Whether it’s fruits, vegetables, herbs or even edible flowers, consumable plants can provide you with healthy meals and snacks throughout the summer.
But once you have a basic garden in place, you might have issues with poor yields or annoying insects and pests.
How can you stop these problems? Continuing our foray into the wonderful world of growing food at home, this post will look at some more of the common questions we’re asked about edible plants.
Should I fertilize or compost my garden?
Synthetic fertilizers should always be a last resort. Think of compost like a healthier, more organic fertilizer — one that’s usually free!
If you keep organic waste in a compost pile on your property, spread it around in your garden in early spring or late fall and let it decompose in the soil. These will give your plants valuable nutrients over the course of the season and keep your soil healthy!
If you don’t have a compost pile, fallen tree leaves are one of the richest sources of organic fertilizer available! Don’t rake them up and get rid of them — instead, let them decompose in your yard and add the nutrient-rich matter straight to your gardens, or save your leaves and mulch your gardens with them in the fall.
How can I keep bugs and pests away?
Your first thought might be to turn to pesticides to keep out the pests, but we’re here to suggest some less harmful strategies.
Fencing is an obvious way to keep rabbits and larger animals out. Chicken wire is the most cost-effective, but if you have the time, a wooden fence works well too.
What you may not know is that certain plants act as natural pest deterrents.
- Onions & garlic deter bugs with their distinct smells. Plant them next to carrots and lettuce!
- Lemongrass is a great herb to plant. You can use it in tea, but it’s also a natural insect-deterrent. In fact, it’s the plant that citronella essential oil is derived from.
- Marigolds keep out aphids and rodents — especially squirrels — with their strong scent.
- Lavender looks incredible and is also excellent at keeping out mosquitos and flies, as well as preventing moss from growing.
Is my soil good enough to grow in?
Whether you’re closer to Georgian Bay or Lake Huron, or somewhere inland, there’s quite a variance of soil types in our region. Some folks have a lot of clay and loam, while others might end up with sandier soil.
It’s likely you can grow most edible plants just fine with the soil you have, especially if you compost. But if you find you’re having trouble, testing your soil is never a bad idea, and our team at Hutten can take care of this for you.
One basic soil test that you can perform yourself goes like this:
- Take a cupful of soil from where you’d like to plant your garden. Drop it in a mason jar, fill the jar with water, and let it sit for 72 hours.
- Over the course of these three days, the clay and sand will separate, while the silty matter will sit on the top.
- You can calculate the basic percentages of each aspect of the soil based on this and make amendments as needed.
The next step is for us to send a physical sample of your soil to a testing facility, and receive the results of your pH and nutrient levels right in the mail!
Simple soil amendments you can make yourself include adding peat moss for its water-retention and nutrient-holding abilities or sand for added drainage if you have a lot of clay in your soil. If your garden is in a particularly low-lying area that could flood, raised beds are also an option. (Added bonus: if you’re older or have limited mobility, raised beds mean less bending over to pick or harvest your crops!)
If you’d like a professional soil test and amendment performed, you’re always more than welcome to give us a call.
And, just for fun… what are some unique and overlooked plant options for my garden?
There are all sorts of exciting ways to incorporate other edible plants into not only your vegetable garden — but your landscape as well!
- Blueberries grow excellently in the Grey and Bruce Counties. We’ve even heard of them being planted as hedgerows instead of boxwood hedges!
- Serviceberries, highbush cranberries and currants are all less common berries that many people don’t think to plant around their home. And beyond the fruit they’ll give you, they’re appealing and attractive plants with incredible blooms that pollinators love!
- Herb gardens can include all sorts of herbs to spice up your cooking or to make teas with. Anything from peppermint to dill, chives, rosemary and parsley. And let’s not forget basil — you can use it to keep out the pests and then make a delicious homemade pesto afterwards!
- Fruit trees are a long-term commitment that typically take 3–5 years to bear fruit. If you plan on being in your home for a while, they’re always worth it in the end.
- Nut trees are often overlooked yet amazing sources of food. Hazelnut, walnut and hickory trees are great options for our region.
- Edible flowers have been around for centuries but have really made a comeback in North America these last few years. There’s far too many to list here, but we encourage you to take a look at this handy list from West Coast Seeds!
So there you have it — your questions about edible plants and vegetable gardening answered. In case you haven’t read our first post on how to grow a basic vegetable garden, take a look!
If you have a question that wasn’t answered or would like to know more about how Hutten & Co. can help you plan, plant and care for edible plants, contact us to find out more.