Given what is happening right now, we feel that more people will have a lot of interest in learning more about gardening, particularly the growing of vegetables. Here is an interview with Niki Jabbour on gardening in your backyard. These gardening basics will tell you everything you need to know for a successful garden. Niki is an award-winning gardening author from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
If I have not planted anything before how do I get started?
For those new to veggie gardening, I suggest starting small. You don’t want to go too big too fast and have the garden become a chore. You can start with a few containers of your favourite herbs and vegetables, or you can build a raised bed. Four by eight foot raised beds are standard and it should be at least six inches deep. Raised bed gardening offers many advantages – fewer weeds, healthier soil, and they’re attractive, which is nice if you’re building one visible to your neighbours.
I’d also suggest that beginners start by growing just a few types of crops. Think about what you like to eat and pick 4-5 types of vegetables. Some of the easier to grow veggies include bush beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, peas, lettuce, and zucchini. And many varieties are compact and perfect for pots. Read the labels when you buy seeds or seedings to see how large they will grow.
When can you start planting different seeds in the Maritimes?
Great question! Growing up as a kid in Nova Scotia, we always ‘put our garden in’ the long weekend in May. I’ve since learned that vegetables are planted at different times, and most can be planted several times over the season to extend the harvest. I created a simple vegetable garden planting calendar in a recent newspaper column here. Some plants, like carrots and beans are direct seeded, while slower growing vegetables like tomatoes and peppers are transplanted. Certain vegetables can be planted a week or two before the last frost date while others need more heat and are planted after the last frost date. If you’re not sure, read the seed packet for accurate planting information.
And remember that many crops can be succession planted – which means planted more than once. For example, I sow bush bean seeds in late May and then again in late June. This gives us a much longer harvest. And other vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, and arugula love the cool spring weather but then are finished when summer arrives. They can be planted again in late summer for fall harvesting.
Once the seeds are planted what upkeep needs to be done for various vegetables?
It’s important to keep the soil consistently moist once seeds are planted to encourage good germination. If the soil dries up, the young seedlings can die. So water regularly. Once I plant crops like tomatoes and squash, I like to apply a 3 inch layer of straw or shredded leaves to the soil surface to help hold moisture and reduce weeds. That cuts back on my watering time.
It’s also a good idea to fertilize every 3-4 weeks with a liquid organic fertilizer. I use SeaBoost which is made in the Maritimes and is a liquid kelp. If your vegetable plants are healthy, they will be more likely to produce a large harvest.
Any climbing crops – like pole beans, peas or indeterminate tomatoes should have proper supports. For my pole beans I use tunnels and trellises. For peas I use trellises. For tomatoes I use one by two inches wooden stakes and tie the plants to the supports as they grow.
What kind of soil is needed ?
My raised beds are filled with good quality garden soil and then each year I dig in several inches of compost or aged manure. I also add an application of a slow release organic fertilizer when I plant in spring. In fall, I dig in chopped leaves to increase organic matter in the soil – the worms LOVE it! And because Maritime soils tend to be acidic, I lime my vegetable beds each fall. A near-neutral pH is ideal for most types of vegetables.
If you’re growing in pots, planters, or window boxes, I’d recommend using a high quality potting mix. I fill my containers with two-thirds potting mix and one third compost. That makes a wonderful soil medium for all types of vegetables, herbs and annual flowers.
Do you add anything to your soil to aid in the growing of vegetables ?
As noted above, I do add plenty of organic matter but also a slow release organic fertilizer in spring and then I supplement that with a liquid kelp or a fish emulsion fertilizer during the growing season.
Do you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a Website we could follow to get more information on gardening?
Absolutely! I post often on Facebook Twitter and Instagram under my name, @NikiJabbour. I also offer plenty of information on growing vegetables, flowers, tree, shrubs, and fun garden DIY projects on my website, SavvyGardening.com. My three books are also available online and in book stores and I have a new one called Growing Under Cover coming in December 2020!