Have you gone to the grocery store or farm market lately and been aghast at the price of some of your favourite vegetables? According to Statistics Canada, the price of even the humble celery stalk went up a whopping 19 per cent last year.
Here’s a solution: Start your own vegetable garden. OK, so you might feel a bit intimidated or you might think it’s too much trouble or you don’t have the room. Perhaps you live in an apartment or condo and the only outside space you have is your small deck.
No problem, says Tricia Sedgwick, founder of The World in a Garden. “You don’t need a lot of space to grow vegetables … you can buy small raised containers that fit perfectly on small decks or patios. If you are really tight with space consider starting small by growing lettuce or herbs in your windowsill."
Now more than ever is a great time to consider starting your own a small vegetable garden. Whether you live in a condo or a home, you are a newbie or seasoned gardener, Sedgwick has some simple ideas to help anyone grown their own vegetables.
“First, ask yourself what vegetables you spend the most on in the grocery store. Then find out if they can be grown in our West Coast climate,” says Sedgwick. “Beyond saving money there’s so much value in growing your own vegetables … it is satisfying for one, you know the conditions your vegetables are grown in and a garden can improve your mental health.”
In addition, Vancouver is fast becoming a hub for kale enthusiasts, says Sedgwick. She went on to say: “Why are we shipping kale from California in December when we can grow kale so easily here? There are so many varieties of kale and it only needs four hours of light a day to grow.”
Here are some of the questions and tips Sedgwick is most often asked for.
What vegetables can you plant in spring?
- Kale, all varieties
- Cucumber (indoors)
- Leafy greens and lettuce
How often do I need to water them?
Again, every plant is different. Tomatoes don’t like a lot of water as they will split, whereas squashes like cucumber and zucchini need more water.
What is the advantage of using a greenhouse?
You can start your growing season earlier because it is warmer. Many people have seed starts in containers so they can transplant to their garden later in the spring. Start seeds in trays inside the greenhouse. As the seedlings emerge, transplant them into larger pots and keep them in the greenhouse until all danger of frost is past.
You can also grow heat-loving plants in there like tomatoes, pepper, tomatillos, hot peppers, watermelon and more.
Do you need to vent a greenhouse?
That depends on what plants you are growing but it should have natural air flow through it. Air and wind are important elements for plants.
Are greenhouses expensive to maintain?
Greenhouses come in different sizes, from simple cold frames to full-size glass structures. Depending on size and sophistication you can pay anywhere from $100 to thousands. A greenhouse can include electricity, heat, benches, shelves and lighting. A small greenhouse costs you the expense of the materials and seeds.
What vegetables grow well together in a container?
Companion planting is one way to grow vegetables and this website offers great tips.
Another way is to put taller plants at the back or against the wall so they are not in the way of shorter plants. As an example you can put tomatoes in the back row, basil in the middle and cucumber in the front so that the cucumber grows over the edge of the container and does not take space inside the box.
Tips you need to know:
- Most vegetables need six hours of sunshine.
- You can set yourself up for gardening bliss by growing easy vegetables: radishes, spinach, lettuce, bush beans, broad beans, spinach, beets, chard and kohlrabi. “Although asparagus initially takes five years to grow, after that they are extremely easy.”
- Don’t forget gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and komatsuna (mustard spinach). Mescluns (mixed salad greens), these all do very well in containers.
- Besides sunshine, your seeds need fertile, well-drained soil that is more alkaline than acidic.
- You shouldn't grow the same vegetables in the same location two years running. Why? Because you deplete the soil of all the same nutrients, so you should alternate to keep the healthy soil and alive. Growing a wide range of vegetables promotes a healthier, more balanced environment where pests and diseases are less likely to get out of control.
So grab your garden gloves and get digging because fresh, healthy vegetables are the best reward possible.