There are a few ways that you can extend the gardening season. The Montreal gardening season is so short so why not explore some of these methods.
First off, you can use the floating row in the spring and in the fall to gain a couple degrees. This will enable you to plant your cool loving crops earlier in the spring and keep them in the garden later in the season. When planting more crops in the fall for winter garden, you want to consider the short amount of time you have left and choose varieties that will mature in 8 weeks such as leafy greens or radish. A winter garden is a way of extending the harvest season and not the growing season. When setting up the winter garden you want to start beginning of September or earlier so that they daylight hours are not too short. Once the daylight hours shorten enough (November), the plant stop growing – no matter how warm it is out.
Once you have selected your varieties and planted you must choose the structure that you will build. When you step up any kind of structure you want to think about mobility. If your cold frame or tunnel is always in the same spot eventually it will build up pest and disease. Moving your installation gives you access to nature’s sanitation. Consider where you are going to build or install your cold frame or tunnel. You want it to be easy access, so that once the snow comes you don’t have to shovel to get to your veggies.
Building a cold frame is a great option. It is beautiful and can double as a nursery to start seedlings in the spring, summer or fall but be careful to vent on sunny days. You can also build a tunnel. You want to use two layers so that you can take advantage of the greenhouse effect. You can use the floating row and a plastic sheet that you place on wickets so that the tunnel is not touching the plants. If you are gardening in a raised bed, you can easily fasten your new tunnel. You want to sides to be able to roll up so that you can easily harvest. Harvest when plants are thawed between 10-2pm on sunny days. Enjoy your harvest! Starches are transformed into sugar (beets, carrots), leaves develop nice deep colours red and purple and have a nice crisp texture.
There many reasons to choose a raised-bed. In our urban setting, spaces are small and building a raised bed that will be planted intensively is great way to dedicate a space to our garden all while keeping it simple.
You can build on almost any surface turf, gravel or your driveway, opening up space possibilities for your vegetable garden. By building up, you don’t have to dig down and amend the soil which is very labour intensive and can take years before getting a good soil quality. For your raised bed, you can invest in a high quality soil mix for your vegetable garden. Adding fresh soil to your raised bed will limit weeds as your are not digging up an existing space. A raised bed means that you are not walking in your garden bed and keeping your soil from getting compacted and allowing for great drainage. You can also get started earlier in the season because the soil in your bed will heat up early in the season. If you have lots of trees in your yard, gardening in the ground can be extremely challenging because of the roots, your raised bed can protect your garden from the piercing tree roots. The nice wooden structure allows you to easily install a trellis or fasten a fence to protect your garden from animals. It even enables you to build a hoop house, if you want to extend your season into the cooler months.
Vegetable gardening is a great way to get kids outside and learning in nature! Not only do students learn how a plant grows, and where their food comes from, but all curriculum can be taught in the school vegetable garden. Area, volume, ecosystem, visual art, poetry, the possibilities are endless! Starting a vegetable garden at school can be a challenge. So here are some pointers to help you along your way.
Involve the school community: Whether you are an engaged teacher, parent, after school educator or administrator it is crucial to get as many teachers on board as possible. Your vegetable garden can only be successful if lots of kids are using it as often as possible! Identify your allies and bring them on board as early as possible.
Find a site: Your school vegetable garden needs to be in a sunny spot (at least 6 hours of sun per day), that is not used for other purposes. It should also be easy to access and near a water source. Often the front or sides of the school near the a door are good places to start looking!
Financing: While school vegetable gardens are not very expensive, they do require materials. The initial setup will be more of an investment, then you will need seeds, plants, fertilizers and soil to top up every year. The school often has line items in the budget that can go towards a vegetable gardening project as long as you get good buy in from the director. Other good options are fundraising through parents committees. 1500$ for the first year will get you comfortably set up with a raised bed garden, some gardening materials (hose, shovels) and even a couple of planting workshops from your local urban agriculture experts!
Garden build: We suggest planting with excellent soil, in a raised-bed vegetable garden. Trying to amend existing soil is hard work and results can be poor depending on the existing soil quality. Planting in a way that is easy to maintain and gets great results is the best way to keep your team motivated.
Planting with kids: Kids love getting their hands dirty! One 12’ x 2’ vegetable garden per classroom gives each child a chance to plant. Having a mix of seeds and seedlings makes for lots of great learning. Starting a planting session talking about where food comes from and why vegetable gardening is important is a great way to introduce the garden project to each class. Start with one bed, and once you’ve proven to the school community what a great idea you had, you can add more beds in year 2!
Maintaining the garden: The main tasks are weeding and watering. Check out our help section, and newsletter for lots of information and resources on specifics! Setting up a watering calendar for the classes can give a chance for all the students to be involved.
What to do in the summer?: Keep it simple! In the first year of a school vegetable garden project it is often best to start small, and close the garden during the summer months. Once the vegetable garden has become a part of the culture of the school, you can start reaching out to summer camps, groups of engaged parents, or other community groups in your neighbourhood to partner with and keep the garden watered and weeded during the summer. At Urban Seedling, we have develop a great model to maximize your garden. We do a spring planting (late-April) of leafy greens and radish. You can then have a harvest party in June and Urban Seedling will come and close down the garden during the summer. In September, when the students return we have another planting workshop of leafy greens and radish. You then can have another even in the garden October and we come an close the garden for the winter. This model enable students to get the full experience of vegetable gardening without the extra work of maintaining and weeding over the summer.
Levels of engagement: To get as many kids using the garden as possible, get teachers to sign on at their comfort level. You need at least one class to adopt each garden bed, and be responsible for weeding and watering. Other teachers can then be invited to teach parts of their curriculum in the the school vegetable garden as often as possible.
Publicity: Having a vegetable garden looks good on the school. Let your community know with lots of pictures for the school website, school newsletters or other communications. The more parents, teachers and staff you can get involved and excited the better!
Indoor option: Now that you’ve planted your school vegetable garden outside, you can add a seedling growing component in the classroom. We usually pitch this portion as an entrepreneurship project. With a shelving unit, fluorescent lighting and pots and trays you can set up a seedling growing station that can grow plants for your garden as well as seedlings and herbs to sell At 5$ per pot, you can make 1440$ every 8 weeks! This can finance the outdoor vegetable garden project, as well as other activities at the school. Students design packaging, sales, marketing and distribution!
Water – Vegetables need lots of water. It is important to stay on top of watering especially if we are having a warm summer. If you are balcony gardening, smaller pots dry out much faster than a raised bed. The best way to make sure that you are watering enough if to stick you finger in the soil. The soil should be nice and moist below the surface.
Compacted soil – Plants have a hard time growing in compacted soil. Aeration is really important for the health of the roots of your plants. In a raised-bed with nice loose soil, this is easy. Just loosen up the soil with you hands in the spring and you can add some nutrients such as compost or chicken manure to freshen up the soil
Lacking nutrients – Vegetables need more nutrients than perennials plants. Make sure to add fresh soil in the spring. We use our custom soil blend and chicken manure to freshen up the bed in the spring. You can use kelp during the summer to nourish your plants.
Sun – Even if you have a garden that is in full sun (you need 6 hours minimum to grow vegetables), leaves of other plants can shade out other plants in the garden. Cut back any leaves that our shading out other parts of the garden.
Space – Every plant needs enough space to grow and be healthy. Follow our spacing guide to plant your garden. Make sure to keep your space weeded, you don’t want weeds competing with your vegetable seedlings for nutrients.
Inconsistent watering is a problem for cucumbers and will develop bitter or weirdly shaped fruit. Cucumbers have very shallow roots so keep soil moist. Avoid watering the leaves of the plant to keep leaf disease such as powdery mildew at bay. Remember to remove any diseased leaves from cucumbers. As needed spray your affected plants with a baking soda solution for control.
Insects are key to pollinate your cucumbers. If your plant blooms and does not produce fruits you may not have enough insect activity and need to pollinate your cucumbers by hand using a soft paint brush. Move pollen from male to female flowers with the tip of your paintbrush.
Cucumber beetles love to feed on young cucumbers plants and carry bacteria and disease in their mouths. The beetle spreads this bacteria by chewing on the plant. Once infected, plants die quickly.You can prevent the beetle by hunting them and removing them from the garden, installing yellow sticky traps or using a floating row to protect your young cucumber plants
Cucumbers are very productive plants and great addition to any garden.
New to urban agriculture? Looking to start growing some edibles on your balcony or in your yard? These are our favorite easy to grow vegetable for new urban gardeners.
Kale – Kale is easy to plant, grow and extremely productive. You can plant it from seed or from seedling all season long.
Swiss Chard – Swiss Chard much like kale is easy to grow, plant and productive. If can planted from seed or seedling.
Peas and beans – Peas and beans are planted from seed. Peas are planted in the spring and last till the the summer heats up. They are easy to grow and the shoots are also delicious. Beans are planted late May or early June. You can grow pole beans or bush beans. Both are extremely productive and easy to plant, however, pole beans and peas needs a trellis or stake to climb on.
Herbs– Herbs are the quintessential new gardener choice. Delicious and wonderful to have in any yard or balcony. Chives, parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme are great started herbs.
Cherry tomatoes – If you are going to start growing a tomato, choose the cherry. It needs less energy to ripen and produces more tomatoes per vine. Great for a balcony or a yard and cherry tomatoes come in all kinds of colours: yellow, black, red, orange making a wonderful colourful, tasty addition your new urban agriculture journey.
The time has come to start harvesting your root vegetables. Onions are ready when the greens onions stems start to turn brown (top left picture). It is time to pull them out. You can leave them out in the sun to cure for a couple week or eat them right away. For beets and carrots, the best way to check it to stick your finger in the soil and investigate, if you like the size harvest and enjoy.
The peas shoots are starting to turn brown. These peas should be pulled out of the garden and any last nice looking peas harvesting. Just pull the whole vine out, don’t be afraid! This will make more space for your tomato plants. Make sure to make space for every plant! Cut back tomato vines that can’t fit on the trellis, cut large leaves kale, chard, or any other leaves that are shading out their neighbours.
We’ve started seeing powdery mildew in the garden. It’s important to cut out affected leaves and dispose right away – it spreads very quickly! Spray plant every other day with a baking soda solution to stop the spread. Click here for more details.
If you have cucumbers or squash in your garden, the flowers are starting. The bees at the greenhouse love these flowers they are very busy these days! It is important to have insect activity in the garden so that your plants get pollinated. f your plant blooms and does not produce fruits you may not have enough insect activity and need to pollinate your cucumbers by hand using a soft paint brush. Move pollen from male to female flowers with the tip of your paintbrush.
The aphids have been spotted in the gardens. Aphids come in many colours including black. They can be sprayed off with a strong jet, squished with your fingers. If you have a bigger infestation and you cut of the most affected part of the plant and remove the rest with a strong jet.
The hot weather is not over, so remember to keep watering!
Mizuna is gaining in popularity in Montreal. Very easy to grow and produces an abundance greens. With a slightly spicy taste and very juicy texture, mizuna is a great crop to have in any garden. A member of the mustard family, mizuna is best planted in spring (last week of April or early may). It can be planted from seed or planted from seedlings that are started 4 weeks before planting them in the garden.
The biggest consideration when growing mizuna is that it goes to flower very quickly as soon as the summer heats up. Keep cutting back the flowering spikes to keep the energy of the plant concentrated in the leaves of the plant. Once the month of May hits, flea beetle can be an issue in garden.
Mizuna is great in quick green salad, it can be also used in soups, stir frys, and makes a great pickled green. If you have not tried mizuna in your garden consider adding this green in your spring or fall garden.
The kale was once such a mysterious green to us! I remember in the early days of the vegetable baskets, kale was being introduced in kitchen across Canada and we did not know what to do with it. Kale is a wonderful addition to any garden. Easy to grow, and productive it can be planted early and stay in the garden late into the fall.
Kale can be planted from seed or planting from seedling. Kale can be planted in the garden as soon as night time temperatures stay around 3 degrees at night usually late April or early May. Get a jump start on the season and seed your kale seedlings 4 weeks before planting them in the garden. Not to worry, if you don’t plant your kale in the spring it can be planted at any time during the season!
Kale is extremely easy to grow and not a problem crop and rarely is affected by pests and disease. However, as member of the brassica family common pest and disease for this family are the cabbage moth, slugs and japanese beetles.
This amazing plant in extremely nutritious and delicious. Chop and freeze for some greens during the winter months or add a handful to your smoothie for a green kick. Kale is delicious in a raw salad with a olive oil dressing. If you have not tried kale chips, this a great way to use up that extra kale, and it can be prepared in the oven or in a dehydrator.
Flea beetle are very small and black and hard to see in the garden. If you want to spot them in the garden you have to approach quietly or they jump away.
Flea beetle damage resemble small needle holes in the leaves of your greens. They are usually active during the month of May. However, the damage is cosmetic and leaves can still be harvested.
Flea beetles do not like water so make sure to water often or setting up a sprinkler can help to control populations. You can use sticky traps to catch them. Flea beetles are loved by birds so installing a birdhouse or having hedges for birds to hide in can encourage them to stick around and eat those tasty beetles for you. If you know that flea beetle is a problem in your garden you can use a physical barrier such as a floating row to prevent them from infesting your garden.
It is best to harvest daily and often. Vegetable are best when they are at their freshest! Flowers should start to appear on your fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers, and eventually you will start harvesting fruits. Check out our quick guide to havesting fruit vegetables by clicking here. If you have broccoli in your garden you want to harvest the head soon.
Remove any larger outer leaves of broccoli or cabbage if they are getting in the way. Cabbage is probably ready to harvest, get to it before it splits! This head is actually a flower. You need to harvest it before the buds open. 3-4 weeks after cutting off the main head, you should get two smaller heads on the side of the stalk (florets), that can also be harvested.
If your garden was planted in late-April or early-May, beets, carrots and onions will ready to harvest soon as well. To check, dig around a little with your finger to judge the size of the root. If it is to your liking – pick it! In the mean time, onion greens and beet greens are delicious additions to any dish. Just make sure not to take more than 30% of the plant.
Don’t forget to stay on top of the japanese beetles in the garden. Best practice is to go out with a yogourt container with some soapy water and shake them into your bucket. Exciting news! There is now parasite that is infecting japanese beetle. You can recognize these beetles by the white spot(s) on their head (left hand picture). Keep these beetles in garden giving a chance to this parasite to affect your populations! If you notice any other pest activity in the garden consult our diagnose section of our website to learn more about organic methods to deal with pest and disease in the garden.
Garden closing at Urban Seedling takes place at the end of October and early November. Till then you can use floating row cover to protect your vegetables against light frosts. Make sure to harvest all the tomatoes before frost hits! The green ones can be make into a delicious green tomato ketchup.
Remove all dead plants and clear out the garden. It is important to clear out debris from around your garden as well. This helps to break the life cycle of pests and disease – prevention is the best medicine! Disturbing the surface of the soil helps too.
Plant your garlic. While it is possible to spring-plant some varieties of garlic, fall-planted garlic is much better. It is such a joy to see the garlic come up first thing in the spring.
Do an application of fish emulsion. This is a fantastic way to add nutrients back into the garden. Fish emulsion is great for the keeping the mycorrhizal fungi in your garden happy.
Top up your garden with fresh soil and compost. If you have access to dead leaves, chop them up with the lawn mower as finely as possible and add them on top of the garden, to be turned-in in the spring.
Cover the raised bed garden with a clear plastic sheet and staple it to the wood frame. This protects your garden soil and nutrients from the harsh winter conditions, keeps weed seeds out and heats the garden soil a good two weeks earlier in the spring!