Have you ever wondered how people in Alaska or northern Canada garden? Isn’t it cold all the time? Not quite! A cold climate garden is very possible and very rewarding. Gardeners in Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4 have all learned how to work with their climate and soil. They know how to make the most of their short gardening seasons. New to gardening in the north? Thinking about it? Check out all these links below and learn from the best!
Getting Your Cold Climate Garden Started
Gardeners all over the world often start their garden with nothing but a tiny seed in hand. The only difference for a cold climate garden is that this starts inside, inside the gardener’s home or a heated greenhouse. Just knowing where to start when new to cold climate gardening can be tough, but rest assured, there have been others who have gone before you and will help lead the way. Knowing your frost dates will tell you when to get those little seeds planted. Start your garden the right way with organic, non-GMO seeds. These are our favorite places to get them!
Raised garden beds can make a huge difference when it comes time to plant those little seedlings outdoors. The soil in these beds tends to warm much faster, giving your garden it’s best chance at success.
Cold Climate Season Extenders
Season extenders area a must for every cold climate gardener! There are so many wonderful veggies out there that just need that extra boost of heat. Even if you don’t have the space or resources (aka cash) to build a big, beautiful greenhouse, there are a lot of other options out there! There are so many different types of greenhouses that enable you to choose between permanent structures or easily movable, expensive or cheap, beautiful or simply “functioning,” the list goes on and on.
GeoDome greenhouses are a great option for those climates that get a lot of snow or wind. A very common way to build a greenhouse or cold frames is by purchasing (or finding for free!) used windows and piecing them together. You can also go the old fashioned route and try your hand at a “hot bed.” If you do have (or will have) a greenhouse, don’t think it is just for summer use! Many people find other uses for their greenhouse all year long.
Cold Climate Gardening Tips
Whether you’ve been gardening in a cold climate for years or you’re new to the whole experience, hearing tips from fellow gardeners is always helpful. Learning to stockpile blankets or plastic sheeting for quick frost protectors might not be something you would think about in the middle of July, but by September you’ll be glad you did!
If you are new to the area, learn to listen to those around you. Your fellow gardeners can save you a lot of heartache with their know-how! Knowing what vegetables will grow the best in your zone takes some research, but you’ll find that even in the harshest of climates, you have have delicious, fresh vegetables for your family.
Cold Climate Gardening Books
Every homestead should have a good old fashioned bookshelf. The internet is handy, but sometimes being able to flip through a book, highlight sections, make notes, is just what you need. There are so many must have gardening books that will help you with your cold climate garden. Be sure to add some to your bookshelf! Eliot Coleman may be in garden Zone 5, but he has some great tips for gardening all year long that will translate to your cooler garden easily.
- The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman
- Organic Gardening in Cold Climates by Sandra Perrin
- Growing Food in a Short Season by Melanie Watts
Tour a Cold Climate Garden
Still not convinced having a thriving garden is possible in those northern climates? Take a tour! Homespun Seasonal Living has a beautiful garden in northwestern Montana, garden Zone 4b. Strawberries, cabbages, (mmmm, sauerkraut…) broccoli, herbs, radishes, and even tomatoes grace their 7000 square foot garden.
Head farther north to Joybilee Farm in Zone 3 and discover that she’s already harvesting in June! Rhubarb and asparagus are among the first harvests to be enjoyed. Yellow Birch Hobby Farm’s permaculture garden in Zone 3 fights the late frosts head on and has an abundant garden to prove their victory.
Growing fruit is even possible in these cold climes! Fruit trees and berry bushes are researched and carefully selected for their hardiness and ability to produce fruit in the short growing seasons. Apple, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and even pears and apricots! They may need a little extra attention before winter sets in. However there is no reason why living in a cold climate should hold back your gardening dreams.
You may ask a cold climate gardener why they bother, and they’ll tell you that they love the long winter break! Looking for even more information? Check out the extension services in Montana, Minnesota, and Alaska for tons of great gardening info.
A lot of these delicious veggies preserve best by fermenting! (Sauerkraut, anyone?) Let Rootsy’s own A Year of Fermented Food e-book guide you today!
What gardening zone are you in?