Köppen Climate Classification - Dsc - Subarctic or Boreal Climate with dry summers
Latitudes: Generally between 55° to 65° North latitudes, occasionally reaching up to 70°N latitude.
Temperatures: Short, cool summers; long, harsh winters. Only 1-3 months above 10°C (50.0 °F).
Precipitation: Low precipitation with dry summers.
Relevant geography: Occurs poleward of other Continental/microthermal climates, or at higher altitudes.
USDA equivalent zones: 1-3
Soil: Strongly acidic with poor drainage and seasonal swampy conditions possible. Lacking fertility. In some places, ice has scraped soil away to expose bare rock.
Dominant plant life of the region: Northern coniferous forest.
Strengths/challenges for plant life: Short growing season, extreme light/dark cycle, and cold temperatures.
Garden plants that are a good fit for this region: Most common garden plants can be grown here if you select cold hardy varieties and use season extending strategies. Heat-loving plants can be grown indoors, but are a challenge outdoors.
Dominant animal life (or its features): Cold adapted. Beaver, snowshoe hare, river otter, lemmings, squirrels, black bear, grizzly bear, wolves, bobcats, wolverines, caribou, moose, bald eagle.
Challenges for animal raising: Bitter cold winters.
Animals that are a good fit for this region: Caribou
Notes: Permafrost common
The subarctic climate is a challenge for gardeners and those wanting to raise animals, but it isn’t impossible. The extreme temperatures and day/night cycles may alter your strategies, but you can still have success raising your own food.
The subarctic climate exists poleward of group D (continental) climates, typically between 55° to 65° North latitudes and occasionally reaches up to 70°N latitude. It can also appear in lower latitudes at high elevation.
At these latitudes, you can expect long, bitter winters, and short, cool summers with only 1-3 months above 10°C (50.0 °F). Fortunately, your plants will be able to grow near constantly during that short time, thanks to the greatly lengthened daylight hours. You fall within USDA plant hardiness zones 1-3.
Precipitation is low all year for your climate. Summers are officially a dry season, meaning that your driest summer month has less than 30 millimeters (1.18 in) of rainfall and one-third, or less, the precipitation of your wettest winter month.
Permafrost is common, and in some areas ice may have carved the ground down to bare rock. Soils in this climate zone tend to be strongly acidic and lack fertility. They also have poor drainage and may create swampy conditions in warmer weather.
The plant life of this region has low diversity, relative to other regions. However, coniferous forests are common.
You might think that the short growing season, cold temperatures, and extreme light/dark cycle would make gardening impossible. And I’d be lying if I said it was easy. But you can use several strategies to help increase your chances of successfully growing food.
Start your seeds indoors. This will make a better use of your short growing season. Choose a garden location on a southern slope, where the low-angled sunlight will hit more directly. Raised beds or raised rows running north to south will allow the morning and evening sun to hit the sides of the bed/row and warm the soil faster. Also, the cold night air will sink between beds/rows and may save your plants. Greenhouse should run east to west to maximize light exposure.
Mulch should not be applied thickly. It prevents sunlight from warming the soil. Use just enough to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Remove mulch when your garden is finished for the year. Mulch in winter will encourage your garden soil to freeze harder and stay cold longer. Greenhouses can be mulched sooner and deeper.
Select long-day or day-neutral plants. Short day plants require longer nights to produce fruit and will not be successful here.
Cold water equals cold plants. If possible, store water in a barrel in full sun exposure. The sunlight will warm the water, and the plants will be very appreciative.
For sensitive plants or colder times of year, a greenhouse may be essential. Be sure to reinforce it so that it can withstand the weight of winter snow. Containers can also be used to move plants indoors for storms or shorter cold snaps, and then back outside when the weather improves.
In a greenhouse, space usually comes at a premium. The following varieties of plants are suitable for growing in containers, which can help manage space and will also help to limit heat loss to the ground:
• Bean - Derby, Eureka, Mascotte, Tendercrop, Topcrop
• Beet - Burpee’s Golden, Chiggoia, Detroit Dark Red Medium Top, Ruby Queen
• Carrot - Danver’s Half Long, Little Finger, Nantes Half Long, Paris Market, Yaya
• Cucumber - Bush Champion, Bush Pickle, Iznik, Parisian Gherkin, Patio Snacker, Salad Bush, Saladmore Bush, Space Master, Sugar Crunch
• Eggplant - Dusky, Early Midnight, Gretel, Hansel, Ivory, Ophelia, Patio Baby, Pinstripe
• Lettuce - Jack Ice, Bibb, Rouge D’Hiver, Red Leaf, Green Leaf, Oak Leaf
• Okra - Carmine Splendor, Clemson Spineless, Jambalaya
• Pea - Caselode, Peas-in-a-Pot, Sugar Ann
• Pepper - Cajun Belle, Cayennetta, Cherry Stuffer, Cute Stuff Red, Gypsy, Just Sweet, Lady Belle, Mariachi, New Ace, Orange Blaze, Red Chili, Sweet Golden Baby Belle, Tangerine Dream
• Radish - Champion, Comet, D’Avignon, Early Scarlet Globe, French Breakfast, Red Satin, Rido Red, Sparkles, White Icicle
• Spinach - Bloomsdale, Red Cardinal, Regiment, Type, Catalina, Teton
• Squash - Astia, Golden Scallopini Bush, Golden Zebra, Multipik, Supersett, Sweet Zuke, Zebra Zuke
• Swiss chard - Bright Lights, Fordhook Giant, Lucullus, Peppermint
• Tomato - Amish Paste, Atlas, Baby Boomer, Bush Big Boy, Bush Champion, Bush Early Girl, BushSteak, Cherry Jubilee, Cherry Cascade, Container Superbush, Early Resilience, Patio Paste, Patio Princess, Super Bush, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbler, Veranda Red
Kitchen herbs can also be grown in containers, as can several varieties of fruits (strawberries, blueberries, etc.).
Typically, greens will be the easiest to grow with the least investment of heat and space. As your skills and confidence grow, you can expand to other plants. Microgreens, vegetables and herbs in their sprout form, are another option, requiring only the bare minimum of care.
The animals of the region are cold-adapted. Some may semi-hibernate during the winter, though this becomes a more challenging strategy given the length of your winters. Your local wildlife may include beavers, snowshoe hares, river otters, lemmings, squirrels, grizzly bears, wolves, bobcats, wolverines, caribou, moose, and bald eagles.
If you intent to raise animals, they will need to be adapted for extreme cold. Caribou are a good choice, being native to areas with this climate. Alternately, you could choose animals that are suitable for raising indoors. Quail can be raised in cages for their meat or eggs.
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