Starting a Grocery Garden

With people spending more time at home and questions about local food security, let’s focus on what we can do to help our families and our community.  What’s more local than your own vegetable garden?  Join this growing trend and start planning your garden today.  Vegetable gardens are taking root!  (Think about adding a little extra to your garden to help out an elderly neighbour, or contribute to your local Food Bank)

Planning Stages

This is the best time to plan out your vegetable garden on paper first.  There are a few things to think about before getting started.

  • Plan what type of garden you would like
  • Consider the climate in your location (not sure of your zone? Find it here)
  • Take a look at the sunlight patterns around your property (vegetable gardens need about 5-6 hours of direct sunlight)
  • What plants would you like to grow? Take into account your personal preferences

Getting Started Outside:

Take a walk around your garden and think about the best spot for your vegetables.  When the vegetables are close to the house, you will be more likely to use them.

  • Keep your space small to start to avoid getting overwhelmed (you can always add more space next year)
  • Consider using raised beds for your vegetables, they tend to warm up sooner in the spring and have better drainage
  • If not enough sunshine, or if you are in an apartment, consider using containers for your vegetables that you can move around or arrange on a balcony


  • In order for the plants to grow well, they need to be in porous soil that allows their roots to grow
  • Plants need water and air and this requires soil that has spaces to hold this air and water.  Therefore soil that is aerated will generally produce a better garden
  • The soil needs to have suitable nutrients and compost is a great way to add those essential nutrients. Remember to feed your soil, not the plants. 
  • Once the sod is removed from the garden plot, add organic matter (4-6” deep) and work into the top layer. Wait a couple of days before sowing or planting.


  • Purchase high-quality seeds packed for the current year.
  • Older seeds may not germinate well or not at all.
  • Read the back of the package to make sure you are sowing at the right time and whether you can start your seeds earlier inside or outside after the threat of frost.


  • Once the weather has warmed up, the hardening off process can begin.
  • Gradually, at least one week before you plan to plant them in the garden, place your seedlings on a sheltered porch or under a tree for one hour each day, protecting them from too much wind and hot sun.


  • Weeds rob moisture, sunlight and nutrients from the plants, harvest will be increased by eliminating the competition
  • When removing perennial weeds, make sure the whole root is removed to avoid it regrowing
  • Above all, keep a positive attitude, gardening is great exercise, produces compost and you grow better vegetables


  • Deep watering in the garden is the best practice. Soak the soil and let it dry out for a couple of days.  It encourages roots to go deep into the soil creating better plant stability
  • Seeds and transplants need to be kept moist
  • Check soil regularly, do not wait for plants to show symptoms of drought

Pests and Diseases:

  • Practice companion planting (eg. onions and garlic around carrots and other root crops, or surround your garden with marigolds)
  • Attract beneficial insects to help pollinate your crops
  • Reduce the chemicals you use in the garden, after all, the fruits of your labour are going straight to your table!

Sharing this Passion with Children:

  • Teaching children to grow their own food can give them a hands on lesson about nature
  • This is a wonderful way for the entire family to spend some quality time together
  • When children grow their own food, they are more likely to eat the vegetables they pick out of their garden…for finicky eaters, starting a garden is an ideal way to get kids excited about their veggies

These are the basics that should allow you to have a simple yet productive garden.  With early success will come enthusiasm. 

You will soon take the next step, trying new varieties and techniques for an even more rewarding experience – happy eating and enjoy!