Come Grow With Us (HHH Series)

Tips on gardening from Spryfield’s very own gardening guru, Marjorie Willison, and based also on the Urban Farm’s lovely gardening book, “Come Grow With Us”. These tips are from the presentation in the Head Heart Hands series on April 26, 2023 (hosted by the Spryfield Community Association).

Have you ever eaten any roots? Have you had a meal that is almost all leaves? Have you ever eaten seeds?

If you have ever eaten carrots, turnips, mustard, coriander, or a leafy salad, then your answer is YES!

How to start a garden?

Something as simple as planting a small piece of a potato in the ground (about the size of an egg), can give you half a dozen more. Gardening is an amazing way to turn a small seed into food for yourself and your family.

Plants need four main ingredients to grow: nutrients, light, water, and the right temperature. The more ideal the growing conditions are, the better your yield will be.

Whether you are gardening from an apartment or a house, sun or shade, container or ground, you can grow!

Shade vs Sun

What to grow in the shade?
If your apartment is on the shady side of the building or you have a lot of shaded growing space outside, there are lots of vegetables that you can grow! Root crops and leafy crops will grow well in the shade. As well, if you are planning to plant under a tree, consider that some trees have shallow root systems, such as maple trees, which make it difficult to have success growing.

What to grow in the sun?
Fruiting crops love the sun and typically need around 8 hours of light. This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, and zucchini.

Growing food when you live in an apartment

There are many vegetables that are not deep rooted and can grow in many types of containers. This includes lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, and other leafy crops. These plants need a solid depth of at least 8 inches (24 cm).

An old bucket with holes in the bottom could work as well. The drainage holes would actually make it the perfect growing container! Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and winter squash benefit from around 12 inches of soil depth to give the roots room to grow.

Growing food in your backyard

If you want to convert part of your lawn into a growing area. You’d be surprised where you can grow vegetables. I always say, “if it can grow weeds, it can grow crops!”

When you are planting in your backyard, it is important to choose a location with good drainage and that is easily accessible. If you have an existing garden, a good test to know whether the soil is dry enough to plant in is, “if it sticks to your boots, it is too wet!” You will need to wait until it has dried out a bit more before you can plant.

If you are building a new bed, a 4ft wide garden bed is a nice size because it allows you to walk on either side and reach inward comfortably.

You may want to build up the soil in a raised garden bed and one great option is to create a lasagna garden. This is a fantastic and cost-effective way to have the perfect garden for next year. Start by taking corrugated cardboard or a stack of old newspapers (10 sheets thick) and laying it over the existing grass or weeds. You then add in layers of compost on top, such as grass clippings, dried leaves, and fruit and vegetable scraps. You can also add in straw if you have it. The compost will break down over the next year leaving you with the perfect growing conditions for your vegetable garden.

If you are eager to get planting this year, it is still a great idea to add compost to your garden, as it can provide important nutrients for your plants. You don’t want the soil you are growing in to be made up of too much clay or sand. It is ideal to have loam soil which is a combination of sand, clay, and organic materials.

You can also plant edible landscaping! Any plant that shapes the beauty of your garden could be edible as well, such as highbush blueberry bushes, red and black currants, and fruit trees.

If you consider the nutrients, light, water, and temperature of where you are growing, you will have a great garden. Now is the perfect time to start your vegetable or fruit garden and remember, YOU CAN GROW!