"The earlier you can work your soil, the earlier you can sow crops,” advises UBC Botanical Garden horticulturist Brendan Fisher, who oversees the Vancouver-based food garden. “Follow up with succession plantings and you’ll help maximize your total harvest for the year.”
When can you start?
To ensure a bumper crop, aim for at least eight hours of sun and a soil temperature between 10° and 12°C. Rotate your plantings to interrupt pathogen and disease cycles, and to improve soil fertility. In the first year, choose legumes like peas or beans that fix nitrogen in the soil, which improves leaf growth. In the second year, plant brassicas, such as radishes or broccoli. Year three, pick root crops—carrots or parsnips—which like poorer soil.
Work the soil
For successful germination, you’ll need fertile, well-drained soil with a fine, crumbly texture. “Proper soil management all throughout the season—and particularly in the fall—will help protect the soil over the winter and warm it up in the spring,” says Fisher. “Add shredded leaves and as much compost as possible. Use protective coverings, such as cloches, tunnels and cold frames, for a couple of weeks prior to sowing to help warm the soil.”
Sow your seeds
As soon as the earth can be worked, rake the soil, remove any weeds or stones, and dig a trough. Sow seeds at intervals, cover with soil and tamp down lightly. After germination, thin out seedlings to give growing space. Don’t forget to water regularly and deeply—about 2.5 centimetres a week—with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.
- Broad beans
- Mustard greens
- Salad blends
- Swiss chard