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Growing Basics

So you want to start your own garden, either for the first time-or after some trial and error. Knowing how to grow your own vegetables is constant learning experience. So, we breakdown all the basics you need to know before digging in in the tables below. These keywords are mentioned throughout our pages. These are all discussed in each of our plant profiles but here we define why we do so.


Planning a garden is extremely important. Some plants fare better closer to others, some share common insects, soak up the same soil nutrients. Your planning doesn’t need to be extensive, but take a look at the table below to get a good idea of what you should consider.

Spacial location However you place your plants can affect its growth. Some plants can be bullies and block out all the light from other plants, some do better next to others, and some even benefit from non-edible plants such as flowers.  That’s why it is important to note the height and growth pattern of the plant as we mention in each profile. For example: cucumbers naturally don’t grow in height, but their vines and leaves stretch to cover a lot of ground- and may take over space from other veggies. Tomatoes, on the other hand (depending on the genus) can grow tall, and their leaves tend block out sunlight from other plants that sit near or behind them in the sunlight.
Taller Plants: these tend to strive for the skies, and fan out their leaves to soak up as much sunlight as possible.
Floor-covering plants: These tend to have heavy fruits/bounties that the plant simply cannot hold, so they rely on the ground to bear the weight. These tend to be vined plants with large leaves such as pumpkin plants or cucumbers.
Crop Rotation It is important to rotate the placement of your crops at least every 3 years as to prevent plant family-specific diseases and replenish the family-specific nutrients in the soil.


There are a couple of things you need to know before planting- how big will it grow, what kind of soil/light does it need, when to START planting them… But there are also some things some don’t think about when planting- what plant to put where is one of the big ones.

Growth/Maturity Period How long it takes for the crop to reach maturity, and would be ready for harvest.
Preferred Climate When growing outdoors, it is important to know what climate you are in as to find a suitable plant. Canada and the US are divided into zones of average temperatures with 1 being the coldest and 10 the hottest. However, this only takes into account average temperatures, not humidity, sunlight and even the sub-climate temperatures and conditions. You may have to plant more units depending on the climate to get a good yield- the yield one would in the plant’s preferred climate.
When to Plant First and foremost, it is important to note that frost is extremely harmful to your crop, so typically farmers wait until the last frost before planting. When this is, of course, depends on your climate. So if the amount of time between the last frost and harvest time (when the frost comes in the Fall) is not enough for a plant to grow fully, then some farmers resort to starting the seedlings indoors. This brings about a whole other set of tasks including knowing when to transplant the seeds (when they’re sizeable enough), and which to be especially careful with perhaps showing a short period of deterioration as the plant is sensitive to this stressful move.
Germination Mentioned here is the time it takes for the seed to grow and emerge above-soil and what temperature is optimal for this to occur.
Hole Depth A common question when starting one’s own garden is how many seeds do I put in on hole/site? This varies upon plant, as some have a better per seed success rate, while others should be planted with backup seeds.
Hole Distance Some plants cover a lot of ground and needed to be spaced further apart, whereas some can be placed quite close. Carrots for example, are often just sprinkled on the soil with no care for spacing as they don’t require much room. Others, such as watermelon, require more space.
Mutual Partner Plants Plants can benefit from the company of others whether it be another vegetable or a totally different plant- like a flower. Partner plants can help each other thrive by allowing each other the right amount of sun or even warding off pesky bugs like Marigold do for tomato plants. Partner plants are also the ones that don’t typically choke the other out, takes different nutrients from the soil, or can provide something the other plant benefits from.
Determinate/Indeterminate Determinate plants are those that, like their name, only grow to a certain height, blossom and grow crops at the end of the branch and then die after the crop ripens. Indeterminate plants grow their larger crops on vines which allows it to keep growing until a frost kills it. This also means it generally takes the plant longer to produce its crop.


Water It is definitely true that you can overwater your plants. Some don’t require frequent watering, others require deep watering (making sure it gets lower on their roots), or even just a spray. Even having a schedule of watering can be beneficial to some plants. This can all differ on your climate too. If it’s too hot, the water may evaporate before the plant can soak it up (some preventative measures like placing stones around the roots can help). It’s hard to give definite instructions to each individual, as they face different climate challenges. The basic rule would be to follow the plant’s basic needs and maybe put in a little judgement too. A good thing to look out for for a plant that is not getting what it needs is if their leaves droop too much, the soil is cracked and bone-dry, even touching the thickness of the leaves or stems can be a good gage.
Sun Exposure Different plants require different amounts of sunlight. Some can shrivel up if they receive too much and others lack growth if they don’t receive enough. Sun exposure can also affect the amount of crop the plant will bear. For example, if a tomato plant is in too cool of a climate, it may still live and produce fruits, but not as many as it would in a warmer climate
Pruning Pruning is required for some plants to keep them from over-growing and taking over your garden. Sometimes harvesting every-so-often acts as pruning to keep the plant at bay.
Frequent Diseases There are natural and chemical ways of preventing and treating diseases. Sometimes it’s just trimming the older leaves as new growth flourishes as they are more prone to disease, while some onset and spreading disease must be treated with powders and the like. Mentioned in each plant profile are the most frequent diseases and how to prevent them. The less common ones may have been experienced by community members, so it is suggested you reach out for assistance.
Common Pests Different plants tend to attract different species of bug. Potato plants tend to attract what is commonly known as potato bugs (or Colorado Potato Beetle) which are harmful to the plant – they can eat through the leaves and damage its ability to soak in sunlight, and may also attract other bugs that eat the fruit itself. Some of these bugs need to be taken care of manually – such as the potato bug- by picking them off or through applying a product, and others don’t require action.
Disease Resistance Disease resistance, again, varies by the type of plant. Tomatoes, for example, are more prone to certain diseases than, say, mint. It can also vary by individual species: some tomato species were bred and nurtured to be resistant to specific diseases. It is good to take a look into the plant’s disease resistance to certain strains prominent in the area you will be farming.


When to Harvest Each plant’s produce is to be harvested at different times. Some can even be harvested at different times depending on the desired outcome.
How to Freeze Some crops can be frozen to preserve them longer, others (like leafy vegetables) won’t keep and may turn into an unusable mushy mess.
How to Propagate Depending on the plant, it may be easy to harvest seeds. If so, steps on how to do so are described here. If not, or if it’s not worthwhile gathering seeds (say, they have a low-germination rate), it’s mentioned how to grow them from cuttings or another method.
Growth Behaviour Plants can be either be annuals, biennials, or perennials. Annuals go through their entire life cycle in a year, have a long blooming period and usually produce seeds before they die every year. Biennials take two years to go through their life cycle, and usually bloom in the second year. Perennials live for more than two years and have a short blooming period.