New Garden – the basics

Here to help you Get Growing

Maybe you are completely new to vegetable gardening and feel overwhelmed by the idea.  We are here to help you get started with a few easy to follow tips:

Know your Zone – Understand your zone is important when choosing the types of plants to grow and when and how to get them planted.  Knowing your climate is important for understanding the timing of transplanting and seeding. Some vegetables need a long warm growing season so in order to be successful with these here in SK you will need to start them indoors in March/April or purchase seedlings or “transplants” from a garden centre.  

Selecting you garden site – Are you starting from scratch or do you have an existing garden bed? Do you want to incorporate raised beds? Will you need to remove lawn? Doing a little planning over the winter will help you set out a plan for spring.

Vegetables need a minimum of 6hrs of sunlight per day, the more the better, so select a location that receives ample sunlight. Avoid areas with tree roots and be aware of the drainage.  

If this is your first garden bed your soil will likely need amending (see the ‘Soil Preparation’ tip below) but established gardens also benefit from the addition of organic matter.

If you are new to growing vegetables or have limited space you may want to start with a few raised beds or containers (large and deep enough for roots to establish). Search online buy & sell sites for used clay pots, whiskey barrel planters, horse troughs or anything that will make a good garden container. 

Choosing your crops – Do you want to grow root vegetables or leafy vegetables? Do you want tomatoes  & peppers? What about zucchini or other types of squash?  What you are able to plant is largely determined by your garden site, the amount of sun your garden will get and how much time /effort you want to devote to maintaining your garden.

Beginners find good success with plants like cherry tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and herbs.  Some crops are more difficult to grow without pesticides (cabbage and broccoli for example), so if growing organically is your goal you will need to do a little research. 

It is a good idea to be realistic about the types of produce you and your family enjoy cooking with. There is no point in growing 4 hot pepper plants if no one is going to eat them!

Purchasing seedlings or seeds – As we mentioned, some crops are easiest to grow in SK if you purchase already established seedlings.  These baby plants are simply transplanted into your garden and have a head start so you are more likely to enjoy a harvest.  

Unfortunately not all crops can be transplanted (corn, carrots and other root crops for example) and these are grown directly from seeds sown in the soil.  Your seed packet will tell you the time, spacing and depth to sow the seeds. 

Soil preparation – New and established garden beds benefit from soil enrichment. The goal of amending a garden is to break up compacted earth, improving water absorption and to replenish minerals and nutrients that have been lost over time. The process requires labour – tilling the soil and turning in organic material. You can accomplish this with hand tools or motorized tillers. The organic material can be a mixture of top soil/black earth, manure/compost, peat moss, and shredded bark (DO NOT add sand to heavy clay soil unless you are wanting to make cement!). Spread the amendments evenly (2-3 inches added) through the garden and work into the top 6 inches of the bed. This can be done in the spring or fall. 

Planting & Maintenance – Several crops such as peas, lettuce, onions, radish, beets and spinach can be direct seeded once the soil is warm enough (late April/beginning of May). You can sow these seeds at different times so that you have a supply of vegetables through the season, not maturing all at once. 

Crops that require transplanting can go in after the last chance of frost, a good rule is May long weekend, but check the local weather forecasts to be sure.  

Regular watering and weeding is crucial. Vegetable plants cannot compete with aggressive weeds so you will need to remove these by hand.  Don’t allow the soil to dry completely.  The soil should feel damp – dig down about 4” to see how far the water is penetrating. During the hottest days of summer you will need to water daily, so knowing what you can manage is vital in your garden planning. 

Growing vegetables and herbs is easy and rewarding with a little planning!