Help me grow delicious produce!
August 20, 2012 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I am in Guelph, Ontario. My partner and I just bought a house, so I have a yard of my own for the first time ever. Point me to some resources for a gardening novice in this part of the world to dig into (no pun intended) over the cold months!

My house is on a slope, and I have a fairly large (12 or 15 feet, I'd say) apple tree and a quince bush, of all things. I want to grow fruit and vegetables and herbs; I don't care much about ornamental flowers. My back yard is quite large, and I'd like to make the most productive use of it that I can. Please recommend some books (or websites or blogs or whatever) which will help me, a complete gardening beginner, accomplish this next spring/summer!
posted by torisaur to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You should look at the books of Lois Hole for practical gardening and Marjorie Harris for the aesthetics. Local gardening shops (Terra, Sheridan) are also quite helpful and usually have free flyers to pick up and knowledgable staff. Guelph Public Library has a lovely gardening section. Did you know that UofG has one of the foremost agricultural schools in the world (they are well on their way to breeding an Elm Tree that is resistant to Dutch Elm disease)? Have a wander in their gardens. Get to know your neighbourhood by walking around and talking to your neighbors about their gardens and what has worked for them (this is how I found out I could never grow blueberries ).
posted by saucysault at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

According to the Plant Hardiness Zones of Canada map, Guelph is in Zone 5a. Here's a list of things to plant. (More garden planning stuff in this blue post.)

If you have questions, it looks like Guelph has a Master Gardeners group. You can also get your soil tested.

Other arbitrary things:
A survey of tomato staking methods
I recently learnt about Mountain Magic tomatoes, which have crazy disease resistance.
Square foot gardening is great for beginners.
Cornell Plant Pathology Vegetable Disease Web Page
There's some nifty disease monitoring stuff about these days- The Cucurbit Downy Mildew Forecast Homepage and USA Blight.
posted by zamboni at 11:07 AM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Get good at squirrel-proofing. The wee sods ate everything I planted this year.
posted by scruss at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2012

Great local advice from the first two responders-- well done, guys! The only thing I can add is that when you are first starting out, you want to build up your experience and confidence with some quick victories. One of the better ways to do this is with Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening. It is a sensible system that will get you out of your house and into gardening. Remember, initial success will make you much more likely to actually enjoy gardening and want to put in more herbs and vegetables next year. Good luck!
posted by seasparrow at 12:07 PM on August 20, 2012

Steve Solomon's Gardening When It Counts is an excellent basic introduction, and worth keeping on hand as a reference. If you're going to compost (and you should!), start with Vic Sussman's Easy Composting. I also recommend picking up Samuel Thayer's A Forager's Harvest or John Kallas' Edible Wild Plants - your garden will produce a lot of weeds, and it's worth knowing which ones are edible and nutritious.

Get your soil tested for nutrient content so that you know what amendments you need to make. Since you're in a city, test also for lead / heavy metals to see if you're better off using raised beds*.

Following up on zamboni, I've found Cornell's Tomato Leaf Symptom Diagnostic Tool helpful this year.

RE: the apple tree - keep in mind that most fruiting vegetables need 6-8 hours a day of direct sun to be healthy.

If you use raised beds, spend the extra money and fill them with good quality bagged compost. You'll get better results from your plants and avoid the lead and other contaminants that are often in the cheap bagged soil at Home Depot et al (which is taken from construction sites, and has no analysis of any kind done on it.)
posted by ryanshepard at 12:20 PM on August 20, 2012

Might be worth checking out the Arboretum at the University of Guelph and the resources contained therein (both online and in real space). From their Links page: the Guelph and Wellington County Master Gardeners who might be right up your alley.
posted by hangashore at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2012

(Apologies to zamboni for repeating the Master Gardeners link.)
posted by hangashore at 12:35 PM on August 20, 2012

The author of Grow Great Grub lives in Toronto, I believe, so that book should be useful.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:48 AM on August 21, 2012

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