Moving to 1b-2a

sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)April 21, 2013

This summer I will be living in zone 1b-2a, having moved last summer from southern ON, zone 5b-6a. It's a change for me and I am already finding it a bit frustrating. It's not so much the temps as the short time span that is the problem!

Last summer we decided it was time to up stakes, sell all of our belongings, and become semi-retired. We now live in a big 5th wheel camper all year long in BC. We operate a campground in Stone Mountain Provincial Park in the northern Rockies during the summer and plan spend the winters in the Okanagan.

The place we work for the summer (started there last year) is across the Alaska Hwy from the campground and is zone 1a-2b. Since this is our summer home, even though we don't own it, I will be starting a few small raised gardens there this year.

I had huge gardens in ON and would like to do just a little gardening up here, but the season is so short and the ground is rocky, not to mention the prolific ungulate wildlife that eat everything!

Anyway, I'm determined to give it a try and am looking for seeds for things that will grow up here. I am going to start an asparagus bed (I know it takes years) and grow some herbs like mints, feverfew, chives and oregano.

I will build a small greenhouse for seedlings to get a start before going into the ground. I will also scoop up all the wild poop piles from last year, laying around everywhere to add to the garden soil and chemical free too!

I plan to make these raised gardens, filling with local soil from woodland pockets, storebought and old manure, etc. The soil is thin there and it's rocky, but there are pockets of good earth in the woods, although it's fairly acidic from the spruce. I have a box of garden lime to add to it, for the tomatoes anyway.

Any recommendations as to plants to grow? There are lilacs and wild roses already there, as well as wild alpine blueberries, wild strawberries, fireweed, yarrow and potentilla. I have some haskap seeds that I know will sprout as I have grown them before and plan to start a few of those to go with the wild berries. Not sure if they will survive there or not. We move into the Park compound in the next couple of weeks. I already have spouts to start with.

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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

Hi and welcome. It is challenging gardening in a short season and especially with deer around. In my yard we only get desperate winter deer, but in general poisonous plants are not attractive to deer.

Some of the hardiest deer-resistant groups I know of are:
irises (dwarf bearded irises are usually hardiest)
spring bulbs in general except tulips
lamb's ear (even though I hate it LOL)
some ferns
sweet woodruff, lungwort & ligularia (nice for woodland settings)
dame's rocket

You can search for annuals that are deer-resistant. I just listed perennials there that should stand a chance in your zone.

I hope that gets you started. From what I've heard, you really shouldn't bother with hostas or daylilies because they're really attractive to deer.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 3:28PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

This blog might be of help to you; the author lives near La Ronge, which is zone 1b. Some of her other posts look useful as well.

You'll notice that she has lots of plants that are zone 3 and still may be that their hardiness hasn't been tested in colder climates, it could be due to microclimates that she has created in her garden, or maybe she covers susceptible plants with straw over winter. It also sounds like she is willing to take some losses. If you want a dependable garden that doesn't suffer at all in bad years and doesn't need to be babied, you might have to stick to plants that are more native.

I think a lot of it will have to be trial and error. You might be surprised what winds up surviving, while other plants that should be hardy may not grow well for you. The same thing has happened to me, and I think stuff like soil ph, soil quality, etc. makes a big difference. Looking for relatives of the plants that already thrive there might be a help too.

You may be able to find some (relatively) local assistance through a gardening society as well.

One comment - I may be wrong, but my understanding is that raised beds usually cause you to lose a zone, or maybe half a zone? So if you decide to raise them rather than amending what is there, you may be losing some hardiness. Sometimes losing hardiness is worth it, though, if your drainage is bad.

Good luck! Gardens can be beautiful anywhere!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 3:34PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

Oddly enough, deer never bother the daylilies in my garden, though they browse my roses, ninebark's, globe thistle, and on and on. But I agree, they are usually listed as favorites of deer, so maybe the deer in our yard are just really dumb?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 3:55PM
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Pudge 2b

If you're planning to grow vegetables and/or herbs that like warmer temps or a slightly longer season, I highly recommend building your raise bed to accomodate hoops that you can cover with remay cloth. I've never had such beautiful basil as last year, grew it under remay all summer long and it loved it. Tomatoes, cucs, beans and corn all go under cover until they're too big. I don't have an animal problem so can't comment there.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 4:27PM
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That was a great site Weeper

Here is a link that might be useful: Zone 1 garden blog (clickable link)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 5:59PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

Also don't plant cedars. Those are what the deer really go after in my yard in the winter.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:06PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Thanks for the info, everyone! I will check out the links and the list of plants! I am hoping to build a simple row cover for a couple of the small gardens, somewhere to keep tender seedlings, like tomatoes, until frost is past. I might grow those things in large pots too, with covers.

I am only going to raise the gardens a foot, maybe not that much. Not enough, I hope to make a difference in the zone. Not container gardening. I might dig down and replace the rock/soil for perennial beds, if I put any in. I might stick to food. Not sure yet.

I guess I need to change my user name now that I'm no longer in Ontario... I might have to make another account with a different name. "BC_Camper" maybe...

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 11:08AM
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Sheryl, I was wondering where you'd disappeared to. Good luck on your quest. What a fascinating adventure. I am reminded of the Alaska Frontiers series (Kilchner family homestead) where one of the family members is particularly adept at growing vegetables in the high north. Anyway if it's of any help, this family grew their seedlings in a greenhouse.

I also know that in old times, gardeners would pile up fresh manure to heat up seedlings (before electrical or gas heating was used). As the manure composted, heat was provided. Smelly of course.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 1:39PM
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canadian_rose(zone 3a)

I used to live in Fort McMurray, AB - zone 2. But what I really loved about being so far north is the looooong days. The sun wouldn't set until 2 a.m. Everything I grew did really well with the huge amount of sunlight. You might be quite happy with how things grow.

I do know that deer love roses!!

I've heard some wild/wacky ways to deter deer. I've even heard about ordering bobcat/wolf/ etc. urine to spray around the yard. Has to be reapplied after rain. But I've also heard that the only thing that really works is a really tall fence.

Good luck!!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 1:41PM
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This is sheryl_ontario. I just had to get rid of that Ontario label.
Now I am just SherylG with no location, in case I move again.

Hi Ianna! It's good to be back!

Thanks to everyone for the links and lists and info! I am going to check them all out.

I am going to raise the gardens just a few inches, not like container gardening, so I'm hoping it won't make a difference. We'll see how it goes. I also might look into building a small hoop house for the seedlings in the spring. For the perennial beds, if I get to them this year, I may just dig down and replace the rock/sand/soil.

I have a lot of landscaping I want to do this year, not just gardens. We need some steps carved into the steep hillside to the water source, some stone paths put in and so forth. Actually fun for me :-) I love doing rock work!

A lot of the perennials listed here and in the links can be grown from seed. I had many of them in ON and gave all my seed to a friend who is going to send some to me. I think they are hardier if grown in that area from seed. I will also get a lot more plants that way too. I will also see what local gardens grow.

Lots of fun! I'll be moving to that location in another week or two. The job starts May 15th and we need to be there a bit early to get settled in. We work there all summer until after Labour Day.

I have some seedlings in the window here, already, and a large shed to stick them in when we get there. I can move them in and out and in and out (you know...) until they get too big and heavy. It might just be easier to cover them.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 3:11PM
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I don't know if it is possible...but putting up an elk fence of 8' plus might be the only way of actually getting the produce from your garden and also being able to grow the perennials that you like.

Around here, for the deer, I own a dog, but also spray with an egg mixture. The protein in the egg is what deters the deer. So, whip the egg and add it to a 4 litre jug of water. Shake and spray on your plants. This has to be reapplied after a rain as it washes off the plants. Some people add all kinds of other things to the egg solution which are not necessary like garlic, cayenne pepper, etc it is the protein in the egg that deters the deer.

In raised beds you will have to plant the perennials away from the edge, only planting the hardiest of the hardiest close to the edge.

As you are so far north, I wonder if all the same plants that I sent to one of the Far North gardeners who lives in Thompson, Manitoba would also do just fine at your place. I sent her Siberian irises, miniature SDB and MDB irises, hens and chicks, Crater Lake Blue veronica and some creeping sedums.

Peonies should do just fine for you there, although you will need more than a few inches of soil for them.

For daylilies try to get more of the dormant diploids or the tetraploid diploids, maybe semievergreen....but generally stay away from the tetraploid evergreen ones as they like warmer temps. There again...deer love daylilies!

Deer also love delphiniums...which I can attest to. If you are wanting to grow delphiniums try the New Millenium series as they are generally shorter, have a much sturdier stem and have many more flowers on the stems than the Pacific Giants. So, if you are going to grow any delphiniums, start with the New Millenium ones.

Hope that this helps.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:11AM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

Hi Brenda,
Good to hear from you. May I ask where you find the New Millenium delphiniums? Are they available from seed? I started some New Zealand delphs and am finding them too top heavy.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:27PM
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I got the New Millenium delphinium seeds mailed to me straight from Terry and Janice in New Zealand.

I heard that the Butchart Gardens in Victoria switched out all their Pacific Giants for the New Millenium delphs.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:07PM
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Thanks for the tips, Brenda! I think all of those things will grow up here. I have been doing some research online and there are quite a few things that I think will do well here. Of course, it also depends on the soil but I plan to add a lot to the soil and build it up with compost and manure. I think I'll use logs to raise the bed about 6-8" off the ground.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:33AM
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Thank you, Valleygirl! I would like a fence around the cabin compound area but might just block off the trail areas and passages they use into the yard. Two sides are thick brush. I'll see when I get there next week, what might be done to deter the moose, elk, caribou and stone sheep.

The moose are HUGE! I had no idea how big they were until I almost ran smack into one a week or so ago. Wow! Much bigger than the caribou. Much bigger than they look from a distance or from the truck while at the roadside.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:37AM
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