Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Planting vegetables with your child is a great way to get them to try new things. I'd recommend asking your kids what they'd like to have in a fresh Fall salad and you have the beginnings of your plant list. Plan a visit to Halifax Seed on Kane Street, near the Hydrostone, and have the kids choose what they'd like to have in their salad, then, add a few other vegetables you think they might be willing to try. The staff are always helpful and can offer suggestions for Fall planting. Another good local source for plants is Farmer Clem's, they have a number of spots in HRM. I was in their Bedford Highway location last week and they still have a good selection of transplants. Transplants are established plants that can go right into your garden, no fussing with seeds.
Having kids "pick" a salad is a great way to introduce them to a variety of vegetables. If they've grown the plant and have ownership, they're far more likely to try it. Also, there is a big difference in flavour. The plants you grow in your own garden will be much sweeter than vegetables that have been sitting on supermarket shelves. Just think of the flavour difference in a fresh carrot vs one that was picked weeks ago! I also find that tomatoes are sweeter, and cucumbers and peas much juicier.
Wondering when to plant what?
The end of July, first week of August, is a great time to start peas and beans from seed if you are planning on a September picking. Seeds planted now can be harvested at the beginning of September. The peas in particular, a cool weather crop, will do well as the weather begins to cool towards the end of August and into September.
Didn't plant a Spring garden? Not to worry, it was a cold Spring so many of the transplants you can find at local nurseries may be bigger than those planted in gardens at the end of May. This time of year any of the nurseries and famers markets carry mature tomato plants, just look for plants with lots of fruit on the vines. This means instant gratification. When you plant these, break up the roots a bit, plant late afternoon, or on a cloudy day and be sure to water well for the first few days. My favorite tomato for kids is the tiny sweet orange tomatoes, also known as Sun Gold Tomatoes. The plants produce sweet tangerine coloured tomatoes into the Fall and they are perfect for snacking.
Sweet peppers are another plant that you can likely find at the local nurseries. Peppers can be hard to grow here in Nova Scotia because we don't have a long enough hot season. Buying an established plant that already has peppers is a great way to get around our short season.
Lettuce is the base of your salad. It can be planted every 2-3 weeks so that you have a constant supply of fresh salads. The lettuce planted now should be ready to pick mid-August. You should be able to plant another batch 2nd week of August that will give you your September salads.
If you decide to give a garden a go, keep it small and manageable your first year. There are also lots of options for gardening as well as lots of information on line- you can keep vegetables in containers on a balcony, or grow 'em in a garden.
Deirdre Evans is owner of Urban Veggies, and founder www.urbangardener.ca. She is a garden coach and mother to two young boys. Deirdre helps people grow fresher, healthier, tastier food in urban garden boxes here in HRM.