Just landed on our new gardening series? Get started here.
You know you want it…but how to make it happen? It’s time to plan out your vegetable garden, so that as soon as this interminable winter loosens its grip you’re ready to sink your trowel into the soil.
Follow these 5 steps then put pen to paper and plan your best veggie garden to date.
1. Location, Location, Location. Essential to the success of your garden is its placement. You need a spot with at least 6 hours of sun per day. We can help you get around a lot of obstacles – but the sun remains stubbornly non-negotiable. Your vegetable garden also needs to be easy to get to, and easy to water. Choose a super-sunny spot that you pass by every day and is near the hose!
2. The Best Things to Plant. With so many delectable fruits and veggies available what’s a gardener to plant? Most importantly, plant what you like to eat. Don’t plant things just because they’re interesting or because you feel they belong in a garden. Next, choose things that grow quickly, and harvest early and often. In our short Zone 5b growing season, we can’t afford to wait!
Favour leafy greens and root vegetables, and avoid corn, squash and Brussels sprouts unless you have a lot of space. For fruiting veggies like tomatoes choose smaller varieties to be able to harvest as early as possible. Take a look at the number of days to harvest on the back of your seed pack to be sure. Ideally you want all your vegetables to mature in less than 80 days.
3. Plant with the Seasons. In Montreal, we have 3 very distinct growing seasons, with a cool spring and fall and a positively molten summer. Take advantage of these different climates by planting your cool weather veggies (leafy greens, root vegetables) as soon as the snow melts. Replanting once things heat up at the end of May with hot weather plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, and replant with cool weather veggies again in August once things start to cool for a fall harvest. Maximize your small spaces! Check the back of your seed pack. It’ll tell you the soil temperature your plant wants to go in the soil. 10 – 15°C means spring, 18 – 22°C means summer.
4. Spacing – How to Plant Intensively. Rather than planting in long rows, separated by wide alleys, you can plant in compact raised beds. Give plants exactly the amount of space they need to grow to maturity with their leaves touching. This shades out weeds, protects the soil, helps retain humidity and generally makes the garden easier to maintain.
As an added bonus, you can fit an average of 120 plants in a 10’ x 3’ raised bed. To figure out the spacing for each variety, the back of your seed pack will tell you how much space your plants need. 6” (15cm) between plants means you can fit 4 into each square foot.
5. The Nuts & Bolts. To get the most out of your small spaces, plan for a trellis to grow climbing vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas vertically. Add a discrete fence around your garden to keep out critters. It’s crucial to put your tallest vegetables to the North side of your garden. That way they won’t cast shade on their neighbours. Trellis to the north!
Scribble, sketch and find north in your yard (there’s an app for that!). Draw out your garden – a box for each season, divide into square feet, and plot out what goes where. See this example plan to guide you.