By Sana Athar
Continuing our gardening series, today we will focus on five more veggies and herbs that you can grow in your backyard.
This is a half-hardy vegetable that you can keep growing all season long by planting one small crop at a time. Days to maturity tend to be short. Lettuce is a cool-season crop that grows well in the spring and fall in most areas. Lettuce seedlings will even tolerate a light frost. Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost date for earliest crop. Harden off seedlings for about one week, and transplant outside between 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after last spring frost.
Lettuce will tell you when it needs water. Just look at it. If the leaves are wilting, sprinkle them anytime—even in the heat of the day—to cool them off and slow down the transpiration rate. Planning your garden so that lettuce will be in the shade of taller plants, such as tomatoes or sweet corn, in the heat of the summer, may reduce bolting.
Lettuce should be harvested when full size, but just before maturity. You want it young and tender.Before maturity, you can harvest leaf lettuce by simply removing outer leaves so that the centre leaves can continue to grow. Mature lettuce gets bitter and woody and it will go bad quickly, so check your garden everyday. As time passes, you will want to cut the whole plant from the ground. It’s best to harvest in the morning before leaves have been exposed to sun.
Mint is a perennial with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white ﬂowers. It has a fruity, aromatic taste. The mint family has many varieties, but it will take over your garden,so be careful where you plant it.For growing outdoors, plant one or two purchased plants (or one or two cuttings from a friend) about 2 feet apart in moist soil. One or two plants will easily cover the ground. Mint should grow to be 1 or 2 feet tall. In the garden, plant mint near cabbage and tomatoes.If you don’t want an entire bed of mint, buy some plants or take some cuttings from a friend and plant them in containers ﬁlled with potting mix enriched with compost. Remember to keep the plants in a sunny spot.
Minimal care is needed for mint. For outdoor plants, use a light mulch. This will help keep the soil moist and keep the leaves clean. For indoor plants, be sure to water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. Right before ﬂowering, cut the stems 1 inch from the ground. You can harvest one mint plant 2-3 times in one growing season. You can also just pick the leaves as you need them. You can also grow the plants indoors for fresh leaves throughout the winter.
Onions are a cold-season crop, easy to grow because of their hardiness.Onions grow well on raised beds or raised rows at least 4 inches high. Select a location with full sun where your onions won’t be shaded by other plants.Onion seeds are short-lived. If planting seeds indoors, start with fresh seeds each year. Start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before transplanting.
Generally, onions do not need consistent watering if mulch is used. About one inch of water per week (including rain water) is sufﬁcient. If you want sweeter onions, water more. Cut or pull any onions that send up ﬂower stalks; this means that the onions have “bolted” and are done. Be sure to harvest in late summer, before cool weather. Mature onions may spoil in fall weather.
Peas are a cool-season crop, and come in three separate varieties : Sweet peas, Snow peas and Snap peas. To get the best head start, turn over your pea planting beds in the fall, add manure to the soil,and mulch well. Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost, when soil temperatures reach 45 degrees F (7 degree C). Peas are best grown in temperatures below 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Water sparsely unless the plants are wilting. Do not let plants dry out, or no pods will be produced. Keep your peas well picked to encourage more pods to develop.
Pick peas in the morning after the dew has dried. They are crispiest then. Always use two hands when you pick peas. Secure the vine with one hand and pull the peas off with your other hand.
Peppers are a tender, warm-season crop. Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last spring frost date. After the danger of frost has passed, transplant seedlings outdoors.
Water one to two inches per week, but remember peppers are extremely heat sensitive. If you live in a warm or desert climate, watering everyday may be necessary. For larger fruit, spray the plants with a solution of one tablespoon of Epsom salts in a gallon of water, once when it begins to bloom, and once ten days later.
Harvest as soon as peppers reach desired size. The longer bell peppers stay on the plant, the sweeter they become and the greater their Vitamin C content. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut peppers clean off the plant for the least damage.
Stay tuned for the third and last part of our gardening series. We hope it starts you on your gardening journey and you can enjoy the fresh, green right from your own garden!
About the author:
Sana Athar is a stay at home mom to her three little angels. She lives in Milton, Ontario where she works on her passions: gardening and cooking for family and friends. An MBBS from Karachi, Pakistan, Sana is currently working on obtaining her license to be able to practice medicine in Canada.