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Grow With Us! May 2022 Newsletter

We're moving into the busiest time of year for vegetable gardening. May is the month you're finishing planting your cool crops while also preparing the soil to plant your hot crops later in the month. You'll also start to deal with weeds, pests, composting, and other usual gardening challenges.
 
This month's newsletter will take you through many of the key gardening tasks for May, give you an update on our programs, and take you through planting and growing our Veggie of the Month.

p.s. Have you seen the four baby robins who've nested on our balcony garden? Pop by our Facebook and Instagram pages to see how they're doing!
IN THE FIELD
Over the past 1.5 months, we've been meeting our Grow Veggies program participants online, teaching both theory and practical knowledge on how to successfully plan, plant, and protect the garden. In the next couple of weeks, three of our four cohorts will shift to in-person sessions at our urban farm plot in Downsview Park! This year we moved 1 km south of our old teaching plot to a much larger space so that we could expand our programming to increase food security in the city.
 
Through our partnership with Zawadi Farm, we launched the Growing Urban Farmers program this year, which begins at the farm this month. In this program, Grow Veggies graduates have their own dedicated space to put into practice what they learned in year one. They'll have access to shared tools and ongoing training and support to help them succeed. Ultimately, we hope to graduate some Growing Urban Farmers participants to active urban farming careers. We'll keep you in the loop on their progress!
 
We are so incredibly excited to see everyone, to get our hands in the soil, and to grow food together. Follow along on Facebook or Instagram to see our students in action and see what we're growing this year!
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GARDENING TO DO LIST FOR MAY
May is perhaps the busiest month of the gardening season. It's when you need to plant the last of your cool-loving plants and when you'll need to start your heat-loving plants. If garden preparation and planting don't keep you busy enough, you'll also need to focus on weeding, pest management, and preparing your irrigation system. Here are the key gardening tasks for May:
  • Soil remediation and amendment
  • Planting the last of your cool crops
  • Adding pest management measures such as row cover
  • Controlling weeds until your vegetable plants establish
  • Setting up your composter(s)
  • Planting the first of your hot crops
  • Adding companion plants alongside your vegetables
  • Building your irrigation system, such as installing drip tape
  • Mulching the paths and the beds around your heavy-feeder vegetables
  • Harvesting any radish and fast-growing mustard greens that you planted in April
Keep reading for more details on a few of these tasks. In many cases, we'll provide links to our mini-guides for more information.
Building Your Garden Beds
 
Among the most difficult tasks in May is building your garden beds, particularly for in-ground gardens, as you need to aerate, amend, and cultivate the soil to make it suitable for planting. When you cultivate the soil, consider whether you need to turn it over (i.e., till it) or if you can get away with raking the top 2-3" of your soil. Tilling it will temporarily improve the texture and remove the clumps, but it hurts the soil ecosystems that your plants depend on. Our mini-guide discusses the pros and cons of tilling and provides some suggestions on how to best prepare your soil while minimizing harm on the soil ecosystems.
 
If you're growing vegetables in containers, the prep work is much easier. Mix the soil of your containers together into a tarp or large bin and then redistribute the blended soil back into the containers.  Add compost to provide nutrients for the new growing season – and now you're ready to plant!
 
Installing Row Cover
 
For many of the cool crops that you've planted, consider using row cover to protect the plants. Row cover protects your plants from direct sunlight, heavy wind, cool overnight temperatures, and insect pests. It's particularly appropriate for seedlings planted in early May as they are still somewhat delicate and susceptible to weather and pests. Click here to learn more about using row cover.
 
Planting Hot Crops
 
Finally, as we get into late May and all risk of frost goes away, it's time to plant your hot crops, which are usually full-sun plants that can't withstand cool weather. These include many larger veggies in your garden, such as beans, cucumber, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. For these vegetables, the timing of planting is important. If you plant them too early, then they're susceptible to low overnight temperatures. If you wait too long before planting, you'll miss out on some of their late-season harvests before the weather cools again. This mini-guide provides a little more information on planting hot crops in your garden.
VEGETABLE OF THE MONTH: POTATOES
Potatoes come in several different shapes, sizes, and colours. They're an excellent plant for home gardens, whether in-ground or in containers, as they can produce in many different growing conditions. There's also a lot of latitude in harvesting potatoes. They can be harvested when young as new potatoes or allowed to mature as storage potatoes.
Planting
  • Prepare the ground in advance by loosening any clay and adding a lot of compost.
  • Where possible, choose a full sun site, although potatoes can still produce in part shade.
  • Acidic soil will help the potatoes thrive and will avoid potato scab.
  • Plant on or just past the last frost date in your area.
  • Plant your seed potatoes 4-6" below the soil surface, buried within trenches.
  • Before placing them down, loosen the soil at the bottom of the trench and incorporate compost.
  • Seed potatoes should have at least two eyes protruding from them before planting – larger potatoes with 4+ eyes should be cut into multiple seed potatoes with two eyes each.
  • The seed potatoes should be spaced at least 12" apart in rows that are at least 24" apart as the plants themselves will become large, and they will be susceptible to blight if spaced too closely.
Maintenance
  • Potatoes are heavy feeders, so they will require additional fertilizer unless your soil is very fertile to start.
  • Once the potato plant grows to 8" above the soil line, begin to hill the potatoes by mounding new soil against the stem to bury half of the above-ground growth.
  • Repeat this process several times and your potato trenches will become potato hills, with all the tubers emerging underneath.
  • Use nutrient-rich soil to hill the potatoes so that you're fertilizing them while also covering the stems and tubers.
Pests and Diseases
  • Potatoes are susceptible to several pests, including the potato beetle, potato scab, and blight.
  • The potato beetle will lay bright yellow eggs on the underside of the leaves of your potato plants. As the eggs hatch, the larvae voraciously feed on the plant's foliage, and they can quickly defoliate the entire plant if left unchecked. To manage potato beetles, apply diatomaceous earth or Spinosad to the plant leaves as soon as you spot any beetles or eggs.
  • Potato scab is a bacteria that affects the skin of the potato tubers. They're still edible if peeled, but they don't look great. Prevent potato scab by rotating crops, acidifying the soil before planting (preferably to a pH of around 5.2), and selecting resistant potato varieties.
  • Blight will affect the potato plant's foliage and can kill the plant entirely or, at a minimum, reduce the harvest. Blight can be reduced or avoided through proper spacing to create airflow, crop rotation, and a baking soda and water application as soon as symptoms appear.
Harvesting
  • Harvesting the potatoes is as easy as digging them up.
  • For new potatoes, tunnel in from the side of the hill to search for and pull the smaller tubers out, approximately two weeks after the potato plant flowers.
  • For mature potatoes, wait until most or all the foliage has died back, and then dig up the tubers, being careful not to pierce them with your shovel or garden fork.
  • Ideally, harvest the potatoes when the soil is dry – otherwise, handle the tubers carefully and place them somewhere to dry before handling or storing them.
Homestead T.O.'s Grow Veggies program provides participants with the right balance of instruction and hands-on experience to successfully grow organic fresh vegetables to feed your family and friends. Our 7-month program starts with interactive, online workshops, followed by hands-on learning on our urban farm plot in Toronto. It's a fun learning experience for beginner and experienced gardeners alike - plus you get to bring home a bountiful harvest!  We also offer a 14-week online-only program. Visit our website for more info!

Please reach out to us at info@homesteadto.com if you have any questions about our programs or any of the topics above.

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120 Bayview Ave, Toronto ON M5A 0G4

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