There is nothing more satisfying than harvesting delicious ingredients from your own garden – knowing that you are using fresh and organic herbs and vegetables that you tended to yourself!
Whether you are a seasoned gardener, or a complete beginner, a bit of research and preparation can have you growing your own backyard vegetables and herbs in no time. The weather is warming up and the last spring frost will be behind us before we know it. Start planning your garden now with these 5 Staple Edible Garden Starters:
1. Carrots. A staple in the kitchen, carrots are easy to grow. They like sandy soil and are resistant to most pests and diseases. Plant carrots 3 to 5 weeks before the last spring frost date and make sure soil is free of stones. Gently mulch to retain moisture and ensure soil is well drained. When plants are an inch tall, thin them so they stand 3 inches apart. Carrots like to be planted near beans, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, radishes or tomatoes – chives improve their growth and flavour.
2. Mint. One of the easiest herbs to grow, mint is great for summer drinks, desserts, teas, garden accents, ground covers, air fresheners and herbal medicines. The plant thrives in light soil with good drainage. Make sure to keep mint in a contained environment as it is a rapid spreader and can cover a lot of ground. Mint can grow up to 4 feet in just 1 year so make sure to prune and pick as the season goes on. Planting mint near peas, cabbage, and tomatoes improves its health and flavour.
3. Basil. Great for salads, pesto, pizza, and sauces, basil is a leafy, fragrant annual with several varieties available. The most common type is sweet basil with other types including purple basil, lemon basil and Thai basil. Basil should be planted in early spring, after the last spring frost. Plant seeds/seedlings 1/4-inch deep and 10 to 12 inches apart. To ensure growth throughout the summer, soil should be moist and the leaves should be picked regularly. Pinch out any flower heads as soon as they appear. Basil likes to be planted near tomatoes and sweet peppers.
4. Tomatoes. One of the favourites amongst garden vegetables, this vine plant is easy to grow and is quite versatile. Tomatoes like full sun and well-drained soil. If you are planting seeds, start the seeds indoors and transplant after the last spring frost when the soil is warm. Tomatoes are prone to a range of pests and diseases so plants should be watched carefully. Planting near basil helps repel aphids, whiteflies, hornworms, and mosquitoes.
5. Cucumbers. Cucumber plants have the ability to climb so they are great for tight spaces and tend to grow fast. Cucumbers are susceptible to frost damage – make sure you do not plant them outside too soon. Select a site with full sun and sow seeds in rows, 1 inch deep and 6 – 10 inches apart. Set up a trellis if you want the vine to climb, or if you have limited space. Plant cucumbers near corn, lettuce, onions, peas or radishes for optimal growth and flavour.
What edible plants will you be planting this season? If you are looking for other options to include in your garden this spring, check out this list of 111 Herbs, Vegetables, Edible Flowers and Fruit. Happy Planting!