Our Farm Manager Julianne Keech shares her best tips and tricks to successfully grow your own edible garden. Read on to see her answers to our questions!
Looking to start your own edible garden? We've got you covered! Check out our assortment of organically grown seedlings!
1. I want to start my own edible garden: where do I begin?
There are a few basic things everyone should consider before starting their garden. First, observe your desired planting area throughout the day and take note of how much sun it gets. Most plants need 6 hours or more of full sun. The good news is that there are types of plants that do well in shade too, but you need to determine what you're working with. Secondly, decide if you will grow in the ground, raised beds, or containers. You should think about how much time you want to devote to your garden, how much money you can invest in getting it started, and also about what you want to grow. Here are some things to consider:
In the ground:
- there are generally a lot of nutrients in topsoil that will help your plants grow.
- you will need to water less (compared to containers) because the soil in Toronto tends to hold water really well.
- you can usually grow any type of plant in the ground.
- depending on the history of your property, soil can sometimes be contaminated.
- generally higher maintenance than containers or raised beds because of increased weed pressure.
- can be inaccessible for some people due to plants being at ground level and hard to reach.
- opportunity to add or create your own soil mix from purchased products.
- easier to reach and more accessible than growing on the ground.
- generally less maintenance than in the ground growing (probably less weeds!)
- raised beds must be built or bought, which costs money.
- must be filled with soil, which costs money and might be hard work.
- depending on the depth of your raised beds, it might not be ideal growing conditions for some vegetables. For this reason, raised beds should be at least 12 inches deep.
- your garden can be located anywhere!
- you can use almost any type of container for growing.
- bigger plants require bigger containers.
- containers have a tendency to dry out quickly in the summer so they require frequent (every day) watering.
- costs money to purchase containers and soil.
2. If you have limited space, what vegetables or fruit are the best to start with?
I suggest planting a few types of vegetables that will provide multiple, prolonged harvests. My top picks are genovese basil, cherry tomatoes (only if you get full sun for 6+ hours a day), cucumbers, and kale. If you get more like 4 hours of sunlight per day, you can still grow lettuce, arugula, herbs, chard, kale, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower.
3. It can be tricky to know how much to water plants. Do you have any advice for garden beginners?
When it comes to watering your plants, the best way to truly tell if they need water is to reach down and get your hands in the soil (or at least your fingers!). Whether you're growing in the ground or in containers, feel the soil a few inches below the surface. The soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. Most containers need to be watered everyday, and make sure your containers have a drainage hole in the bottom! You don't want water pooling and causing the roots to rot. Most gardens need to only be watered every couple of days or two to three times a week. I prefer giving my garden a deep watering a few times a week, as opposed to frequent shallow waterings. This encourages the roots to reach down into the soil, producing healthier and sturdier plants. Obviously if it rains then that's super helpful! If you've just planted seeds or seedlings, then you want to keep the soil moist all the times until the plants are established.
4. What basic material do you absolutely need to get your garden started?
The most important part of growing any plant is the soil! The success of your garden depends on it. Add high quality compost to your garden each spring, about an inch, and mix it into the top few inches of soil. After your plants get established, you might want to top-dress your garden mid-season to give them a little extra nutrition. This can be done by adding a light layer of compost, worm castings, seaweed meal, or other organic fertilizer. For containers, you should start with a high quality potting mix. Pre-packaged potting mix should have the right nutrients to get your plants started, but because they are limited to what's in the container, I highly recommend adding more nutrition every few weeks.
5. Do you have any particular planters you suggest if you don't have a garden and are planting on your windowsill?
Start with what you have around your house! A lot of different things can be repurposed into planters. For starting your own seeds, look in your kitchen or recycling bin - think egg cartons, yogurt containers, tin cans, mushroom containers, or other small things that can hold some soil. For planters you can use pails and buckets, cookie tins, or ice cream containers from ice cream shops. If you need to buy containers, I highly recommend ones that are sitting on a saucer or tray, so that it holds some water. Like I mentioned before, containers can dry out really fast. There are a lot of fancy containers out there that are self-watering or claim to be special in some way, but I think simpler is better. Oh, and always make sure your containers have drainage holes in the bottom!