The secret to growing vegetables is in the soil.
Like an epic wine that takes its flavour from the land where the grape is grown, vegetables are also effected by the soil.
The taste of vegetables can be impacted by the soil, and the quality of soil that you use. The idea that ‘locally-grown’ produce taste better is not just a happy notion to make people feel good: it’s a reality.
Since you can’t get more local than your own backyard, create an environment where your vegetables—and plants, shrubs and flowers—can not only grow, but thrive!
About That Mississauga Soil In Your Backyard…
Fact: The natural soil types found in the Mississauga area aren’t necessarily conducive to that perfect vegetable garden. Most of the area is comprised of three soil compositions, two of which are heavy in clay: heavy clay and coarse clay. These can be difficult to plant in, being too heavy or too compact.
The rich, organic soil of the Holland Marsh, on the other hand, where a full 55% of Ontario’s produce is grown, is fertile and primed for growing produce including carrots, onions, parsnip, potatoes, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers and more!
While you might not want to move to the Marsh, you can bring soil that is native to that area to your home, to enhance your vegetable (and flower / shrub) beds.
Three Types Of Soil For Your Garden
Vegetable soil—This should be a combination of peat loam, compost and manure, as it is at Holland Marsh. A fertile organic soil will be ‘active’, in that it will contain organic matter that will help keep moisture in and keep the soil alive with organisms, bacterias and fungi… all the things that make the soil diverse, and which then produce a tasty vegetable.
Overseeding soil—A combination of peat loam and compost, this is a weed free soil that is meant to be combined with grass seed, to promote grass growth.
Topsoil—A filler type soil that is best used for filling uneven ground areas, creating raised beds and landscapes, and as a base for fresh sod. It’s also good for planting shrubs and trees.
When To Plant
Every spring, the question arises: when is it okay to start working the soil and begin planting? Ignoring for the moment the question of air temperature, the issue for soil is moisture.
If you start to work the soil too early, it will be too wet and dense from thawing and snowmelt, as well as spring rains, and will clump. Those clumps don’t break down later into the smaller, loose dirt particles that you need to create air pockets in the ground for plant roots to thrive in. If your soil is clumping, it’s too soon.
You can test your soil to see if it’s ready to start being tilled and worked: take a baseball size amount of soil that you think is relatively dry and squeeze it until it compacts into an actual ball shape. Then drop the ball from about table height. If it crumbles into loose soil, your soil is dry enough to begin your spring digging. If it breaks into large pieces or not at all, it’s still too wet.
Preparing Your Soil
Once you’ve determined that your soil is dry enough to begin digging, you need to clear the vegetable beds of any debris that accumulated over the winter: twigs, rocks, etc…
Then you can start working your soil, which means turning it over and digging down, at least 10 to 12 inches. Vegetable plants root fairly deeply. This is the point where you want to add your vegetable soil and work it through the soil in the bed. Particularly in the Mississauga area, where clay is a major composite of standard soil, adding clay-free vegetable soil will aerate the existing earth and create the air pockets your plants will need to germinate. The active, organic composition of the veggie soil will also help to retain necessary moisture and nutrients.
Creating New Beds?
If you’re new to vegetable gardening or creating new beds for the season, you can start off on the right foot (or bed!) by making sure that you plan for the best outcome!
Positioning—Many vegetable plants, including tomatoes, need a lot of sunlight to grow and to keep disease at bay, so placing your beds in relatively sunny, well drained areas of your garden is ideal.
Sizing—Make sure that your vegetable beds are big enough to leave space between your plants. Too close together and they will suffocate, get overly humid and be prone to more disease. You might also find one creating shade over another and stunting the growth.
The right foundation for any vegetable bed is going to be, first and foremost, the soil. The right base will retain an appropriate amount of moisture while still creating those all-important air pockets for roots to germinate and take, and will supply nutrients to the seedlings that your veggies need. Start with the right base, and you’ll find it easier to grow a steady supply of succulent vegetables, all season long.
To find out more about soil types, or to purchase soil, visit us at www.gardenbag.ca. If you live in Mississauga, we’ll deliver your soil for free! ?