Growing a vegetable garden is easy enough to do, and lets you reconnect with nature. What could be fresher and more local than food harvested from your very own vegetable patch? If you haven’t started planning your garden yet, not to worry: whether it’s divided up into containers or planted right in the ground, whether your space is a balcony or a backyard, here are our tips for skipping certain stages and for stimulating productivity in your garden.
A touch of frost, unexpected or not, will slow the growth and production of your more cold-sensitive plants like fruit vegetables (tomato, eggplant, sweet pepper) or vegetables sown right in the soil. So put the odds in your favor and cultivate your patience! Monitor the temperatures for the next 14 days on the Environment Canada website. When the predicted temperature stays above 15˚ C both day and night, it will be safe to indulge your desire to start planting.
Sow directly into the ground
Are you too short of sunlight, space or equipment to do your sowing indoors? Opt for planting straight into the soil. Start with varieties that aren’t too faint-hearted. There are a number of varieties of frost-tolerant leafy vegetables, for example (kale, mustard, tatsoi, mizuna, spinach and Swiss chard). Once the risk of frost has passed, quite a few flowering plants useful to pollinators give very good results when sown outdoors, even though they’ll bloom later in the season (sunflower, nasturtium, marigold, calendula and zinnia). A host of other delicious vegetables can be sown in the soil. Consult our vegetable seedlings calendar for outdoor planting dates.
Choose early-harvest varieties
To be able to harvest more quickly, choose so-called early varieties (look for growth times on the seed packets). As their name indicates, these varieties take less time to mature. For example, “Patio Baby” eggplant and certain cold-region tomato cultivars of determinate growth will take 40 to 45 days after being transplanted outdoors. That’s nearly 20 days sooner than most varieties.
Buy plants from local garden centers
Skip the seed stage and buy already advanced plants from your local nurseries. This is especially advantageous for herbs, and allows you to move up harvesting by a few weeks. Here’s a list (non-exhaustive) of producers offering plants for sale.
Extend the growing period
Beginning in late July, depending on the cultivar, sow fall vegetables. Carrots, spinach, daikons and certain lettuces such as corn salad aren’t too afraid of a little cold weather. If necessary, use floating row covers for your plants to protect them when the nights get cooler. Incidentally, autumn vegetables are tastier than average, because they concentrate their sugars in response to the tougher conditions.
The more you harvest, the more the plant produces
With the exception of root vegetables, harvesting as things are ready stimulates production. Tomatoes, eggplant, green beans and so on are renewable resources so long as the plant finds itself in favorable conditions. The plant allocates energy in the production of vegetables in order to reproduce, because it is the vegetables that contain seeds. When harvesting takes place, the plant gets the signal that it must start producing seeds again (therefore more vegetables). So, don’t be shy: harvest! This also applies to edible flowers.
Abundance produced in the garden is also harvested in the well-being it produces, the good health it maintains and the rewards it brings gardeners, who add to their plate the fruits of their labor.
To take things further, here are our reference suggestions on the subject:
- La culture écologique pour petites et grandes surfaces / La culture écologique des plantes légumières. Yves Gagnon, Les Éditions Colloïdales
- Mon potager santé: cultivez vos légumes en pleine terre ou en pot / Les fines herbes: de la terre à la table. Lili Michaud, Éditions Multimondes
- Le potager en pot / Le potager urbain, facile et naturel / Potager productif. Associez vos légumes facilement. Bertrand Dumont, Éditions Multimondes
- Le nouveau potager: le jardin comestible pour tous les espaces. Albert Mondor, Les Éditions Journal
- Les quatre saisons de votre potager. Mélanie Grégoire, Éditions Québec Amérique
- Les semis du jardinier paresseux / Potager. Larry Hodgson, Broquet
- The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live, Niki Jabbour, Storey Publishing LLC
Encourage your independent bookstores by purchasing your gardening books online. Leslibraires.ca