With the rise in food prices and a greater focus on healthier eating, many people are looking to grow and harvest their own vegetables. Growing your own produce is a simple and inexpensive form of urban farming.
Growing a vegetable garden has many benefits. It’s an easy way to save money, stay active, and make healthier food choices. It also allows you to control the growing environment in your garden, avoiding the use of pesticides and other chemicals, and ensuring you have access to nutritious and healthy food. Growing your own food helps mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing food miles (the distance food travels from farm to fork) and greenhouse gas emissions, and is a great educational tool and activity for your kids.
Where to start
Choosing the right location is an important step. Most vegetables need about six to eight hours of sunlight per day and should be in a location that is not too windy. Look for a spot with adequate drainage so that plants and soil don’t become overly waterlogged or water pools in different areas and your plants rot.
It is also important to provide your plants with the right nutrients. This will help you get a better crop yield. To provide valuable nutrients, you can add organic material to your soil, e.g. B. Compost from grass clippings, dry leaves and garden waste.
Most vegetables need to be planted every year unless they are perennials such as asparagus, rhubarb and some herbs. Not all types of vegetables can be planted at the same time. There are two seasons for vegetables – cool and warm:
- Cool season vegetables include peas, lettuce and carrots. The floor must be about 10O C to start planting this vegetable.
- Warm season vegetables include tomatoes and peppers. For optimal planting, the soil must be as warm as possible. Consider planting these plants in late May or early June.
Keep in mind that some plants mature quickly and have a short harvest time (e.g. lettuce), while others (e.g. tomatoes) take longer to be produced. By planting at different times you can have crops all season long.
What to plant
If you’re new to growing vegetables, here are a few worry-free choices to consider when planning your garden.
lettuce – Lettuce is a leafy green that grows well in spring and fall. Lettuce grows quickly, so plant only a small amount of seed at a time. Remember to water your lettuce plants frequently.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes come in many different varieties. They love direct sunlight and are perfect for spring and early summer planting. Tomatoes can produce a hefty yield.
paprika – Bell peppers are a warm-season crop that come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and levels of heat. Peppers have a long growing season of 60 to 90 days. Peppers love sunlight and love moist soil. They are best planted in late spring.
carrots – Carrots are a cool season crop grown in spring. They prefer the sun from six to ten hours a day. Soil should be free-draining and sandy for best yield.
Spinach – Spinach is a leafy green and a popular crop to plant in both very early spring and fall. In the cool season, spinach has similar growing conditions and requirements as lettuce. Spinach tolerates full sun to light shade.
Don’t have a large outdoor area or feel overwhelmed? You can start with a small garden or try growing plants in pots on balconies, a porch, or even indoors. Leafy greens, herbs, and tomatoes are great gardening options in a small space and grow well in a small raised bed or pot. Indoor gardening is also an option when outdoor space is not available or you want to grow all year round. Just remember that the same sunlight, water, drainage, and nutrient requirements for large outdoor gardens apply to indoor growing as well.
Now that you have enough information to get started, it’s time to dust off your trowel, get your hands dirty, start planting, and then share your harvest and experiences with friends and neighbors.
Visit mississauga.ca/homegrown to learn more about what the city and community are doing to support urban farming in Mississauga.
For growing tips and detailed advice on creating an urban food garden, read Ecosource’s Grown in Mississauga Training Manual.