Think it’s too late in the season to get your green thumb on? Lisa Giroday, cofounder of local urban-farming project Victory Gardens, has some words for you. “There really is a misconception that, once May long weekend has passed, you’ve missed the boat with gardening,” she tells the Straight by phone. “But in Vancouver, that is totally not the case. We typically have pretty mild winters, so you can have food in the ground all year long. And planting dates can go as late for some things as September.”
Growing your own food not only encourages you to eat more fruits and veggies but it also saves you money and reduces your environmental footprint by lessening your reliance on produce that may be grown with pesticides and herbicides and transported via gas-guzzling trucks. In other words, it’s never too late to consider plotting your own garden.
But what foods, exactly, are best for planting at this time of year? While Giroday stresses that there’s a diversity of edible plants that can flourish into late summer and fall—in both new and established gardens—there are a few that are among her favourites.
Whether you opt for arugula, kale, or chard, leafy greens are great for growing no matter the time of year. The plants are low-maintenance, Giroday says, and mature quickly, which means you can enjoy the fruits of your labour sooner. “You want to look for crops with a shorter period to maturation,” the gardening pro advises. These numbers can typically be found on seed packets or in various garden resources, either online or in print.
Leafy greens are usually ready for harvest after 30 to 40 days. They can be picked even earlier, too, if you want to incorporate baby greens or micro greens into your culinary repertoire. “I know most of our customers really like to have salad greens in their garden because they’re expensive and expire quickly when you buy them at the grocery store,” Giroday adds. “They can also be used in a lot of recipes.”
Radishes, beets, and carrots
In terms of turnaround, radishes have one of the shortest periods to maturation. The plant can be harvested after as little as 35 days, though that’s not the only reason you should be considering growing them at home. They also offer fresh crunch and vibrancy to summer salads.
Beets and carrots are also apt choices: the veggies mature in just 50 to 60 days. If you’re starting from scratch, Giroday recommends installing a raised garden bed, which is best for drainage and helps mitigate pest challenges. For root veggies, you want well-drained soil and a little bit of depth to allow the plants room to grow, she adds. “You don’t want a really dense or clay-based soil.”
Broccoli and cauliflower
Giroday is a big fan of planting broccoli and cauliflower at home. “They like a soil that’s a little more alkaline-rich,” she explains. “So look at that when you add your fertilizer.”
If you’re working in an existing garden area, be sure to maintain your soil quality. “If crops are coming out of the garden and you want to plant a few more things before the end of the season, it’s really important to account for integrating more nutrients back into the soil,” Giroday explains, “since it may be a little depleted after being previously planted.”
Most importantly, she encourages both experienced and novice gardeners to avoid setting time limits. “There’s still a ton of time left in the season to grow a garden, to build a garden,” she says. “We recommend everyone with a little bit of space to take advantage of what they have.”