Cheat Sheet

Gardening Basics For Canadians For Dummies

Gardening in Canada presents specific challenges due to our cold climate and short growing season. This cheat sheet offers tips for getting the most out of your Canadian garden. Start by checking the frost dates in your region and consult some of the many online gardening resources that are available. Protect your perennials through the winter and choose the best grasses for Canada’s climate to maintain a beautiful, thriving lawn and garden year after year. Read on to see how.

Canadian Gardening Frost Dates by Region

Canadian gardeners need to know when the growing season in their area begins and ends so they can avoid losing plants to frost. This chart provides frost dates across Canada. To be extra careful, plant or transplant temperature-sensitive plants ten days after the dates below. For more Canadian locations, go to tdc’s FarmGate.

Location Last Frost Date First Frost Date Typical Number of Frost-Free Days
St. John’s June 2 October 12 132
Halifax May 6 October 20 167
Montreal May 3 October 7 157
Toronto May 9 October 6 150
Winnipeg May 25 September 22 120
Regina May 21 September 10 112
Calgary May 23 September 15 115
Yellowknife May 27 September 15 111
Whitehorse June 11 August 25 75
Vancouver March 28 November 5 222
Victoria March 1 December 1 275

Online Resources for Gardening in Canada

If you’re looking for reliable Canadian gardening Web sites, you’ve come to the right spot. The following sites offer interesting Canadian gardening blogs, excellent gardening tips, Canadian gardening communities, upcoming regional gardening events, and more.

Preparing Perennials for Cold Canadian Winters

In Canada, tender perennials like geraniums, impatiens, and gerbera need to be kept alive with good winter protection — otherwise they become one-hit wonders. To overwinter your tender perennial plants during Canada’s cold winter months, follow these steps:

  1. Dig up the roots or entire plant.

  2. Bring them indoors to a nonfreezing spot for the next few months (where they will become dormant or semidormant houseplants).

  3. Pot the plants in any good soil, and grow them in a cool (5°C-10°C, or 40°F-50°F) and bright area.

  4. Keep them barely moist through the winter, just keeping them alive.

  5. Once replanted in the spring, they’ll spring back to life with the help of warmer temperatures and brighter light.

You can also trim and prune your perennials and use mulch to protect them through the winter.

The Best Grasses to Plant in Canada

Growing and maintaining a lush green lawn in Canada can be a challenge. It starts with choosing the best type of grass. The best types of grasses to grow in Canada are cool-season grasses because our summers are short and our winters are cold – and usually snowy. Cool-season grasses grow actively in spring and fall, slow down in summer, and go dormant in the winter. They do best at temperatures between 16°C and 27°C (60°F and 80°F) and can survive freezing winter temperatures. The following cool-season grasses thrive in Canada’s cooler climate.

Cool-Season, Northern Grasses
Type of Grass Appearance Ideal Mow-to Height Description and Care
Kentucky bluegrass Fine to medium texture
Canoe-shaped
Dark blue-green
6 to 8 cm Hardy but not drought-tolerant so water generously
Disease resistant
Needs more fertilizer
Shallow roots make it a good showpiece lawn but unsuitable for heavy foot traffic
Fescues, fine and tall Fine texture
Bristle-leaved
Medium green
6 to 8 cm Water deeply and infrequently (do not soak or make soggy)
Shade-tolerant
Tolerates foot traffic very well
Can perform well in poor soil
Is often mixed with other grasses
Bent grass Fine texture
Blades begin to bends at a couple of centimeters tall (hence the name)
3 to 4 cm Needs generous watering (weekly during the height of the growing season)
Cut regularly to avoid stems from forming thick mats and thatching
Popular for golf and tennis courses
Use a mower with very sharp blades
Perennial ryegrass Fine texture
Glossy
Dark green
6 to 8 cm Has shallow roots, likes consistent water
Disease resistant
Tolerates foot traffic well
Nice in full sun or shade (but not reliably hardy)
Germinates and grows quickly and is often used in blends
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