It’s that time of year again! The frost is (finally) disappearing, spring is in full effect and the long May 2-4 weekend is on the horizon…
And that can mean only one thing (well, for us gardeners, anyway): it’s time to start getting your garden ready to grow all the fruits, vegetables and herbs you’ll need for the rest of the year.
But if this is your first year (or you’re just a little rusty), you might be wondering where to begin. Do you need to build a raised bed? Where are you going to plant your plants? What should you do about the soil?
Well, never fear. We’ve asked Ryan, our resident Plant Whisperer, for his top tips on getting your garden ready for growing a brag-worthy yield of delicious fruits and veggies.
Plan your plot
“It’s pretty common to hear things like ‘pick the sunniest spot you can’ when you first start to think about planning your patch, but if you’re growing plants for the greens (things like spinach or swiss chard, for instance) then you might actually be better to grow them in the shade.”
In our test garden, we always go by the old gardener’s rule: If you’re growing for the fruit or the root (we like that rhyme), then you need full sun, but if you’re growing for the leaf, then you need an area with partial shade.
The best way to pick your plot is to watch your yard for a day or two to see the areas that get the most sun throughout the day and choose your plot based on that.
Check the drainage
“Plants don’t like to have wet feet at all – it causes the roots to rot and the plants can’t grow to be strong and healthy. (Which means no tasty produce!)”
That’s one of the benefits of building a raised bed; you can avoid planting your plants in the wet soil, even if you live in a particularly wet area.
(If you’re planning on growing your brag-worthy produce in pots or containers, make sure that you have plenty of holes in the bottom of the pot to allow for drainage. A layer of rocks in the bottom of the container helps with drainage too.)
Prepare the soil
“Whether you’re planting in a raised bed or digging a patch the old fashioned way, it’s important to make sure that you prepare the soil and make your plants’ new homes as comfy and hospitable as possible.”
Now, there are two lines of thinking about preparing your plot.
The first is the traditional way of doing things, and that involves using a fork and/or shovel to turn the soil to the depth of at least a foot, making sure that you get rid of all existing roots. When you’re done, you should be left with loose, root-free soil that’ll make a great home for your new plants.
The second way, however, involves less effort (already a win) and has an incredibly tasty sounding name: Lasagna Gardening. (Pretty apt for growing our Pizza Kit, we think…)
This new, overwhelmingly popular gardening technique (sometimes also called “No-Till” gardening or farming, but that’s not half as tasty-sounding) is now almost considered a mainstream technique for gardening. (By which we mean that every young, hip gardener and farmer does it.)
The idea behind Lasagna Gardening (that’s the second time we’ve typed that, and we’re already hungry…) is to disturb the soil as little possible so that you leave all of the soil organisms and the intricate soil “web of life” intact and undisturbed.
Instead, you want to layer soil and mulch on the top of your existing soil so that you mimic the way soil would be in nature. (This is why prairies have some of the best soils, because that continual dying back of grasses is like mulching a garden and creates a whole lot of organic matter for your plants to absorb and turn into tasty, tasty produce.)
Some gardeners even recommend when a plant is finished for the season, cutting it down at the soil surface, but not ripping out the roots, rather leaving them creates good organic matter and structure in the soil.
Don’t forget the compost…
“If you want to take your gardening game to the next level and grow some truly brag-worthy fruits and vegetables, you’re going to want to use compost.
There’s a reason that green-thumbed gurus around the world call compost ‘black gold’ – and that’s because adding compost enriches the soil and keeps it full of the kinds of nutrients that turn that’s-a-pretty-good-yield plants into oh-wow-look-at-that-yield plants.”
Once you’ve chosen your plot, we recommend covering it with about three inches of compost. Take your rake and mix the soil and the compost together and then rake the whole area until it’s a smooth and loose.
(Our top tip: if you’ve got an area of the garden to keep a compost bin or build a wooden composter, it’s a great way to reuse all of your kitchen scraps, grass cuttings and plant waste. Just drop it in the pile, let nature work its magic and then add the nutrient-rich compost to your vegetable patch.)
…or the mulch!
“Putting mulch over your soil is a great way to keep the weeds out and the moisture in. Just spread whatever mulch you have (dead leaves, hay, wood chips, grass clippings…) over your soil and give it a rake over.”
That way, the mulch keeps the soil cool, stops weeds from getting in and stops the moisture from evaporating out of the soil.
Top tip: “If you’re using organic matter from your garden as mulch, it’s a good idea to leave it to dry out before you spread it over your soil and to keep it about an inch away from plant stems so that you minimize the chance of any rot forming.”
Use your grow-zone to choose what to plant
“If, like us, you’re in Canada, this time of year is perfect for growing cool-weather crops.”
In particular, this is a great time of year to plant:
- Bok choy
However, for the rest of your veggies, it’s a good idea to check your area’s growing zone before you put them in the ground. Plants like tomatoes and peppers – which are a little delicate – should be planted when the temperature is consistently above 18° Celsius.”
(Not sure what we mean by growing zone? We’ve got you. Check out our quick explainer article!)
Try ‘hardening’ your plants before you put them in the ground
“Whether you’ve nurtured your plants from seedlings or had some of our garden-ready plants delivered right to your door in time for May 2-4 (hey, that rhymes!), there’s something else you can do to make sure that your plants are ready to start producing produce like crazy: harden them up a bit.”
(We actually harden Plantables plants in the greenhouse by using fans to simulate the wind. We also ‘tickle’ our tomatoes using a remote control drone. Boys and their toys, eh?)
Let your plants dip their toe a little before you put them in the ground by getting them used to your climate. Putting them outside for a few hours a day at first (increasing the number of hours they’re outside each day) lets them acclimatise before they’re put in the ground.
Pro tip: avoid shocking the new plants by planting them on a cool day, or in the morning/evening. Planting in the middle of the day or during particularly hot periods can stop the plants from acclimatising to their new homes.
This way, you won’t shock your nervous new plants and they’ll be more than happy to start growing (and producing fruits and veggies) right away.
Water, water, water
In the first week, it’s almost impossible to give your new plants too much water. Water helps them get established in their new homes quickly, so they can start producing you brag-worthy veggies right away.
Consider ordering your plants from Plantables
If you want to plant your garden full of delicious fruits, veggies and herbs, we’d love to give you a helping hand!
We know that planting a vegetable garden – especially if you’ve got children, lead a busy life or have never tried out your green thumbs before – can be a little intimidating, especially if you want to try and grow your plants from a seed. (Trust us, they don’t call it the tricky seedling stage for nothing!)
And heading to the big box store to pick up some plants isn’t much better. Not only are big box stores not always the best quality, but you have no idea how long they’ve been sitting on the shelves unwatered, unloved and uncared for.
When you order your plants from Plantables, they arrive at your door fresh from the greenhouse. We’ll have spent weeks growing, loving and tending to these plants so that they arrive at your door healthy, happy and ready to start producing brag-worthy fruits and veggies. (And, of course, we always make sure that your plants are hardier, better-quality plants that you could ever find on the shelves of a big box store.)
How do we know this?
Well, it’s a long answer with a lot of science behind it, but the short answer is grafting. We take two plants with different qualities, for example, one that is hardy and disease-resistant and another that produces vegetables like crazy, and then we fuse them together into a super plant that has the best qualities of both.
(If that kind of plant nerdery floats your boat, then you’ll love our post on grafting!)
If you’ve got a large patch that you want to fill, we’d recommend going with The Whole Garden. Like the name suggests, it has everything you’ll need to grow a brag-worthy vegetable garden this year, with everything from tomatoes and cucumbers to fresh herbs and vegetables.
If your garden is a little on the small side (or you want to grow some edible goodness on your balcony) then why not head to our Grow Your Own Way page and build yourself a box of any six plants to fill out your patch?
(As the weather heats up, we’d recommend planting at least one herb. Not only are they great for summer cooking, but they make your garden (or balcony) smell incredible.)
And that’s it from us for now. Until next time, happy planting!