Ready, set, grow!

Welcome to gardening season, full on.

As mentioned last week, now is the time everyone in North America can garden with reckless abandon. Snow and frost are behind us and the nights are warming up–that’s what makes the plants grow.

Because it’s tIMG_1351ime to be outside more than on the computer I am going to keep this post short and sweet, but aim to inspire.

This is your chance to try your hand at veggie gardening no matter how little time, space or gardening experience you have.

Right now you don’t even need to go near a gardening store to pick up some starter vegetable plants–they are popping up everywhere from the grocery store to the farmers’ market. The serious gardeners in my neighbourhood, mainly older European and Asian folk, have been swarming their favourite spot for vegetable starts for a few weeks now. I know it’s gardening season when you can’t get by on the sidewalk by this otherwise, other-times-of-year, nondescript green grocer.

Carting plants home seems to be a favourite activity for toddlers, so take advantage of the help and grab a few. Unless you have a very large garden there are many plants where you’re further ahead to buy starter plants than to start them from seed (you’ll save money, time and likely have stronger plants). For example, two zucchini plants will feed your family and friends, if you grew a whole package of zucchini seeds you could feed the neighbourhood.

Here are some great vegetables to start with already-grown up seedlings (simply known as “starts” in gardener-speak) instead of seeding them yourself:

– Tomatoes, especially cherry varieties for kidsIMG_7147

– Cucumbers

– Zucchini

– Pumpkins

– Herbs of all kinds (except cilantro, they don’t like to be transplanted)

– Strawberries

– Marigold flowers to deter pests

While I tend to get excited about buying plants at the farmers’ market, they seem to look healthier and I like IMG_7166to glean gardening advice from the vendors, I conducted a little tomato experiment last year where I bought half of my plants from the farmers’ market (at about $3.50/plant) and half from the local green grocer (at $0.50/plant). I treated all the tomatoes well and kept them safe from rain under a plastic covering and by the end of the season all of the plants were taller than me and I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with–and trust me, I can eat a lot of fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes. The plants were indistinguishable.

So, if you’re feeling a little empty in the wallet or you don’t want to invest a lot in your early gardening efforts go ahead and stop by the green grocer (but follow the crowds) and invest $5 for a few starter plants. Put them in good soil and water them well to get them established, then let the warm summer nights do the rest. The beginnings of an under $5 strawberry patch is included here as evidence of a lazy, but fruitful (ha ha), approach to gardening.

Of course if you have more time, ambition and energy for growing, don’t hold back. I have to admit that despite my tomato experiment I still couldn’t resist buying some plants from the farmers’ market this year–but come summer I’m going to have purple and green zebra striped tomatoes!

Starting with a combination of plant starts and seeds can also be a good way to keep kids engaged in the garden, the plants give them something more visible to watch right away while they wait for their seeds to sprout.

Now comes the inspiration. Check out this video of a LA family’s first year at a community garden and be ready to be inspired by what new gardeners can create in a single season.

These guys are on my heroes list.

A Year in the Garden from Brad Hiebert on Vimeo.

See you next week for more gardening fun!

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