Starting a Vegetable Gardenfrom Scratch

A Garden for Eating...

You want to grow vegetables but aren't sure of how or even what to grow. So where do you start? It all begins with questions. Before you start your first vegetable garden you need a plan for bed type and size, location, etc., but, the first and most important question is 'What are you going to grow'? (Hint: The best answer is the vegetables you like to eat.)

Planning the Garden is a question and answer process as many decision need to be made. What type of build, who is going to care of the garden? How much time do you/care giver have to work the garden? And then, how will you use the produce? Will it be eaten fresh? Or, are you wanting to preserve the harvest by caning, drying or storage? Do you have proper place for vegetable storage? How many plants should be grown to have a winter surplus? These questions must be addressed before anything else as this is the garden plan. Here, we will work through these and other concerns so you can make informed decisions to grow and enjoy your garden.

radishes

greengate Garden Centres has long been known for healthy plants, but we are more than that.

Our people are a wealth of gardening knowledge so that you can get more than just plants; you can also get great gardening information and find out what colors, plants and trends are happening here in Calgary gardens. Here at greengate Garden Centres we want you to be successful with your gardening choices, so if you have questions just ask we are here to help so that you can create the best garden possible this year.


growing vegetables

Can you have too much information on growing food?

We don't think so. Planting requirements and information on the more common vegetables that Calgarians grow are available throught out our Edible Plants pages. We hope you'll try all or some of vegetable crops this spring!

If we haven't covered something you would like to try and you're not sure just stop by and ask or email us at gardenhelp@greengate.ca or watch our informative video here from our greenhouse manager and Horticulturist; John Ostrowdun.





When buying vegetable seeds, take a moment to note when to seed them.


There are growing instructions on every packet, but know that these are general rules of thumb and in our climate you may have to start sooner than indicated based on our short summer. Starting to early means they may out grow your space before the risk of frost has passed, too late and they won't have enough time to mature.

FAST TIP 1

Know when to start your seeds.

A seed package will give you a good idea when to start your seeds. Generally speaking, many will have to be started indoors here due to our short growing season. It's important to know where the seeds come from because the company may have seeding instructions based on the climate of origin, not ours. Always double-check.

FAST TIP 2

Heat mats are very helpful especially here where we are starting seeds in a colder climate.

They work everywhere as seeds need both heat and moisture to germinate. Heat mats will help your seeds germinate quicker and more prolifically. Use a heat mat for better results!

FAST TIP 3

Be ready!

Your tiny little plants will look cute and you'll be happy, but soon, sometimes very soon they will begin to outgrow their Jiffy Pellets, Eazy Cubes, trays or pots. Once they are ready to transplant, they can sometimes take over your space. Think ahead as to how much room you will have for your growing plants so that you have ample room to care for them.

FAST TIP 4

At first, be very careful in the use of fertilizers.

It's best to use a low number organic fertilizer to decrease the chances of burning your new baby plants. There are several good seed starting specific fertilizers.

It's no surprise to us here at greengate Garden Centres that people want to know how to start their vegetables at home. Not only can you beat the high cost of these vegetables, but you will be more environmentally friendly and even more delightfully you'll know exactly what is in, or on your edibles.


The first thing you are going to want to do is plan. Which types of fruits and vegetables do you wish to grow? It doesn't matter what you choose, but it will matter when your plants will be ready to harvest. Knowing that is the first step. If you can help it, you don't want to start your seeds too early, as they can stretch, or outgrow their pots and your space or freeze in the early spring. Conversely, too late will mean a summer of growth with little to show for it.

It all comes down to the last day of frost, and that's hard to gauge, but in Calgary, the rule of thumb is the May long weekend which is generally in the third week. Not surprisingly, according to Environment Canada Calgary's average, last frost-free day is May 22. You'll have to do the math from this date. Each vegetable will be different and why the seed package is so important. It's also important to know that some vegetables, all your cold season crops like kale, broccoli and cauliflower to name a few can be transplanted before the last frost-free day. Remember, in Alberta, anything can happen so watch the weather! If you want to look up other last frost dates in Alberta you can do so here: Alberta frost-free days.

Now you know what you want to plant, and you have a good idea of when. So now what? Well, most packaged seeds will have much of the information you need to start your seeds. On your seed package, you will see sun requirements. Note: most fruits and vegetables will need full sun this is a good tip because you can prepare a bed in the full sun in early spring if you don't already have one. The package will tell you the average time it takes for the seeds to germinate and it will also say what distance to plant your seedlings outdoors, so it's good to keep the package. Your seed package will also list days till harvest. You may also find other great info like when to fertilize, water requirements and much more! Keep in mind that dates and times may change with varieties and conditions. Peppers are a good example. Some may need to start fourteen weeks before transplanting some only six.

There are many different ways to start your seeds indoors like with trays or pots or jiffy pellets. There are even seed starting soils. You may want to add lights or heating trays, but for the most part, if you have a warm south-facing window you can get going with that. Always, keep in mind that sometimes things go wrong like you forget to water, or water too much, don't be discouraged it's a lesson, and you'll do better next year. We have made a quick video to better explain starting your seeds just click the link below. Now's the time to get ahead of costly vegetables and grow your own it's a satisfying and delicious adventure!

Growing out of doors of course can be done here in Calgary. Vegetables are classed as either warm - or cool-season, depending on the weather they need for best growth.


There are many things that you can get started by directly sowing in the early spring-like cool-season veggies. These are vegetables that prefer to grow in cooler weather like spring where the temperatures hover around 15C and that can stand short bouts of frost. You can also plant a second crop of these vegetables again in the late summer, as you will have enough time to bring them along before winter sets in.

Many of these plants have edible leaves or roots. For cool weather plants, you want to bring them to maturity before the heat of the summer sets in. The risk is that the plant will bolt or flower without producing much food. It can also render the plant bitter. Some of the cold weather crops include: Arugula (rocket), Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Collards, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Fennel, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mizuna, Mustard, Onions (bulb), Onions (bunching harvested before they form bulbs), Pak choi (Bok choy), Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach, Coriander (cilantro)

Warm-season veggies require both warm soil and high temperatures (with a little cooling at night) to grow steadily and produce crops.


They include traditional summer crops such as snap beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, peppers, tomatoes, and squash. When planting plants like "Winter" squashes such as acorn, hubbard, and banana note that they are warm-season crops. They are named winter only in that the name refers to the fact that they can be stored for winter consumption, not the season it's grown in. For almost all of these warm-season vegetables, the fruit is the edible part. Warm-season crops are killed by winter frosts, so don't plant them until after the last frost in spring unless you give them cold protection.

Although plants like melons and peppers can be grown here it can be extremely difficult to get the fruit by fall. It has much to do with our high altitude and cold summer nights. If you are looking to grow these types of vegetables and fruit you will find it highly beneficial to have a greenhouse to keep them warmer over the cooler summer nights.


Some warm-season crops:

Beans, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Edamame, Eggplant, Melons, Okra, Peppers, Pumpkins, Squash, Tomatillo, Tomato, Watermelon, Zucchini, Herbs.

If you're looking to grow a vegetable garden and still have questions or concerns no problem! Just drop in and we'll get you started. Remember if you are not starting from seed, we have many herbs and vegetables already started for you in the greenhouse.

Edibles have become the big thing in gardening over the last few of years and as your local garden centre, we are bringing you the best in edibles this season including fruits, vegetables, herb gardens and edible flowers.

To be successful with edibles, you need to attract pollinators. Pollinators account for 1 in 3 bites of food that we eat, so if you're going to grow your own doing so will significantly increase your harvest. Bees, butterflies, wasps, moths, flies, beetles, hummingbirds, and bats are all pollinators. To attract them to your garden plant blue, purple, yellow and white flowers these colors are especially attractive to pollinators. More importantly a diversity of blooming plants in a variety of shapes, colours, and blooming times creates a year-round pollinator paradise. Try Bee Balm (Monarda), Speedwell (Veronica), Sunflowers (annual or perennial), Roses, Strawberries, Tomatoes, and Herbs.

If you would like to try your hand at a vegetable garden this spring or even if its old hat here are some helpful tips in growing your best and tastiest vegetable garden ever.

vegetable garden

Whenever new vegetable gardeners talk to us one thing they most certainly point out is how much better the flavours are compared to store bought. That is why we vegetable garden! There's absolutely nothing like that textures and sweetness of your own home grown vegetables herb and fruits! Now it's your turn to try.

To begin we'll just start with some basic tips and plants to get you started but don't be afraid to try anything you want! Of course, not everything is easy, or even grows here in Calgary, but it never hurts to try.

We suggest starting with a smaller garden than a bigger one if its your first go. There's plenty of seasons to come and you can always add on. It`s easier to take on a smaller garden and have it produce wonderfully than it is to have a very large one that drives you crazy, so think small space big yield.

Don`t try and plant too much at once either. If you can stagger your planting this will give you time to absorb what is happening and you'll have more time to tend to area as it grows on. You'll be surprised at how much you can grow and over doing it will often leave you with way more than you could ever eat. So, plan carefully. Start small.

The very first thing you'll need to do is find a location for your garden. Here are a couple of things to consider:

1. Plant in a sunny location. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The more sunlight they receive, the greater the harvest and the better the taste.

2. Plant in good soil. Plants' roots penetrate soft soil easily, so you need nice loamy soil. Enriching your soil with compost provides needed nutrients. Proper drainage will ensure that water neither collects on top nor drains away too quickly.

3. Space your crops properly. For example, tomatoes need a lot of space and can overshadow shorter vegetables. Plants set too close together compete for sunlight, water, and nutrition and fail to mature. Pay attention to the spacing guidance on seed packets and plant tags.

4. Buy high-quality seeds. Seed packets are less expensive than individual plants. If seeds don't germinate, your money and time are wasted. A few "extra" cents spent in spring for that year's seeds will pay off in higher yields at harvest time.

Once you have idea where your vegetable garden will be its time to get it ready and to do so you'll need to know how big you're gong to make it. If you are making a raised bed then lumber sizes pretty much dictate what size you can have, but if you are building your bed directly in the soil then you can make it any size or shape you like but again keep its smaller than larger to start.

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16x10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. At this size, you can make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are Beans, Beets, Carrots, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Radishes, Rutabagas, Spinach and Turnips. Now of course you can plant whatever you like, but we're going to suggest a few that will do really well here in Calgary. Things like watermelons can actually be grown here, but it's a lot more work and worth another article all together, so for the purposes of our beginners list these are common, productive plants. There is no need to plant all of these unless you want to, otherwise pick and choose from the list and plant and amazing vegetable garden this spring!


  • Tomatoes—5 plants staked
  • Zucchini squash—4 plants
  • Potatoes—6 plants
  • Cabbage
  • Bush beans
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Peas
  • Turnips
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Marigolds to discourage rabbits!





Planning the Garden is a question and answer process as many decision need to be made.


What type of build, who is going to care of the garden? How much time do you/care giver have to work the garden? And then, how will you use the produce? Will it be eaten fresh? Or, are you wanting to preserve the harvest by caning, drying or storage? Do you have proper place for vegetable storage? How many plants should be grown to have a winter surplus? These questions must be addressed before anything else as this is the garden plan. Here, we will work through these and other concerns so you can make informed decisions to grow and enjoy your garden.


Location - Location – Location applies to gardening.

So, where will you put this garden? Which direction does it face, south? Is it out of the wind? Are there trees nearby where you could be in their roots? (Tree roots are generally 18 in. / 45 cm deep) Is it out from under any overhangs such as house eves?

So where/what is the perfect location? Do a site analysis before prepping for a garden and take stock of sun, wind, water/drainage, traffic, extreme weather, and note any micro-climates. Now think of what you want to grow and in what conditions they require. This is most important as large leaf crops such as Spinach will bolt, go to seed, quickly if out if full sun. Once they go to seed the leaves become tough and inedible.


Sun: Things to consider…
  • Sun-loving crops such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, and squash need a minimum of 6 (and preferably more) hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Shade tolerant crops such as chard, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, leeks, and many root crops need 4 (and sometimes less) hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • Southern facing sites may actually be too hot to grow some vegetables.


Wind:

In Southern Alberta things can be a bit windy… Things to consider:

  • Airflow is important for healthy plant development.
  • Tall, top heavy plants may be especially sensitive to strong winds (consider staking or growing plants in a sheltered location).
  • Summer storms may bring sudden changes in wind direction.

Water: Rules for Watering
  • Water deeply and infrequently.
  • Let your plants tell you when they are thirsty.
  • Try to only water in the morning and evening.
  • Use drip irrigation instead of overhead sprinklers.
  • Don't water when it's windy!
  • Where is your garden in relation to the water source?
  • Are there areas in your garden where moisture collects? Where does rainwater pool?
  • Are there opportunities to collect rainwater?


Traffic (human and animal movement):

All gardens have movement through them even if just for garden maintenance. Things to consider…


  • Are your garden beds/containers accessible?
  • What paths do humans and/or wildlife take when they pass through your site (desire lines)?
  • Where would you like to reduce or redirect traffic from? Or, increase or encourage traffic to?


Extreme Weather:

Calgary can receive frost, strong winds, hail and snow any month of the year. Things to consider…


  • Is your planting site exposed to extreme weather conditions?
  • Which of your plants (if any) are resistant to extreme weather conditions?
  • Can barriers be installed to minimize risk of damage to sensitive plants?


Microclimates:

Microclimates provide us with subtle variations in biodiversity. They are influenced by sun, drainage, wind, structures (reflections and shade), vegetation, biological activity and even soil. Things to consider…


  • What kinds of unique microclimates exist in your garden? Why are they there? (Light reflected off a garage and sheltered from wind).
  • Could plants that don't typically thrive in our growing zone survive in one of your microclimates?
  • If a microclimate is not suitable for growing, how can it be adjusted or managed?


Plot Size:

How much space do you need to make it worthwhile? A suggestion from the old Canada Food Guide is 30 by 50 ft. / 9 by 12 m. to feed a family of 4 with a fall harvest for storage. Size also may dictate what you are going to grow as some veggies take up more space than others. One tip is to start small and keep it simple for success. You can always expand later. The worst thing is to be overwhelmed and frustrated, this is not the goal of gardening. Tip: Plant climbing crops - green beans and peas - to make use of the garden's vertical space.



Bed Type:

So now you have chosen the best location in your garden for the vegetables you want to grow, the next question is the bed type: In-ground, Containers, Vegetable box / Raised bed.

In-ground is the tried and true traditional food growing method. Remember though, you can't just pick it up and move it. You need to place in-ground beds with consideration of adequate sunlight, moisture and protection from extreme weather conditions.


The pros are:
  • Ideal for streamlined production
  • The ground stores water established plants may draw on (slower to dry out)
  • Easy to amend soil
  • Plenty of room for companion planting!
To build:
  • Mark out your site with flags or pegs and string.
  • Clear your site of grass, weeds and plant material. The bed can be dug out (lots of work!), grass removed with a sod remover, or by laying down cardboard and mulch (lasagna gardening technique).
  • Add soil to create a raised planting area (6-8 in / cm high will work without sides)
  • You may wish to edge around the bed or delineate with bricks/stones/markers

REMINDER: Always, always, ALWAYS call Alberta One-Call (Click before you dig), before you disturb your site!

Raised Bed Gardening

has become very popular and is part of the square foot gardening movement. They can be any length but limit width to 3 to 4 ft. / 1 to 1.5 m. across so you can reach the center from either side. When building beds there are options such as; Permanent (anchored to the ground) or Portable? Connected to the ground or isolated?


The Pros are:
  • Can amend soil
  • Better drainage than in-ground
  • Warms up faster earlier
  • Easier to weed and maintain
  • Less compaction
  • Can look very attractive. Also, when you enclose a bed with vertical boards, it's neater as soil won't collapse onto paths.
  • Lots of options for construction
  • Good for people who may have difficulty bending down or standing for long periods.
  • If planned right, you don't need pathways unless you have more than one bed.
And the Cons:
  • Need to plan pathways/access
  • Larger raised beds are heavy and difficult to move.
  • Dry out quicker than in-ground beds.
  • Decide if your bed will be connected to the soil below or if you are building on a non-porous surface. Consider drainage!!!
  • The site needs to be level so the bed sits on it evenly. Bed frames can be 'blocked up', or shimmed to level.
Container Gardening:

A raised bed is just large scale container so if starting out or just short on space, go smaller. Just about anything works as a container as long as it has good drainage and can hold enough soil (old bathtubs, plastic containers, pails, wooden planters, plastic bags etc.). Note: Be sure you know what the container was used for before you decided to use it. You don't want anything toxic to be leeched into the vegetables.


The Pros are:
  • Moveable
  • Controlled soil mixture
  • Warms up early (you can put new soil in rather than waiting for the thaw)
  • Warmer soil throughout the season
  • Easy to maintain (weeds, pests)
  • Good for small spaces
And the Cons:
  • Soil can warm too much and become hot.
  • Dry out more quickly and requires more watering
  • Limited space (fewer crop choices)
  • Generally require fertilizer of some kind.
  • Must provide adequate drainage
Size:

A good size is 12-18 in / 38-46 cm. however, when considering the container size, the important thing is the volume of soil available for the plant's roots. Essentially the more space offered the better, but there are disadvantage of having extremely large containers, so some compromise must be made. Tip: Put plant trolleys under big pots for ease of movement.

Planting:

Almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. When choosing your plants look for smaller cultivars who will be more at home in a container. Give some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties. Vegetables taking up little space - carrots, radishes and lettuce -, or, crops bearing fruits over a long time periods - tomatoes and peppers - are perfect for container growing.

Limited soil availability mean plants have limited access to water and nutrients. The gardener must be diligent about providing consistent moisture and fertilizer to the container as vegetables become strong flavored, stringy, and tough under dry or low fertility conditions.

If you are using containers on a balcony, be sure to factor in the microclimate. Some balconies can be very windy, and heat and light may be reflected off building walls. Color Considerations: Be careful when using dark colored containers as they absorb heat which can damage plant roots. If you do use dark colored pots, try shading just the container.

Watering:

Pots and containers always require more frequent watering than plants in ground. As the season progresses and plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don't wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge their water needs.

Soil and Fertilizer:

You can use garden soil in your vegetable container, but, the soil-less mixes are much better. Peat-based mixes, containing peat and vermiculite, are excellent. They are relatively sterile and pH adjusted. They also allow plants to get enough air and water. Mixing in one part compost to two parts planting mix will improve fertility. A slow release or complete organic fertilizer used at planting will feed you vegetables the whole growing season.

Vertical Gardening:

is a great space saver especially for crops which take up large amounts of space. It's important to determine how a plant climbs - Twining stems: grow around supports by spiraling clockwise (hops) or counterclockwise (beans), or, Tendrils: modified stems that coil around small objects to support the main stem (some are modified leaves) – so you can give them support with either string, stakes, poles, trellis, etc. Some climbing vegetables are - cucumbers, beans, peas, winter squash, and, hops.


The Pros are:
  • Frees up ground space
  • Keeps fruit off of the ground and rot-free!
  • Can double as screening
And the Cons
  • Plants can damage surfaces as they climb, such as Virginia Creeper.
Productivity:

More questions to answer such as; how much will you and your family eat? Will you store or give away excess produce? How many seeds or plants will you really need to put into the ground? Many beginners make the mistake of planting too much. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash produced all season long, whereas carrots, radishes, and corn produce only once.

Preparing the ground All you really need are Soil and Compost. Soil is the medium plant roots grow in; a successful garden's foundation. They are responsible for anchoring the plant, and, for accessing water and nutrients – if impeded, the plant's performance is affected. Drainage is a must as soil needs to be able to drain and not have standing water. Beware of soil compaction – don't walk on the soil when it's wet. Remember: You feed the soil, not the plants!

Ground Rules:
  • Encourage and foster soil micro-organisms and worms.
  • Disturb the soil as little as possible.
  • Keep the soil covered so wind and sun don't dry it.


Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden soil. Soils amended with organic matter are a better sponge for water. More water goes into the soil and less water runs off the surface. Because surface runoff has reduced additives like fertilizers (and pesticides, if you use them) retained in the soil. So instead of washing into nearby rivers and lakes, organic matter holds it in the soil.

Compost is…
  • Easy to make
  • A good use of 'waste' material
  • Simply the best way to return nutrients to your soil!


A wonderful compost is Leaf mold; the results of letting leaves sit and decompose over time. Leaf mold is far superior as a soil amendment. It's dark brown to black, has a pleasant earthy aroma and a crumbly texture, like compost. It doesn't provide much in the way of nutrition, so you still need to add compost or other organic fertilizers to increase fertility. Leaf mold is essentially a soil conditioner. It increases soil's water retention, and, according to some university studies, the addition of leaf mold increased water retention by over 50%. It also improves soil structure and provides a fantastic habitat for soil life such as earthworms and beneficial bacteria.

You can dig or till it into garden beds to improve soil structure and water retention. Or use it as mulch in perennial beds or vegetable gardens. It's also fabulous in containers due to its water retaining abilities. Leaf mold is simple, free, and effective. If you're lucky enough to have a tree or two (or ten) on your property, you've got everything you need to make great garden soil.

Planting - Remember when purchasing seeds or plants Calgary's hardiness zone is 3b-4a.

Sowing small seeds can be tricky.


There are a couple of techniques to use:
  1. Mix seeds with sand and sprinkle on top of soil.
  2. Drag a moist thread through seeds and lay it on the soil.
  3. Use a 'Dibber' - Use pencil or wooden skewer.
  4. Purchase your seeds as Seed tapes.


Tip: Seeds are very tasty to birds and critters! Cover with wire or plastic mesh until sprouts come up to ensure no one runs off with them!

Planting Techniques are so you can grow as much food as possible within your beds. In order to do this we need to make the most out of the season. By paying attention to timing, we can plant for early and late harvest crops. This is referred to as Succession planting.

Succession planting is staggering the planting dates of veggies (an example is radishes. Plant a few every weeks and you keep radish coming all summer). This planting type is especially important for poor storage crops. Look for different cultivars or selections of the same crop with different maturity dates, (an example are Tomatoes). It's best to plant side by side and it make it easier with crop rotation. Plant late season crop after an early season crop, (for example kale after lettuce, beets, spinach etc.). Inter-planting is when one crop is planted between the seeds of another. This is done when one crop is very slow to germinate, or, has a hard time breaking the soil surface. Inter-planted crop should be fast growing so it can be harvested before the second crop needs the space, (examples are: radishes between carrots or parsnips, or, lettuce between pole beans, lettuce with tomatoes, beets with pole beans, spinach with winter squash, leeks, and radishes with sweet corn, sprawling squash under stake-grown tomatoes, surround corn with lettuce, or, peas with radishes).

Companion Planting is when plants are beneficial to each other such as Tomatoes and marigolds, the flowers working to keep bad bugs at bay. Or, the Three Sisters where corn provides a climbing pole for the beans and squash keeps the ground shaded retaining moisture.

Rotating Vegetable crops:

Do a 3-5 year planting rotation plan for the best production. You grow crop groups in different beds each year, moving them in the same order, so they end up back in their original bed in year 5. By doing this you thwarts pests and disease, help prevent soil minerals depletion, and, match plant needs to feeding requirements.


  • Light feeders – Beet family, Onion family, Carrot family
  • Moderate feeders – Leafy crops (lettuce, kale, spinach)
  • Heavy feeders – Cabbage family, Squash family, Tomato family
  • Soil builders - Legume family and potatoes, are used to feed soil.

Which variety of vegetables is always a question but by looking for seeds Days to Maturity, the spacing required, and, what the vegetable's water and feeding needs are on seed packages, helps to decide. Also, group plants requiring the same conditions, such as moisture levels, together, (beans love moisture so plant together). Seeding timing is about soil's temperatures and the temperature seeds need to germinate. Also, how much cold the seedlings can tolerate.

Spacing:

We want to grow as much as possible, however, spacing is important as crowding foliage increases disease risk. Air circulation is a must. On average one foot between rows with two inch spacing gives the highest yield.

Water and Fertilizer:

Just as with container gardening, water & fertilizer are most important for a successful crop. It's best to water in the early morning and use drip irrigation to water slow and deep, (and save $). Most vegetables, especially cabbages, carrots, and tomatoes, need consistent watering. All this said, any way to water is better than none.

When it comes to feeding the garden, amend soil with compost and fertilize crops. There are so many fertilizer's available on the market today but I suggest you use organic rather than chemical; Nurseryland organic has proven successful. Manures are good but MUST be well aged. Fresh manure will burn roots. Earthworm castings are full of nutrients and make a great tea for the garden.

Cool-season vegetables - Some vegetables don't like being transplanted, particularly most root crops such as carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips. As cold-hardy vegetables you can direct seed them early and not bother with transplants. Crops like corn, beans, and peas are also finicky about transplanting and grow best when you direct-seed. Potatoes must be mounded as they grow. A good technique is to dig a trench then fill in as potatoes grow, (don't bury their leaves).

When it comes time to planting outside choose an overcast day or plant late afternoon/early eve. Make sure soil is moist and plants have been watered. Remove plants and loosen roots. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball, place the plant, and firm soil around roots; avoid compacting the soil. Water gently but thoroughly.

Cool-season vegetables:


  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • All cabbage clan members

Warm-season vegetables:


  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Peppers
  • Melons
  • Eggplant
  • Squash

Extend the season with:


  • Cold frames
  • Cloches
  • Cozy coats
  • Row covers
  • Raised beds
  • Start seeds indoors
Harvesting:

Harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen. Many gardeners harvest too early, or too late. The goal should be to harvest vegetables when their quality is at its highest. After all, it's the quality of garden produce that sets it apart from store bought produce. Many vegetables not picked at the optimum time become stringy, woody, and tasteless, nullifying all the hard work and expense of growing the crop.

If you are a beginner, start small. It's better to be thrilled by what you produce in a small garden than be frustrated by the time commitment a big one requires. Try starting with a 10x10 ft plot. Keep it simple by selecting five vegetable types to grow, and plant a few of each. Happy growing





Starting Tomatoes

Start tomatoes indoors as soon as you dare. Remember, when they get going they will take up space fast! Dampen the soil so that it's moist but not squishy to the touch, and sow two or three seeds ½ to 1cm deep. Keep tomato seedlings brightly lit by a grow light or in a very bright window. This will keep the young plants tougher and more compact.

Do your tomatoes need pruning? Yes, some varieties of tomatoes do need pruning! This means picking off the side shoots that appear in the branches where they join the main stem. This should be done routinely every week. The net result will be more Tomatoes!