Choosing what to grow in your vegetable garden is at once a fun, and sometimes overwhelming, undertaking. When you look at all of the options available it is easy to get carried away, or overcome by choice! Learning which vegetables and varieties work best for both you and your garden can be the process of a lifetime, but Farmer Jo has a few ideas to get you started.
Single Vs. Multiple Harvest
One of the first things to consider when choosing crops is how many harvests the plant will provide. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, beans, lettuce, and kale all allow you to “cut-and-come-again”, meaning that a single plant provides multiple harvests. In a small space garden this is a particularly important consideration. You want to make sure that you are maximizing the space you have available, and multi harvest vegetables are a great way to do this.
Single harvest crops, such as carrots, beets, radishes, and kohlrabi, are only possible to harvest once. Once you pull that carrot out of the ground, no other carrot is going to grow in its place! The trick with these is succession planting, or planting a small amount throughout the season so that there is always something ready to harvest. Do you need a five foot row of cilantro all at once? Probably not. Try planting it in one foot sections every two weeks and then you’ll have fresh cilantro throughout the season.
Direct Seeding Vs. Transplants
The second thing to consider is whether you will be planting the seeds directly into your outdoor garden (direct seeding), or if you will need to transplant (small seedlings). There are a few considerations to be made when choosing between the two options, namely season length, transplantability, and plant strength.
Season Length: There are some plants, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and okra, that simply require longer to ripen than our short growing season allows. In this case, you will need to plant seeds indoors earlier in the season and then move the plants outdoors once the risk of frost has passed. If you don’t have the space or interest in doing this, Ottawa Farm Fresh is here to help! Head to our website and pre-order the plants that you would like and we’ll do the propagation. Our strong and vigorous vegetable seedlings will get your garden off to a great start.
Transplantability: There are some plants that simply do not like to have their delicate roots disturbed and much prefer to be planted where they will stay for the season. It’s also much easier to plant only once in situ - one and done! Crops that are suitable for direct sowing include beets, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, and corn.
Seedling vigor: One of the benefits of planting seedlings rather than direct sowing seeds is plant strength. As your seeds poke their little heads through the soil they are easy prey for pests, disease, and weeds. However, if you plant well developed seedlings they are strong enough to withstand some of the tests that nature has in store for them. Cucumber, zucchini, and sunflower seedlings are particularly susceptible to pest attack early in the season - the neighbourhood squirrels and chipmunks just love those tasty greens!
When looking for seeds it's important to look for quality stock from a reputable company. This will give you a better germination rate, as well as more vigorous plants. We'll be carrying Northern Seeds in the Farm Store in the spring, but also recommend La Ferme Coopérative Tourne-Sol and High Mowing Seeds
(Cick the play button and then 'f' to watch full-screen)
If you're looking for more information about when to start seeds, as well as planting density, then look no further! This handy Planting Chart from High Mowing Seeds will give you everything you need to get your garden started.
Tip - our average last frost date here in Ottawa is around May 6-10th, but many people wait to plant out tender crops until the long weekend in May.
And until next time, keep on growin'!