This guide is designed to give you the most basic information you’ll need to grow a better garden. You may find many in-depth articles on the web that you can use to improve and hone your skills. Never stop learning and growing!
Make a list of your favourite fruits and vegetables you enjoy most, then consider which ones are the most expensive to purchase in your local grocer… Obviously, this will tell you which fruits and vegetables you should be trying to grow. Popular choices among Canadians include Tomato, Lettuce, Peppers, and Cucumbers. Don’t limit yourself or be afraid to try something new! That’s how you Grow a Better Garden.
Divide your chosen crops into warm-season crops which do better in the summer and cool-season crops that do best in the spring and fall.
Cool Season Crops include Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Spinach, and Turnips. These crops are more likely to survive cold weather and even a light frost.
Warm Season Crops include Beans, Corn, Cucumbers, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato, and Melon. These crops require warm weather and lots of sun as they are unlikely to survive cold weather and frost.
Then separate your Warm and Cold Season Crops further into Direct Sow or Transplantable. Direct Sow plants are started outside in your gardens from seed. Alternatively, Transplantable are started inside or in a greenhouse and transplanted outside at a later date.
Direct Sow options from above include Beets, Beans, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Peas, Pumpkins, Radish, Spinach, Squash, Turnips, Melons. Depending upon your growing zone, you may need to start some of these plants inside and transplant them later. However, in the Southern growing zones of Canada, these can grow and mature naturally.
Transplantable options include Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Peppers, and Tomato. These plants have a longer growing season and tend to produce better if started inside before the frost leaving the ground.
Using what you’ve extrapolated from Steps 2, then you need to figure out which seeds you have and will need to order. Late Winter tends to be the best time to buy your seeds. Keep your eye out for deals year-round on seeds you regularly plant, as it’s a vital step to grow a better garden.
As soon as the snow disappears, you should start looking at locations for your new garden. Ideally, you’ll find a garden location that is flat and has all-day sun exposure. Alternatively, if you’re in an apartment, you can try Raised Gardens or Container Gardening. This can be fun and very beneficial and works very similar to a standard in-ground garden.
Once you’ve chosen the ideal location for your new garden and the frost has left the ground, you’ll need to break up the soil. First, you’ll need to remove the sod and maybe even have a few yards of topsoil delivered. Use whatever tools you have available to break up the soil. Obviously, a tiller works the best and breaks up any large clumps to create a nice flat smooth bed. Then you should speak with your Local Garden Center about possible soil amendments and fertilizer requirements for your growing area. Some Garden Centers can even test your soil and make recommendations based on your soil makeup.
Determining your garden layout and marking out your rows and hills is the next big step in creating your new garden. Use sticks or row markers and follow the instructions for each of the varieties of fruit and vegetable you’ve chosen to grow. Try not to leave your row spacing less than 30cm at any time unless you’re doubling rows like some people choose to do with Carrots or Parsnips.
After you’ve marked all your rows and worked your soil adequately, it’s time to start planting! Start with your Cool Season Crops as soon as the conditions allow for it. This could happen as early as April in some regions of the country, but every variety has its own needs and requirements. Starting some of these Cool Season Crops inside is the best way to jump-start your garden. Most should be started indoors 3-6 weeks before the last frost in your area. By following this process diligently, you should have plenty of seedlings ready to be transplanted in to your garden.
By far, the easiest way to start your seeds indoors is to use Seedling Starting Trays with an LED light and a well-placed Heating Pad. First, you place Seed Starter Soil Pellets within the large tray with the heating pad underneath set to the proper temperature. Then, fill the tray with warm water to the top of the pellets. Once the medium has fully expanded, drain the remaining water. Now you’re ready to plant!
Your Seedlings are very fragile and will have been sheltered their entire lives. As they approach the time to enter the outside world, the seedlings have to transition from the inside world. This is done through a process called Hardening Off. The Hardening Off process requires different times for different types of seedling, anywhere from a few hours to a week.
Whether you went with the traditional method of seeding or used plastic mulch, you’ll have to do your due diligence with weekly weeding. With the traditional planting method, you can put down leaves, cardboard, newspaper, or straw around your crops to minimize weeds. Using plastic mulch reduces your weed numbers. That’s all there really is to grow a better garden so harvest your fruit as it ripens.
Once all the danger of frost has passed, often in late May or early June in Canada, it’s time to start planting your Warm Season Crops. Try to get them all planted into your garden as quickly as possible, whether it be Direct Seed or Transplanted.
Continue with your weeding and harvesting throughout the summer. Water your garden thoroughly for at least an hour once a week if you haven’t had an adequate amount of rain. Always water in the mornings and always try to avoid watering in the evenings as it can be a primary cause of Powdery Mildew and other diseases.
Once the cold weather starts approaching again in September, begin replacing your Warm Season Crops with more Transplanted Cool Season Crops as the Warm Season Crops die.
Harvest your garden as long as you can! Enjoy the fruits of your labours as long as you can! Most importantly, don’t forget to tell your friends and family how to grow a better garden!
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