the garden while gardening in Calgary Alberta in a zone 3 vegetable garden.

If you are planning on growing a vegetable garden in Calgary, you will want to check out this planting calendar as well as this general guide to vegetable gardening in Calgary.


Although my Calgary gardening tips are more specified towards vegetables, I am confident my website, zone3vegetablegardening.com, and my gardening tips can be a huge help to each of you, whether your passion is growing vegetables or flowers.


4 Tips for Gardening in Calgary and Area


Tip #1 - Learn what Plants Tolerate Freezing Temperatures Well


There is a belief out there among Calgary gardeners that you can not plant anything outdoors until May long. This is not the case. There are so many plants that are cold hardy and can handle mild frost well. The best way to grow plants prior to the last frost is to start them from seed outdoors. This way, you don't have to worry about hardening off and often have stronger plants.


In this blog post you can find a list of frost tolerant vegetables for planting in Calgary and the surrounding area.


Tip #2 - Know Your Soil


If you are gardening in Calgary, chances are, you have alkaline soil with low phosphorus levels. Most vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs prefer slightly acidic soil. I highly suggest testing your soil with a simple home test kit so that you can amend it properly and keep track of how well the amendments work.


One way to lower your soil pH is to add copious amounts of compost. A quicker way is to add aluminum-free garden sulphur.


Phosphorus is important in your soil as it is the nutrient needed for good root development. The easiest way to increase phosphorus levels in your soil is to add bone meal.


You can find more tips here on testing and amending your Calgary garden soil.


When to plant in Calgary Alberta in your backyard vegetable garden for zone 3 gardeners with a girl in a yellow shirt planting in Calgary in a raised bed.

Tip #3 - Protect Plants from Deer OR Grow Deer Resistant Plants


When growing a garden in Calgary, select deer resistant plants or to protect your plants from deer, use a spray, motion sprinkler, fence or one of these other options.


Deer "resistant" (is anything REALLY deer resistant?) vegetables and herbs include:

  • asparagus

  • tomatoes (I have found they are not 100% deer proof but normally will not eat more than a few nibbles)

  • cucumbers

  • peppers

  • garlic

  • onions

  • chives

  • leeks

  • dill

  • mint

  • oregano

  • parsley

  • rosemary

  • sage

  • tarragon

  • thyme

  • rhubarb

  • raspberries (although if they are especially persistent they may chew on new canes)

Find a list of deer resistant flowers and perennials here.


Tip #4 - Plan For Hail


Hail happens. I have seen (and experienced) so many Calgary gardens destroyed by hail. It can feel absolutely devastating. Do yourself a favor and go ahead and plan for hail. Decide what you will do if a hail storm passes through.

  • Leave plants uncovered and hope for the best?

  • Set up permanent hoops and have netting available to cover during prime hail season?

  • Cover with blankets and sheets, or dollar store umbrellas?


Whatever your method, it will be easier on you if you have decided before those hail stones begin dropping, what you will do. I like to keep a stack of blankets, sheets and plant pots ready to cover my plants if need be.


Gardening in Calgary Alberta, what to plant in Calgary

If hail does come through and appears to have destroyed your garden, don't be too quick to throw in the towel! It is amazing what plants bounce back from hail. In the next 3 days after your garden is hit by hail, clean out any dead or crushed leaves. Cleaning them up helps prevent pests and disease from showing up. Many plants, especially leafy green ones, will re-grow and fill back in after 2 to 3 weeks. Root vegetable may look poor on top, but underneath are probably fine. A few weeks and they should fill back in.


What Planting Zone is Calgary?


Planting zones are based, not on where you show on a zone map, but are dependent on the coldest temperature your area reaches in a year. Calgary planting zones can vary from 3 to 4, and it is possible that some years you may fall in as a zone 2 or even 5, depending on your sub-climate. Find more information on planting zones for Calgary as well as a temperature chart where you can figure out what zone you are in here.


As a fellow Calgary gardener, I have enjoyed sharing so many more tips for planting and growing a garden in Calgary Alberta and other northern climates on zone3vegetablegardening.com. Check out the rest of my website for so many more tips on gardening in Calgary!

If you have found this article helpful and would like to see more gardening tips and tricks for gardening in Calgary and the surrounding area, please subscribe to my blog (the bottom of the home page) and follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and/or YouTube!


Tips for gardening in Calgary Alberta



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