Yes you can grow your own food!
Did you have one of those Grandma’s who grew enough food every year to feed an army? At the end of the season she would be furiously freezing, canning and baking everything in sight to make sure no one went hungry in January. Whether Grandma was in town or on the farm, she seemed to be able to make the most of every inch of space, and still find room for some geraniums. Well move over Grandma – we’re taking over the kitchen garden!
This year, more people than ever are interested in growing their own food. And we think that’s awesome. There is nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal using produce you just brought in from your own kitchen garden – and you can’t get any fresher!
How to pick the best food plants to grow
There will always be a place for the dependable mainstays of the kitchen garden. Crops like lettuce, carrots, peas and potatoes are staples, and here at the garden centre we have a selection of seeds for all those basics. You can shop for seeds here.
But for the purpose of this article we’re going to discuss a few of our other favourites. Hopefully there will be some you might not have considered.
Easy food crops for large spaces
- Spaghetti squash. Each plant will produce about 6 squash (or more) and we love them baked with butter and garlic. We’ve managed to keep harvested fruits fresh for up to a year in a cool, dark place.
- Cucumbers. They are a climbing vine and will need a sturdy support.
- Pumpkins. Like spaghetti squash they like to have space to wander but the payoff is worth it.
- Rhubarb. Unlike most of our food crops, this is an extremely hardy perennial plant. Don’t harvest more than 1/3 of your plant, and allow time for it to regrow and you’ll be harvesting all season long. The plants get about 3-4 feet across.
- Raspberries. Another perennial, but it’s extremely invasive and it’s very important to plant it where it can spread without infringing on other crops or beds.
Compact food plants you can grow in smaller spaces or containers
Here are some of our top picks for the smaller kitchen garden, a raised bed or even a container:
- Beets. Yummy pickled or in borscht. And the greens are awesome fried in butter and garlic as a side dish.
- Peppers. From bell peppers to spicy peppers like habaneros or serranos, they’re very satisfying to grow, with their brightly coloured and highly flavourful fruits.
- Swiss chard. The greens are somewhat like beet greens, and the stalks add a dash of colour and texture to dishes.
- Zucchini. Some zucchini plants require a lot of space, but our favourite is Squash Noche which is compact and perfect for container gardening.
- Beans. While they might not provide the abundant year-round harvest of their climbing cousins, bush beans are great in containers and will still produce a very respectable harvest.
- Peas. Yes you can even grow bush-form peas without having to have a wall of trellis for them to climb up!
- Tomatoes. Bush tomatoes are a great choice for anyone who has limited space and no inclination to deal with the 5-6′ vines of indeterminate tomatoes. Balls beefsteak is one of our favourites.
- Kale. Okay, full disclosure, we’re not kale fans. But plenty of people are and it’s a great plant for a smaller space so we’re including it in this list.
Get your kitchen garden started
Even though we’re not open to customers during this COVID-19 crisis, we’ve set up an online catalogue. Now you can order your favourite plants and gardening supplies, including vegetable plants and herbs, for curb-side pick-up (or for delivery in May or June).
For those of you gardening in a small space, we’re especially excited about the range of custom-grown patio gardens we’re offering:
- Mixed vegetable or herb gardens, grown in a green, 16″ pot and containing your choice of five different herbs or vegetables.
- Salad bowls grown in a 12″ bowl and containing a mixture of cut-and-grow-again loose-leaf salad greens.
- Larger containers with your choice of either a bush tomato, bush bean or bush zucchini.
This is a great time to start planning your kitchen garden. Many seeds can be sown directly into the ground in May, and for those requiring a longer growing season, we have vegetable plants already started in the garden centre. Happy growing!