Lauren is Volunteer Coordinator with Erin!

Hi Harvesters! As volunteer coordinator I ask one thing: reply to messages! If Erin or I send a message asking who will be at a UH event PLEASE REPLY! Whether you are coming, are not coming, or don't yet know if you're coming we need to know. We also need to know if you will be coming with a vehicle or any other useful tools.

I have been doing some reading about vegetable gardening and I am going to use this space to share what I have learned. I am going to defy my academic training and not source my informations (Debly be damned!) but most of the information I'm posting can be found in Gardening for Canadians for Dummies, in the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Gardening. Some of it comes from experienced gardener friends.


Most Vegetables need 6-8 hours of direct sun daily. Leafy greens, eg. spinach and lettuce, can thrive with a bit less. Fruit-producing veggies, eg. tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, squash, need a bit more. In many areas, the foundations of houses are drenched with pesticides to keep termites from eating the footings (was this included in the recent pesticide by-law?). Avoid growing edible plants right next to your exterior walls where their roots can contact these death-wish chemicals.

Veggies can be planted in rows, beds, containers, or on hills.

Rows: can plant any veg. in rows but works best with plants that need a lot of room, eg. tomatoes, cabbage, corn potatoes, melons, squash.

Beds: wide, flat-topped rows of soil, usually at least 60cm wide and at least 15cm high. You can install permanent borders of wood or other material, which makes it easy to concentrate all amendments and fertilizers in the bed without waste. Ideal for smaller veg. that don't mind living in close quarters eg. lettuce, carrots, radishes, turnips, but any veg can thrive in a bed. Plant in a random pattern or in closely spaced rows.

Containers: I believe Angela found some good stuff about growing veggies in old tires?

Hills: best for vining crops eg. cucumbers, melons and squash. (I hear melons are really easy; does anyone want to be minister of melons?) Create a 30cm wide flat-topped mound for heavy soil, or just a circle at ground level for sandy soil (I hear Waterloo's soil is mostly clay so we would probably choose the former) surrounded by a moat-like ring for watering. Plant two or three evenly spaces plants on each hill. space the hills at the recommended distance between rows.

Succession planting: following one crop with another

Interplanting: planting a crop that matures quickly next to a slower-maturing crop and harvesting the two before they compete for space.

Companion planting: planting crops that will ward off pests together. eg. tomatoes are prone to aphids but basil keeps aphids away so planting basil among your tomatoes makes for healthy, aphid-free tomatoes.

All of the above are important for planning the design of a garden.


Most veggies require a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Kits for testing soil pH are available in most garden centres. OR you can do what we did, which is the Fizz Test. To quote Gardening for Canadians for Dummies, "These tests are not very accurate, but can be fun to watch!" This involves adding a few drops of vinegar to a tablespoon of dry garden soil to test for alkaline soil. If it fizzes then the pH is above 7.5. To test for acidic soil add a pinch of baking soda to a tablespoon of wet soil. If the soil fizzes then the pH is less than 5.0. We got a fizz only once in an area we weren't planning on gardening, therefore our soil must all be neutral right? Should we consider including a pH test kit in our budget? How important do we think this is?

Soil minerals come in three types: sand, silt, clay. sand is the largest particle, silt is smaller and clay is smallest. the relative proportions of the three determine the soil texture. the ideal texture for gardening is loam, which has all three mineral types in roughly equal proportions. most garden soils are either sandy, clay or loam.

Sandy: water drains through quickly so the soil dries out quickly. nutrients also pass through the soil quickly. plants in sandy soils need lighter, more frequent applications of water and fertilizer.

Clay: heavy and tend to pack tightly. sticks to shoes and shovels when wet and cracks when dry. water enters and drains more slowly, which can be difficult to manage, however the soil's ability to retain moisture and nutrients makes it very fertile. (Clay is apparently what we will find most often in Waterloo. This makes is very difficult to grow root vegetables; the soil is so tightly packed that the root can't extend down. A friend who has been veggie gardening in Wloo for years and years has never been able to grow a carrot. This is too bad because we had an entire plot that we planned to use for carrots and potatoes. We should possibly rethink this.)

Clearing the soil: when getting rid of grass the best thing to do is to take a flat shovel and get it just under the grass (grass roots are very shallow) and sort of peel off the layer of grass. The grass layer can then be composted. Or a sod-lifter can be rented for about $6 a day (logistics coordinators?) The grass SHOULD NOT be mixed into the soil.

I also would like to mention that I have a contact who gets her mulch (which has fertilizer and wood chips mixed in so it is a multi-purpose mulch) from a farm in Elmira for $15/cubic yard, which is apparently very cheap. What is even better is that they will deliver for only $22/cubic yard. It costs more than that in gas to get there and back so this is a very good deal, if we deem it necessary. If there is interest I can get the contact info for the farm.

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