Not surprisingly, gardening has become one of the top hobbies during the pandemic, for both adults and children alike. Since everyone is spending much more time at home, gardening is the perfect hobby to cultivate. There is nothing I enjoy more than immersing my hands in cool soil and watching the lettuce or carrot seeds that I planted break through the earth – it’s incredibly rewarding. And of course, becoming self-reliant in food production by being able to walk into your backyard to pick ingredients for your dinner is the ultimate in eco-living. Before you do anything, read these tips to start your vegetable garden early.
Decide what you are going to plant
Certain vegetables grow better under certain conditions. In Toronto, we are located in Zone 6 (plant hardiness zone) for gardening purposes. If you are farther north from Lake Ontario, you might be in Zone 5. Zone 6 covers the areas close to the Great Lakes, where there is more precipitation. Choose plants that grow well in Zone 6 or lesser zone numbers e.g. Zone 5 or 4.
Vegetables that grow well in Zone 6
As gardeners, we are pretty lucky to be living in Zone 6 since there are a wide variety of vegetables that grow in this climate. Vegetables that grow well in Zone 6 include:
- Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce, zucchini, onion, celery, peas, radish
You will be able to start some of the above-noted vegetables from seed.
Vegetables that can be started indoors
You can get a jump on your vegetable garden by starting these vegetables by growing them from seed indoors. start your vegetable garden early Many vegetables need to be started 6-8 weeks before the frost ends, which in Ontario, is usually around the first week of May. All of these vegetables are easy to transplant into the garden and can adjust to cooler soil temperatures that are typical of mid-spring:
Peppers – Peppers can be started by seed in March. Peppers need to be placed near a bright window in order to germinate.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes can be started in mid-March although this could vary depending on the tomato species. Make sure you follow the directions for your tomato species.
Broccoli – Broccoli can be started indoors in April. You should wait until mid-May when it’s warmer before you transplant these plants into your garden.
Cauliflower – Like broccoli, cauliflower can be started indoors in April and transplanted into your garden in mid-May.
Zucchini – Zucchini can be started indoors in April and transplanted into your garden after the May 24 long weekend.
Cabbage – Start planting cabbage seed indoors in mid-March and transplant cabbage plants into your garden when they are 6-7 weeks old (around the second week of May).
Celery – Celery is another plant to start indoors in April. Plant celery seeds close to the surface of the soil and cover with plastic wrap to keep the soil moist. Celery should be transplanted in your garden in mid-June.
Lettuce – Start lettuce indoors in mid-April and transplant into your garden around the May 24 weekend.
Kale – Start planting Kale seeds indoors in mid-March and plant in the ground in the second week of May.
Cucumbers – Plant cucumber seeds indoors in mid-April and transplant them into your garden around the May 24 weekend.
Vegetables that can be sowed directly in the garden
The root vegetables – carrots, beets, onions, radish, turnips, parsnips and potatoes – can all be directly seeded into your garden. If you didn’t start your beans, lettuce and kale indoors, you can sow these seeds directly in your garden in mid-May. Read about some of the healthiest root vegetables you can plant.
Final tips for vegetable growers
As someone who lives in Toronto’s east end near the Beach, we get a range of animals visiting our backyard including raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, and the odd possum – our neighbour even had a deer turn up in her backyard! Recently, neighbours have seen coyotes walking down our street, however, I am advised by the City of Toronto that this is a winter-time occurrence since coyote mating season is from January to February. There is nothing worse than putting in all of the hours (and money!) into growing your vegetables than to have some nocturnal animals drop by and chomp on your veggies for dinner. Here are some tips to prevent animals from eating your vegetable garden.
I hope these tips to start your vegetable garden early will inspire you to create a lush vegetable garden this year.