If you follow me on Instagram at all, you’ve probably noticed I have a pretty massive obsession. No, I’m not talking about horses – I’m talking about my garden!
I’ve always had a penchant for growing and caring for things – even when I lived in tiny apartments in Toronto, my little balcony was always covered in as many planters as I could fit, brimming with potted tomato plants and kale. It wasn’t until I moved into our current home nearly two years ago now that my passion truly took hold. The first year here we moved in halfway through the planting season, so we bought some seedlings for the back yard and didn’t see much of a yield, mostly due to a lack of sunlight that I hadn’t accounted for.
This year, I started planning my gardens back in January, and instead of just sticking to the veggie patch in the yard, I decided to take on the front of the house as well to maximize growing space. When we moved in this house, the front garden bed was absolutely packed with massive weeds, specifically towers of horsetail (the WORST weed to get rid of!), so we got started by ripping almost everything pre-existing out, save for the rosebushes and rhododendrons that we inherited. I also decided to install a couple of Sproutbox gardens in the front yard to take advantage of all the sun that our back yard struggle to attain, and that added a lot of prime garden space where we previously just had boring old grass.
The biggest shift this year though, was my decision to try growing as much as possible from seed. I’ve always been the kind of person who goes to the garden centre and stocks up on seedlings in the spring, because growing from seed has failed so miserably in my few small attempts in the past, but growing from seed is so much more affordable, and when West Coast Seeds invited me to be one of their ambassadors for the year, I couldn’t say no!
I knew very little about growing seeds and WOW, just this first year has taught me more than I ever could have dreamed. I genuinely think I look at the world in a new way, constantly studying how flowers grow and reproduce, when they bloom and where they thrive. Growing flowers from seed is an entire language of it’s own, and I’m just learning to speak it, but since so many of you asked about my gardening on Instagram over the summer, I wanted to take some time to share a bit of what I know so far, and especially my mistakes to help others avoid them!
Some of my biggest lessons:
Label seedlings //
My biggest mistake was the assumption that I’d know what everything was when the seeds started to sprout and grow. As a result I confused lots of seedlings and their planting schedules, and ultimately lost out on a lot of plants. Next year I’m going to be much more organized.
Don’t over-plant //
I tried to grow too many varieties of way too many things, which left me with not enough time and a lot of suffering plants, especially in the veggie patch. Next year I hope to streamline based on what worked best for me this past season, and make lots of cuts!
Timing is everything //
It’s amazing how far you can stretch a garden space if you know when everything grows and dies off. I planted everything as if it would all mature at the same time, and as a result I had patches of bare dirt in different spots all summer long. Staggered planting based on depth and timing is a great way to maximize your garden!
Some of my best easy successes and favourites:
Anything from a tuber or bulb! My biggest advice for brand new gardeners looking to grow their own flowers is to start here. Bulbs are extremely easy to plant, low maintenance, and so satisfying to enjoy in the springtime. Dahlias and tulips are my top picks, and you can dig them up and split to multiply your plants annually too.
My biggest fails //
Eggplants, peppers and cauliflower were also a struggle, and a lot of my zucchini plants were damaged beyond repair by all of our summer rain, though these cue ball specialty ones somehow still did amazing!
I bought a handful of rose bushes in bare-root form and they all did very poorly because I over-watered them (lesson learned)
Overall my flowers from seed did really well, except seeds I planted too late experimentally (most still grew, they just didn’t gather enough energy to bloom before the weather turned cold)
On my list for next year //
Let me know what you love to grow in the comments below!