Four Season Step-by-Step Guide to Gardening

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Choose Plants

Plants native to your region are the best options for attracting and supporting wildlife. Visit the links on our resources page about-us to find books, webpages and apps that will help you choose plants. If in doubt, experiment! You’ll learn a lotby trying out different plants in your garden.

Find Plants

There a number of sites which let you quickly search and browse through plants based on criteria.

As one example, visit Our site started with only native plants to our zone 5 area, but has expanded to include other plants which prosper in our area.

Many nurseries have plant knwledgebases. Here is the link the plant knowledge base at Ritchie Feed and Seed

The growers who run and operate these nurseries are experts in choosing the right plant for the right spot. Describe your garden conditions to them and they will set you up for success.

Gather Materials

Here is a list of 12 essential gardening tools. You will also need fertilizerr, black earth, compost and mulch from your garden center, or generous friedns and neighbours!

The great circle of gardening

Circular pie chart ahowing the four seasons of gardening
The great circle of gardening

This four-season guide allows you to start gardening at any point in the year. Just pick your starting season on the wheel and continue clockwise through your first year. You’ll find everything you need to know on the Planning and Glossary pages.

Why garden with wildlife in mind?

Your garden is critical to restoring habitat and building a healthy future for your region and the wildlife that calls it home. When you fill your garden with plants native to your local environment, you’re helping biodiversity thrive. When everyone does it, we’re helping to grow Canada’s biggest wildlife garden!


Collect/Scatter Seeds

Fall is the best season to grow native plants from seeds. Rake bare soil to loosen the top layer, scatter your seeds thinly over the ground and pres down
to loosely pack the soil. The seeds will germinate the following spring. Mark the boundary of the seded area so you can find it the following year.

Master gardener Judith Cox provides quick tips on testing the validity of seeds.


Spread a small amount (about 1L/m?) of your solid fertilizer onto the garden area. Use a stiffrake to mix the fertilizer into the top layer of soil. If you notice any weeds, use the raketo pull them out by the root and mix them into the top layer of soil. This is known as “turning under” the weeds and will help fertilize the soil. Avoid rakingany existing native plants or sprouting seedlings fi present in your garden bed.

Judith Cox’ favorite fertilizer is fish emulsion.


Dried leaves make for a perfect protective layer (leaf mulch) for your plants during winter. Take fallen leaves and pile them around your plants to
create a 15-30 cm deep layer. Leaving dried plant stems in the garden also provides homes for insects including native bees and will indicate where plants will re-sprout in spring.


Dig a hole about twice as deep and twice as wide as the root of the plant. Scatter ahandful of fertilizer and dug-out soil in the bottom ofthehole, place the root into the hole then fil in the gaps with dug-out soil. Gently press the soil down and thoroughly water the plant. Space plants a minimum of 30 cm apart, leaving more room for larger plants. Don’t forget to label your plants.


Plants in the ground, covered by a layerof leaf mulch, will be perfectly safe over winter. If your plants are in containers, they will need some additional protection. Bring them into a cold garage or shed or wrap them in a tarp, stuffing gapswith dry leaves to make an insulated “cushion” laver.


Solarizing “bakes” your soil so that all existing plants and seeds will be killed. Water the area vou’ve chosen(e.g. sectionof lawn or weed patch), cover it with a tarp or thick plastic and weigh it down with bricks or stones. Let the sun’s heat “bake” the area under the tarp for a minimum of fourweeks or until you’re ready to plant. Remove the tarp and rake the area.


During the 4-6weeks after planting, water your plants once every 3-4 days. After this period, water your plants only fi you seesigns of wilting (limp leaves or stems) or browning leaves.


Generally, shallow-rooted plants or those that grow quickly in the Spring or Fall arelikely weeds. Remove and compost, spreading stems and roots of any weeds. If you’re not sure what something is, leave it, take a picture and ask a garden expert.

Credit: World Wildlife Fund Canada and Carolinian Canada

Download guide here and print it!

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