Are you planning a vegetable garden this year? Trying to decide what to plant, whether or not to start seeds indoors and what else you need to consider?
I’d love to help because I love vegetable gardening. There’s nothing better than watching a seed turn into something you can eat. Perhaps it’s even more remarkable here on the prairies where it all happens so fast. One week we’re threatened with a snow storm, the next we’re out in the garden planting our hardiest plants and within mere weeks we’re harvesting our first crop. It’s simply amazing.
I want you to have that feeling.
This article on planning a vegetable garden encourages you to think carefully about your garden plans in hopes of avoiding disappointment and frustration. Gardening takes a lot of planning, work, determination and patience. You’re working with Mother Nature – she can be fickle and turn your best laid plans topsy turvy! Go into it with eyes wide open. Be prepared, have fun and enjoy the process – regardless of the outcome.
Start with these questions when choosing what to grow.
6 Questions for Planning a Vegetable Garden
1. What do you love to grow and eat?
2. Do you want to start seeds yourself or buy plants?
3. What veggies are easiest to grow?
If you are new to gardening, you’ll have a much more pleasant experience if you start with a few time-tested, consistent winners. Talk to your gardening friends and neighbours and asks them which veggies consistently produce well for them. Every corner of our province, even our city has unique conditions, so what does well in one place, might not do so well in another. That’s why it’s important to get the local perspective. Local gardeners will know all about your weather patterns, soil conditions, common pests, pollinator patterns (yes, it does matter!), rain, etc. If you don’t know any local gardeners, check for a local gardening Facebook group like Gardens Manitoba.
For planning a vegetable garden here in Winnipeg, with our crazy heavy clay soil, I would say the easiest veggies to grow are the following. Just remember, every vegetable has unique needs, be sure to read and follow instructions for planting each one.
peas – shelling peas and/or sugar snap peas
bush beans – try yellow, burgundy and green wax beans
peppers – I find hot peppers are easier than sweet peppers
If you lighten our heavy clay soil at the beginning of the season, root crops like the following are also good.
potatoes – if you don’t mind dealing with potato beetles
4. What veggies are just too much time and effort for you?
5. What’s the condition of your garden and your soil?
Is your garden ready for the kind of veggies you have in mind? Do you have a fence to protect your garden from deer or bunnies? What’s the condition of your soil? When was the last time you added some organic material into your soil? How will you water your garden? Your answers to these questions may impact which veggies you choose to plant and what kind of prep work you need to plan for. For example, I know that I can’t successfully grow carrots in my clay garden unless I loosen the soil 6 inches deep, add some compost, cover the seeds with a light layer of soil, keep everything evenly moist and cover it with a light layer of straw.
If you’re converting a lawn into a garden, chances are your soil is missing vital nutrients and is too compact to have a great crop of anything – you’ll have to add some nice three way mix.
6. What are your summer plans and how will they impact your gardening?
Last summer, my family and I had several adventures planned that took us away from the garden for 3 weeks in July and 3 weeks in August. That’s prime gardening time! For a while I thought I would have to give up the garden altogether. I love the garden, the soil, the seeds, the growth, the weeding (weird, but true), and of course the harvest. The thought of not having my plot to putter around in was depressing, so I ran through my list of options:
- don’t plant a garden
- ask friends and family to watch my garden
- hire someone who provides a professional garden sitting service
- plant a cover crop for the season – clover or alfalfa (not sure what my neighbours would think of that)
- share my garden with someone else
- plan a veggie garden that would work around my schedule and hope that Mother Nature will offer up the optimal conditions for such a plan to work
In the end, I did a little bit of #2, #5 and #6. Number six meant I had to study my handy dandy planting chart to see which plants to grow, when to start them and which plants I shouldn’t grow.
For those of you who are planning a vegetable garden this year, I say whoo hoo, go for it and let me know how it’s going for you.
If you love the idea of fresh garden veggies, but you realize you don’t have the space, time or energy for all the little things that go with growing a successful garden, not to worry. Try a pot of herbs or tomatoes on the patio and go visit your local Farmer’s Market. Totally legit!
Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist, speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.