Welcome to your resource guide for gardening in Ontario. I put this together because every year friends of Cavaleiro Farm ask me questions about their garden. This year, with COVID-19, gardening seems more important than ever, so I thought I’d try to help more people.
Gardens provide us with fresh food, get us outside in the sun and fresh air, plus our hands in the soil, which builds up our immune system. All important steps to take this year to stay healthy.
We’d love to help you with this guide, because we think gardening is awesome for you and your family. Here are some of our best tips and resources all in one place.
How to convert grass into a garden
Use these 4 tips to start a garden where there was only grass before. Save lots of time and effort and ensure you have strong healthy plants. What I learned on my big farm, you can use in your little garden.
Tip 1: No digging, no tilling.
If you do the following as early as possible in the season, you’ll be ready to plant into a perfect garden.
- Place cardboard or a plastic tarp over your grass. Use weights to hold everything down so the wind doesn’t wreak havoc.
- You can either wait a month, move the plastic back, and be ready to plant; or you can poke a hole through the cardboard and plant into that any time.
- Wherever you put seeds in the ground or transplant small plants, always add compost to those locations.
Tip 2: Start your plants inside your house.
Start your plants inside your house, then transplant them into your garden when they’re a few inches big. Most people start their garden with seeds, but then you have to spend weeks waiting for the plants to get big enough to harvest.
A trick for cold climates like ours in Ontario is to start the plants indoors weeks before your garden is ready. That way, when it does warm up outside, you just need to transplant your plants, give them water, and wait a very short period of time before you can harvest.
You can use this strategy throughout the season…it’s what most farmers do. As soon as you harvest your plants, fill up that spot with new transplants. This can greatly increase your garden’s productivity.
There are lots of YouTube videos on this subject. I picked out this one because it has the basic steps and considerations you need to take. You won’t get this perfect to start, but it’s certainly better than just waiting for it to get warm outside.
Tip 3: Use lots of compost.
Lots of beginner gardeners don’t use compost, they just start plants in topsoil. This could work, but expect mediocre results.
Instead, a handful of compost with every plant feeds the soil and allows your plants to grow much more. This also helps with disease prevention and watering, if you can believe it. Some compost with each plant can easily double or triple your production. No farmer grows without the use of compost or fertilizers.
Any type of compost is better than none. Get whatever you can get your hands on, and use it wisely. Put it around the plants you want to grow, and avoid dropping it in other areas, or you’ll just boost up the growth of weeds.
Charles is one of the original no-till growers. Learn from this video by seeing how he transplants and how much compost he uses.
Tip 4. Water your plants regularly and at the best times.
Water your plants on a regular basis and at the best times, which are in the morning or at night. Lots of beginner gardeners seem to either water too much or not enough. You certainly don’t just want to leave it up to nature when it comes to watering. Who knows when the rain will come? Water is the ingredient that allows plants to grow. No water, no grow.
On the other hand, you don’t want to over-water your plants. The plants need to cycle between wet times and dryer times. If your soil is still wet, then let it dry out a bit before you water more. Also, plants use more water when they’re bigger or the air is dryer, so adjust as needed.
Another consideration is that plants adapt to their environment. So when they’re under the hot midday sun, plants go into a “closed” mode that prevents evaporation. So what happens when you water your plants in the sun? The plant thinks it’s raining and opens up to absorb the water. When you suddenly stop watering, the plant is still open and the sun starts taking water away from it quickly. Because the plants take a little time to adapt, they can’t handle these quick changes. The best strategy is to water in the morning or at night so the plants can take full advantage of the water.
Here’s a good video on watering that’s worth learning from…
More to come…
I’d like to expand this page and include more information, tips, and links to information that can make gardening in Ontario much easier and more productive. So stay tuned!