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The Top 5 Vegetables: Halton Food’s Go-To Veggies

As an organization, Halton Food plants almost every vegetable that can grow in our climate. From tomatoes to potatoes, Swiss chard to squash, we plant seeds galore. But we do have a few staples found in almost all our gardens, chosen because of their high yields, comparatively easy care, nutrition, and taste. If you’re stumped on where to start, or want a refresher on our favourite veggies and best practices for growing them, this is the place to start! 

*Disclaimer: We appreciate all veggies! Let us know your top 5 veggies below if you disagree!

Beans

Beans on the vine at Open Doors of St. Cristopher’s Community Garden, 2020

There are so many types of beans, all with their own special qualities, uses, and growing conditions. The most common beans we plant are bush and pole beans, which produce the green beans you’re used to seeing at the farmers’ market. Bush beans are compact plants that grow to be about 2 feet tall. They are great for raised beds and harvesting all at once due to their short maturation period. Pole beans grow long vines up to 15 feet and are really good for small spaces but require support for growing vertically. Your choice of bean should depend on what space you have available in your garden! 

We love beans because they can grow in almost any garden. If you have vertical or compact spaces, they are great for growing around other plants. The soil does not have to be great for beans to grow either, as they fix their own nitrogen as they grow. Additionally, many types of beans can produce fruits all summer long until the first frost, ensuring you have a steady supply of beans to eat. The more you pick, the more the plant will produce – make sure you don’t stop picking until the end of the season, or the plant will stop producing! Beans are a great source of protein and fibre, making them a great healthy addition to your dinner plate. After all, they are the wonderful fruit!

We have a factsheet for growing beans in Halton! Check out our Bean Factsheet for more information on growing, harvesting, and the nutrition of beans.

If you love beans and want to expand your horizons, look into growing pulses, the dried beans of various legumes. Cranberry beans, dark kidney beans, small red beans, and otebo beans, along with many more, can all be grown in Ontario!  

Bean harvest from Open Doors of St. Christopher’s Community Garden, 2020

Tomatoes

Tomato harvest from Open Doors of St. Christopher’s Community Garden, 2020

Tomatoes are a staple in many households, and because there are so many varieties, it’s no surprise they’re high on our list! They love warmth and sunshine, and need soil with lots of nutrients. It is best to start tomatoes indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost, then transplant the seedlings outside once the last frost has passed. Tomatoes can be picked all throughout the season, harvested best when they are still firm and have turned colour. If you’re stumped on where to start with tomatoes, check out different varieties of cherry tomatoes or Red beefsteak tomatoes!

We love tomatoes because one plant can provide fruits for the whole family throughout the season. There are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes, making it easy to find a variety you enjoy. Because there are so many types, tomatoes can grow in a variety of different spaces – from vining upwards to a short bush that grows outwards, and from hanging baskets to pots.

The upkeep of tomatoes can be a contentious subject in gardening circles though. From pruning to the types of supports tomatoes can grow next to, we love the discourse that grows on tomatoes! If you want to learn more about tomato upkeep, check out our fact sheet, To Prune or Not to Prune.

For more information on planting tomatoes, visit our Tomato Resource Guide. And if you’re interested in saving tomato seeds for next year’s crop, check out our previous blog post, Seed Saving: Tomatoes.

Tomatoes on the vine at Open Doors of St. Christopher’s Community Garden, 2020

Peas

Sweet peas on the vine in Burlington Community Garden

Peas are a legume that are similar to beans, and come in so many varieties. They are one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world, known as one of eight founder crops. There are three popular varieties of peas that grow in the region and taste different from each other – sweet peas, snap peas, and snow peas. 

Like beans and tomatoes, different varieties of peas can grow in different settings and space in your garden. While some are vining and can grow vertically around your other plants along fences and trellises, others grow as compact bushes, perfect for a small space. Like beans, the more peas you pick, the more will grow on the plant throughout the season, meaning they’ll produce a good number of peas. Peas stop producing in midsummer, meaning that you can plant a succession plant in its place once they’re done, maximizing your garden space! Cucumbers and squash follow peas really nicely, as they can grow up the trellises already in place.

Are you interested in growing peas? Check out our Peas Factsheet, including information on growing different types of peas, and some nutritional information!

Peas have so many health benefits, and are a great vegetable to have in your garden and on your dinner plate. They are a great source of protein, Vitamin K, and manganese, and are thought to have anti-aging and immune-strengthening properties. Yes, peas!

Some peas harvested in the Burlington Community Garden

Garlic

Garlic scapes ready to be harvested at the Burlington Community Garden, 2020

Garlic is a favourite in many gardens for the ease in growing and the taste it provides on a dinner plate. It is unique as it is planted in the fall, before the ground freezes, and is harvested in the following spring and early summer. If cured properly, after letting it dry for about a month, they can be stored for about a couple months after harvesting. 

We love garlic, as they do not require much maintenance as they grow throughout the winter months, and when planted early enough, can be one of the earliest vegetables to harvest for the season. They are very easy to plant as well, as just one clove is needed per plant. Many varieties of garlic also yield two edible parts, at different times during the summer – the garlic scapes and the bulbs. They bring two slightly different flavours and textures, which make garlic a flavourful vegetable to have in the garden. Garlic scapes are the lesser known edible part of the garlic plant, similar to scallions – to learn a little more about harvesting them, check out our video here.

Harvesting garlic, both scapes and bulbs, can be more nuanced than cutting and pulling. If you’re interested in the best practices for harvesting garlic, check out our factsheet coming soon! If you want to see what harvesting the best bulbs looks like, check out our video here that showcases methods for harvesting.

The Leek moth is an invasive species from Europe that can affect the stem of garlic you’re growing in your garden. They often do not affect the bulb, but can invite diseases into the plant. To learn more about them and protect your garlic from these pests, check out our video here.

Did you know that the average person eats around 2 pounds of garlic a year, which is usually over 300 cloves! Halton Food hosts a garlic bulb fundraising sale every fall – stay tuned to our social media for some garlic to plant in your garden this fall.

A harvested bunch of garlic bulbs ready to be cured at the Burlington Community Garden, 2020

Cucumbers

A cucumber harvest at Open Doors of St. Christopher’s Community Garden, 2020

Cucumbers are an easy growing vegetable – as long as they have sunlight and consistent water, you’ll be eating beautiful green cucumbers in no time! If conditions are right, cucumbers will grow and ripen in 6 weeks. At peak harvesting time, you should be picking a new cucumber every couple days. Depending on the plant, they should produce 15 small cucumbers or 10 larger ones per plant – make sure to not let the cukes get too big though, or they will taste bitter.

Cucumbers are great for beginner or professional gardeners. Like others on this list, we love cucumbers because they can grow in most spaces, from vining up trellises to compact bush plants. They are a family favourite, and can be eaten fresh or turned into pickles! 

Interested in growing cucumbers in your garden? Check out our factsheet coming soon on cucumbers to learn about how to best plant and harvest them, as well as nutritional information! 

Are you planning on pickling your cucumbers? Try growing your own Dill in your garden as well for a truly homegrown snack! Check out our blog post, The Ultimate Guide to Growing Herbs, for best practices on growing herbs. 

Cucumber on the vine at Burlington Community Garden, 2020

What are your top 5 veggies to grow in your garden? Do you disagree with any of our choices? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear your arguments!

Have any questions? Feel free to email us at !

Contributed by Gemma Patey, Community Garden Assistant

References

DeJohn, S. (Jan 28, 2021). Growing Green Beans – How to Grow Pole Beans, Bush Beans. Retrieved from https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/beans/7156.html

Nolan, T. (2020). When to Harvest Garlic (And Garlic Scapes) and How To Store It For The Winter. Savvy Gardening. Retrieved from https://savvygardening.com/when-to-harvest-garlic/

Ontario Bean Growers. (n.d.) Types of Beans. Retrieved from https://ontariobeans.on.ca/types-of-beans/

Pleasant, B. (March 23, 2012). Planting Plans for Garden Peas. GrowVeg. Retrieved from https://www.growveg.com/guides/planting-plans-for-garden-peas/

Vanheems, B. (June 10, 2018). Growing Cucumbers from Sowing to Harvest. GrowVeg. Retrieved from https://www.growveg.com/guides/growing-cucumbers-from-sowing-to-harvest/

Vanheems, B. (April 24, 2020). Growing Tomatoes from Sowing to Harvest. GrowVeg. Retrieved from https://www.growveg.com/guides/growing-tomatoes-from-sowing-to-harvest/.

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