Two Calgary-based authors have written a series of guidebooks for gardening on the prairies.

Horticulture specialists Sheryl Normandeau and Janet Melrose both hold numerous gardening certificates, including Prairie Horticulture and Master Gardener certificates, and are the authors of the Prairie Gardener's Go-To Garden series.

They have written two new books, as part of the series that are being released on March 19.

"The two new ones are The Prairie Gardener's Go-To for Grasses, and The Prairie Gardener's Go-To for Herbs," explains Normandeau. "They're actually books 9 and 10 in the series, we've been really, really busy. So, we've written eight others and they're on various topics, everything from seeds to perennials to soil, pests and diseases, vegetables, you name it."

All of the books in the series cover topics that are specific to the climate on the prairies.

"We are kind of addressing all of the different kinds of conditions, and stuff like that, that there would be across the prairies. So, we're talking, also, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well, and they've got a lot to contend with there," Normandeau says. "Just being on the prairies, with the unique geography we have, and the weather conditions, and all of that kind of thing. We got all of these challenges that they don't really have in Ontario, or in Vancouver."

If anyone has tried to raise a garden within Foothills County, they'll know how difficult it can be to keep the plants alive.

"The whole of the prairies is semi-arid desert," explains Janet Melrose. "So, we are high and dry. We get the variable temperatures. We get variable precipitation. We are literally part of Northern Prairie Plains, so we have a lot of those characteristics of, say, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, as well."

On top of the drastic weather changes we commonly see; Melrose says the low amount of water we have in the region also makes garden care a chore.

"Especially so as we go into another summer of drought. Where is the humidity going to be? Where's our water going to come from?" Melrose adds.

In our neck of the woods, we also have dry winds, and pests that affect crops.

So, how do we keep our gardens healthy?

"For starters, we have to pay attention to our soil. We have to improve our soil," Melrose explains. 

In order to improve the soil, Melrose suggests adding organic matter into the garden.

The goal is to have between 10 and 12 per cent of organic matter content within the soil, which is what the prairie soil contained before humans began using it for agriculture purposes.

"Because good soil will retain moisture. And then you don't leave the soil alone. You top it off with mulch, that also keeps the soil moist and moderates temperatures in the root zone as well," says Melrose.

She adds that it's best to plant drought tolerant plants, so they don't require too much water.

"And we have to think about shade, as well. We didn't ever used to think we need to shade our plants, but more and more we are," Melrose explains. "Especially if they are growing edibles."

Melrose suggests using something along the lines of shade cloth or insect cloth.

The shade will also help to keep the plants cool.

While we are anticipating a drought this summer, Melrose says you are able to plant what you normally plant each year, but you just need to do a little bit of extra care to make them grow.

When shopping for plants, trees, and bushes, it's also important to keep an eye on which zone you are planting in and which zone the plant is rated for, otherwise, the plant will struggle.

Their Prairie Gardener's Go-To series has all of this information and more.

On top of the usual bookstores, Yoonek Books will also be carrying the two new books of the series in March.

Yoonek Books will be hosting both authors on Saturday, April 20, from 12-2 pm as part of a book tour.