We are certainly gardening in times of uncertainty. As I look back over the last few weeks our lives have changed quickly. If there was ever a time to start a garden, now is the time. It’s been hard to buy the food and supplies that we need so why not try to grow your own food? We have always had a large vegetable garden so I encourage you to start a one. You can grow food in containers, in raised beds or in the ground.
To get started choose a spot that has six hours of sun or more. Most vegetables need full sun to do well. Your leafy vegetables will do okay with three to six hours of sun each day but fruiting plants need that six hours of sun. Pick a site that’s away from shade cast by your home and away from large trees. Not only do trees cast shade, they also compete for water and nutrients and their roots can be in the way when digging. Choose a location near a water source as plants need water every couple of days. Growing a garden is a commitment. Just like you feed yourself you need to nourish your plants in the same way. You can’t go away and leave them unattended.
Once you have chosen your site decide how you will grow. Will you use containers, raised beds or plant directly into the ground? Planting in the ground has been done for hundreds of years and is the most economical way to grow. Raised beds tend to warm up faster in the spring than the ground does and they are easier to maintain when it comes to weeding and soil amending. Containers are portable so you can move them around on plant dollies to maximize the sun but they are heavy to move and need to be watered daily, sometimes twice a day in hot weather. Choosing the way you grow depends on the space you have.
I get a lot of questions about soil. If you are planting directly in the ground I would suggest adding aged manure or compost to the garden a few weeks before planting. Never use fresh manure as it can burn your plants. For raised beds we bought the best garden soil for vegetables that the garden centre offered. We wanted to start out with the best as it would be our base for future years. For containers never use garden soil as it can contain pests and disease and is heavy. It’s best to use a container potting mix as it’s lightweight and allows the container to drain easily.
You have two ways to get started. You can buy plants at the garden centre or start your plants from seed. Most garden centres now ask that you order your plants over the phone or online and pay at time of purchase. You can pick up your order in the parking lot of most garden centres. You can also order seeds online and start them in your home or plant directly in the soil. Each seed package will give you the directions on when you can plant and what to expect at harvest. The easiest crops for beginners are lettuce, potatoes, onion sets, peas and beans. If you’ve never gardened before start small so you don’t get overwhelmed. You can always enlarge the garden over time.
Be sure to borrow or buy some garden tools if you don’t have any. You will need a shovel, rake, hand trowel, hose and watering jug. A wheel barrow will come in handy for hauling soil. I use an old black nursery pot to gather weeds and a kneeling pad for comfort.
One more word of advice, grow what you love to eat. Harvest when your vegetables are ready and think about what you will be using them for. Are you going to freeze them, can them or make preserves? Try to grow successively by planting a third of a row at a time. You don’t want twenty heads of lettuce ready to harvest at the same time. If you have too much to harvest give it away to friends and neighbours.
When I look back at our vegetable gardening adventures, it gives me a sense of food security. I look back at this pepper harvest that I froze for winter use and can’t wait to grow them again. I think having that control in our lives right now is crucial and comforting at the same time. Just being outside checking on plants and marvelling at seeds when they germinate makes my day. They say to plant a seed is to believe in the future.
For more info on our garden adventures check out my Facebook page at That Bloomin’ Garden.