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Start planning a kitchen garden

A kitchen garden - or potager - is the perfect way to start growing your own herbs and fresh vegetables. Whether you use a space separate from the rest of the garden or decide to plant in existing flower beds, a kitchen garden provides all-season herbs, vegetables and fruits - the healthy way.

 

Gardening is a fun and relaxing pastime – and winter’s just as good a time as any to get started!

Establishing your own well-planned kitchen garden is a cost-saving way of growing your own and enjoying your garden even more. All it takes is a trip to your local garden centre or nursery to select your crop for the year ahead.

When selecting vegetables, fruits or herbs for your kitchen garden, consider your needs. Only plant crops that you normally buy in abundance, or possibly those that you have difficulty obtaining at your local supermarket. As an example, if you prefer to eat healthy salads, plan for tomatoes, lettuce and onions - all easy vegetables to grow in the garden. Junk food lovers can create their very own pizza garden and include green peppers and a herb bed.

Seed Starting Containers

Starting seeds indoors in soil is very similar to sowing seeds outdoors directly in a planting bed. How you’ll use the seedlings may influence what types of containers you choose as planters. For example, if you’re growing seedlings for a container garden, you could start them in the planters they’ll occupy through the entire growing season. You can move them outdoors on warm days in late winter and early spring, and move them back indoors when ice-cold weather is forecast.


However, to get the most out of limited seed-starting space, it makes sense to start seeds in small pots, or even recycle your egg cartons. Plant two seeds in each section as sometimes seeds don’t sprout, so you increase your chances of getting one per pot if you plant two seeds.

Don’t just plant whatever you think should be in a garden – instead, let the food you want to eat lead you towards your planting choices.

Many seeds are simple to grow but how do you know which seed needs what? Read the package, for starters. The information that is crammed onto the back of a seed packet is like having a plant encyclopedia at your fingertips. Planting dates, time until bloom, instructions, special needs—it’s all there, even if you do need a magnifying glass to read it.

Here are some easy techniques that will fool just about any reluctant seed.

Presoaking seeds

Trick seeds into thinking it’s winter by starting them in the refrigerator. Some seeds need stratification (period of moist cold) to break dormancy. This simple procedure exposes the seed embryo to moisture, which is the primary impetus for making it grow. Pour hot tap water into a shallow container, empty a packet of seeds into the water, spread them out, and let them stand for up to 24 hours. Soak the seeds for any longer and they might rot. The seeds swell as water penetrates the seed coat and the embryo inside begins to plump up. Only presoak seeds the night before planting them in pots or in the garden. Once the seeds have swollen, get them into moist soil immediately, then keep them well watered until they’re up and growing. This simple technique can shave several days off the usual germination time.

Planting seedlings

Seedlings need light so place containers on a north-facing windowsill. Once they start to sprout, fertilize weekly to encourage growth. As soon as the seedlings have two or three pairs of true leaves, they’re ready to go out to the garden. But before pampered seedlings go out into the big, wide world, they need toughening up. The aim is to gradually acclimatize plants raised indoors to the rigors of outdoor life. Without this step, known as “hardening off,” tender plant tissues may be damaged by the unaccustomed stresses of sun, wind, and weather.


Begin by moving the container outside to a shady spot protected from the wind and leaving them there for no longer than a couple of hours on the first day. Gradually lengthen their outdoor stays and move the plants into a sunnier spot, if that’s the exposure that they will eventually be planted in. After a week or so, the plants should be ready to go in the ground. Transplant seedlings into the garden on an overcast day to protect them from the desiccating effect of the sun. If the weather won’t cooperate, plant in late afternoon.

Water your plants well before transplanting them, and water the garden soil until it’s well-moistened but not sopping wet. Slide the plants out of their pots and into place, firm the soil around each with your fingers, and water with a fine mist. Be sure to keep the soil moist until the plants start growing well.

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