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Growing Vegetables in Cochrane and Seed Starting Tips

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Sweet Basil just poking its head out!

Time to start thinking about what will be growing in our gardens this year. We get a lot of similar questions around different types of seeds, i.e. GMO, organic, heirloom, etc. as well as what grows well here in Alberta.

At this point we have received all our seeds for the 2018 gardening season. All our seeds are non-GMO and we have a huge selection of certified organic varieties as well as heirloom and heritage seeds.

To answer some frequently asked questions

What veggies can I grow here?

What does Heirloom mean?

What is the difference between GMO and hybrid plants?

Seed Starting Tips

What veggies can I grow here?

Well, a lot! If you can create a good indoor space to start things early, you can grow pretty much any fruit or vegetable if you start early enough. When looking at seeds you want to look at the “Days to Maturity” or “Time to Harvest”. This will give you an idea of when to start indoors or when to plant outside. We carry a full selection of seeds tailored to the Alberta climate, including some for the more ambitious gardener.

We have some charts you can use as a guideline when planning your garden for seed starting and planting out times. Read our seed charts here.

An alternative to planting seeds is to buy plants that are already started. We bring in a huge selection of vegetable, fruit and herb varieties that are already growing that you just need to plant in your garden or containers. This is a great option if you have limited space inside for starting seeds.

Most important tip for growing vegetables:
Fertilize regularly! A good fertilizing program is one the biggest factors in success and yield. We recommend a combination of a good garden/potting soil bolstered with nutrient rich compost or similar material and bi-weekly usage of liquid organic fertilizers.

Some of the easier things to grow that would be good for a beginner gardener would be:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes (raised bed/large container)*
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Swiss shard
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Pea
  • Carrots (seed tape)**
  • Zucchini
  • Beets (seed tape)**
  • Radishes (seed tape)**

Some things that can be grown but are quite challenging (for the ambitious gardener):

  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelons
  • Parsnips
  • Turnip
  • Corn
  • Cantaloupe
  • Herbs (from seeds)
  • Celery

* We recommend growing tomatoes above ground level. This can be achieved in a raised garden bed or a container. Keeps the soil warmer at night during the summer.

** Seed tape is great for beginners. The seeds are pre-spaced so no need for thinning, etc. The seeds are pressed onto a long strip (“tape”), and you just cut the desired length and then plant!

What does Heirloom Mean?

Heirloom (sometimes called heritage) seeds or plants, are varieties of plants that have been around for a very long time. The seeds are harvested from a specific crop every year for at least the last 50 years. Each crop variety is kept away from others, so they can be pollinated from the same population of plants. This ensures the seeds produce plants that are consistently the same from year to year. If cross-pollination between varieties is allowed, then the seed will produce an unpredictable plant. Heirloom seeds are “open-pollinated”, meaning they are pollinated by nature, i.e. bees, wind, etc. Heirloom seeds and plants allow good hardy varieties of plants to be sustained long term while maintaining genetic diversity.

What is the difference between GMO and hybrid plants?

GMO means Genetically Modified Organism. In terms of plants, this means a plant has been modified at the genetic level. Then the seed harvested from that modified plant is considered GMO seed. Most GMO plants are unable to have their seeds saved, as they are sterile or just won’t produce new seeds in their fruits. Genetically engineered plants are usually created to add traits to the variety that couldn’t be achieved through cross-pollinating species. The most widely known example of this is commercial GMO corn. It has a protein added to block the effect of certain herbicides.

A hybrid plant differs as it is derived through a controlled method of cross-pollination. Essentially taking two plants and pollinating one with the other in the hopes of passing a combination of traits from both plants into the offspring. Hybridization is a natural way of creating genetically different plants. Using this method, there is a lot of trial and error as its unpredictable as to what traits the offspring plants will show.

Seed starting tips

  • If starting indoors, make sure they get enough light otherwise they will stretch to the light and become “leggy”.
  • Use an appropriate potting medium, something nice and light, will aid in germination and allow the plant to grow quickly. (Don’t use basic black dirt, i.e. topsoil)
  • Start a regular fertilizer program, this provides consistency of nutrients as your plants develop. Continue right up until harvest.
  • Plants that need to be started early indoors will benefit from having a fan on a low setting. This helps strengthen the stems/stocks.
  • Seeds can be soaked in water for several hours before planting, it will improve germination speed.
  • Once planted the soil around the seed needs to be kept moist, not too wet, otherwise the seeds can disintegrate or rot, but not too dry, they’ll start and then stop due to lack of water.

Further Reading

Here is a great article on heirloom seeds/plants and how important it is to keep growing these varieties of plants:
https://www.gardeningchannel.com/beginners-guide-to-heirloom-seeds/

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