Quick and Easy Guide to a Veggie Garden

Gardening can sometimes seem daunting, and just a teeny bit terrifying.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way! We make it more complicated than it has to be. If you have a little patch of dirt that you've been eyeing, then now is the time to sow your seeds (or plants!) and get started!

I'd like to share some answers to commonly asked questions we get about our vegetable gardens. Yes, our gardens are quite large, and we grow a lot of stuff. But you don't HAVE to start out big, and in fact, a small garden may be just what your family needs. And if you happen to catch the veggie gardening bug, well then I've done something good in this world after all.

Is it too late to start?

We live in Ottawa, land of the cold, so early June is definitely not too late! It's true that some plants do well in colder temperatures (fragile greens tend to wilt in the heat,) but many plants are happy to bask in the sunshine. We're still planting seeds now, and will be putting in our seedlings (baby plants) this weekend.

Where do I begin?

Start by thinking about the three things your plants need - soil, water and sunshine. First, assess the location of your patch. Is it in full sun all day, or partial shade? That will help determine which vegetables you should choose. If you are REALLY starting from the beginning (i.e. you want to dig up some grass to actually get to the dirt,) I would suggest this really cool method to save yourself back-breaking work of grass removal. This is also a great way to kill weeds if you don't feel like pulling them.

This next step isn't necessary, but you may want to consider getting a bit of compost to mix in with your soil. And remember to use your grass clippings, leaves and food scraps (no meat or fat) to feed your garden.

Finally, you'll need a source of water nearby (duh) Hopefully you have a hose, or are willing to lug some buckets when needed!

What should I buy?

You really don't need much. A nice pair of gardening gloves will save your hands, a good shovel and trowel. 

As for whether you should start from seed or buy the baby plants, that's totally up to you. If you're reading this now and have decided to start right away, you will probably want to head to a garden centre and get some seedlings. That said, I'm still throwing seeds around like nobody's business! 

We have sadly failed at growing seeds in our home...it's a tricky business, but I'm hoping some day we will get the hang of it!

What do I plant?

This is entirely up to you and your patch location! Most veggies do well in full sun. Start with some simple things - herbs, radishes, and kale are three that I find grow easily and seem pretty pest resistant. Cherry tomatoes are great for kids! A note that squash and zucchini will take over your garden because they are GIANT plants. Think about the vegetables your family likes to consume on a regular basis, and choose from that list. Remember, though, that some of the vegetables we buy are trucked in from much warmer climates and may not grow well here.

What if I kill my plants?

I promise, if you water and maybe do a little bit of weeding, most plants will be fine (but if you have rabbits, I do feel your pain - you may need to consider some chicken wire fencing.)

Gardening is fun and exciting, and part of that comes from never knowing what you're going to get! Will something fail miserably this year? Will you run into a pesky beetle that kills all your cucumbers? Will the one veggie you thought would not work suddenly win the race? Year after year we make notes of what worked and what didn't. A "green thumb" is something that you develop over time, but even experienced gardeners can't control the environment. So don't worry about killing anything, and just have fun with it! 

Finally, make sure to involve the kiddos. Probably too obvious to say, but kids LOVE gardening. Who doesn't like getting dirty, spraying hoses and pulling stuff out of the dirt? Also, veggie gardens are a sneaky way to get your kids to eat their vegetables. Ever since they could eat solids, my babies have been pulling stuff out of our gardens as snacks. They are now quite adventurous when it comes to trying new vegetables!

Do you have a veggie garden? What made you want to start growing your own food?