It’s time to get started planning out your vegetable garden so you can be ready to put trowel to dirt as soon as the snow melts.
Location, Location, Location
Perhaps the most important step is figuring out the best spot to put your garden. Six hours of sun per day is really a minimum. We can help you get around a lot of obstacles – but the sun remains stubbornly non-negotiable. Your presence in your garden assures its success, so make sure your garden is also easily accessible, and has easy access to watering. Allowing a little bit of gardening a part of your daily routine is key.
Choosing your varieties
Planting your own garden means you get to have a lot more variety in your produce than you would at the store. Experiment with purple carrots, striped tomatoes and yellow beets, but make sure to plant things you like to eat.
In Montreal’s short Zone 5b growing season, you can’t afford to wait for slow growing crops. Best to favour vegetables that mature early and and harvest often. Avoid space hungry slow growers like corn, squash or Brussels sprouts unless you have lots of room. Instead choose leafy greens, root vegetables and heavy fruiters like tomatoes, peas and beans. 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.
Plant with the seasons
Montreal has 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, usually mid-April. This allows you to get a full spring season in before you plant your hot weather veggies like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants at the end of May once things heat up. Replant again with cool weather veggies again in August once things start to cool for a fall harvest. Check the back of your seed pack. It’ll tell you the soil temperature your plant wants to go in the soil. 10oC to 15oC means spring, 18oC to 22oC means summer.
Spacing out your garden beds
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 make 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 that you can fit 4 into each square foot.
Putting it all together
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 protect it from animals.
It is crucial to put your tallest vegetables to the North side of your garden. That way they wont cast shade on their neighbours. Put pen to paper and plan it all out. Draw out your garden – a box for each season, divide into square feet, and plot out what goes where. See an example plan to guide you.
Writer Byline: Tereska Gesing is the owner of Urban Seedling [www.urbanseedling.com], an edible landscaping and vegetable gardening service in Montreal. She grows 65 different kinds of vegetables, berries and fruit trees with her husband and two young children in her Verdun backyard. Find out more at www.urbanseedling.com