How to set up your food garden for success


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Spring is here! Don't let the calendar fool you, but Mother Nature is changing; and we can only change with it if we want to maximize the fruits of our labour! Now that the weather is starting to warm up, with the cherry blossoms out in full force and daffodils screaming for sunlight, it is finally time to start breaking a sweat and getting dirty.


Here is a list of a few things you might want to keep in mind for preparation of your beloved planters, beds, boxes, and/or green spaces:

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  1. Tools/Equipment

Everybody should at least have a shovel. If you don't, I highly recommend you get some form of digging tool. While it's fun to get dirty every now and then, it makes light work of most jobs and your back will thank you for it. In the spirit of spring, it's time to organize the mess of the yard that was left after you got sidetracked bringing in the last of summer's harvest. Maybe look at investing in some new tools that will help the new projects you have in mind for this year. This year I added about 1000L of rain water storage capacity to the handful of barrels I already owned. Looking towards storing the amount of rain we get can seriously help ease the stress of watering restrictions later on during summer.

  1. Yard work

Easily the most procrastinated area of your work load; if prepared, you can be leagues ahead of your neighbors. Prune the perennials, trim the hedges, rake those leaves, whack those weeds, and compost whatever/whenever you can. It won't be short work, but if you tackle each project at a time (and get the kids out there), the list will soon evaporate. Don't forget the little things like checking the health of existing plants, or avoiding the spread of strong growers like hops (take shovel and cut square around plant at least one foot deep to cut underground shoots).

 

  • cut back existing plants
  • rake the leaves
  • clean the gutters
  • check the bird feeders, boxes, mason bee hives
  • turn over the compost
  • KILL THE WEEDS
  • 'Remove' unwanted pests
  • give the trellises a shake to check for cracks
  • add yard trimmings to compost
  • build a new planter or three? 

 

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  1. Planter/Garden Bed Soil prep

Everybody can forget that soil needs good food too. Either source some humus-rich compost from a store or landscaping company, or just use the bottom of what has been culturing in the bin outside from all the kitchen scraps and yard trimmings from last year. Give a generous top dressing and mix into the existing soil. Also, I have never had a plant refuse a bit of extra compost around the base; so make sure to feed them some fresh microbes as well.

When sourcing soil or compost, sometimes buying bulk is cheaper than running to the store for a few dozen 25L bags of the generic stuff. I personally recommend Dalton Trucking out of North Vancouver. While completely biased due to knowing the family for over almost 15 years, I have nothing to say but great things.

Regardless of who you choose, make sure to plan an area for easily storing a big pile of dirt. Throw down a tarp on top of the grass to avoid having to rake up crumbs later. By sitting a big pile, it allows you to take when you need it, to the areas the truck can't dump.

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Raised bed Set up Soil Delivery 2 my green space mygreenspace.co

  1. Planning your plants

Now comes the fun part... Get outside, draw some maps of your planters, and start thinking. If you're like me, you already have most ideas already floating back and forth inside your head. We just need to get those and the rest down onto paper.



Think about what your personal needs are (families and possibly friends included*), and figure out how you want to allocate your space to match them. There is plenty of information on companion planting and how to plant specific groups of plants together for space requirements. We will go into that more as the seasons develop so stay tuned. A good suggestion is to remember how big each plant is going to get, and how much work each one is going to take. (Hops can grow up to 8 meters in a single season: do you have what 'it' takes?)

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  1. Seeding your future

Finally, we can get those suckers in some dirt! Or water, or jiffy pads, egg shells, rockwool, etc... Now that the hard work is either done, we can at least move on to starting some seedlings. Over a cold and dreary winter, we all may have forgotten what seeds take to sustain themselves; ample light and correct spectrums, warmth, and hydration (sometimes a cold snap). No matter how easy it was to get things right last year, we need to remember how easy it is to get things wrong things year. One of those things: windows.

 

Glass has a very frustrating way of breaking the correct light spectrum for plants to thrive in a seedling stage. Just having seeds by a windowsill can absolutely get you going; but will often leave you with spindly and reaching plants with less support from a weakened structure. Growing under the correct spectrum will not only increase the strength of your plant in both the short term and over its life time, but also will give you a strong head start. Trying to recreate this indoors doesn't come without its obstacles, unfortunately. Using a heating mat when you start your seeds is arguably one of the best methods to starting seeds indoors.

 

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Growing outside in a small green house can provide plenty of the correct light spectrum for your little seedlings, but usually requires a bit more warmth during night time to avoid stunting the plants. Growing inside will require supplemental light, but it most certainly can be done. Using DAYLIGHT CFL bulbs from Rona, Home Depot, or a simple T5 grow light kit, we can start our seedlings off well! We will go more into that in our next post!

Starting the growing season can often be daunting and overwhelming; but breaking it down into smaller steps and only taking one at a time can help turn it into a project instead of a chore. Make sure to remember what you plan on doing, how you plan on doing it, and all the things you will need along the way. If you act now, you'll be happy later. So... so.... happy.

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Grow your own food. In any space. No experience required. 
Download our free gardening app today. 

Planning. Reminders. Tutorials. Troubleshooting. Community 


About The Author 

Ben Patton grew up in the wonderful Lynn Valley of North Vancouver, with the beautiful forests surrounding him. After being inspired by a simple few pepper plants, he transformed his parent's backyard into a makeshift farm; growing everything from lettuce and spinach to raspberries and Saskatoon berries. He hopes to inspire others to growing their own food get dirty in the yard. 

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