Thursday, June 5, 2014

Your Questions Answered...Edible Gardening 101

There is nothing better than being able to walk out to your garden or on your patio and plucking off a couple tomatoes for your salad, or some mint for your summer cocktails, or strawberries for your kids snack. Growing your own vegetables, fruit or herbs is one of the easiest ways to eat organic, and surprise-its healthy too! But yes we know....sometimes it is easier said than done...

Our hope with this weeks blog is to help you with your edible gardening questions as well as to give you tips and advice to build your gardening knowledge so you too can be successful with your fruits, veggies & herbs.

We sat down with Kim, our edibles guru, and asked her a couple of your questions and couple we thought would be good. Here were her answers:

What would be your top suggestions when starting your vegetable garden, for it to be successful?

The location should be sunny for the majority of the day.
The soil should have lots of organic material in it.

When is the best time to start planting from seed?

It depends on what you want to start. For instance, if direct sowing, peas can be started in January but squashes should be started in late May. When to plant will be written on the seed package. Most people like to get a jump start on the season and start their seeds indoors in April.

On average, how much time does it take to grow from seed? And what are the benefits

Seeds can germinate in as little as two days and as long as two weeks, it de pendant on the vegetable. The benefit of starting from seed is that you get the varieties that you want. You can experiment with unusual or heritage varieties. You also get the satisfaction and fulfillment of growing the food you are going to eat from a tiny seed.

What type of soil or soil combination would you suggest for veggies/herbs/fruit?

For pots, I like potting soil for lots fluffy air filled soil with Sea soil mixed in. A mixture of 50/50. You can't have just heavy garden soil, it compacts down and you get poor root growth.

For garden beds, lots of compost is great.

Are there advantages to growing vegetables in pots as opposed to a garden bed?

Pots are great for people who have space limitations. i.e. condo balconies, smaller town home yards. Pots can also be moved around to get the best sun exposure. The soil in pots also heats up faster than a garden bed which gives the plant an advantage.

Do you have any suggestions to keep the little bunnies, squirrels and critters away?

If at all possible a fence is the best defense. There are a lot different ideas on the internet. From hanging Irish Spring soap to spreading out human hair. What works for some people does not work for others. All you can do is experiment.

For keeping bad insects away from your garden your first defense is a health garden. Keep you garden watered and fertilized. Second defense is a clean, weed free garden. Garbage and weeds are a great place for bad insects to hide and feed. Third defense is to plant veggies, herbs and flowers that will tract beneficial insects.

What does it mean to harden off your plants?

Hardening off means helping your plants adjust from going from a nice warm greenhouse to being planted outside. Hardening off helps prevent transplant shock. Putting new plants outside for a few hours each day and increasing the time spent outside by 1 - 2 hours per day and bringing them in at night is the best way to do this. Your plants will be ready to stay outside in about a week. Tender plants can be planted outside when the night time temperature is 10 degrees or better.

What are the top fruits/veggies/herbs you suggest to grow?

Kale is so easy to grow, usually lasts all winter and is so good for you.

Tomatoes are fun to grow with lots of reward

Squashes are a great producer and you can store them for a long time after harvesting.

But the best thing to grow is what ever you like and will eat.

How do I fertilize?

I recommend an all purpose granular mixed in the soil when planting and then a water soluble fertilizer formulated for veggies on a weekly basis.

What types of edibles would you suggest to plant in a container garden?

Any edible can be put in a container as long as it gets enough water and fertilizer. Tomatoes do fantastic in containers but the container should be big enough to give lots of root space. Potatoes do well in bags. At West Coast we put potatoes right in soil bags and they are doing amazing. They do not take up a lot of space and at the end of the season you just cut open the bag and out spills your bounty.

What type of food should I use for my tomato plants and how often?

There are fertilizer blends specific to tomatoes which we carry in the store. The blend should contain calcium. If it does not then you can just add two crumbled Tums around the base of the plant or crumbled eggs shells works just as well.

When looking at the tomatoes tags, they specify varieties by indeterminate tomatoes and determinate tomatoes. What does that mean?

These terms refer to the growth habit of the plant. 
Indeterminate tomatoes are large plants with a vine like main stock. They grow to heights of 2 m to 6 m. They need staking or caging to support the growth and weight. They continually produce fruit all season and grow until they are killed off by the frost.

Determinate tomatoes have shorter main stock and form a compact bush. They tend to fruit all at the same time. This is a good choice if you want to can or freeze them.

How do I prune my tomatoes?

Suckers are side shoots that grow from the point where the leaf meets the main stem.

Indeterminate tomatoes – Pruning these out make a more manageable plant and put more energy into the fruit forming along the main stem. Snap off or cut with scissors. Must be caged, staked or supported by some means.

Determinate tomatoes – do not prune but keep well supported in a cage, staked or tied to a trellis.


Hopefully that gives you a little insight into gardening edibles.  Don't forget you can always call us, email us, or comment below with more questions. 

Now for a little about whats going on the garden center.  Don't miss the little works of art for your garden...FAIRY GARDENS. We are the masters in creating fairy gardens, and would love to show you some tips and tricks on how to create your own!  Come see some delightful ones created by Shirley, one of our talented outside staff.

We just received a fresh shipment of EVERGREEN SHRUBS for SHADE - skimmias, rhodos, pieris and sarcococca (sweet box), all in dwarf size.  If you had empty gaps in your garden beds from Nov. to Mar., these shrubs will fill them beautifully.

We also have a rainbow of HEUCHERAS and their cousins, the HEUCHERELLAS, from green & white heuchera Snow Angel, bright yellow heucherella Yellowstone Falls, to burnt orange heucherella Sweet Tea.

Are you thinking of adding a short, neat hedge to your garden design?  We have dwarf boxwood, buxus suffruticosa, 1 gallon size for $9.00 each.

A quick tip to leave you with....


When you come in and look at the containers that our designers have created, you will notice a certain colour that makes everything around it look better - lime green.  

With its brightness, lime green adds zing to any plant combination, and yet because it is the neutral colour of green, it coordinates with any colour scheme.  

A sophisticated all-white design goes from quiet to wow with the addition of lime green.  A pink, blue and white combo sparkles with lime green.  The hot colours of red, orange and yellow fairly pop with lime green.

Some annuals that have this magic colour are the ipomoea trailers, Mojito colocasia, certain varieties of coleus and the trailing lysimachia plus many more.

Garden beds can also benefit from the addition of lime green.  Consider how much livelier your garden would be if you added perennials such as tiarella Running Tapestry, heuchera Key Lime Pie and campanula Dickson's Gold.

The glowing lime green stems and leaves of cornus flaviramea enliven winter & summer.  The climber, hydrangea p. Miranda, lights up a shady corner even on cloudy days.

Easy to use and versatile, lime green just looks terrific anywhere.

Stay tuned for next's weeks blog!

Enjoy the sunshine:)

-West Coast Gardens