The taste of homegrown vegetables from your own garden is so superior to store-bought. Here we provide some basics on how to grow your own.
Where To Grow?
Vegetables need to grow in the sunniest part of your garden (minimum 6 hours direct sun), away from tree roots, in well-drained, level soil. You can improve the condition and fertility of your soil by digging into the top 20 cm – 30 cm (8” – 12”) and adding peat moss, manure, and/or compost as well as granular fertilizer for the garden in the spring or fall before planting.
Don’t despair if you don’t have yard space for a garden. Lots of vegetables can be grown in containers, too. It can be as simple as cutting a hole in a bag of good soil and adding seeds or plants.
What To Grow?
Next, decide what you want to grow. Think about the veggies you already buy. Lettuce is one of the easiest things to grow. Love tomatoes? Tips below just for you!
Sketch it out on graph paper. Group the vegetable crops according to height to prevent one shading another. Plan to put the small-growing, quick-maturing ones together as well. Remember, some vegetables really like to sprawl like pumpkins and squash. Corn is another crop that requires a fair bit of space and can potentially shade other vegetables.
How To Plant
You can grow vegetables from seed in propagation trays in your home in March/April. Or you can sow seeds directly into cool soil in April for the best yields of carrots, peas, lettuce, onions, radishes, beets, and spinach. These seeds can be sown again in late August for a second “cool-weather” crop that matures in fall. Or you can simply purchase started plants (beans, corn, tomatoes and many more) in May at the garden centre.
It’s very important to read the seed package or growing tag to know exactly how much space to leave between each plant and the correct distance between rows. Some vegetables, like carrots, that grow profusely and quickly, need to be thinned out so they have sufficient room to mature. This kind of information is also clearly indicated on the package.
Every two weeks after planting you should fertilize your garden. You can use an all-purpose tomato fertilizer or a vegetable fertilizer.
Vegetables won’t tolerate competition from weeds so keep the area weed-free. This can be done by laying down porous landscape fabric and/or a thick layer of mulch such as cedar mulch, pine needles, or bark chips between rows. If necessary, pull weeds by hand or gently cultivate with a hoe without disturbing shallow roots. Watering is also crucial to success. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. It should be moist at all times. Feel the surface with your hand for coolness or dig down 10 cm (4”) to see exactly how far water has penetrated.
Watch carefully for insects and disease. There are several lines of natural, environmentally-friendly insecticides and fungicides that can be used safely by simply following the package directions. Consult one of our experts for easy solutions to your questions.
Harvest vegetables promptly when they’re at their peak. You can give away the surplus, freeze, dry or otherwise preserve your vegetables.
Tips on Tomatoes
Selecting what tomato varieties you wish to grow depends on your preference for such things as sweetness, meatiness (as in Beefsteak types), and quickness to maturity. The early tomatoes ripen 8 to 10 weeks after planting while the later varieties ripen in about 12 weeks. Why not plant both to enjoy them longer?
Tomatoes are very frost-sensitive. If you have grown your own plants or purchased them you can get them used to outdoor light, wind, and variable spring temperatures by setting them out during the day in shade and moving them into a bit more sun each day for 5 days. Take them back inside or into the garage overnight if freezing temperatures are predicted. This is called “hardening off.” You can plant them directly into the garden when all risk of frost has passed.
For all varieties, insert a strong stake into the ground right beside the plant so you won’t damage the root system with insertion later, or place a tomato cage over the whole plant. As the tomato grows larger, tie the main stem securely to the stake with velcro, rags or old pantyhose. Don’t use rope or a twist tie that can cut into tender plant tissue.
Visit the garden centre for all the supplies you’ll need like seeds, compost, fertilizers and professional growing mixes.