Content contributed by Shifting Growth
Shared garden plots are becoming increasingly popular as more people live in multi-family homes in urban areas but still want to grow their own food. Whether your condo has a garden that residents share, or you’ve got a plot in one of the city’s many community gardens, the basics of gardening remain the same. However, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the best of your shared garden plot. In preparation for the Spring growing season, our friends at Shifting Growth share recommendations for new gardeners and suggestions on the best cool-weather friendly plants.
5 TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME COMMUNITY GARDENERS
1. Plant what you love to eat! No point seeding broccoli if you’re more of a cauliflower fan!
2. Give your seeds and starts room at the beginning. You want to make sure they have room to grow (up, down, sideways) as the season warms.
3. Consider the sun. Some plants grow tall (peas, tomatoes, kale), while others (lettuces, radish, beets) rarely grow above eight inches. You want to make sure you don’t plant a row of peas along the southern edge of your raised garden bed where they’ll grow four feet tall and cast a shadow over your bed for the entirety of June. Similarly, some plants prefer direct sunlight, while others prefer shady conditions, which a little directional planning can assist.
4. Choose wisely. Community gardens do unfortunately experience garden theft, and some crops are more susceptible than others. Tomatoes, peppers, gourds (like zucchini, squash, cucumber) and eggplant are often easier targets compared to salad greens, kale, chard and subterranean veggies like radishes, carrots and beets. Also, since you’re not likely to visit your community garden every day, choose lower maintenance plants that don’t need to be tended to on a daily basis.
5. Consider diversity. “Mono-cropping” kale is a good idea, in theory, if you love kale, but what happens when the aphids appear in June and start decimating your sole crop? Companion planting charts like this one show you which plants compliment and protect one another as from common garden pests. Flowers and herbs also do great things in a veg garden, including attracting pollinators, repelling pests and adding colour and zest to your garden kitchen.
COOL WEATHER CROPS TO GET YOUR GARDEN STARTED
With Spring starting, the prospect of freshly grown produce can feel far, far away. But this time of year is a great time to get seeding and planting. These cool conditions can produce some of the most flavourful leaves and veggies of the growing season!
For the best results, consider starting your seeds indoors or buying baby starts from the garden store. Make sure to give your kale plants plenty of space (as much as 12 inches between plants) so they’re not packed together come August. Kale is the gift that that keeps on giving: plant it in April of 2018 and there’s a good chance you’ll still be harvesting into April 2019.
This nutrient-rich green does best in the cool shoulder seasons on either side of summer. Direct seed in rows about two inches deep, two inches apart, and prepare to thin your seedlings to prevent overcrowding. If you love spinach (and who doesn’t, right, Popeye?), there’s no better time to grow it. Summer is simply too late for spinach: heat will scald the leaves and stunt the plant’s growth.
Another super tasty root vegetable, and arguably the easiest, most no-nonsense thing you can plant–there really ought to be an expression, “Growing like radishes.” Direct seed about an inch apart and watch these little gems balloon to full size in just a few weeks. Tons of different types to choose from, so be adventurous.
Peas (snow, snap, sugar) do great in cold conditions, and are often the first seeds you plant in early spring. Be sure to consider the needs of the variety; some plants are ‘bush’ peas, others grow tall as vines. For bush varieties, you’ll want to ensure enough space for the plant to ‘bush out’. For climbers, you’ll need to install a trellis, pole or string structure to assist the plant’s vertical growth.
You’ll find these seed packets at any garden store, though some are tastier than others (West Coast Seeds offers a few excellent blends). Simply dig a shallow furrow, sprinkle a thin row of seeds, cover over and water regularly. In a few weeks, you’ll be eating the most luscious, fully flavoured salads imaginable. These greens are great for the cut-and-come-again approach to harvesting, so be sure to plant them in dense, straight rows. Hot tip: seed in succession every three weeks or so into June and you’ll have fresh salad greens into the fall.