When we became homeowners, we were delighted with the fact we acquired a sunny south facing backyard with an established fenced in garden and two large raised garden beds.

Then we realized we had a bit of work to do to get them ready to even put soil into! A few seasons of not being tended to will really create a make-work project – grass grows like no one's business when you don't want it to – and it's hard to dig out. So, part of my core strength training last year was purely digging and weeding. Honestly, it's hard work!  

After a very large number of hours and days spent getting gardens ready, and with the help and advice of expert gardeners, we finally turned a very wild patch of garden bed into workable soil! Then the fun part began – planning a garden!

Part of my core strength training last year was purely digging and weeding.

We have always sourced local produce when we couldn't grow it ourselves. We have gotten to know many local growers and producers here in the agriculturally plentiful Comox Valley, but nothing beats walking out to your own garden and pulling up fresh potatoes and carrots! My dad even grows corn (too ambitious for us) but nothing will taste better than things you grow in your own garden.

Here are my tips for garden planning, including some things I learned to avoid from experience. I'm no expert, (and believe me when I say I started with very little knowledge of how to grow things) and I continue to learn as I go along.

Get to know a master gardener. Honestly, this is so important. I feel extremely lucky to know a few. This will be hard for Gen X’ers to believe but real experts are BETTER THAN GOOGLE. How else are you supposed to know that you do not cover the crowns of strawberry plants with dirt when you transplant them? How was I to know to Google that?

Get good, healthy rich soil. Your plants are going to need a lot of energy to grow herbaceous leaves, fruit and veggies for you! I won't be able to tell you exactly what you need, but I can tell you to start with good soil and care for it. One thing that can help with that is….

Compost. There are so many great composters out there and it's really the only way to deal with (compostable) food scraps. It's good for you and the food you grow, and it's good for the planet! Some people can't compost because of bears and other wildlife, but if you can, you should! I'm amazed at how many buckets of compost we throw into our bin. We eat a lot of fruit and veg and make a lot of our food from scratch, the scraps of which will eventually go into our gardens and help grow more fresh food!

Find seeds. Try to source seeds from friends and local producers. There are often seed clubs and seed selling days at your local market. They are healthy, and they are cared for, and it's a really cool tradition. Not only that, you're bound to collect information from the person selling them on when to plant, how to care for them, and how to mix them in your garden with other seeds. Which leads me to….

Companion planting and natural pest control. Again, there are many great websites out there, and all you'll have to do is Google it (ok Gen X'ers go for it!) when you don't have someone to stand over you telling you where to plant everything. Who knew there were carrot flies? I didn't. This isn't something we learn if we don't grow up planting or farming.  

There is a calming effect of being in the garden and digging in earth.

Once your seeds are in you sit back, and wait to see what happens. For us, it was really special to be able to take our kid into the garden and show him things that are growing, that we planted. Toddlers really are interested in plants and we should all be a little bit more in touch with our food sources where we can. There is a calming effect of being in the garden and digging in earth. Even if all you have is some small window pots for herbs; help something grow, nourish it, and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

It's not too late to start planning – I have been told May long weekend is a perfect time to get most things going – so you still have time to dig a patch, get some seeds and experiment. You'll mess things up, and that's ok (enough lettuce for a small country, anyone?). It's all part of the process.

Happy growing!