Growing Vegetables - Important Considerations
Growing vegetables can be very rewarding if some important considerations are followed. As you learn how to grow vegetables, you will see that each vegetable that you choose to grow will have specific requirements for sunlight, water, soil conditions, spacing, and weeding.
List of Vegetables
If you would like to know how to grow a specific vegetable, please select a vegetable from the following (small, but growing!) list of vegetables.
Growing a vegetable garden requires that you know about:
- Your local frost date
- Planting, thinning and potting vegetables
- Hardening off vegetables
Below is a simple explanation of these concepts so you can be fully prepared for growing a vegetable garden.
Growing Vegetables - Your Local Frost Date
Successfully growing vegetables (outdoors), can only happen within a season the begins with the last frost of spring and the first killing frost of Fall. The first killing frost can loosely be defined by a temperature that is approximately 4 degrees below freezing, for a period of several hours. If you are currently growing a vegetable garden, it may help to keep a record of when these frosts occur. If you are new gardener learning how to grow vegetables, you can find out your approximate frost dates by asking your neighbors, your local weather station, or local gardening store.
Keep in mind that the frost trend will be a very local phenomenum. These dates will vary depending on your garden's elevation, exposure (ie. south facing), and how close your garden is to a large body of water. Large bodies of water tend to moderate temperature, and therefore your garden will be less prone to frost (if you live near a large lake or the ocean). If you live in a dry valley, you may see a shorter vegetable growing season. Cold air is denser than warm air, and will settle in low-lying areas.
Planting, Thinning and Potting Vegetables
You can start growing vegetables indoors in order to gain extra growing time, especially if you have a short growing season (~100days). Here are the general guidelines for indoor planting:
- Use sterilized potting soil - regular garden soil may contain weeds and fungi.
- Use flats for small seeds, pots for large seeds. Ask for specific vegetable seed requirements when buying.
- Plant seeds.
- Keep in mind specific growing times. Each vegetable will have a specific duration that it needs to grow indoors, and a preferred time in spring to be transplanted outdoors. The timelines for specific vegetables can be found on our "How to grow..." pages (See above vegetable list).
- Keep flats or pots in a warm spot
- Cover flats or pots with plastic or glass to retain moisture and keep out of light.
- Do not overwater. If water droplets form on plastic or glass, dry the covers off to avoid "damping off", a condition where fungi may start growing and seedlings will die.
- Thin out smaller seedlings once true leaves are seen, allowing larger seedlings room to grow.
- Once the flat is crowded again, delicately transplant to pots, and water immediately with a weak water/fertilizer mixture.
- Harden off (see next section for details) the seedlings allowing them to acclimitize to outdoor conditions.
- Transplant seedlings outdoors
For specific details on how to grow vegetables, please see our list of vegetables found above. Or refer to our page that talks about when to plant vegetables
Growing Vegetables - Hardening Off Plants and Transplanting
Hardening off plants is a delicate but important part of growing vegetables. Seedlings that are grown indoors require periods of exposure to outdoor conditions, and less watering, before being transplanted into a garden. Hardening off seedlings should occur over 7-10 days before seedlings are permanently placed in a vegetable garden. The goal is to keep the seedlings between 13°C and 21°C during hardening off. A cold frame (an enclosure with a transparent lid that can be propped open) is ideal for placing the plants in order to protect them from strong sun, wind, driving rain, or cold snaps. If a cold snap occurs, cover the cold frame with a blanket.
Here are the steps:
- On the first day of hardening off, place the plants in the cold frame or sheltered outdoor area for 2-3 hours. Cover the lid with newspaper if the sun is very strong. The lid of the cold frame should be propped open for this period. The seedlings can be left in the cold frame (close lid) overnight unless the temperatures are predicted to drop below ~13°C. If you don't have a cold frame, bring the seedlings back inside.
- On each of the following days of hardening off, increase the seedlings exposure to sunlight by a few hours each day. By the end of the first week, the seedlings should be tough enough to be in the sun all day. During this week you should also gradually reduce watering the seedlings, but do not allow them to wilt.
- Approximately 1 week before transplanting, cut the flat in between the plants (use a sharp knife) in order to separate the roots. Ensure you water the plants at this point.
- Transplant the seedlings into the vegetable garden on a cloudy day. Water with a mild mix of water and fertilizer to reduce the shock of transplanting.
When growing vegetables, this hardening off period is very important. The steps above are the ideal and must be followed as closely as possible to ensure your best chance of growing a vegetable garden that is healthy and vibrant.
Growing Vegetables Outdoors
If you are thinking about growing vegetables by planting seeds outdoors, please see our list of vegetables (above) for specific details on how and when to plant outddoors. Please keep in mind that growing a vegetable garden will be most successful with a plan!
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