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How to Create an Edible Garden

Your guide to a fresh and bountiful harvest

Creating an edible garden in British Columbia can be a rewarding experience — an ordinary salad becomes a gastronomical delight when topped with a juicy, sun-kissed tomato, picked fresh from your garden.  

Growing your own food is nothing new… people have been doing it for centuries. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of growing and harvesting your own produce, now is the perfect time to start. 

But if you’ve never planted a veggie garden before, it can seem a bit intimidating. We’ve written this post to help you design your garden, choose the right plants and maintain it properly, so you can enjoy a delicious and bountiful harvest while supporting the environment. 

rows of lettuce

Why create an edible garden?

There are many reasons people grow their own fruits, herbs and veggies and decide to incorporate edible plants in their landscapes. 

  • Enjoy fresh and healthy food — Since homegrown produce is typically harvested at peak ripeness, it’s often more flavourful than store-bought produce. And because you’re in complete control, you can be sure it’s free from harmful chemicals.
  • High vitamin and mineral content — By adding compost and other nutrients to the soil you can improve its health, which can lead to higher levels of vitamins and minerals in the produce — and make it tastier too
  • Save on your grocery bill — Growing your own food can be a cost-effective way to save money on groceries, but you need to make smart decisions or you could end up with a $64 tomato like William Alexander!
  • Connect with nature — Working in any garden is good exercise and helps relieve stress. When you grow your own food you enjoy a sense of accomplishment and feel a greater connection to nature. 
  • Satisfaction — Eating food you planted yourself is really a labour of love, and can bring with it a great amount of satisfaction and excitement as you watch it grow and become ready for harvest. It’s also a great way to teach your kids and grandkids about where their food comes from.

How to design an edible garden

Designing an edible garden requires some planning and effort, but the rewards are worth it. Here are some things to consider to help you get started.

  • Choose a great location — Most edible plants need at least six hours of sunlight per day, so save that shady spot for plants that will appreciate it. Take note of where the sun rises and sets — planting with a “north-south” aspect in mind ensures sunlight is evenly distributed throughout the garden. It’s also a good idea to place it as close to your kitchen as possible, making it easy to pick what you need when you need it. 
  • Right-size your garden — Decide how much food you want to grow and how much space you’ll need to grow it. Zucchini and other squash tend to be space hogs, so if you’re growing them, you’ll need a large garden or plant them vertically. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, consider starting small to see if you like it. You can always expand your garden next year!
  • Optimize your space — If space is limited, it’s time to be creative! There are many ways to maximize space, such as intercropping or succession planting, which basically means growing different plants in the same space. An example of intercropping would be planting radishes with carrots. Radishes mature earlier than carrots, so the carrots can grow after the radishes have been harvested. With succession planting, the idea is to plant crops that mature at different times throughout the summer. And don’t forget to think vertical! Many plants are quite happy to grow on a trellis or other type of support.
person raking soil

How to plant an edible garden

Once you’ve chosen the right location, these tips will help you grow amazing veggies, perfect for those summer salads!

  • Prepare your soil — Edible plants do best in soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter, so add compost to boost the nutrient content, support beneficial microorganisms, improve soil texture and improve water retention. If your soil and drainage is poor, or you have limited space, you can always grow your veggies in a raised garden bed. 
  • Decide what you want to plant — Choose a mix of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you and your family enjoy eating and are suitable for the local climate and soil conditions. British Columbia has a diverse range of climate zones, so it's important to choose plants that are adapted to your specific area. Plants that are easy to grow include tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, beans and most herbs. 
  • Consider companion planting — Planting one type of plant with another can have some surprising benefits, such as enhanced flavour (cucumbers taste better when planted near dill) or pest control (basil planted near tomatoes help repel flies and mosquitoes). If you want to know more, Farmer’s Almanac has a Companion Planting Chart on its website.
  • Give your plants space — Crops planted too closely together have to compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients and are more susceptible to disease and pests. All seed packets and plant tabs have spacing recommendations, so make sure to follow them!
  • Choose high-quality seeds or plants — Last year’s seed packet may seem like a bargain, but if your seeds don’t germinate you’ve wasted your time and money… and won’t have anything to harvest! Make sure the seeds you buy are fresh, and if you buy bedding plants, make sure they are robust and healthy. It’s essential you plant and harvest at the right times too, so make sure you check your seed packet or plant tab for instructions. 
person watering plants

Maintaining your edible garden

Like any garden, maintaining an edible garden needs regular care and attention. Here are some tips for keeping your garden healthy and productive.

  • Water your plants regularly — Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot and other issues.
  • Feed your plants — Before fertilizing, test your soil to see what it needs, then apply appropriate, organic fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (or as needed based on soil test results). Over-fertilizing can lead to nutrient imbalances that could potentially harm your plants.
  • Prune your plants — Pruning promotes healthy growth and airflow. Remove dead or damaged branches and leaves and prune back overgrown or leggy plants.
  • Remove weeds — Weeds compete with more desirable plants for nutrients and water, so make weeding part of your regular routine. Mulching your plants helps deter weeds and makes the ones that do appear easy to pull out.
  • Monitor your plants — Watch for signs of pests or disease, and take appropriate action to control them. Since you’re growing food for your family to eat, consider using organic pest control methods, such as handpicking or using insecticidal soap.
  • Rotate your crops — Avoid planting the same crop in the same spot for more than one season to help prevent soil-borne diseases and pests. 
  • Maintain your soil — Add organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to your soil regularly. 

Want some help designing and planting an edible garden?

This post gives you the basic information you need to start growing your own vegetables. If you’d like help planning and installing a vegetable garden, reach out — we’re here to help.

Written by  Matt Vandenberg