Think­ing about growing your own?

Start now plan­ning a 2020 vic­tory gar­den (it will keep your mind off other things)

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Arts & Life - NOR­MAN WIN­TER

Shazam! All of a sud­den ev­ery­one is think­ing about growing a veg­etable gar­den. Es­sen­tials dis­ap­pear­ing from the lo­cal su­per­mar­ket is at best a wake-up call. One thing for cer­tain now that fam­i­lies are all to­gether — there is no bet­ter way to teach chil­dren a lit­tle hor­ti­cul­ture, pol­li­na­tion and where food comes from than a veg­etable gar­den. If you want to, call it a corona vic­tory gar­den or a vic­tory gar­den 2020.

You are prob­a­bly think­ing you have no plot, and be­sides don’t you need an acre? The an­swer is, no you don’t need an acre. You can go small and in­tense. French in­ten­sive, square foot, in­ter­plant­ing, ver­ti­cal, wide row, gar­den­ing by the yard and suc­ces­sion plant­ing are all names for in­ten­sive gar­den­ing.

The pur­pose of in­ten­sive gar­dens is to har­vest the most pro­duce from a lim­ited space. Th­ese spaces usu­ally are small blocks, com­pared to tra­di­tional gar­dens, which con­sist of long, sin­gle rows widely spaced. Much of the tra­di­tional gar­den area is taken by the space be­tween the rows.

An in­ten­sive gar­den min­i­mizes wasted space, but there is a limit on how much you can re­duce open space. When you go be­yond those lim­its, you open the door to con­trol night­mares from dis­ease and in­sects.

In­ten­sive gar­dens con­cen­trate ef­forts to cre­ate bet­ter yields with less labour. Fewer path­ways and closely spaced plants of­ten mean less weed­ing, but the work usu­ally must be done by hand. Some gar­den­ers pre­fer us­ing ma­chine cul­ti­va­tion on long rows to hand weed­ing.

Soil prepa­ra­tion is the key to suc­cess­ful in­ten­sive gar­den­ing. Plants must have ad­e­quate nu­tri­ents and wa­ter to grow to­gether so closely. Pro­vid­ing fer­til­iz­ers and ir­ri­ga­tion helps, but there’s no sub­sti­tute for deep, fer­tile soil, high in or­ganic mat­ter — just 3 per cent to 5 per cent would prob­a­bly give you that prover­bial green thumb.

Hu­mus-rich soil will hold ex­tra nu­tri­ents, and ex­ist­ing el­e­ments locked up in the soil are re­leased by the ac­tions of earth­worms, micro­organ­isms and hu­mic acids. Nurs­eries and gar­den cen­tres have spe­cially pre­pared mixes that are ex­cel­lent to use alone or in­cor­po­rated in your soil. Use land­scape tim­bers or rail­road cross ties to en­close your bed. A 6- to 8-inch high bed would be ideal. I even bought a kit from a lo­cal gro­cery store.

A good in­ten­sive gar­den re­quires early, thor­ough plan­ning to make the best use of time and space in the gar­den. Con­sider the in­ter­re­la­tion­ships of plants be­fore plant­ing, in­clud­ing nu­tri­ent needs, shade tol­er­ance, above and be­low ground growth pat­terns and pre­ferred growing sea­son. It is sug­gested if pos­si­ble to run your rows north to south which al­low for most sun ex­po­sure,

The raised growing bed is the foun­da­tion of an in­ten­sive gar­den. Sev­eral beds al­low the gar­dener to fo­cus soil prepa­ra­tion in small ar­eas, re­sult­ing in ef­fec­tive use of soil amend­ments and cre­at­ing an ideal en­vi­ron­ment for veg­etable growth. Beds are gen­er­ally 4 to 5 feet wide and seg­re­gated into blocks. This al­lows gar­den­ers to work from ei­ther side of the bed, re­duc­ing the com­paction on the soil.

The first step in de­cid­ing what to grow is to se­lect what your fam­ily likes to eat. Next, look at what costs you the most at the mar­ket per pound. Toma­toes, green onions, leaf let­tuce, turnips, sum­mer squash, beans, beets, car­rots, cu­cum­bers, pep­pers, broc­coli, head let­tuce and cau­li­flower are all among the top 15 eco­nomic crops to grow.

To fig­ure out spac­ing for in­ter­plant­ing, add the inches of rec­om­mended spac­ing for the two crops to be planted to­gether and then di­vide the sum by two.

Prime ex­am­ple, toma­toes have a 24-inch spac­ing and leaf let­tuce has a 4-inch space rec­om­men­da­tion. The to­tal of 28 inches di­vided by two means that you can plant your leaf let­tuce 14 inches from your toma­toes. A caged tomato sur­rounded by let­tuce sounds like a good salad com­bi­na­tion. By all means, grow up! What I mean by that is take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to grow ver­ti­cally with pole beans, cu­cum­bers and more.

Try a smaller gar­den but one that is in­ten­sive and your suc­cess may be greater. Even if you live in an apart­ment you can grow and har­vest a bounty of pro­duce from bas­kets and con­tain­ers. If you are blessed with a large plot then grow enough to share.

Your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre will have ev­ery­thing you need from seeds to trans­plants, soil and fer­til­izer and best of all, ex­per­tise.

NOR­MAN WIN­TER PHO­TOS TNS

Small gar­den boxes are per­fect to tend with­out ac­tu­ally get­ting in the soil and caus­ing it to com­pact. Buck­ing­ham yel­low zuc­chini is a sturdy plant with a tiny habit mak­ing it suit­able for small gar­den plots.

Sweet N Neat Scar­let tomato may be just what you need on the porch pa­tio or deck.

Bal­moral is a com­pact va­ri­ety of sum­mer squash per­fect for small gar­dens and even con­tain­ers.

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