How does your Calgary garden grow? Depends where you buy

Posted by on Sunday, May 14th, 2017 at 10:53am.

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Calgary is a city of diverse weather, elevation and soil types depending on where you are.  You could be high on Signal Hill or next to the river in Elbow Park; on flat, fertile ground north of the airport or way up by Rocky Ridge with plenty of precipitation and wind.

If you love to garden and are looking for a new Calgary home, consider the style and size of home you want but consider the conditions for the type of things you want to grow and enjoy.

In Alberta, we have some fairly awesome hail storms every year.  People grab that golf-ball sized hail and store it in their freezers as proof.  More often than not, areas on the north end of Calgary and up into the Airdrie district are typically hardest hit.

We have a semi-arid climate with long winters and short, cooler summers.  May is the windiest month, June the wettest and July, the hottest and sunniest of all.  We can have as many as 150 consecutive frost-free days or as few as 50.  Despite 120 years of recorded weather in Calgary, our weather remains completely unpredictable.

If you love to garden and are unfamiliar with what you can and can not grow in our supposedly Zone 3 climate, you may want to further consider these factors when choosing a new home in Calgary:

The Elevation of the Community

Calgary is blessed with some wonderful, scenic vistas with plenty of mountain views.  But changes are, if you can see the mountains on a clear day, you can likely feel that mountain breeze as well.  That wind contributes to air temperature, but in super-dry Calgary it can also contribute to evaporation and daily watering of your garden.

The higher you are in Calgary, you will actually be a few degrees colder than the rest of the city and will likely get frost further into the spring and earlier in the fall.  Right in the city limits, you can be at 1,260 metres in Rocky Ridge and down to 1,020 over in Ogden.  That translates into about a week of extra growing season or precious extra days for your tomatoes to turn red.  You may like to choose the east side of the city over the west side.  Are you a serious green thumb?  If you were willing to travel an extra 15 minutes east to Strathmore, you’d be at 970 metres so it’s even better.

Soil Conditions

The texture of soil varies from each region of the city.  If you want to purchase a home in an older neighbourhood, the texture and makeup of the soil may be better than brand new communities where topsoil has just been laid.  The good news is that avid gardeners can influence the soil by amending them with organic matter rich with microbes from compost or even from a farm. 

Neighbourhood Climate

You can influence your garden even by choosing the south end of Calgary over the north end because weather systems tend to follow the Bow River Valley.

When you get right down to the street that you like, factors such as large trees and big buildings can act as wind breakers which can shelter gardens and keep the garden area warmer.  Even the fence can contribute to sheltering a garden area.

How your house sits on the lot can be a factor as well.  A south backyard will mean the soil will be rid of frost in the spring much more quickly.  The heat reflection of a south exposure provides ideal conditions for tomatoes.

Orientation

If you yearn for a new home and are planting young trees, especially fruit trees, you might want to rig up some awnings or protective yet temporary covers so keep inevitable hail from damaging those little trees at least until they’re strong enough to withstand the pelting.  Want to know if your potential neighbourhood is susceptible to hail?  Consult with your insurance provider who has good information of hail zones in the Calgary area.  No area is completely immune from the scourge of hail but some storms produce itty-bitty hail while others are notorious for wreaking havoc on houses and cars, let alone gardens. 

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