Growing an organic vegetable garden is a great way to introduce your family to a variety of new foods inexpensively. We all know that eating more vegetables is going to make us healthier, but organic produce is not always affordable or available. One way to help is by starting an organic vegetable garden from seeds. Seed packs cost anywhere from $3.00-$5.00 and have over a hundred seeds. Another reason to start vegetables from seed is the amazing variety available to order. Some of my favorite vegetables to grow are Asian greens like Toy Choy (a tiny variety of Bok Choy) or Red Frills Mustard. They can be started in early spring under row covers and will give you greens as fast as 30 days depending on the variety. I get these seeds and other great Asian greens from West Coast Seeds. You can also go to a seed swapping event like Seedy Saturdays/Sundays held in different locations around the province. Toronto Botanical Gardens is hosting a Seedy Saturday this weekend, February 23, 2019 from 10am to 3pm. We also know that freshly picked produce has the most nutrients in it; so that lettuce you picked in the morning is nutritionally better than the one that has been picked a week or two ago and shipped here by truck.
There are a few rules to follow when starting a vegetable garden:
1. Start with things that you want to eat daily or every other day: Lettuces, chards, kales, spinach, Asian greens and herbs grow quickly and can be picked and will regrow all season.
2. Plant vegetables in a variety of colors to maximize your phytonutrient intake: Dragon Carrots, Merlot Lettuce, Rainbow Kale, Purple Cherokee tomatoes and others provide a rainbow of vegetables for your plate. Take advantage of the unusual variety of seeds available to order online and make your plate a rainbow of colors.
3. Plant in succession: Planting greens that will grow in spring, followed by beans, tomatoes and cucumbers that will grow in the heat of the summer, followed by fall and winter grown carrots, beets, Asian greens and kales allow you to use your garden for the majority of the year.
4. Start small and work your way up: Don't try to plant too much in your first year and don't fret is something dies - you can always plant more seeds in its place. Start with a small space that will be manageable based on the amount of time you have. Once plants are established all they need is a little water and some compost mid-way through the growing season.
Make sure to enjoy the putting your hands in the dirt as being outside in nature has a calming and therapeutic effect on our bodies.
The warm weather we've been having this week, makes it feel like it’s the end of March not the end of February. I’ve been ordering seeds online and buying them at The Evergreen Brickworks as I cannot control the urge to try out new things this year in the garden. After much research on the internet and trial and error with various types of plants, I have learned that we can grow many things in fall, winter and early spring in our zone 6a city of Toronto.
Asian greens, brassicas, mustards, spinach, and certain types of cold hardy lettuces can survive most of the fall and winter in our climate. Some new varieties I’m planting this year include Red Striped Mauna, Toy Choi (a baby bok choy), Mache, TFM Frizzee, Red Wave Mustard, Astro Arugula and Clayton. I ordered them online from West Coast Seeds. All these greens can be planted very early in the spring when the weather is above 4 Celsius.
It is important when gardening almost year round that you add amendments to the soil in between plantings to replenish the soil of nutrients and get the best harvest possible. With the warm weather over the weekend, I went outside to the garden and got our raised beds ready for spring planting. I added some glacial rock dust to put some minerals and trace elements back into the soil, as well as sea compost, azomite, wood ash (from untreated wood burned in fireplace) and bloodmeal.
I also put in plastic hoops (made from a roll of plumbing conduit) and covered them with 6-mil poly plastic (the kind used for vapor barrier in houses) that I bought at Home Depot. This year I’m using binder clips to help secure the plastic to the hoops. You can also use bricks or stones to anchor the plastic to the ground so it doesn’t fly around when it gets windy. Putting the plastic on creates a mini greenhouse and warms the soil up so that when I do plant the seeds/seedlings outside the soil is at the right temperature for germination.
Hi I'm Vesna Bosnar. I'm a mother, architect, gardener, explorer, educator and scientist. I want to share my love of gardening and learning through exploring and experimenting in the garden and kitchen with your family. Please join me to try out new things and allow your minds to explore all the possibilities of vegetable gardening and cooking.