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November 27th, 2014
Your organic edible garden

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Q7. What size space do you need to have a vegetable garden?



Your organic edible garden

By Judy Ellen

Urban home vegetable gardens are on the rise. More and more people are eating organic vegetables, so why not grow your own? Nothing tastes better than a fresh tomato picked right off the vine from your garden.

You can be a successful gardener with whatever space you have - container gardening by your window or on your balcony, a small patch in your yard, or a full backyard vegetable garden. Mixing in some edible flowers will add some colour to your vegetable garden.

Growing your favourite vegetables isn't too difficult if you follow a few basic rules and trial and error.

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Setting up your vegetable garden

The perfect location

To start your own vegetable garden, you'll need a spot with good soil and sun 6 to 8 hours a day. Sandy or heavy clay soil should be amended with organic matter: compost, manure and peat. You may want to check with a local garden center or with a gardening neighbor to see what they suggest for the soil in your area. Don't choose a spot within the drip line of a large tree. Trees are very heavy feeders and can deplete the soil near them.

Choosing the right plants for your space

If you have a small space

You can start very small with a 1 by 6 foot space along a fence, for example. Here you could plant Scarlett Runner Bean seeds about 6 inches apart in a row. The fence comes in handy when you need to support these climbing beans, a relative of Jack in the Beanstalk's beans. In a 4 by 4 foot spot you could try two Sweet Million tomatoes, three basil plants and a row of lettuce or parsley at the front. These tomato plants are tall and will require some stakes or the largest tomato cages. For a good head start, buy tomatoes, basil and parsley as plants instead of growing from seed.

If you have a larger space

In a larger space, you could plant six to eight types of vegetables, and what you plant depends on what you like to eat. Common choices would be: Sweet Million tomatoes, varieties of lettuce, green and yellow bush beans, arugula, cucumbers, zucchini, spinach or Swiss chard, and scallions. Lettuce can tolerate some shade and may benefit from it in the heat of the summer. If you have even more space, you can try snap peas, potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins. A word of warning, pumpkins, winter squash and zucchini require a lot of space. For families with children, try growing Scarlett Runner beans or pie pumpkins, which are small and taste wonderful. For the more adventurous foodies, grow arugula, mesclun mix, heirloom beans and herbs like sage, cilantro and basil.

Planting throughout the season

You don't have to plant everything at once - save some garden space for later. For example, a second seeding of lettuce a few weeks after the first will have you harvesting more later. Beans can be planted three times during the season. The first two are for harvesting (three weeks apart), and the third would be planted in an area where something was removed earlier. Beans and their relatives add nitrogen to help fertilize the soil.

The Perfect Timing for Harvest

Zucchini and beans should be picked when they are still small. To know when to harvest potatoes, you can dig under one of the plants to see what's there. Different varieties mature at different times and the seed potatoes should come with a guideline for maturity in days. Squashes, and pumpkins will be the latest to mature.

Rewarding yourself throughout the season

Harvesting your "convenience food" is your reward for your hard loving work.
Early Season Harvest
Lettuce, arugula, spinach, peas and scallions.
Mid-Season Harvest
Beans and cucumbers are midseason along with the Sweet Million tomatoes. Zucchinis will arrive soon and produce until frost.
Late Summer Harvest
Regular tomatoes will be ripening mid August if it's a warm year. Scarlet runner beans are late to mature and that their form is not quite like string beans. Some people might not like this, but they are wonderfully flavorful and worth planting.

Garden Housekeeping & Composting

Remove dead material from the garden as well as weeds. Now is a great time to start your own compost, before the leaves start to fall. Vegetable trimmings and fruit peels and cores can go in with the plant material. Add some soil and keep the pile moist. Turn everything over occasionally, add some more soil or water if needed, and then add your leaves and some grass clippings, keep turning it and you'll have a start on compost for next spring.

Keeping yourself loose

Don't forget to stand and stretch frequently as you work in your garden, as some gardening chores are repetitive. Good luck with your edible garden, enjoy the fresh air, the exercise, and most of all the delicious food from your own garden!
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