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Tips for Starting Your Garden

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

When starting a garden, there are many factors to consider: whether you are starting from seed; the gardening zone you are in; and the types of plants you will be planting. Generally, March is a good time to either start planning, or be growing your seedlings. But here we are in April, and it’s definitely not too late to get started. Here are some tips to growing a garden.

Start your seedlings

Yes, your seedlings should have been started in March. But it’s not too late! There are some cool hacks if you start your seedlings now. First, where possible, choose short-season variants of the plants you want to grow. These will be quicker to germinate. Then soak your seeds (try weak chamomile tea for the soak), which may help them germinate faster. It can also help to invest in heat mats and grow lights to keep everything warm and moist, then fertilize at the first sign of sprouting.

Lastly, you can always try some kitchen appliances to help you speed up your seedling process. Here’s a fun story of an Ottawa scientist using her Instant Pot to help her seeds germinate faster.

Try planting your cole crops/stem brassicas directly outside

If you didn’t start them from seeds indoors, you can plant your broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage directly into your garden now. If you are buying seedlings (or were on the ball enough to start them in March), you can put them in the ground by about May 10th (but be prepared to cover them – the last average frost in this area is May 27th).

Plan your garden

While you will probably want to wait until May to plant your garden, you should start planning now. You can usually get away with putting peas, spinach, chard, beets, radishes, turnip, carrots, and onions in the ground in the first week of May. Your potatoes, beans, and corn should be in by the middle of May.

Part of what you want to plan is how to organize your garden. Where do you have vertical space you can utilize to support plants like peas that grow up? Where does your garden get less sun? You might want to focus on things like kale and chard there, which need less sun. Where in your garden is the sunniest? Make sure to plant things like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, corn, and squash in these areas, as they need more sun to thrive.

Consider which plants help each other to grow. One of the gardening tricks we can learn from our Indigenous friends is planting beans, squash, and corn together – the Three Sisters. The corn supports the beans like a pole, the beans provide nitrogen to nourish all three plants, and the squash shade the roots and help suppress weeds (and pests). There are many tricks like this – plants that support each other. A little planning, and your plants can do some of the work for you.

Yes, the best time to start your garden might have been weeks ago. But, as the saying goes, the next best time is right now!

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