Climate Change and Its Impact on Alberta Gardens

by Jennifer Burns-Robinson

Greetings from my Zone 3 garden, 50km west of Edmonton, AB! I garden on an acreage in a rural area, so unfortunately, I don’t get the benefit of Edmonton’s heat island, which bumps up their growing zone to 4a. Winters here tend to be cold (down to -42C, two years ago) with only moderate snowfall. Summers tend to be dry and warm, but that is changing. Climate change is driving more extreme weather variations, so very variable rainfalls, more extreme rain events, hail, winds, and droughts are in our forecast. An expert climatologist, David Phillips, recently predicted that by 2050, we will be bumping our zone up by 1.5 levels. So, my 3b garden will move to almost 4b. That is a lot of change in just a few years.

So, what can an Alberta gardener do to keep on gardening despite the weather? Thankfully, there are lots of things we can do to help manage our microclimate and buffer it against extreme weather. One thing we can do right now to protect our future gardens is plant trees. Trees not only act as a carbon sink, but they create shade to cool the soil, help block damaging winds and help hold water in the soil. Deforestation is a big contributor to climate change, so if we can each plant a few trees, we may be able to offset some of that damage in the long run. We plan to add some shade trees over the next few years, including some hardy maple that we will tap for maple syrup.

A storm rolls through my zone 3 Alberta garden - Photo by Jennifer Burns-Robinson
A storm rolls through my zone 3 Alberta garden - Photo by Jennifer Burns-Robinson 

What else can we do? Mulch, mulch, mulch! Leave no soil bare, and your plants will thank you. Mulching reduces water evaporation, and cools plant roots. Last summer, we had hot dry weather at the start of the season (no rain for almost 3 months!) and mulching helped to reduce stress on my fruit trees and reduce the amount of water I needed to use from my well - preserving my underground water. Hand-in-hand with mulching is collecting rainwater. With the looming possibility of alternating drought and extreme rainfall, collecting your rainwater for the dry times is a smart move. We are installing 2 more 1000L tanks this summer to catch rain, just in case we get another spring like last year.

My vegetable garden is already sloped to allow for drainage, and we have a small natural depression that collects runoff and creates habitat for frogs and birds. If you live in the city on a smaller lot, you can install a rain garden so that your heavy rain can collect temporarily and drain any excess from your beds.

We also plan to add some shade structures in the vegetable garden this year, to allow for a little relief from that intense prairie sun. My vegetable garden faces full south with no trees nearby, so the heat can be powerful. My brassicas did not appreciate the hot dry weather last year, and I lost all my Purple Lady Bok Choy to bolting. Shade cloth for my greens and cabbages, strung over a wooden arbour should reduce the temperatures by a few degrees.

I am also hoping to work with Mother Nature and add some more perennial vegetables to my plantings. Sorrel, dandelion, dock, asparagus, will hopefully have more resilience in the face of change and require less work on my part.

Thankfully, as an Alberta gardener I am used to adapting my practices to harsh weather. I hope these ideas can help you build a plan for your garden!

Suggested Viewing:
How Climate Change Impacts Gardening (18:08)
How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change | Allan Savory  (22:19)


Registration for AIBC Conference 2022 is Now Open!


From May 2 to 4, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia will be virtually hosting AIBC Conference 2022, an online professional development event that explores the theme “View to the Future”. Architectural professionals from across the province, country and world will be able to participate and connect at the event.

AIBC Conference 2022 features an inspiring lineup of four keynote speakers. Participants will also be able to virtually attend more than 25 sessions, which explore topics highly relevant to today’s architectural practice – such as Truth and Reconciliation; sustainability; equity, diversity and inclusion; and innovative technologies. 

Early bird pricing for full packages is available for the event until March 21, 2022. All package prices, including the conference schedule and speaker bios, can be found on the AIBC Conference 2022 website.

Those who are interested in attending AIBC Confab 2021 can register online at If you have any questions about the event, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




SOUL is excited to have launched ‘2022 Year of the Ecological Garden’, a year-long series promoting ecological land care and the expertise of SOUL members. The first session was held on January 11, 2022 and they are hosting weekly sessions that are free or by donation.

Sessions take place on Tuesdays at 3:00pm Eastern, noon Pacific and run for 45 minutes, including an introduction or short presentation followed by a 30-minute Q&A. 

Here is a list of the upcoming monthly discussion topics for the rest of the year:

April: Urban Agriculture and Food Sovereignty
May: Soil Care and Composting
June: Ecological Turf Care – and turf alternatives
July: Greener Greenspaces – Virtual tours of some of the 2021 recognition recipients
August: Greener Greenspaces – Virtual tours of some of the 2021 recognition recipients
September: Urban Biodiversity – Pollinators and Habitat
October: Urban Biodiversity – Native Plants, Seed Saving, Stratification and Winter Sowing
November: The Right to Garden – Land Access, Bylaws and other Barriers to Practicing Land Care
December: Livelihoods in Ecological Land Care

For more information about the series, to register and to view videos of prior sessions, please visit: 2022 Year of the Ecological Garden



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