It’s finally March! With its promise of spring, March is the perfect time to plan your upcoming garden, whether it’s on your balcony, in a few pots inside, or in your backyard. Maybe you even have access to a community plot, or friends with farmland! Either way, size is not important; anything can appear a magical haven of green.
If you are a techie, there are some cool software programs to help you plan out your garden. The library and local independent bookstores also offer some great month-by-month garden planners. Sitting by a window sketching on the back of a napkin can be just as delightful, especially when accompanied by a cup of rosemary tea (my herbalist, Danette Steele, recommends rosemary tea for memory and focus).
This year, we are excited to announce our second year running the TELUS House Toronto rooftop garden at 25 York Street. Last year was a true testing lab, figuring out ideal growing conditions and the plants that would suit our budding vegetable oasis. This year, we plan to keep with variety, but select more of the foods our employees enjoyed from our weekly farmer’s market. Alongside peas, beans, carrots, radishes, beets, garlic, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and kale we are also planting a number of cooking herbs.
We also let some of our plants go to seed last fall and harvested, dried and preserved them to plant this year and share with employees. The beauty of growing organic means that you can save seeds and plant them the following year and they will bear fruit. The best option is to buy organic seeds if you can. Sometimes, small farms that sell seeds grow them organically but just cannot afford the cost of organic certification. Small scale farming is generally much kinder on the environment, and when buying from them you also support small businesses so check out some sources for local seeds at your upcoming Seedy Saturday events or your local farmer’s market.
If this is your first time growing, take it slow. A few plants can make all the difference. Try some easy crops such as bush beans, lettuce, kale and radishes. If you’ve been planting for a long time, maybe try inserting some pollinator and medicinal plants among your vegetables or vice versa. Calendula is a beautiful flower that attracts lots of pollinators and also is good to use on the skin plus the flowers are edible. Some kale is so frilly and colorful it can almost be mistaken for a fancy perennial shrub, but also delicious in salads, stir-fries, as chips or in a smoothie.
Many of these suggested plants can be directly seeded into the ground. Check out your local last frost dates and the growing chart on your seed packets to determine when you can start planting them. Some plants, such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, can be hard to start by seed unless you have the greenhouse seedling setup; success can be helped by buying them as seedlings.
Good luck with you garden; and let us know what you’re planting by leaving a comment above. We’d love to see pictures of your progress too – tweet them to us @TELUS using #urbangarden!
Renee Nadeau is the Garden Steward at TELUS House in downtown Toronto