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Last modified: 2022-07-25 | Approximate reading time 7 mins
We often imagine that having a vegetable garden on your land requires a green thumb and knowing everything about plants. With a little preparation, you can also have a vegetable garden from which you can pick fresh vegetables all summer!
We will see together what a vegetable plant is, how to get and maintain them, the facilities available as well as the best practices to be able to enjoy a beautiful vegetable garden year after year.
By definition, a vegetable plant is an edible plant that can be grown in an orchard. The definition can be extended a little further to say that it is about what can be grown in an orchard, but which is neither a grain nor a fruit. The first shortened definition welcomes tomatoes in this understanding of a vegetable plant even if it is a fruit, essential to a successful orchard.
Vegetable plants include, among others:
There are many options available to you when it comes to which vegetable plants you want to choose - vary your vegetable garden and most importantly, go according to your taste! Do not over-grow a vegetable or herb that you love a little less at the risk of losing it, or give some of your crops to family and friends!
Before you think about what you want to grow, you need to know how much space will be available for planting your shoots. A planter (also known as a garden container) can be placed directly on the ground or raised. Both types of planters work equally well, but a box placed directly on the ground will prevent the grass under the box from growing, which means you will have to re-green where the box was if you eventually move it.
A ground planter should be seen as a more permanent measure and a raised (or legged) planter is a temporary solution. It is also important to note that a planter on legs is ideal for growing aromatic herbs and lettuce.
For its part, a ground tray will be used instead for vegetables that grow in the ground such as carrots or for plants that must be able to root as deeply as possible such as tomatoes or cucumbers.
The length and width of the planter can be left to your discretion depending on the space available, but the depth of the planter should always be between 30 and 50 centimetres. Consider choosing building materials that resist moisture well for your planter - of course, a planter will come into contact with water often, as you will need to water your garden occasionally.
Also, make sure that the location you choose to put your planters in has six to eight hours of sunlight. Not all plants have the same sunlight needs: learn about the different needs of your vegetable plants to achieve adequate yields.
Keep in mind that some plants like tomatoes generate a lot of foliage during growth, which can create shade on some of the other plants. It will therefore be necessary to cut the foliage of the plants from time to time or simply provide for the shade and plan the location of the plants accordingly.
There may be spaces between the planks of your planter: to prevent loss of soil between these planks, line the inside of the planter with plastic sheeting or a permeable geotextile. This will also increase the water content in your potting soil, as it will not flow through the bottom of the planter when watering.
Fill your bin three-quarters full with potting soil - there are specific formulations for planters and vegetable plants, be sure to get the right potting mix for the right kind of activity! Potting soil for flowers does not contain the same fertilizers as a vegetable garden, and this simple step is crucial, as selecting the wrong soil can jeopardize the success of your vegetable garden.
A vegetable plant remains a living organism that you will take care of all summer and you will maximize your chances of success if the container is well chosen for what you want to grow. A landscaper can also help you plan your land well if you want to maximize the functions and activities of your land.
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People for whom gardening is second nature will brag about growing seedlings themselves. It is true that this is the most economical way to grow your vegetable plants from seed before putting them in the ground when the time comes. A packet of seeds costs less than buying seedlings that have already emerged. However, this step takes a little more organization.
Sowing can be direct or indoor. Direct seeding is a seed that you can directly plant in the soil of your outdoor planter at the period indicated on the bag. On the other hand, squirrels and other rodents sometimes dig up these seeds to eat them before they have time to grow! Plant a little more than planned to compensate for this potential loss and take a look at your soil: if it is dug on the surface, a rodent has surely visited.
Squirrels are known to be very smart: keeping them away is possible, but quite difficult. Solar rodent repellants or garlic and onion spray solutions on flower beds, fences ... the effectiveness of these methods vary and none seems to be unanimous at the moment. Try to see if you are struggling with this problem and if there is absolutely nothing that is working and your direct seeding is keeping rodents in your neighbourhood happy, the alternative will be indoor seedlings.
Indoor seedlings require a bit more preparation, which can be summed up as follows: you need to plant the seed in a small pot (an earthenware pot or even a pierced yogurt container filled with potting soil will do) and it should be stored in a warm place (between 21 and 24 degrees Celsius). When you see that the seed has produced two leaves, you need to transplant it (move it to a bigger pot) being careful not to damage the roots, which are very fragile. Be sure to water the potting soil when it is dry.
Rely on a sowing schedule to know when to start your seeds so they are ready to be planted outdoors as soon as possible. Be proactive if you want to go that way, as some seedlings need to be started in mid-March to be ready in early May or June!
If you want to focus on your planter and your entire vegetable garden for the first year without having to think about preparing seedlings, visit your local nursery, which will offer you a wide variety of vegetable plants that are already ready to go, in addition to being able to give you sound advice if necessary on their optimal growing conditions. If you want to plant a tree on your land, some nurseries sell it as well.
Permaculture is a line of thought that responds to monoculture by proposing a sustainable model of agriculture. It is generally applied to mass commercial productions, but nothing prevents certain principles from being applied well to your vegetable garden.
Different vegetable plants will look for different minerals in the soil: if your planter is not varied enough, plants of the same type will get the same type of nutrients in the soil, which will deplete it in the long run, increasing your need to enrich the soil with fertilizer. Vary your production, as much for your soil as for you, because you will be able to observe how the plants grow in the specific conditions of your vegetable garden! After a few years, you will know exactly what grows best in which location.
Also remember to put some flowers in your vegetable garden, because they attract pollinators like bees, which can then pollinate your garden. Most herbs like cilantro, mint, thyme and basil also attract pollinators. These examples are not the only ones: have fun combining your favourite herbs!
Permaculture is about seeing your vegetable garden as part of a changing ecosystem. It is a production method closer to nature. Rotten vegetables don't have to be thrown away: if you bury them in your vegetable patch before the soil freezes, you may even have seedlings already ready in the ground the following year.
If you are interested in eco-responsible landscaping, read our article on these 5 eco-responsible landscaping projects!
A vegetable garden is a great adventure that allows you to close the gap between yourself and your food, in addition to giving you a great opportunity to enjoy summers to their fullest potential. A planter, floor or raised, gives you the space you need to begin your planning.
Pick the right potting mix and choose how you want to source the seedlings, whether it's growing them yourself indoors or picking them up at the nursery if you are less interested in seedling maintenance. The two methods are not mutually exclusive: you can go to the nursery to look for the seedlings that you cannot grow yourself.
Keep an eye out for sunlight, because not all vegetable plants have the same needs when it comes to sun exposure. Too much sunlight is also harmful to some plants!
Consider applying some permaculture concepts such as observing your vegetable garden and acting on natural changes and valuing renewable solutions as much as possible.
Source for pictures: Flickr, Unsplash & Pixabay
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