Welcome to Grow Your Own Food, an informative series on gardening and growing your own food in Canada. Each month Redawna Kalynchuk draws on her extensive gardening experience to guide you through a year of growing your own food: planning, planting, maintaining, harvesting and putting your garden to bed for winter. This month, Redawna takes us through moving seedlings outdoors and other summer garden chores.
As we dive into summer let’s check in and see how your garden is growing.
Some of us have been planting for a few weeks now, some are completely done and for some it’s continual depending on what and where they’re growing. Like most, I think I’m done and then I see a plant I just have to add, or perhaps inspiration from an image I’ve seen or a yard I’ve passed in my travels sends me back to the greenhouse. Because let’s face it, there’s always room for one more plant.
Now that the gardens are in we can look at moving outside any seedlings we started inside, as well as some of the other jobs around the yard.
Moving Seedlings Outdoors
First we’ll get those seedlings outside. We have to slowly acclimate the annual and vegetable seedlings to the outdoor conditions. The sun is hot, and can burn tender seedlings very quickly. Set them outside in a shady spot, exposing them to more sun over several days. Be sure to protect them from the wind and keep them watered well. Move them back indoors or cover them with a sheet at night so they can gradually adapt to cooler evening temperatures.
I usually extend this process over a two-week period to make sure they don’t get cooked when the temperatures soar. You can also use row covers and move them directly to the garden after the first week. Row covers diffuse the light, retain heat and keep away any predators. Be sure to leave the ends of rows that are covered open for airflow.
Install trellises, netting or poles and fencing for tall growing peas and beans after they emerge. Place any tomato cages now when plants are small. It’s hard to place them once the plants are larger and often results in broken stems.
Other Garden Chores
Once the seeds you planted are two to three inches tall you can differentiate the vegetables from the weeds. Now you can pull the weeds and remove the string markers. Continue to pack down the soil in the pathways between the rows.
A bountiful harvest is possible when plants are healthy, which means consistent watering, a good feeding schedule and weeding. You’ve probably heard the saying “growing like a weed” for good reason. Unlike flowers and vegetables, weeds can grow in any condition and they compete for water and nutrients — good weeding practices are important.
Fertilize any spring bulbs you may already have growing and allow the foliage to die back naturally. Don’t trim them, as the energy from the plant material is being stored back into the bulb and they are re-charging for next year’s flowers. I like to leave any seed heads to dry out on the plants. I will collect the seeds once they are completely dry, allow some to fall and reseed naturally and also leave some for the birds. I don’t know if they eat the seeds but the dried stalks make for great perches for the birds when visiting the garden throughout all the seasons.
Transplant perennials on a cooler shady day to reduce transplant shock and be sure to water frequently. Support taller perennials such as delphiniums, hollyhocks and peonies with wire hoops or bamboo stakes before they get too wide and tall. You can adjust the supports as they grow.
Tips for Planting Trees and Shrubs
Carefully consider the mature size of new trees and shrubs before planting. A great idea is to work them into the master plan to see if they’ll fit in the long term. Keep in mind overhead power lines and proximity to fencing as well as the house.
Take a look at a fully grown tree. See how large the crown is (the branches and leaves); that’s how large the root system will be when your tree is fully grown. However large the top is, is how large the tree is underground. That’s some food for thought, especially when planting next to your home.
Make the planting hole three times wider than deep and only as deep as the root ball. Its surface should be level with the ground once placed into the planting hole. Backfill with soil, and water well weekly to establish the roots.
Prune any ornamental shrubs, such as lilacs, after flowering and trim any hedges.
Mowing your lawn often is one of the best ways to naturally feed it. Don’t use the bag; instead allow the grass clippings to fall back into the lawn. As they break down they feed the soil.
Lawns survive drought better when their roots grow deep into the soil. You can encourage this by watering early in the morning, giving them an inch of water a week. A great way to measure this is by using an empty tuna can on the lawn if using a sprinkler. Once the can is full you’ve hit the one inch mark.
Arrange containers into groups for greater effect. Different heights and colours add visual drama. One word of note, containers that are against a light or white coloured wall will dry out quicker than ones against dark coloured walls. Dark colours absorb the light, while white and light coloured walls reflect the light, making the growing area hotter. Water well; when it’s very hot containers and hanging baskets could need water daily. Fertilize every two weeks for healthy plants and full blooms.
Update Your Garden Notebook
And be sure to make any notes about the garden, transplant and planting dates and how everything is doing in your garden master plan. It’s a great reference to go back to through the years to see what did and didn’t work.
In July we’ll discuss mulch and learn the what’s and why’s of mulching. We’ll also discuss a bit of planning for the harvest in terms of saving seeds and what we need to think about for August and September.
As with any of the articles in the Grow Your Own Food series, feel free to message me or reach out through the various social media channels with any and all questions you have.
- Grow Your Own Food: Planting Your Garden
- Grow Your Own Food: Fertilizer and Compost
- Grow Your Own Food: Starting Seeds Indoors
Grow Your Own Food is written by Redawna Kalynchuk. Redawna is the writer, photographer and content creator at Nutmeg Disrupted. She has over 20 years of gardening experience and has gardened from indoors under high-powered lights to frosty zone 2b gardens in northern Alberta. She enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional gardening and loves empowering others to grow their own food. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.