New Garden – the basics

Here to help you Get Growing

Maybe you are completely new to vegetable gardening and feel overwhelmed by the idea.  We are here to help you get started with a few easy to follow tips:

Know your Zone – Understand your zone is important when choosing the types of plants to grow and when and how to get them planted.  Knowing your climate is important for understanding the timing of transplanting and seeding. Some vegetables need a long warm growing season so in order to be successful with these here in SK you will need to start them indoors in March/April or purchase seedlings or “transplants” from a garden centre.  

Selecting you garden site – Are you starting from scratch or do you have an existing garden bed? Do you want to incorporate raised beds? Will you need to remove lawn? Doing a little planning over the winter will help you set out a plan for spring.

Vegetables need a minimum of 6hrs of sunlight per day, the more the better, so select a location that receives ample sunlight. Avoid areas with tree roots and be aware of the drainage.  

If this is your first garden bed your soil will likely need amending (see the ‘Soil Preparation’ tip below) but established gardens also benefit from the addition of organic matter.

If you are new to growing vegetables or have limited space you may want to start with a few raised beds or containers (large and deep enough for roots to establish). Search online buy & sell sites for used clay pots, whiskey barrel planters, horse troughs or anything that will make a good garden container. 

Choosing your crops – Do you want to grow root vegetables or leafy vegetables? Do you want tomatoes  & peppers? What about zucchini or other types of squash?  What you are able to plant is largely determined by your garden site, the amount of sun your garden will get and how much time /effort you want to devote to maintaining your garden.

Beginners find good success with plants like cherry tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and herbs.  Some crops are more difficult to grow without pesticides (cabbage and broccoli for example), so if growing organically is your goal you will need to do a little research. 

It is a good idea to be realistic about the types of produce you and your family enjoy cooking with. There is no point in growing 4 hot pepper plants if no one is going to eat them!

Purchasing seedlings or seeds – As we mentioned, some crops are easiest to grow in SK if you purchase already established seedlings.  These baby plants are simply transplanted into your garden and have a head start so you are more likely to enjoy a harvest.  

Unfortunately not all crops can be transplanted (corn, carrots and other root crops for example) and these are grown directly from seeds sown in the soil.  Your seed packet will tell you the time, spacing and depth to sow the seeds. 

Soil preparation – New and established garden beds benefit from soil enrichment. The goal of amending a garden is to break up compacted earth, improving water absorption and to replenish minerals and nutrients that have been lost over time. The process requires labour – tilling the soil and turning in organic material. You can accomplish this with hand tools or motorized tillers. The organic material can be a mixture of top soil/black earth, manure/compost, peat moss, and shredded bark (DO NOT add sand to heavy clay soil unless you are wanting to make cement!). Spread the amendments evenly (2-3 inches added) through the garden and work into the top 6 inches of the bed. This can be done in the spring or fall. 

Planting & Maintenance – Several crops such as peas, lettuce, onions, radish, beets and spinach can be direct seeded once the soil is warm enough (late April/beginning of May). You can sow these seeds at different times so that you have a supply of vegetables through the season, not maturing all at once. 

Crops that require transplanting can go in after the last chance of frost, a good rule is May long weekend, but check the local weather forecasts to be sure.  

Regular watering and weeding is crucial. Vegetable plants cannot compete with aggressive weeds so you will need to remove these by hand.  Don’t allow the soil to dry completely.  The soil should feel damp – dig down about 4” to see how far the water is penetrating. During the hottest days of summer you will need to water daily, so knowing what you can manage is vital in your garden planning. 

Growing vegetables and herbs is easy and rewarding with a little planning! 

Xeriscaping – it’s not just rocks!

One of the garden concepts that is making news again this season is xeriscape design, and for good reason!

Many regions are facing unpredictable precipitation. More and more people are becoming aware of using less water for non-essential/ornamental landscaping both for environmental reasons and to save money. Xeriscaping is a great way to plan an ecologically and economically sound garden.

Xeriscaping combines the use of ground cover, appropriate plants, and choices about how you want to use a space. Xeriscape landscapes or gardens will require less work to keep happy, and they are more likely to prosper. Doing some research and selecting plants that three in your climate can save you a lot of money, time, and energy.

Here are the basic concepts to get you started.

Ditch the lawn (or significantly reduce it)
The North American suburban dream was to have a house with a thriving, lush green lawn reminiscent of the manicured greens of a golf course. Unfortunately these grasses require a lot of water during hot, dry months, frequent application of fertilizer and weed control. Re-think the front yard. Few of us ever use the grassed area in the front of the house (and many people do not even allow their children to play in the front yard). Large lawns are a waste of your time and money – however if you have kids or pets it may be appropriate to include a small turf like area.

Plan your Space
Many people think flat & boring gravel when they hear the word Xeriscape – well think again. Xeriscaping DOES incorporate mulch (for retaining moisture) and ground cover (for minimizing weeds/water/work) BUT it also uses texture, colour and structure to make an interesting garden space.

When you are planning your space consider where water runs (down spouts, water holding tanks), where you want paths or parking and if you want a seating area or patio. Replacing thirsty lawns with either patios or ground cover can cut your water use by 80% or more. Once you have an idea of HOW you will use the space you can begin planning out your garden beds for perennials or shrubs.

Choose your plants
Xeriscapes use drought tolerant, water wise plants that are endemic to your climate or specimens that grow in similar environments. Think perennials and shrubs rather than tropicals and annuals. These plants will need less water and will thrive year after year, saving you time (which is something we all are striving for) and money.

Mulch and Ground Cover
Mulching (using bark or other organic materials) around the base of your plants helps to conserve water, keeps the ground an even temperature, and help protect root systems in the winter. Ground cover reduces weeding, creates pathways or patios and includes materials such as pebbles, rock, pavers, wooden walkways, and even concrete. Xeriscape gardens can take any shape or style – whether you want a cottage style garden, Mediterranean style garden (a big trend for 2023 and beyond), modern minimal or almost anything else. You aren’t limited to the vast expanse of rocks with a dusty old wagon wheel of early xeriscape design – use your imagination! We do love an old wagon wheel though so feel free to add garden art and interesting objects.

The primary concept of xeriscaping is to conserve water – how and when you water is important! During the first two summers, thorough watering at regular intervals will allow plants to develop the deep root systems they need to become strong.
Drip or soaker hoses are more efficient than overhead sprinklers. Ensuring you are not watering the driveway or fence and getting the water directly down to the plants is the goal. Consider water collection options such as rain barrels or directing water from you eaves into the garden with a river bed design. Group plants according to their water needs to keep them happy.

Some plants to consider for Zone 3 Xeriscaping

Echinacea – Cone Flower
Rudbeckia – Black Eyed Susan
Achillea – Yarrow
Gaillardia – Blanket Flower
Succulents – Sedum, Hens & Chicks etc
Opuntia – Prickly Pear cactus
Dianthus – Pinks

… and many more! See our “Water Wise Plants” list in store.

Annual or Perennial – what is the difference?

If you have ever visited our garden centre you may have noticed that we have different types of plants in different locations. Like most garden centres we try to make shopping easy for you by having zones for annuals, perennials, trees & shrubs and tropicals.

Questions that we get asked fairly often are “does this come back?”; “can I grow this in a pot?” and “my xyz didn’t come back, how come?”. This is a great time to talk about the difference between annuals and perennials and our “hardiness zone”.

What is an Annual?

Annuals are plants that tend to last for ONE growing season. They germinate, grow, bloom and die from spring to fall. Annuals are grown for their showy blooms or interesting foliage; adding a pop of colour to garden beds and containers. For example the plants that we grow in hanging baskets are annuals. They are meant to be enjoyed for one season and replaced the next season.

What is a Perennial?

Perennials are plants that grow for many seasons; The tops die in the fall but they come back from the roots each spring. Perennials are perfect for garden beds as they need to be planted in the ground (to protect their roots) in order for them to survive in our climate. The do usually have shorter blooming season however they make up for it with consistent growth. Perennials provide habitat and food for birds & pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Some perennials, such as grasses, can also offer deep root systems that help guard against erosion.

So which do I choose?

The main difference between annuals and perennials is that annual plants live for only one growing season and perennial plants regrow every year. Annuals are prolific bloomers, as they are trying to produce seeds, so if you deadhead to prevent seed setting you will get abundant flowers all season long. Many gardeners will use a combination of both annual and perennial plants in their garden beds to ensure beautiful blooms for a longer period of time. If you are making container gardens it is more cost effective to use annuals because perennials will not survive the winter in a pot.



  • provide quick splash of colour,maturing faster than perennials and often bloom from planting time until frost.
  • a great way to take gardening one year at a time; experiment with new plants and colour schemes without making a long-term commitment.
  • perfect for temporarily filling in bare spots in established gardens
  • the answer for beautiful containers through the season
  • do tend to cost more initially but they are a good long-term investment because they return year after year
  • require less water once established, which can be especially advantageous for those who garden in drought-prone areas and want to reduce their water consumption.
  • perennials that are endemic to your region offers the additional benefit of creating a welcome habitat for pollinators and local wildlife

    Occasionally customers ask about containers they have seen that use shrubs and perennial grasses as a centre focus, hoping that they can overwinter a lemon tree outside (for example). These type of large, usually expensive containers, use perennials or shrubs as an annual with no intention of over wintering.

    Hardiness Zones

    This brings us to the concept of “hardiness zones” . Some plants that we grow as annuals here on the Canadian prairie are grown as perennials in hotter climates. Hardiness zones are based on what temperatures unprotected plants can withstand. The area around Regina SK is a 3b however if you have a very protected yard and provide ample mulch or grown cover you may be able to over winter plants in the 4a category. For a map of zones see here.

    When you are buying plants you may notice that some tags have the hardiness zone listed. This will give you an idea of whether or not the plant will come back in the spring, or is “hardy” for our zone. You may find tags that say “perennial” but have a hardiness zone of 5 or higher. These are not perennials in our climate. This is an issue in Big Box garden centres as independent garden centres usually order only plants that work for the climate they are in.

    As always, we are happy to help you select the best plant for your needs!

    Get Growing

    Keeping deer out of the garden

    Are deer using your garden as a salad bar? Many of us in Saskatchewan have these furry, and mostly unwelcome, visitors in our yards. There is no way to completely deer proof your garden, but you may have some success with these tips.

    Some gardeners swear by folk remedies and home-made concoctions such as rotten eggs or dog fur to deter deer; none of these have been proven effective. There are some simple strategies you can employ however.

    Landscaping solutions:

    • Make your most precious plants less attractive by planting them nearest to the house; deer may be wary of coming too close. Planting a border of deer resistant plants may further discourage them. Alternate these amongst the plants you are trying to protect or along the property line if your yard is not fenced.
    • Use a commercially available deer deterrent – these are usually made with animal scents and can be quite unappealing to humans as well.
    • Protect your new trees & shrubs with enclosures of chicken wire while they get established. Ensure that it is both tall enough the deer can’t reach over and enough distance from the centre stem that they cannot reach in from the side.
    • Some gardeners find automatic sprinklers help and these are often used in agricultural applications. Some deer will become used to the shower however.
    • The best deterrent is a tall fence around the perimeter of your vegetable garden or orchard area. Deer will still have access to other plants in the garden but may move along (to the neighbour) if they find it too difficult to snack in your garden.

    Deer Resistant Plants:

    If deer are hungry enough they will try anything in your garden. There are some plants that have been shown to be less appealing. Deer don’t like plants with fuzzy leaves or spiky stems so look for plants with a lot of texture. Look for these in your garden centre:

    • Ageratum
    • Alyssum
    • Astilbe
    • Agastache
    • Artemisia
    • Calendula
    • Dahlia
    • Dianthus
    • Echinacea
    • Euphorbia
    • Gaillardia
    • Lavender
    • Lobelia
    • Lysimachia
    • Marigold
    • Morning Glory
    • Nasturtium
    • Ostrich Fern
    • Peony
    • Poppy
    • Portulaca
    • Salvia
    • Statice
    • Verbena
    • Veronica

    We hope these tips are helpful when planning your garden. It may not be possible to completely (and humanely) deter deer from your property so accepting them and discouraging them a little might be your best plan. Just remember we are in their backyard too.

    Spring Yard Clean-up – leave some for the bees

    The first weekend of Spring is here, finally!  I am sure you are ready to get back into the yard and start preparing for this season of gardening, but wait a minute, there is a RIGHT and WRONG way to do spring yard clean-up!

    Your garden is not only a space for you to enjoy, it is a habitat for insects and birds (and maybe snakes and frogs and who knows who else). The following are a few Spring garden clean-up tips that encourage habitat preservation for these beneficial critters.

    First off, yard clean-up should always be left for Spring.  Removing stems and leaves in the fall destroys habitat and eliminates hibernating insects. You aren’t being lazy, you are being a good neighbour to the other critters that live along side you. You can read more about Fall clean-up here

    Don’t cut and toss just yet:

    Our pollinators and beneficial insects are hibernating in your backyard. Tiny native bees and other friends are sleeping in the hollow plant stems waiting to emerge when the time is right.  Butterflies are snug in their cocoons, lady bugs are sleeping under leaves. Cutting down and tossing last season’s plant debris means you are also tossing THIS season’s pollinators and beneficial insects before they have a chance to emerge. 

    Carefully collect debris:

    Wait as long as possible to do your spring garden clean up.  This means waiting until the daytime temps are consistently above 10C.  Once it is warm enough to start tidying the yard do so carefully.  If you have small children this is a great opportunity to teach them about the benefits of all the critters in the garden and make a game of spotting cocoons or newly emerging lady bugs. 

    Resist the urge to dump the leaves and other debris in plastic garbage bags.  You should have one area of your yard that is a designated leaf pile.  This can be a permanent compost pile or temporary if you really must bin it all up at some point. Some gardeners prefer to do the “chop and drop” method where you leave seems on the ground to compost in the garden bed.  New growth will quickly cover this up and you are enriching your soil the way nature intended.

    Prune with caution: 

    Cutting back some dead branches is high on the list of garden chores so as you go about this take a little time to ensure you are not also cutting tiny cocoons.  Stack these branches loosely in you compost/leaf pile to be dealt with later in the season. 

    Hold off on the mulch:

    Mulching is a great way to conserve moisture in the garden and we are huge fans of this, however early spring is not the best time to get this task accomplished. 

    So many beneficial insects and pollinators overwintering in your backyard in tiny burrows as eggs or hibernating adults. We NEED these creepy crawlies.  it is important to hold off on this chore until the soil is dry and the weather is consistently warm. *Make a habit of tossing dead leaves into the hedge rows or tree lines in the Fall as natural mulch and insect habitat.

    Leave the lawn:

    Dethatching and rolling the lawn are outdated practices. Rolling compacts the soil and makes the lawn worse, rather than improving anything.  Healthy lawn has thatch, it protects the roots and keeps them cooler in summer. Doing anything with your lawn in the early spring, while the ground underneath is wet, compacts the soil and makes it more difficult for the grass to grow.  Leave the lawn for now.

    Take your time:

    In Saskatchewan we still have nearly 2 months until it will be warm enough to transplant annual and vegetable seedlings. I know you are eager to get outside and do some garden work so take this time to clean up your pots, wash the patio furniture, sweep the walks etc.  

    A PROPER spring garden clean up should NOT be a destructive process. By taking your time and doing it right, you and your garden can benefit from a healthy population of pest-munching beneficial insects and pollinators. 

    Do YOUR part to Save Our Pollinators.