Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Five ways to get your vegetable patch off to a great start

Follow our advice to create a healthy and practical vegetable garden

As we become increasingly aware of our collective carbon footprint and its environmental impact, it  makes more sense than ever to consider growing some of our own vegetables. In addition to superior quality and flavour, gardeners have the opportunity to grow heirloom or hard-to-find varieties—without having to pay premium prices for specialty produce.

Here are five factors to keep in mind to get your vegetable patch off to a great start:

1. Exposure
For high-quality crops, all vegetable gardens require at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Ensure your garden's southern exposure isn't blocked by mature trees or structures, such as buildings, that will cast shade on your plot.

2. Size
It's always tempting to start off big, but vegetable gardens take a good deal of tending, so it's prudent to begin small and expand gradually as you gain more experience. Bear in mind some vegetables—such as squash, melons, pumpkins and corn—require a great deal of real estate to spread out, so be aware of your plot's spatial limitations.

3. Site
The ground should be fairly level, although a garden that slopes gently to the south will produce earlier crops (colder air will flow down the slope, pulling warmer air in behind it).

If the area is covered with turfgrass, use a sharp spade to cut the sod into strips, then undercut the strips below the level of the grass roots; peel away the sod (it can be used to repair bare areas in the lawn or stacked upside down and composted).

Remove any tree roots or rocks, then aerate and amend the soil with plenty of organic matter (e.g., compost, shred­­ded leaves or composted manure) to a depth of 30 to 45 centimetres. This can be done with a rototiller, or manually by double-digging (i.e., twice the depth of the spade or fork) to turn over the existing soil, break up clods and add organic matter.

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