Gardening season is just around the corner, and spring is a great time to get a head start on planting crops by starting the seedlings earlier in the season. This ensures veggies will be ready for those summer roasts.   

Everything is warming up now and becoming softer, making gardening sites more easily assessable. As the last frost day of the year approaches us, life for plants outside becomes more prevalent. Frost usually stops occurring between April 1 and April 15, but according to Environment Canada, the last frost date average for Calgary is the third week into May.  

Rosa West, President of the Horticultural Society, says cold temperatures can be devastating to plants, especially the tropical type. However, some of the best types of nutrients for plants come from the outdoors.  

“Frost is dangerous. It freezes the water in the plant and causes the plant cells to expand because of the water in there.”  

Common plants that are grown in Airdrie are root plants like beets, potatoes, and carrots because they can survive the colder weather conditions. Root crops are best started in the ground and not in pots.  

Frost affects annual plants the most because they’re more tropical. Perennial plants can be damaged by frost too, but because of their nature, they will grow again. Perennial plants pop up every year because they can grow from roots and seeds that can withstand the winter and cold climates.      

“Around 10 degrees is a good idea for soil for plants. Otherwise, they'll rot in the ground, they'll get cold, they'll die,” says West.  

A variety of plants can be grown in Airdrie, according to West, but certain challenges can be harder to deal with than others. Challenges can range from hailstorms to chinooks. Greenhouses are better alternatives for growing more delicate plants like tomatoes because they’re less affected by climate change. Growing plants is less about the air temperature and more about the soil temperature. Airdrie is in planting zone 3b which means the coldest temperatures the soil will reach will be between minus thirty-seven and minus thirty-four.  

“Here in Alberta, we go from zone one to four. Which is quite a range, most things grow best under three.”  

The further you go north the harder the ground will get. Near Alberta's northern border the growing zone can go down to 1 which means the ground is really hard and reaches very low temperatures. The closer you get to the southern border the growing zone will increase.  

Tropical plants require a little extra care to be grown in places like Airdrie. West says fertilizer can make the plant stronger and healthier while also making the plant grow faster and produce stronger leaves. More leaves mean more photosynthesis, which creates a better, healthier plant. Another way to keep your garden healthy and fresh is by giving it rainwater.  

“Rain is better than tap water because rain has oxygen in it,” says West.  

Spring is a good time to start seedlings because the temperature will only get warmer and there are fewer bugs and insects. Aside from the weather conditions, the only other big threats for plants and crops during this time of year are voles and gophers.