Planting and growing your own vegetables is good for your body and your mind. You can get exercise, reduce stress and produce your own fresh, healthy food, all by planting a vegetable garden in your backyard. If you are new to vegetable gardening, it’s not difficult, but there are a few important things to know. A little planning before you start to dig will save frustration and give you a better chance of success.
Pick the Right Spot
Your vegetable garden should be in a spot that gets six to eight hours of sun each day. Watch the sun and shade patterns in your yard on a sunny day to find the best location. Note that the sun is highest in the sky in late June. Early and late summer days might be shadier, depending on the trees in your yard. Also, choose a fairly level place; gardening on a hill is much more challenging, though you can create terraces.
How Big Should a Vegetable Garden Be?
Don’t be too ambitious when you first start vegetable gardening. A small garden is easier to manage; you can always make it bigger next year. A ten foot by ten foot space can actually produce a fair amount of food if it is carefully managed. Rows can be anywhere from two to four feet wide. Wide rows should have paths on both sides.
Prepare the Soil
Soil is arguably the most important ingredient in successful vegetable garden. Till or dig into your existing soil at least eight inches, if not more. Get lots of composted manure or a similar soil amendment with organic matter from your local landscape or garden centre. Mix thoroughly with your existing soil. If you are building raised beds, you may need to buy some additional topsoil.
Choosing Vegetables to Plant
Canada has a comparatively short growing season. You can plant cool weather veggies such as peas, spinach, broccoli and kale starting in April. Start lettuce in early May. Warm weather plants like tomatoes, beans, peppers and squash can be planted in June. Though seeds are the most economical way to plant, for tomatoes, peppers and broccoli, it is best to buy small sets of seedlings from a garden centre.
For a small garden plot, choose compact varieties of plants. Bush beans and peas will be a better choice than vines. Some vegetable varieties are ready for harvest faster than others; pick the quick growing varieties if you can. You should be able to plant a second round of cool season vegetables in August. After you have a couple of years experience with vegetable gardening, consider getting some row cover cloth. It can extend your growing season by a month in both spring and fall.
After You Plant
Mulch and water are the final ingredients. A thick layer of mulch helps to keep the soil moist while adding organic matter to your soil over time. Though seeds need frequent water and moist soil to germinate, cut back on watering frequency as plants get larger. Do water thoroughly so that more than the surface layer of soil gets wet.
The planting dates suggested here are approximate. A surprise late frost or early summer can change things for better or worse. That’s part of the fun of vegetable gardening. When one crop has a bad year, another may do really well. You never know exactly what to expect, but with good soil, water and a little luck, you’ll be enjoying fresh vegetables throughout the summer.