A Guide to Growing Good Food at Home: Planning Your Space

Gardening, for many people, is a uniquely fulfilling leisure pursuit. There are few better ways of quieting anxieties, stilling emotions and regaining a truer perspective on life. The whole point of maintaining a garden is to provide relaxation, or even food for the spirit with your own nurturing hands. However small your plot is, use it to grow aromatic herbs or flowers, attract butterflies, or maybe even vegetables and fruits – if you are really ambitious.

Photo Credit: Ashlie Thomas @the.mocha.gardener


Healthy, fresh food is right at your doorstep, but before you get growing, you MUST do a bit of planning. You can grow food even if you do not have a yard. Grow food on a window ledge, up a wall, on a roof, in a community garden allotment garden, or through a backyard sharing program. Here are some important things to know to start growing food at home.

Why? It’s a good time to explore ways to grow your own food. You get to enjoy healthy, delicious, family favourites right where you live. Growing food at home in your city, is also an important and effective way to create food-friendly neighbourhoods, and space to grow can be found anywhere.

Where? As more and more people are interested in growing their own food and exploring ways to create productive gardens at home, getting to know the small spaces, bigger spaces, or space in between where food can be grown, is an important first step.

Small Spaces

Use this space to plant low-growing herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, and sage. You can also grow vegetables like carrots and radishes that do not take up a lot of room, and vegetables that grow upward such as corn and beans. Plant heavy feeders that require lots of nutrients, such as corn, in a spot where a light feeder, such as lettuce, has been harvested.

Bigger Spaces

Plant in rows with paths between rows for easy access while watering and weeding.  Tip: Use wood chips on paths to prevent weeds from sprouting.

Spaces In Between

Plant a mix of tall growing vegetables, such as beans and tomatoes, with lower-growing cucumbers and peppers. Grow berry shrubs in a sunny spot for fruit throughout the summer. Tip: Squashes, melons, cucumbers and pumpkins grown on vines, some of which can be trained up walls and fences or be allowed to sprawl along the ground.


Where can you grow? Pretty much anywhere!

On A Window Ledge

Long and narrow window boxes are perfect for window ledges. Use to grow a garden of herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano, or parsley, or even salad greens. Tip: Simply snip off leaves from the outside of the plant and they’ll continue to grow week after week.

Up A Wall

With strings for support, you can grow bountiful crops without taking up too much space. Grow vegetables such as tomatoes, chayote, beans, cucumber, squash, spinach, and melons, up the sunny side of your house, fence, trellis, apartment building or garage.

On A Roof

Flat, accessible roofs are perfect for pots of vegetables and herbs. Because soil will dry out quickly on a sunny roof, it is important to use large pots filled with rich but light soil that has a good water and nutrient holding capacity. Be sure to water frequently.

In A Community Allotment Garden

A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. Start or join a community garden, or you can most likely rent a plot for a small fee. Talk to your neighbours to learn if others in your community are interested in starting a community garden.

Through A Backyard Sharing Program

More and more community organizations are starting backyard sharing programs, matching up people who have extra gardening space with those who are looking for a place to grow food. Contact your local community centre to see if there is a backyard sharing program in your neighbourhood, or, you can start one.


Almost anything can be reused as a container for growing vegetables: barrels, bushel baskets, old buckets, or recycling boxes. Use pots of different sizes, from large to small, to plant a variety of vegetables for harvesting from spring to fall, easily from your balcony or patio. Here’s what’s good to know.

  • Good drainage is important for container-grown plants, so make sure there are drainage holes in the containers you use. You may need to poke or drill holes in some containers.
  • Pots filled with soil can become very heavy and hard to lift or move. Buy potting soil that is lightweight and specially formulated for containers. Add some compost to the mix.
  • Most container-grown plants will need water every day as container plants dry out faster than plants grown in the ground.
  • Herbs such as thyme and oregano are great for containers because they can tolerate dryness.
  • If growing tomatoes in pots, be sure to fertilize them with compost tea or manure tea as least once a week, as tomatoes are “heavy feeders” that require lots of nutrients. To make these teas, simply place equal amounts of compost or manure and water in a bucket. Let steep for a day. Then use the liquid to water plants.

Source: Live Green Toronto | Live Green Toronto is a great resource to get started on the journey to growing your own food. To learn more visit:…/live-gre…/rethink-food/get-growing/

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