Edible Gardening

Join this growing trend of eating locally – right from your very own garden. We all know the benefits of eating healthy and by growing your own vegetables you know all about your food since you grew it yourself.

Once the foundation of your garden is in place (good soil preparation), and your garden is planted, it takes just minutes a day to check the moisture level, pull a few weeds and to keep a watchful eye for bugs.

Location, Location, Location:

– in order to get the most out of your garden, the veggies need about 6 hours of direct sunlight
– the ground should be level, however a slight grade would help with drainage
– start by mapping out the size of garden you want
– it’s tempting to start large, but keep your maintenance to a minimum by starting small and slowly expand each year (keep in mind that melons, squash, pumpkins etc. do spread and need more space)

Soil Preparation:

– remove all grass, roots and rocks
– aerate and amend with triple blend soil that contains soil, compost and peat moss
– add organic material (composted manure, worm castings)
– give your plants the best start with lots of nutrients!

Organization:

– place large plants (read the tags – such as corn, peas, pole beans and tomatoes) at the north end of the garden so it doesn’t shade the smaller plants
– don’t forget about pathways – you will need access throughout your garden for planting, weeding, watering and harvesting
– by keeping the plants well spaced, it allows better access and better air circulation that will cut down on fungus and rot
TIP:  if lettuce is planted near tomatoes, the eventual shade may help the lettuce stay fresher longer and out of the heat as lettuce prefers the cooler spring weather

Maintenance:

– watering in the morning is best when it is cooler and without the strong winds so the amount of water lost to evaporation is reduced
– water the roots not the foliage
– deep watering is the best practice as it encourages better root formation and plant stability
– check the soil regularly, do not let the plants show symptoms of drought
– weeds are inevitable but it’s best to keep on top of them as they rob moisture, sunlight and nutrients from your edibles
– when the garden is first planted, the soil will be rich with compost added in the spring, but as the garden matures, more nutrients will need to be added (water soluble or granular fertilizers)

What Are Your Favourite Veggies?

Cool Season Edibles can tolerate light frosts and can be planted several weeks prior to the last frost
– can also be planted as a fall crop
– for example; spinach, radishes, lettuce, onions, celery, swiss chard, carrots, cabbage, beets, broccoli and cauliflower

Kale (cool season)
– packed with fiber, iron, calcium and vitamins K, A and C
– three or four plants can supply a family of four with a nice weekly harvest
– grows well in containers – minimum 12” diameter with well-draining potting mix
– during the cool spring, plant in full sun, during the hot summer, plant in partial sun
– harvest when the leaves are the size of your hand – start from the outside and work to the centre
– use in salads, pizza, kale chips and smoothies

Radish (cool season)
– direct sow seeds in a sunny spot 4 weeks before the average date of last frost
– plant another round of seeds every 10 days to ensure a continuous harvest of radishes in late spring or early summer
– can be ready for harvest as soon as three weeks after planting

Warm Season Edibles are damaged by frost and must be planted after the threat of frost is past
– require warm temperatures in which to mature
– for example; melons, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, potato, squash, corn

Tomatoes (warm season) 

– prefer soil rich in humus for extensive well nourished root systems and potassium for strong stems
– they vary in size, shape, colour and flavours
– need plenty of room and may need cages for support
– be sure to add calcium (hen manure) to reduce blossom end rot

Cucumbers (warm season)
– have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture
– vines can be trained on a trellis or fence
– harvest at any stage of development before the seeds become hard
– have the highest quality when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp

Beans (warm season)
– easy productive vegetable
– plant the beans after the threat of frost
– need steady moisture during peak production
– snap beans are best harvested when they are tender

Eggplants (warm season)
– very unique plant for most home gardens
– can be breaded, fried, baked, grilled, stewed or used in dips
– often substituted for meat in vegetarian dishes
– love hot humid conditions
– cut fruits from the plant when they reach full cultivar colour and are firm and glossy

Peppers (warm season)
– a must for summer gardens
– require somewhat higher temperatures, grow slowly and are smaller than tomato plants
– hot peppers are more popular due to various ethnic cuisines that use their unique flavour and heat creatively
– thrive in a well-drained, fertile soil that is well supplied with moisture

Keep smiling, gardening is a great form of exercise and your harvest is worth the effort.  Your children and grandchildren will enjoy seeing where their food comes from. 

Happy Harvest!