Cold Hardy Perennials for Zone 4
We value self-reliance and supporting you as you learn to grow and care for you edible landscape, increase your self-sufficiently, and decrease your environmental footprint. You know we love annual vegetables here at Incredible Seeds, but perennial plants play an important role in these endeavours and growing them is very rewarding!
Perennial edibles are so satisfying to grow. Every Spring you will have the pleasure of welcoming back old garden friends! These friends come back year after year to feed not only our eyes and hearts, but our families as well. With very little input compared to annual crops, edible perennials are an easy, minimalist way to increase your homegrown bounty. Isn’t Nature’s gift economy great?
Zone 4 gardening in Canada
We recently spoke to some of our community in Montreal - specifically backyard growers in Zone 4 - who wanted to learn more about growing perennials in their climate.
Across Canada, Zone 4 growing regions include parts of the Maritime provinces as well as Southern Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and parts of South-Western British Columbia. (If you don’t know your growing zone, take a look at this plant hardiness zone map).
We thought that this information was too useful not to share, specifically for gardeners in Zones 4a and 4b, but also for any of you who want to learn more about perennial care.
Plant hardiness zones
Plant hardiness zones are based on average high and low temperatures and are a general guide to what plants are best able to grow and survive in your zone. Zone 4 gardeners have a growing season of about 113 days and winter temperatures can drop as low as -35.
It is helpful to know your plant hardiness zone; however, there are other variables to consider that determine what plants you can grow - things such as ocean influence, rainfall, wind, elevation, and micro-climates all come into play. Your backyard isn’t necessarily the same as another backyard in the same city or even neighbourhood!
Just as there are ways to extend your growing season (we wrote a guide to it here), there are ways to expand your zone. If you learn to care for and support perennials in the best way possible, you may very well have success growing plants best suited to Zone 5 or even 6! How exciting is that?
Caring for woody perennials
If you pay attention to your plants, you increase their survival rate, their health, and their bounty! Here are a few simple things to consider when planting or caring for woody perennials.
- Emulate forest soil conditions. Fungi and woody perennials need each other to thrive, while annual vegetables, herbs and many flowers depend on beneficial bacteria.
- Mulch. Mulching with ramial mulch* will add plenty of bioavailable nutrients to your soil and keep it moist and hospitable for your plants and their fungal allies.
*Ramial mulch is made from shredded deciduous branches less than 3 inches in diameter and is much higher in nutrients than bark mulch.
- A neutral soil pH (6-7) helps plants to absorb nutrients more efficiently. Dolomitic Lime can help to provide a balanced ratio of Calcium and Magnesium to achieve a balanced pH. Nutritious soil = nutritious food! We recommend a comprehensive soil mineral content test so you know your starting point.
* Blueberries and cranberries are exceptions and need a lower, more acidic pH of 4-5.
- Learn to read you property’s year round micro-climates. Where are your shady spots? Sunny spots? Are those places sunny all day or only for a portion? Where does snow tend to drift? From where does the Winter wind generally come? Where are your sheltered areas? Do you have a dryer vent facing your garden?
These variables all play into micro-climates - understanding your property can help you work with rather than against your landscape.
- Pruning. Learn the pruning requirements and techniques that work best for your plants. If you’re really on the ball, you can chip your prunings and make ramial mulch!
We highly recommend reading Michael Phillips’ “The Holistic Orchard” and Steve Soloman’s “The Intelligent Gardener”. Combined they offer all you need to know about growing healthful, nutrient dense food at home. You can also find them online at www.groworganicapples.com and www.soilandhealth.org.
Some edible perennials have special maintenance requirements.
- Always plant Raspberries and Blackberries where you can mow all around them. They sucker readily and will spread.
- Blueberries thrive in acidic soil, pH 4-5 and require plenty of nitrogen. Nitrogen fixers like Lupins, Clover and Siberian Pea Shrub work amazingly to nourish blueberries and all perennial food crops!
Our favourites for zone 4 gardens
We offer a wide variety of fruit seeds, tree seeds, and live plant cultivars that are well adapted to cold climates. These fruit and nut varieties can do very well in Zone 4 and some can grow in Northern climates as low as Zone 2.
Fruiting Tree & Shrub Seeds
Our Frigid Fruit Collection is a collection of the most cold hardy, fruit-bearing plants we offer. Their minimum hardiness zones range from zone 3 to zone 1!
*Available September - February. Look out for it this Fall!*
Healthy plants need healthy soil
Remember that, even when grown at home, food is only as healthy and the soil it is grown in. Please garden responsibly, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
And cultivate healthy environments for soil microbes; they’ll feed your plants, thereby feeding you!