Guides for the Prairie Gardener

About the Series

It looks like you’ve discovered the Guides for the Prairie Gardener. This budding series puts the combined knowledge of two lifelong prairie gardeners, Janet Melrose and Sheryl Normandeau, at your grubby fingertips. Whether you’ve just cleared a few square feet for your first bed of veggies or are a seasoned green thumb stumped by that one cultivar you can’t seem to master, we think you’ll find these knowledgeable gardeners the ideal teachers.

Find answers on seeds, soil, trees, flowers, weather, climate, pests, pots, and quite a few more. These slim but mighty volumes, handsomely designed, make great companions at the height of summer in the garden trenches and during cold winter days planning the next season. With regional expertise, elegance, and a sense of humour, Janet and Sheryl take your questions and turn them into prairie gardening inspiration.

The Prairie Gardener's Go-To for Vegetables

Too often people think of vegetable gardening in the prairies as challenging, but certified master gardeners Sheryl and Janet are here to show you how rewarding it can really be.

From planning to planting, they encourage you to take a hands-on approach with your prairie garden. They let you know when—and how!—to transplant your carefully nurtured seedlings in the spring, ways to shelter your plants from that inevitable July hailstorm, and how to determine how much irrigation is necessary in the arid prairie climate. They help you figure out if you should prune your tomatoes, how to hold up your pumpkins off the ground, and maximizing your harvest by planting in succession. And they show you how you can directly influence the quality of your produce, minimizing problems such as woody radishes, buttoning cauliflower, and split cabbage heads.

This Q&A-style resource covers all your most common questions: cultivation practices; preventing damage from frost, flood, and drought; harvest and storage; and specifics on the veggies you love to grow.

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The Prairie Gardener's Go-To for Pests and Diseases

Whether you’re an experienced prairie gardener or have just a few weeks under your belt, chances are you’ve come to know at least a couple of pesky insects, moulds, or much larger lurkers on a first-name basis. But what to do about these interlopers who can seem hell-bent on ruining your hard work? Lifelong gardeners Janet and Sheryl are here to help.

Should I use landscape fabric? Does vinegar work? What do I do about tent caterpillars? Why are my potatoes scabby? Why does it look like my cabbages have been attacked by miniature buckshot? And the recurring What is this thing?! Janet and Sheryl take your most pressing questions in this Q&A-style resource on all the prairie gardener’s most common pests, including thistle, dandelion, crabgrass, slugs, aphids, beetles, moths, mildew, fungus, rust, deer, rabbits, porcupines, and even other people’s pets.

Using an integrated pest management approach, Janet and Sheryl show you how to identify the culprit and how to deter it, while respecting the broader environment.

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The Prairie Gardener's Go-To for Seeds

Certified master gardeners Sheryl and Janet offer you all the tools you need to start seeds, ensuring they thrive and grow into beautiful mature plants. They answer your questions on things like how to determine the viability of seeds, the difference between an heirloom, heritage, and hybrid seed, the best containers and planting media to use, when and how to use growing lights, troubleshooting common problems such as damping off and overwatering, the proper methods for hardening off transplants and planting them out.

And they don’t stop at addressing starting seeds indoors—they also give you the information you need to direct sow straight into the garden, and on winter sowing. Then they delve deeply into how you can collect and save seed for the future so that you can continue the cycle for future growing seasons.

The book is complete with detailed charts to give you specific information about seed starting on the Prairies, with several plant lists to help you decide what selections work best in a variety of situations and conditions.

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The Prairie Gardener's Go-To for Small Spaces

Not everyone in the prairies has a big, wide-open space in which to garden, but with a little extra know-how and some specialized techniques, you can maximize your success in the space you have.

Lifelong gardeners Sheryl and Janet are here with answers to all of your big questions about small-space gardening including which types of growing media to use in containers or raised beds, how to properly fertilize and water your container plants, including grow bags and containers made from various types of materials, how to get started in square foot gardening, how to reap the rewards of succession planting and catch-cropping, how to build raised beds, wicking beds, and sub-irrigation planters, which veggies and vines to grow vertically, how to keep hanging baskets looking lush and full of blooms all summer, and many more.

Whether you’re using container gardens, raised beds, small plots, and postage-stamp sized yards, or trying your hand at vertical gardening, certified master gardeners Sheryl and Janet answer all your questions about how to do so successfully on the prairies. Small-space gardeners are a different breed and what they create can be magic!

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More in the series

Janet and Sheryl are experts in all things gardening and they look forward to sharing their expertise in this burgeoning series. Keep your eye on this space for more Guides for the Prairie Gardener focussing on topics such as growing perennials, small space gardening, herbs, tomatoes, seeds, garden planning, fruits and berries, lawn care, and more.

About the authors

Janet Melrose is a garden educator and consultant, and an advocate for Calgary’s Sustainable Local Food System. She is a lifelong gardener and holds a Prairie Horticulture Certificate. She has a passion for Horticultural Therapy and facilitates numerous programs designed to integrate people marginalized by various disabilities into the larger community. She is a regular contributor to The Gardener for Canadian Climates magazine. She lives in Calgary where she runs her education and consulting company, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener.