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Create your own edible garden

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Vegetable plants in containers
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Lise Servant)

Planning your gardening season and thinking about growing vegetables, herbs, berries or edible flowers? Why not create an edible garden that promotes biodiversity? At the same time that you’re growing a variety of vegetables and fruit, you can attract bees, butterflies, ladybugs, lacewings, syrphids, birds and lots of other useful animals to your home. What a great way of sustaining life!

Four easy steps to sustaining life at home

Before starting on the organization of your food garden, consult the Basic principles of organic gardening fact sheet. Also make sure to comply with the bylaws of your municipality.

Step 1 – Choose the design that suits you

Depending on your tastes, available space, features of the site and your gardening experience, your food garden may take different forms. Here are some examples:

  1. traditional kitchen garden adorned with flowers and berries
  2. ornamental garden punctuated with vegetable and fruit plants
  3. potted kitchen garden on the balcony brightened up with some nectar-producing plants

Let your imagination run free!

Step 2 – Create a diversified garden

A varied menu

Grow a diversity of edible plants (vegetables, herbs, berries or edible flowers) that will not just please your taste buds but also contribute to attracting a variety of useful organisms.

If you want to invite bees, bumble bees and the other pollinating insects into your garden, add flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen. A number of herbs can play that role if you let them flower. Opt for plants with single blooms, since their nectar and pollen are generally more abundant and more accessible to pollinators.

For butterflies to feel at home in your arrangement over the long term, grow host plants that caterpillars feed on, as well as nectar-producing plants intended for the adults.

Also think about offering food to birds by putting in plants that produce fruit or seeds.

Organize your planting in such a way that you’ll have flowering or fruiting plants throughout the season.

To learn more:

Heritage or ancestral varieties

Think about integrating “heritage” or “ancestral” varieties. Growing them offers the gardener the pleasure of discovering little-known varieties and at the same time makes it possible to preserve the genetic diversity of our food.

Local beauties

Introduce, as much as possible, plants that are indigenous to Québec in your arrangement. Those species offer shelter, food and breeding grounds to native wildlife. They also add to the plant biodiversity in your garden. They can be integrated right into your layout or else planted as a border.

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Step 3 – Tending the garden in an environmentally friendly way

Plant rotation

Practice, if possible, plant rotation in order to reduce the incidence of diseases and pests. This technique consists in not growing the same vegetable (or a vegetable from the same family) in the same location for two years in a row. A four-year rotation is even more effective, but harder to bring off in small gardens.

Compost and natural fertilizers

Nourish the soil and plants with compost and, if needed, natural fertilizers.

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Water management

Growing edible plants often requires a lot of water. Adopt practices that make it possible to reduce water needs and improve your watering techniques. Also think about installing a barrel in order to collect rainwater.

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Tolerance

Since your kitchen garden is a corner of green that nature finds inviting, you’ll have to be accepting about the presence of insects (such as caterpillars, which will turn into butterflies) – and learn to share some of your harvest with the birds!

Bear in mind that the vast majority of insects are harmless or even beneficial, and there’s no need to intervene at the sight of a nibbled or blotched leaf. Little imperfections are an integral part of the beauty of life.

The useful organisms present in your garden contribute to the ecological control of pests. If a problem involving insect pests, diseases or weeds calls for attention on your part, apply cultural, physical or mechanical control methods. Use low-impact pesticides only as a last resort.

To learn more:

Step 4 – Take advantage of a varied harvest

In addition to providing vegetables, fruit and herbs, the food garden offers opportunities for interesting discoveries and for observing the wildlife that visits and feeds there from up close. And the harvests are always good!

Taking it a step further:

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