Plant Roots Now for Vegetable Gardens this Summer

Nourish’s Jill Bishop offers tips for getting started

Charlotte Gick sees the fruits of her labour.

Citizens who plant a seed or two now can have fresh vegetables and herbs in kitchens throughout Peterborough this summer.

Nourish says it’s the perfect time to get started growing food and producing produce for the months to come.

Jill Bishop, community food cultivator for Nourish, chats with Electric City Magazine about the benefits of growing one’s own food and offers tips for success.

“There are the health benefits of not only having fresh, healthy food grown locally but also of getting outside and getting exercise,” Jill says.

For community gardeners, the perks increase through the social interaction with neighbours. However, “even with a front-yard garden, people tend to stop and chat,” she notes.

While it might sound obvious, there’s sometimes a temptation to plant a variety of vegetables when starting out instead of sticking to foods typically enjoyed in the household. “Grow what you would like to eat.”

Before heading outdoors, Jill recommends sketching out a plan on paper for the garden. “I tell people to picture themselves standing in the garden in August and what they’re hoping to be eating and what they’re hoping it looks like and work backwards from there.”

Lettuces, such as leafy greens, kales and spinach, are good choices for beginner gardeners as they’re quick-growing and can go straight into the ground. Root crops — beets, radishes and carrots — tend to do well as do beans.

Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, eggplant, cabbage and other vegetables that have a larger fruit and take longer to grow can be started now indoors from seeds in pots. Here’s a seed-starting chart for reference.

The next step is to prepare the garden plot. A good beginner size is 10 feet by 10 feet. It will yield a good harvest and be a productive experience, not overwhelming, Jill notes. Maintenance of a garden that size, which includes weeding, watering, picking and harvesting, would be manageable.

“There’s some ongoing maintenance that’s important for having a successful garden,” Jill says. “Hopefully people find that work enjoyable.”

Here are some basic tips from Nourish for vegetable gardening:

Choose Plants Sensibly

Ask yourself: What will you use the most of? What do you and your family like to eat?

Feed Plants Naturally

Add compost and manure to your garden in the spring. If you have compost bins in your garden you can add all of your excess green materials and use them as compost again.

Practise Rotation

If you plant the same types of vegetables in the same spot in your garden year after year it depletes nutrients and can encourage disease.

Mulch Well

This will help keep down weeds and keep moisture in the soil. Keep on top of weeding. Weeds rob your plants of water and nutrients.

Keep Your Garden Clean

Remove dead or diseased foliage and weeds regularly for optimal garden health.

Water Wisely

Watering in the hot sun or evening can burn your plants or leave them vulnerable to disease. If possible, water in the morning and always water the soil directly not the leaves.

Give Space for Plants to Grow

It is easy to get overly-excited in the spring and try to cram as many plants as possible into your

garden. Remember that they will grow a lot over the season and will need lots of room to do so.

Plant Some Flowers

Flowers add beauty and will also attract bees, butterflies, and act as natural pest repellents. Some great flowers to use are marigolds, nasturtiums, bee balm, black-eyed susan, butterfly weed, and coreopsis.

Many herbs such as borage, dill, parsley, thyme, and basil also attract pollinators.

For more information, call Nourish at 705-743-3526 ext. 115 or e-mail growing@nourishproject.ca

Stay tuned to the Nourish website for the announcement of upcoming, hands-on gardening workshops this summer.

Photos courtesy of Nourish.

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