Just an introduction - moving to Saskatchewan!

xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)March 10, 2014

Hi all!

First time to this part of the forum - I usually hang out at the orchid end of gardenweb. Anyway, I've recently learned I'll be moving to Saskatoon for the next 5 years, and just wanted to get in touch with some other gardeners out in the prairies/in similar zones (2b-ish, from what my research tells me)!

It's a super exciting time for me, because I will likely be buying my first house, and thus for the first time in my short 28 years of life, I'll actually have my own garden! I am so excited to get planting already, and I can't wait to face the challenge of gardening in the prairies.

I am a little disappointed that I might have to scrap my plans for building a greenhouse, however, as I can only imagine how ridiculously expensive heating a greenhouse would be. I've toyed with the idea of installing extensive basement windows to take advantage of the awesome winter sunlight (a welcome change to the Ontario gloom we have during the winter), but wanted to see what alternative growing strategies people have adopted in the colder climates. Does anyone here grow with a greenhouse? Are the costs prohibitive? I grow orchids, and so it would really need to be a true 4 seasons greenhouse, although I can tolerate temps down to 15C.

Glad to meet all of you, and I can't wait to learn from all your experience!


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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

A four-season greenhouse would really be expensive in that part of the world. I'm in NWOntario, and wouldn't even consider it. You might be better with a south-facing house with large windows or a house with a good sun room.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:16AM
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Hi Calvin welcome to the Prairies. I grow a large veggie garden and several kinds of fruit trees in a climate similar to yours-near Yorkton. The U of Sask fruit trees are awesome. I start my bedding plants in a 5'x5' minigreenhouse in the basement with a MH grow light and move them to a small outdoor greenhouse for a month starting mid-April. I find the temp hard to regulate in the greenhouse as it might be -5 in the morning, and +45 in the afternoon if the window isn't open-and the automatic openers didn't work very long. I am planning to add the greenhouse to the front of another building to help moderate the temps.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 10:34AM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Thanks for the replies! Seems like I'm better off just continuing with my indoor growing operation, instead of going the greenhouse route!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 3:02PM
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Saskatchewan is great! We're about 3.5 hours from Saskatoon in a special little environmental pocket that's classed somewhere between 1a and 1b...

Most people I know with greenhouses run them seasonally to extend the growing season, but, aside from the larger commercial growers, they're shut down through the winter months. I did have one neighbour in AB (zone 3a) who built a well insulated greenhouse with good quality windows, painted the back wall dark to absorb light/heat and attached it to the south side of their heated garage with a window between the two structures that she could use to regulate temps...pretty sure she was able to keep it running all winter long...the initial cost would have been higher, to properly build and insulate the lower walls and put in quality windows, but the actual heating costs were a lot less (and I'm pretty sure all the local gardeners had greenhouse envy. :) I'm not sure how the cost of building a greenhouse like that would compare with actually doing a reno to put in extensive basement windows, unless of course you're doing a new build and can just specify how the basement is done.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 6:32PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

Hi & welcome! I'd just echo the others about greenhouses not being doable on the prairies. I'm in Manitoba with a similar climate and lots of newer houses are being built with really nice insulated sunrooms. I'm sure they'd be good for orchids, maybe with a bit of supplemental lighting in the winter but you'd know more about their needs than me.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:54PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Thanks for the welcome, everyone! It's really nice to connect with other fellow gardeners in the northern provinces/states. I'll admit I am a little apprehensive with this move, so even though it's a little premature, I'm desperate to make some connections!

I'm looking for places to live now, and it seems that the search has turned towards condos anyway, which is unfortunate because I won't actually have a nice outdoor garden. I suppose container gardening could be enjoyable though. I'm thinking a southern exposure with big windows is the best way to go.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 12:54AM
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You will find a number of local orchid growers here in Saskatoon have all manner of "adjusted living" spaces for their orchids.
Here is where you can find many of them.
I know they are a helpful bunch and also there are some connections at the University as well in the Horticulture Department under Agriculture.

One of the issues is as mentioned about the intensity of the sunlight here and the reflection off the snow only increases the potential.
Good luck on the move and be sure to check around about Saskatoon as there are many options.


Here is a link that might be useful: My Blog

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 10:10PM
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Don't be fooled by the "sunny Saskatchewan" slogans. Keep in mind that Saskatoon is several degrees of latitude north of Toronto. Our winter days are shorter, significantly colder (average is about 10 degrees lower than in Toronto), and quite gloomy in the first half of winter. It's the second half of winter that you really start to see the sun. It's just that we have a greater *percentage* of sunshine in our winter days, and again, most of that is apparent in the second half of winter.

Because our summer days are significantly longer than Toronto's, and with a somewhat higher percentage of sunshine in these months, we end up having a sunnier climate.

I have a greenhouse but I wouldn't dream of using it from December through February. It's prohibitively expensive. Much better would be to adopt the ideas suggested by folks above to maximize the light captured by a non-greenhouse structure and supplement with artificial lighting. This will also help with cooling in the summertime.

Another thing you'll have to get used to is that our summers are several degrees cooler and several weeks shorter than those of Toronto. Be prepared to handle freak frosts in early June. This means covering tender crops when required. Cool nights can occur anytime during the summer, so if you plan on growing anything that loves heat, you'll need an unheated greenhouse.

If you can handle a 45 to 60 minute drive and budget for equipment, I strongly encourage you to think about buying a home instead of a condo. There's nothing that quite beats the exhilaration of having a large garden.

This post was edited by Slimy_Okra on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 19:58

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 7:55PM
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Do some research before buying in Saskatoon, there are preferred areas. We just had a freakin' cold winter, but don't let that scare you - what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. It's starting to warm up nicely so you won't get to discover until next year the sound your winter jacket makes in -40C (it crunches), lol. Welcome.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 3:56PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Thanks y'all,

Clayton - great blog, I'll have to do some reading!

Donna/Okra - thanks for the frank descriptions and reassurance! The deal is sealed, so I'll be there for 5 years! I'll be heading that way in April to check out some places - wish me luck. I've heard east of the river is the way to go, and to avoid the alphabet streets downtown - any other tips are welcome!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Yes, east side is better but also more expensive.

Saskatoon has been growing rapidly over the past few years and gridlock at rush hour has become a major problem. Although it is still a small city by Southern Ontario standards, it can easily take 45 minutes or more to drive from one end to the other during these periods of the day. Depending on where your place of employment is, how flexible your work hours are, and where you plan to purchase a home, it may be worthwhile to purchase outside the city and thus realize your gardening ambitions.

Saskatoon city streets are terrible in the winter, with snow removal virtually non-existent on suburban streets. Highways and major rural roads are usually in a much better state (you can see what I'm hinting at here!).

The good thing is that we don't get as much snow or freezing rain as Ontario. The biggest obstacle is the cold and the best way to deal with it is to be prepared for it - plenty of warm clothing, a reliable vehicle with a block heater, and an electrified parking spot at your workplace.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 9:13PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Well, I made a weekend trip over to Saskatoon to look at some housing! Currently thinking about some of the new development areas (Evergreen, Willowgrove, Hampton Village), aiming for a place WITH a yard! One thing that I didn't really realize about regarding the prairies is that there are so few TREES! The only nice big old trees I saw were mainly in the downtown area - definitely a change from the boreal forest here in Ontario! :( Also, when does spring officially start? It was a nice balmy 10C with sunny pleasant weather, much warmer than what we have here in Ontario, but I didn't see any bulbs poking up / buds. We have snowdrops everywhere here already

Getting excited about the move!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:21AM
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We are well into spring already! :). We have a very different definition of spring here because our winters are so long and cold and the snowcover stays put all winter. We may have a few warm days here and there in the spring but it can get also get significantly colder than Toronto (-14 C expected on the weekend) and the soil takes longer to thaw and warm up.

Early spring (second half of March) = when you can go outside and be comfortable in just a winter coat
Mid-spring (April and part of May) = mud season
Late spring (mid-May to around mid-June) = what you might define as true spring, when all the flowers come out. But we can still get daytime highs below 10 C all the way through to the beginning of June.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:42AM
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Will you be working on the East or West side? That might help make your decision about where to buy a house. I live a stone's throw from Willowgrove and I like the location a lot because it is fairly central to everything. You are house hunting in the newer areas, which is why there aren't a lot of mature trees around. It seems a lot of the newer houses hardly have gardens, so you might have to take the initiative to start one yourself.

Late Spring is my favourite time of year...I can work outside in nice weather and the mosquitoes aren't prolific yet.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:18PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

I'm excited to see how the city unfolds into spring and summer! Donna - how bad DO the mosquitos get!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 7:24PM
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Pretty bad - lots of mosquito repellent is essential especially in moist and shady areas where they like to hang out. Over the last few years we've had pretty bad mosquito issues because Junes have become much wetter and cooler than normal.

Depending on how dry the summer is, the mosquito issues dry out (literally) by August or remain a problem all summer long.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:35AM
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