We love any excuse to sit down with a mug of tea and day dream about food. January is the perfect time to dream about sunshine filled days, abundant gardens, and seedlings and flowers popping up.
Planning your garden allows you to become aware of your space, revisit favourite vegetables and evaluate how your garden fared in previous years. Now is the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Scrupulous notes from days past would be helpful here but the reality is that most of us home gardeners plant, water, eat and repeat, and that’s okay!
“When to Plant?”
Let’s start with the ever important question “When to Plant?”. We have three (3) growing seasons to consider during planning: cool (spring and fall), warm (summer), and cold (winter). Each season has vegetables that thrive in it’s conditions, with some vegetables overlapping (cool season vegetables are the most adaptable).
Since temperature is beyond our control, it needs to be the most important consideration when deciding what to plant. If you don’t have notes for what worked in previous years, the West Coast Seeds Vegetable planting chart can be used to guide you in matching vegetables to their most productive season(s).
Suggested planting dates are based on the date of the expected last spring frost (March 27).
“What to Plant?”
Choose vegetables you like! Choosing what to plant based on flipping through a catalogue might not be the best way to decide. Another option (dare we say better), is to ask your family what they like to eat. Choose vegetables that are the most delicious when harvested fresh from the garden. If you have neighbours that grow crops, set up a barter system to share bounty. In small home gardens space can be limited and sharing crops can expand your selection.
Cool Season vegetables. Cool-season vegetables grow an average of 10C to 15C below the needs of warm-season crops. These crops can be planted in early spring and their crops will mature before the heat of summer. Planted late in the summer, they will reach their peak during the cool, shorter days of fall. Some of our favourite for the West Coast are below.
Cool Season (Spring/Fall)
Chicory / Endive
Mesclun (salad greens)
Shallot / Scallions
Warm Season Vegetables. Warm-season, or summer, vegetables need soil to be warm, long days, and higher temperatures day and night to form and ripen fruit. Less hardy than cool season vegetables, they do not tolerate frost and thrive in warm weather. Some of our favourite vegetables are below. Note that peppers and eggplants may need to be grown under plastic in order to get enough warmth to be bountiful.
Warm Season (Summer)
Squash (summer & winter)
“How to Plant?”
Plants do not thrive when crowded. Light, air, space, water and nutrients are key to a strong yield. To achieve the ideal spacing for plants, we follow the Square Foot Garden method. Rather than spacing the plants by the directions on their seed packet, we plant them based on a number of plants per square foot. It’s easier to remember and apply to your beds. It’s a easy as running string along and across your beds to delineate multiple square feet. Plant each plant in a square foot area as outlined below. It’s easiest if you plant the same crops in the same row, whether you have 2 square feet or 4 square feet across. The below table can help you plan your garden area by showing you how many plants fit in each square foot area.
Cool-season Plant Spacing
|SMALL PLANT (16)||MEDIUM PLANT (9)|
|LARGE PLANT (4)||EXTRA LARGE PLANT (1)|
Brussels Sprouts *
Ready to Plan?
If this is your first year planning – congratulations! You have taken the first step in what we hope will be a lifetime of growing food. If you are a seasoned gardener, use this year to journal your garden adventure, take note of weather (last and first frosts, daily changes), planting dates, successful harvests, and failures (these are just as important!).
By starting your planning with our 3 simple questions, you will be well on you way to fresh, local produce. Gift yourself the gift of time and get started as you note that:
- Understanding the growing seasons will help you understand when to plant your favourites
- Choosing the vegetables you love will ensure your veggies are enjoyed and won’t go to waste
- Square foot gardening is a simple method to help you get the most our of your garden space
Love the EarthBites team.