Starting a vegetable garden

(Question)

I have a soil garden approx. 20 x 30 ft.
I intend to grow veg this year and continue annually. as the ground has now thawed, I thought it must be time to till the soil. but there are a lot of weeds, debris in the soil. I am going to rent a rototiller next weekend and wanted to know how best to go about it, as I don’t want to ruin it for growing. I am also looking at what would be easiest to start growing as like I said I am a complete novice so I don’t even know what I should be trying to grow.

(Answer)

You have a large space that will allow you to grow lots of vegetables. But rototilling is probably not the answer for preparing your soil. Rototilling tends to make the soil too fine and destroys its structure, leading to soil erosion as well as disturbance if not destruction of the micro-organisms that live in the soil and nourish it. Rototilling doesn’t necessarily get rid of weeds, because it can move seeds to the surface of the soil where they will germinate.

You’re better off digging out the weeds, making sure you get the roots, and getting rid of any debris (neither will disappear by rototilling). Once you get to recognize the weeds, you can pull them out before they become a problem. If the soil is compacted, you’ll want to dig up the top six inches or so and turn it over, adding compost or manure to enrich the soil.

Since it sounds as if this may be your first garden, you should look around your space and figure out how much sun it gets — which parts are the sunniest (south-facing), which get the most shade (north-facing). Most vegetables need 6 hours of sun a day. And then make a list of what you’d like to grow.

Plan your garden before you plant it. Rather than planting your vegetables in rows, you might like the idea of mixing in a few shrubs and flowers with the vegetables. See what most appeals to you and start off slowly and work up to more complicated arrangements as you learn more about your plants. Easy vegetables to start with include tomatoes, green beans, green onions, lettuces, Swiss chard, radishes, kale, cucumbers, zucchini and herbs such as parsley, basil, rosemary and thyme.

Read any books you can find. The Toronto Public Library is a good source of gardening books and gardening talks — there are several books available now and several talks scheduled in the next few weeks — just search for “vegetable gardening” on the TPL site.

Here’s the answer to a similar question:

Planning my garden

Also take a look at these websites:

https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/index.php/factsheet/organic-vegetable-gardening-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/

I hope this will help you get started and that you’ll write back for more information once you’re further along. Good luck!