Wondering if Canada’s largest outdoor drive-thru Halloween event is for you? Read on to find out what to expect, my honest review of the event, and my thoughts on whether Pumpkins After Dark is kid-friendly or not.
September always signifies the beginning of the fall season for me. I think years of going back to school in September trained my brain to believe that summer ends in August.
So when the invitation to the media preview of Pumpkins After Dark landed in my inbox earlier this month, I didn’t think twice about attending. What a great way to kick off the spooky season!
What is Pumpkins After Dark?
Boasting 8,000 hard-carved Jack-O-Lanterns lined up along a 2.5 km drive-thru trail, this award-winning Halloween display is a must-visit for anyone living near the area. This outdoor event in Milton, Ontario is in the drive-through format again this year (like last year) and is completely contactless.
There are over 200 displays are made from a combination of real pumpkins and craft pumpkins, and it takes several weeks to create the art pieces for the event.
Pumpkins After Dark runs from September 17th to November 7th, after dark, Thursday to Sunday nights, and 2 weeks leading up to Halloween (7 days/week).
The event is being held at Country Heritage Park, 8560 Tremaine Rd. Milton, Ontario, L9T 2X3.
All tickets have to be purchased in advance as there isn’t a ticket booth onsite. The organizers are anticipating having over 150,000 visitors from across Ontario, including Halton, Hamilton, the GTA and surrounding areas, and say that tickets are likely to sell out again this year, so be sure to book your tickets early if you want to go.
My Experience at the Event
When we arrived at Country Heritage Park there were several attendants ushering cars into the parking lot. You have to pull up to the ticket check area (roll your window down), and then the attendants will point to which lane you should enter.
After we drove out of the parking lot area, another attendant approached the car to say she needed to cover our headlights (I think they just taped cardboard over the lights). Once she had covered them, we were ushered to move along towards the actual exhibit.
We spent about an hour driving along the path of the exhibit, taking in the impressive works of pumpkin artistry. I love all things pumpkin and I’ve seen some cool pumpkin sculptures in the time, but nothing comes close to what I was at Pumpkins After Dark! The exhibit reminded me of the lantern festival that sometimes runs at the Canadian National Exhibition, except that these lantern sculptures are made out of pumpkins.
There were classic spooky Jack-O-Lanterns of every size, and tiny pumpkins carved with simple patterns like flowers and leaves (lots of inspiration for your own pumpkins!), but most of the art installments are giant masterpieces made from a combination of real and craft pumpkins.
We saw the classic pumpkins after dark pieces including King Kong, the headless horseman, and a 40 foot long fire-breathing dragon, but there were several new scenes too including a Carnival theme, Egyptian theme and Fairytale theme.
I really enjoyed this outdoor art exhibit and was tremendously impressed by the detail of the carvings and all of the extra special effects that were built into the experience. I won’t go into detail about those so that I don’t ruin any surprises!
The only part of the event that I personally found underwhelming was the live carving demonstrations. There were two artists working on new pieces situated in the middle of the exhibit, but you can’t really hang around to see what they’re doing when there’s a line of cars waiting behind you. It’s definitely nice to see the faces behind some of the work, but don’t expect to see much live carving as you can’t linger on that spot for too long.
Is Pumpkins After Dark Scary?
Honestly, no. While some of the sculptures are on the creepy side, most adults and teens will find that this isn’t a scary event. That being said, it could be scary or overwhelming to some small children.
Pumpkins After Dark markets the event as being appropriate for the whole family, and says that while “there are a few displays with zombies and classic horror monsters…there is no blood or gore, and nothing jumps out”. That is absolutely true. However, some of the displays could be frightening to little ones who don’t like spooky things and there was someone walking along the path with a pumpkin head which might upset some kiddies.
Is Pumpkins After Dark Kid-Friendly?
Generally speaking, yes. Most kids and young teens will probably appreciate the fun and spooky exhibits, especially since many of them are based on popular characters from pop culture.
Also, there is a bathroom on-site before you enter the exhibit, in case that’s important for planning your trip.
It’s important to remember that this is a nighttime event where you drive through dark roads and admire giant sculptures that glow under the night sky. I definitely know a few kids who would find that atmosphere uncomfortable, overwhelming or scary.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not this event will be suitable for your child, consider factors like Are they afraid of the dark? Do they like spooky Halloween decorations? Do they get easily overwhelmed by large displays at theme parks?
While I don’t have kids of my own, I have worked with children in several of my past jobs. Out of all the kids I’ve worked with, I can think of one 4-year-old who would LOVE Pumpkins After Dark, and another 4-year-old who would absolutely cry through the whole thing.
It really depends on the personality of the kid.
Can You Take Photos of the Exhibits?
You are allowed to take photos but there are also signs that tell you to avoid stopping, so try not to stay in one place for too long.
Since the event is held at night, when it’s dark, you may find it difficult to get good shots.
If you have a “night” mode on your phone, I’d recommend using it for this event. All of my photos shot in night mode turned out well, so long as I held my hand steady until the shot saved. This does, unfortunately, take about 10 seconds (as opposed to instantly being able to take a shot), but the images should turn out clear.
I would avoid using flash as it may disrupt the experience for other patrons at the event, and the carvings won’t look as nice in your shots.
Tickets are sold in 15-minute time slots (to avoid having too many people enter at the same time) and the price ranges from $39 for a car with 2 passengers, to $89 for a car with 7 passengers. Kids 3 years of age and under can enter for free. Please check out the ticket page on the Pumpkins After Dark website for full details.
A portion of this year’s proceeds will go to Joseph Brant Hospital in support of our frontline healthcare workers and Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.
Last year the event raised over $25,000 ($20,000 to Country Heritage Park, including $5,000 to CHP food bank), as well as $3,000 to Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.
Pumpkins After Dark Promo Code for September 2021 – 15% Off
Use the promo code September15 to get 15% off all September dates.
This is not a sponsored post. I attended the free media preview of this event but was not compensated to write a review. These are my honest impressions of the event.
Pico de Gallo is a no-cook salsa made with fresh tomatoes, onions, chile pepper and lime juice. This chunky salsa is delicious with tortilla chips, or as a topping on fish, meat or poultry.
On my recent trip to Mexico, I tried freshly made pico de gallo for the first time ever and fell in love with the bright flavours.
Previously, my only experience with this salsa was the soggy store-bought stuff, which explains why I didn’t think it was anything special. It’s meant to be an uncooked salsa, but of course, anything sold in a jar has to be processed for canning (and sometimes contains preservatives too), so the flavour just isn’t the same.
In order for this fresh tomato salsa to shine it needs to be made with fresh ingredients. Then it becomes a symphony of fresh, bright and juicy flavours! Luckily, it’s also a cinch to make so you’ll never be tempted by the bottled stuff for the sake of convenience.
My easy pico de gallo recipe requires throwing a handful of ingredients into a large bowl and stirring. That’s it!
The hardest part of the recipe is the chopping, which honestly doesn’t take long and if your pieces aren’t all the same size, it doesn’t matter. It will still be delicious and full of fresh flavour!
The snack bar at the resort served their pico de gallo with tortilla chips and guacamole, but I’ve found that it’s also tasty with tacos, quesadillas, burritos (can you tell I love Mexican food?) or used as a topping for fish, chicken or steak.
I’ve been told that it’s tasty with eggs too, but I haven’t tried that yet.
One of the servers at the snack bar in Mexico told me that pico de gallo translates to “rooster’s beak” in English. If there’s a backstory to that, I’d love to know what it is!
It can also sometimes be referred to as Salsa Fresca which translates to “fresh sauce”, which makes sense. I think in North America we tend to think of a smooth or pureed liquid as a sauce, but that’s not always the case. No matter what you call it, this simple salsa is at peak deliciousness when made with ripe tomatoes.
Use the best quality tomatoes that you can get your hands on.
I think classically, this recipe is made Roma tomatoes but if you’ve got fresh cherry tomatoes in your garden go ahead and make the dish with those!
I used juicy Campari tomatoes when I photographed this recipe because I had some really nice ones on hand and wanted to use them up. The type of tomato doesn’t really matter, so long as it’s a tomato that you enjoy eating raw.
Some people like to salt their tomatoes (which pulls the moisture out of them), let them sit for a while, then drain them. This can help improve the texture of the tomatoes and prevents your salsa from becoming soggy.
That being said, I don’t think this is completely necessary. If you’re in a rush, you can skip this step.
Just know that if you put your leftover pico de gallo in the fridge (in an airtight container, please), the salt you seasoned the dish with will pull the moisture out and you’ll have a pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. You will need to drain the mixture (and probably re-adjust the seasoning) before eating it again, but it will still be tasty.
I managed to find serrano peppers in the produce section of my local Walmart, but if you can’t find them you can use jalapeño peppers instead.
Keep in mind though that a serrano is a spicier pepper than a jalapeño.
You may want to leave the seeds and membranes in the jalapeño peppers to get more heat out of them, whereas doing so with the serrano peppers might make the pico de gallo too spicy for you. It really depends on how spicy you want the final dish to be.
As for the fresh cilantro, I know that herb is not everyone’s cup of tea.
If you hate cilantro, or just can’t find it, leave it out. I promise that it’s still a very tasty salsa without it.
Traditionally, I think the cilantro is supposed to be roughly chopped and then added to the dish, but I like it when it’s chopped finely because the flavour is more subtle.
I make my homemade pico de gallo recipe when I want a quick and healthy snack, or when I need to use up leftover bits in my fridge.
If you look closely at the photos in this blog post, you’ll notice that there are bits of both red and white onion in my salsa. I had half of a white onion leftover from culinary school, and a piece of red onion (the rest was used for pizza) in my crisper, so I chopped up both and threw them in.
Although white onion is more traditional for this recipe, red onion works just as well. You could even use green onions in a pinch, I’m sure.
If you’re not a fan of eating raw onion (I’m not), you can soak the chopped onion in a bowl with ice water in 10 minutes or so, then strain before using. This helps to reduce the “bite” of the onion.
The lime juice in the recipe will also help to balance out the sharpness of the onions. It kind of pickles them, which makes the onions more palatable to eat raw.
As for the seasoning, it’s really up to you. I’ve seen pico de gallo recipes that are made without fresh lime juice, but I personally really enjoy the brightness that a squeeze of lime adds to the dish.
You will also want to add enough salt to bring out the flavours of the vegetables. Start with a small amount of salt, and then taste the mixture. Then add more if you need to.
I use sea salt in my kitchen, but if you use kosher salt or table salt the amount of salt that you need will be different from the amount that I needed. Plus, you may need to adjust to suit your taste.
My Mexican friend likes to add a garlic clove and black pepper to his mix, which is also yummy. It reminds me of a Caribbean dish called chow.
I know that my recipe may not be an authentic pico de gallo recipe, but that’s because I’ve tailored it to suit my preferences.
As with all recipes, experiment with this and figure out what flavour combinations you enjoy most! I’d love to hear what you come up with, so leave me a comment below after you make the recipe!
Add all ingredients into a large bowl, and stir to combine.
Adjust the lime, salt and pepper (if using) to suit your taste.
Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a few hours. Best served the day you make it.
To take the “bite” out of the raw onions, add them to a bowl of water with ice cubes, and let them sit for about 10 minutes, then drain before combining with the other ingredients. If you want to remove excess moisture from the salsa, you can salt the tomatoes in advance and let them sit. The salt will pull the moisture from the tomatoes. Discard the liquid and then continue with the rest of the recipe. If your leftovers in the fridge have become soggy, you can drain the excess moisture from the mixture and re-adjust the seasoning before serving.
This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for content creators to earn fees by linking to Amazon and its affiliated sites. This means that if you click a link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Please read my full disclosure here.
Pan-fried dumplings are easier to make than you think! With a little practice, you’ll be making your own delicious potstickers in no time.
Let me begin this post by saying, if you have never wrapped a dumpling before, don’t stress about how your dumplings look. While fancy potstickers with lots of pleats are very pretty, a simple half-moon dumpling tastes just as good!
That being said, I have so much respect for anyone who can properly wrap dumplings. Those beautiful little parcels that you get at the restaurant are probably made by someone who has wrapped several thousands of dumplings over their lifetime.
Like anything else, practice makes perfect.
You should also know that these dumplings are probably the most tested recipe on my website. Honestly, it has taken me 2 months to get this dumpling recipe to the point where I’m ready to share it.
My first few attempts at making Chinese dumplings did not go well… not only were my dumplings ugly (which, again, doesn’t really matter, but I wanted them to look good for the photos), but the flavours of the filling weren’t quite right.
After testing out multiple batches, and getting feedback from many taste-testers (thank you family and friends!), these pan-fried dumplings with ground chicken, cremini mushrooms and napa cabbage are ready for their debut.
I chose to use cremini mushrooms in this recipe because I like the flavour, but you could use white button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms instead. You could even leave the mushrooms out and still have delicious dumplings. It’s really up to you!
If you are a mushroom lover though, just pick whichever mushroom your family enjoys the most for this pot stickers recipe.
If you’re not a fan of ground chicken, you can use ground pork instead. Actually, ground pork is the classic way to go. Pork has more fat than chicken, which gives the dumplings a nice mouthfeel and a juicy filling.
I very rarely cook pork though, so I went with chicken and added some peanut oil to the mix to compensate for the lack of fat in the meat.
Once you’ve mixed the filling in a large bowl, it helps to set it in the fridge for a while to chill. You could do at least 30 minutes, but no longer than 4 or 5 hours. When the mixture sat for too long, I found that the flavours didn’t taste as good. Everything became muddled after a while.
The chilling process helps to keep the fat cold until it’s cooked, which gives you a juicer dumpling, so don’t skip that if you can help it.
Once your mixture is chilled, you can start wrapping!
Set up a wrapping station on a clean work surface in your kitchen. Have you dumpling wrappers nearby along with the large mixing bowl of filling. You’ll want to work quickly so that your wrappers don’t dry out.
I found this part really frustrating at first because I was being a perfectionist. If I can give you any advice, it would be to just relax and have fun with it. Who cares what it looks like? No one is judging you on your folding skills.
(And if anyone does give you grief about your wrapping skills, tell them they don’t get to eat any of these pan-fried dumplings. I think that’s fair…)
When is comes to wrapping your dumplings, the easiest fold you can do is a half-moon shape.
You literally just fold the round wrapper in half and press down the edges. It will look like a pierogi, and it will taste just fine. If you’re short on time or patience, this is the fold for you.
If you want to get a bit fancier, you can try adding a few pleats to your fold.
I followed this lady’s video, and honestly, she is the only reason I managed to make anything half-decent in the end. I could NOT get my head around the pleating until I watched her video.
It’s not in English, but I slowed the video down on YouTube and I was able to follow what she was doing.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, or you already know how to wrap dumplings, then go all in and add lots of pleats!
My mom made the dumpling below, and it was so damn cute… yes, I was jealous of her skills. Have I mentioned that she’s never done this before?
As you wrap your dumplings, you’ll want to put them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This will prevent them from sticking to the surface.
You’ll also want to cover the shaped dumplings with a damp cloth or a piece of plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
It will take you a little while to wrap 30 dumplings on your own, and if you leave the wrapped ones open they will dry out significantly.
If you’re not going to cook the dumplings right away, you can freeze the raw dumplings for later. Just put the whole tray in the freezer and wait until the dumplings are frozen solid. Then you can move them into a zip-top bag or a freezer-safe container and leave them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just be sure to defrost them before cooking.
When it comes to actually cooking the dumplings, there are a few different ways to do it.
Some people prefer to boil the dumplings first, and then fry them. I didn’t want to do that though because I’m lazy (at least I’m being honest!).
I opted for the method that requires you to pan-fry the dumplings over medium heat (or medium-high heat, depending on how hot your cooktop gets) in a large skillet, then steam them in the same pan, and then crisp them up again.
If you’ve never cooked dumplings like this before, it probably sounds counterintuitive to make them crispy and then add water, but trust me this works! You’ll get a crispy bottom on your dumplings every time.
It will take a little while to fry all of the dumplings that you wrapped. Just take your time and carefully fry each batch in a large pan until the bottoms are golden brown. I find that using a nonstick pan makes the frying process a bit easier.
I put my completed dumplings in a single layer on another baking sheet so that they don’t stick together. Avoid the temptation to hold the cooked dumplings in the oven while you fry the rest, though! I tried this, and the potstickers dried out horribly. You don’t want to ruin all of your hard work!
Cooked pan-fried dumplings can stay in the fridge for a couple of days, but you’ll need to re-fry them, or they won’t be crispy.
TIP: If you run out of wrappers, the leftover filling can be rolled into meatballs and fried. These make tasty little treats when dipped into sweet chilli sauce.
Serve your cooked dumplings warm, with a dipping sauce of your choice.
I went with a classic soy sauce and chilli mixture (with some toasted sesame seeds for fun), but you could do soy sauce and Chinese black vinegar (another classic combo), or just plain soy sauce, or just eat them plain.
I garnished my plates with chopped green onion, but that’s totally optional. If you don’t like raw green onions, don’t use them!
One of my friends thought these would be tasty with a sauce made from creamy goat cheese and garlic chives, so if that sounds like something you’d enjoy you could try that too!
If you end up making these pan-fried dumplings, be sure to snap a photo and share them with me on social! You can share a photo on my Facebook page or tag me on Instagram with #InSearchOfYummyness and/or @InSearchOfYummyness. I can’t wait to see your dumplings!
Sprinkle cabbage with salt, stir and set aside for 20 minutes. Squeeze excess liquid from the cabbage. Strain and discard liquid, then add cabbage to a large bowl.
Add the rest of the filling ingredients to the bowl. Mix well to combine. Place mixture in fridge to chill.
Wrap the Dumplings:
To assemble the dumplings, peel one wrapper off the stack and place in the palm of your non-dominate hand.
Add about a 1/2 tbsp of filling to the center of the dough. Use your finger to add a little water to the edge of the wrapper. By making the edges damp, it will stick together when you fold the dough.
Fold the dough in half, and pleat as desired, making sure to press the edges together to create a tight seal.
Use your fingers to slightly curve the dumpling, making sure the bottom is flat, so it can sit in the skillet. Place the wrapped dumplings pleat side up on a plate or tray lined with parchment, to prevent sticking. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel while you make the rest of the dumplings, so they don’t dry out.
Continue wrapping your dumplings until you use all of the wrappers in the pack. Any leftover filling can be rolled into meatballs and fried.
Make the Dipping Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and set aside.
Pan-Fry the Dumplings:
Place a non-stick skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add 2 tsp peanut oil to pan, and allow to heat up.
Place about 8-10 dumplings (depending on the size of your skillet) flat side down, and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add 1/4 cup water*, then quickly cover with lid to trap the steam. Steam for 4-5 minutes, or until most of the water has evaporated. Remove lid, add more oil if needed, and fry for another minute or two, then remove from skillet. Check for an internal temperature of 165F/74C to ensure that chicken is fully cooked.
Repeat until all dumplings are fried. Serve warm with the dipping sauce.
These pan-fried dumplings are traditionally served with soy sauce mixed with chili oil, or soy sauce and Chinese black vinegar. But you can serve them plain, or just with regular soy sauce if you prefer.Uncooked dumplings can be placed in a single layer on a tray lined with parchment paper, and frozen for later. Once the dumplings are frozen, you can transfer them to a zip-top bag or freezer-safe container, and use within 3 months. To cook, defrost the dumplings and then cook using the regular instructions. Cooked dumplings can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat in the skillet to re-crisp or they will be a bit soggy. Be sure to cook your chicken to 165°F (74°C).*I needed to use 1/4 cup of water for my large skillet, however, you may need less with a smaller pan. If you find your dumplings are not getting crisp again after steaming, or there is excess water in the pan, reduce the amount of water to a couple of tablespoons.
This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for content creators to earn fees by linking to Amazon and its affiliated sites. This means that if you click a link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Please read my full disclosure here.
Stems Flower Farm is an eight-acre flower farm just outside Cookstown, Ontario.
Established in 2016, this small family-owned business has been providing premium stems to florists and event designers for several years.
This year (2021), they opened a one-acre cutting garden on their property, where customers can stroll through rows of blooms and create their own personalized bouquets.
I visited the cutting garden earlier this year and thought I’d share my experience. Hopefully, my review of the cutting garden at Stems Flower Farm will be helpful to anyone who might be trying to decide if they should visit.
I discovered Stems Flower Farm last Christmas when I heard that they were doing a series of giveaways for the holidays. When I went to their website I was immediately drawn in by their aesthetic.
Their logo is pretty, their website is professional, and I discovered that not only do they sell seeds, but they’re in my province too!
Stems Flower Farm sells seeds under the original name of the farm they purchased, Edgebrook, which is why you’ll notice that the website for Stems is actually edgebrookfarm.ca.
I signed up for their emails and sent the link along to my mom in case she wanted to order seeds online from their Edgebrook Farm curated seed collection for the upcoming season.
Sometime around March this year I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday, and she sent me the link to the Cut Your Own Flowers VIP Package from Stems Flower Farm.
For $75 you get two passes to the cutting garden, and a $10 voucher to redeem at their on-site farm stand. The package promised an hour of leisurely time spent strolling through the garden while you pick flowers to create a bouquet to take home.
It sounded fun to me, so I booked the tickets early, knowing that we wouldn’t actually be going until mid-summer when the flowers would be in bloom.
When the time to book our time slot finally came around, I received an email from the Stems Flower Farm team. Booking was an easy, stress-free process and my mom and I were excited to finally check out the cutting garden.
We checked the weather on the morning of our visit and, of course as my luck would have it, the forecast said to expect rain.
The Stems website had said that the garden smells nice in a light rainfall though, and an overcast day generally makes for nice photos, so I wasn’t too upset about it.
When we arrived at where Google Maps said the farm should be, we couldn’t figure out where the entrance was. In our defence, Google seems to think that the farm is right in the middle of the road so that wasn’t terribly helpful.
We drove up and down a couple of times until we finally noticed the small sign on the side of the road, and turned into the entrance. By this point, we were a few minutes late for our appointment.
There was plenty of parking, and not another single car there, so finding a spot wasn’t an issue at all.
The Stems Flower Farm owners, Heidi and Kevin, were standing at the entrance waiting for us with one of their kids (who was totally adorable).
We all donned our masks as we approached each other and did our best to maintain a safe distance.
After welcoming us to the farm, introducing her family, and explaining the process to us, Heidi began to walk us around the cutting garden.
She explained how to tell when each flower was ready to be cut (some need to have sturdy stems, while others need to already have open blooms or they won’t open at all).
She also explained that while obviously, we’d want to cut some flowers for colour we should also consider other plants for texture and scent to create an interesting arrangement.
As we walked through the rows I brushed my hand against an aromatic basil plant with beautiful green and purple foliage. The warm sweet smells wafted through the air and I knew I’d have to come back to clip a sprig or two for my vase.
Just as we were about to start collecting our blooms, the rain began to pour down.
Armed with snips and a white enamel jug, we pulled our rainjacket hoods over our heads and carefully walked through each row snipping a long stem flower here, and a handful of herbs there.
It felt a bit daunting to decide which flowers and plants would complement each other in the bouquet. I wished I had done a bit of research ahead of time, so I’d have a better idea of what to do.
Heidi was extremely helpful though, making suggestions of what might look nice while still letting me pick what felt right to me.
One thing that was a bit stressful, however, was that shortly after we had started picking out our flowers, another car pulled up to the parking lot.
The appointments were scheduled an hour apart when I had booked my timeslot, and I wasn’t sure if they had arrived early, or if we were really that behind.
I admit that I wasn’t doing a great job of keeping track of time, as I was trying to balance taking photos, cutting my stems, and dealing with my jacket that kept flying open in the rain because the zipper had broken.
Even though I was worrying that we were holding up the group behind us (only one group can use the polytunnel at a time right now due to pandemic restrictions), Heidi and Kevin didn’t rush us at all.
The process would probably have gone a bit quicker if the weather had been better, to be honest. It wasn’t easy to move quickly between the rows as the ground was slick with wet mud from the rain.
Luckily, we did wear proper rain boots so neither of us actually wiped out in the muck (I’m clumsy enough that it would likely happen!). Also, Heidi and Kevin were very mindful of this and kept reminding us to watch our steps and avoid the very slippery patches.
(I‘m sure most people would have rebooked when they checked the weather the day before and saw rain showers on the forecast. My mom and I didn’t have many free days on our schedule though, hence our choice to go when the weather was poor.)
We eventually (finally!) moved into the polytunnel to put our arrangements together. Heidi and Kevin had little stations set up for us with mason jars, and a bucket to put our flower trimming into.
There was also a selection of drinks and snacks to choose from (and hand sanitizer), which I thought was a really nice touch.
Heidi came in, with her mask on, and demonstrated how to strip the leaves from the stems and arrange them in the jars. Then she left us to quietly create our bouquets.
Again, I struggled with trying to figure out how to put my arrangements together. I think I knocked over my mason jar twice in the process.
Meanwhile, my mother was happily arranging her stems and created a well-designed piece.
She has always been the artist in our family.
Again, not wanting to hold up the group behind us, I told myself I could finish up my arrangement at home. I was planning on moving it into a larger vessel anyway, as I kept tipping over my mason jar.
After placing all of our stems into the jars and then giving the table a quick tidy up, we put our arrangements away in the car, and then pulled our masks on again to go check out the farm stand.
Heidi and Kevin have partnered with other local growers to be able to provide a selection of high-quality fruits and vegetables at their farm stand. They also carry a few different maple syrups and some ready-to-enjoy flower arrangements.
We selected two pints of plump blueberries, said our goodbyes and headed on home with all of our goodies.
Overall, I was really surprised and pleased with our experience at Stems Flower Farm. Heidi and Kevin are friendly and easy to talk to, and their kids popped over from time to time too.
While the cutting garden may look small when you pull up to it, there isn’t a lack of flowers to choose from. In fact, if the space was any bigger it would be impossible to get through it in under an hour!
Also, it’s important to note that the flowers that are available will change throughout the year. I visited at the end of July, so the spring blooms were mostly gone, the summer blooms were in full swing and a few of the fall blooms were just coming up.
All of this to say that if you go to the farm after reading my blog post, it’s entirely possible that some (or even all) of what I took home won’t be available.
I was grateful to see that they had a portable bathroom on site, which is important for people like me who need frequent bathroom breaks due to health issues.
Heidi and Kevin have created a full bathroom experience in the outdoors, complete with a mirror, running water (from a drink dispenser) and soap. I’m pretty sure I saw hand sanitizer there, too.
My mom and I had a great time at Stems Flower Farm, and we both learned a lot from Heidi about how to cut flowers.
We’ve even started making little arrangements at home from our own garden, and I have ideas on what I’d like to plant in the flower beds next year.
(I’m pretty sure I have room in my garden for that aromatic basil…)
Just please keep in mind that this is a small family-owned business, so they may be slow to respond to your emails (as they’re usually busy running the farm). They will appreciate your patience!
If you have any questions about my experience at the farm, let me know in the comments or reach out to me by email. I’d be happy to help you out.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I paid for our tickets myself. I did tell Heidi and Kevin that I would likely share my experience on my blog, but I mentioned it towards the end of the visit so it didn’t influence my experience there.
I’m sharing ALL of the seeds that I’m using in my garden this year, including a variety of veggies, herbs and flowers.
I know there’s a lot here, but I’m trying to grow as much as I can in my suburban backyard this year. That way I can test things out and share my results with you!
I just want to mention that I do also have perennial and bulbs in my garden, and I do buy annual transplants each year. These are just the plants that I’ll be starting from seed.
Many of these seeds have already been sown indoors and are sitting happily under my grow lights. If you want to see frequent updates about my garden, be sure to follow me on Instagram. I share stories there almost every day!
Most of the seeds that I’m using this year are from Canadian brands. Some of them were purchased online, and some were from Walmart, The Home Depot and other hardware stores.
This is the garden plan that I show in the video. It’s basically just a layout of my backyard, which isn’t perfectly to scale, that shows all of my available planting areas.
I’ve given every box and pot a number and then planned out which seeds would go into each area based on various factors. These factors included how much light each plant needs, what can be grown together according to the principles of companion planting, how much space the plants need etc.
I’ve never tried companion planting before, so I won’t know if my plan here actually works until later in the season. I’ll be sure to keep you updated!
Which Seeds Did I Buy?
Since I bought so many seeds, I thought you might like to have a list organized by brand that you can refer back to if needed.
If you have any questions about these seeds, leave a comment below or send me an email!
Himalayan Poppy Meconopsis (warning: very difficult to grow!)
Chantenay Red Cored Carrots
Cherry Falls Cherry Tomatoes
Sugar Sprint Peas
Red Torch Juliet Tomatoes
Bumble Bee Mix Cherry Tomatoes
Little Gem Cos Lettuce – sow easy format
Rainbox Mix Carrots – sow easy format
Sweet Basil – sow easy format
Rossa Lunga di Firenze Onion
Rosemary – sow easy format
Black-Eyed Susan Thunbergia Climbing Vine
Coleus – sow easy format
Sunny Mix Cosmos – sow easy format
Portulaca Mix – sow easy format
Renee’s Garden (USA)
Asian Trio Eggplants
Jewel Tone Sweet Peppers
Scented Basil Trio
True Thai Chilies in Full Moon & Vesuvius
Cherry Belle Radishes from OSC (Canadian)
Cucumber from Seeds of Change (American)
Okra and Bitter Melon from Zappa Corp (Canadian)
Long Purple Eggplants from Berton Seeds (Canadian)
Yellow Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers from Amazon (Unknown)
Disclosure:This is not a sponsored post.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for content creators to earn fees by linking to Amazon and its affiliated sites. This means that if you click a link and purchase something, I will receive a tiny percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for supporting this website!
A sudden dip in temperature can spell disaster for tender plants, seedlings and flowers. Learn how to make a kit for your garden so you can quickly and easily protect plants from frost.
Living in Ontario, Canada, it’s not unusual for us to get snow in April. What’s difficult is that there might be a week or two of warm weather that tricks our garden into thinking it’s safe to wake up, and then a cold snap comes around and kills everything.
While a sudden cold spell is annoying, it doesn’t have to be detrimental to your plants. In fact, some edible plants (like carrots and kale) actually benefit from frost as it improves their flavour!
You’ll want to cover your cold-sensitive plants though. You’ve put time and money into those plants, so don’t let sub-zero temperatures ruin them!
Here are some easy ways to protect your plants from frost.
Prepare Ahead of Time: Create a Frost Kit
When I worked at the garden centre, we had a “frost kit” for code geen situations where the temperature was expected to drop to below 0℃/32˚F overnight. The kit had everything we needed to protect the plants from frost.
I hated code geenshifts, because it meant being outside in the cold for hours while tenting everything in the garden centre that couldn’t be moved indoors!
Protecting your own garden won’t be nearly as bad, I promise. If you keep these supplies somewhere that’s easy to pull out at a moment’s notice, it won’t take you long to protect your plants.
a container for storage (make sure it has a lid if you’re going to leave this outdoors)
frost fabric/drop clothes/old bedsheets or blankets/old towels (plastic tarp is ok but not the best choice)
plastic containers (old juice bottles, buckets, pots etc.) to be used as cloches (optional)
Keep you frost kit in a place where you can grab it at a moment’s notice. I’ll explain how to use it in a minute.
Since flash frost is usually an issue for overnight temperatures, you’ll be following the next set of steps before the sun goes down, and then reversing them in the morning once the temperatures are above 0℃/32˚F.
Water Your Plants Before The Temperature Goes Down
Did you know that moist soil actually retains more heat than dry soil? Give your plants a good drink before the frost hits to help them stay warmer.
Which Plants Should You Protect from Frost?
First, remember that plants that love sun hate frost! Vegetable plants like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and beans won’t be able to tolerate frost. The same is true for tropical plants and many annuals (like begonias and impatiens).
Second, while a plant might be considered “cold weather tolerant” that doesn’t mean that frost won’t damage it. Radishes can generally survive a hard freeze, but only once they’re matured. Tiny seedlings will still need to be protected.
Also flowers like pansies, tulips and daffodils that we associate with cold weather can benefit from being protected from frost, as the cold weather can damage buds and flowers.
Move Plants in Containers Indoors
Anything in a pot or container (that isn’t too big or heavy) can be tucked into a garage or shed. The shelter from wind, rain and snow is enough when the temperature is just below 0℃/32˚F (frost).
If you’re expecting a hard freeze (temperatures below -2℃/28˚F), move the containers into your home instead. However, a sudden extreme change in temperatures can also hurt your plants, so place them in a cool place (a basement works if you have one).
If the weather is above 0℃/32˚F during the day, the plants can come back out to get light and then go back into the garage overnight again as needed.
Drape Plants That Must Stay Outside
This is where your frost kit comes in!
Loosely drape the material over your plants, using the stakes to support the weight. Frost cloth is generally light enough that it won’t hurt the plants by resting on them, but something heavier, like a towel, might injure the plants if placed directly on top of them.
Plastic tarp, while usually lightweight, should always be lifted above the plants not placed directly on them. If possible, use a layer of cloth under the plastic to protect your plants. When plastic heats up it can burn plants, and in cold weather it can hold moisture against plants and causes even more severe freezing damage than if the plant had nothing over it at all. So you can use plastic, but just don’t let it touch your plants.
The goal is to trap the warm air around your plants before the temperatures dip and protect the plants from being burnt by frost.
Secure the ends of the material with your rocks or bricks. This will prevent your make-shift tarp from flying away in the wind.
If you have a cut down plastic container, you can place that over smaller plants and push down so it’s about an inch deep into the soil. Again, this helps to trap the heat around the plant. You may need to put a rock on top to keep it in place.
The next day, you’ll want to remove the coverings by mid-day or your plants may overheat or collect too much condensation (which will subsequently freeze on your plants the following night).
Other Ways to Protect Plants from Frost
Piling mulch around the base of your plants can protect the stems and roots from freezing, but you may still get damage on the leaves of your plants.
Placing plastic jugs of warm water around your plants (under your frost cloth) can help to keep your plants warmer.
A cardboard box can work as a last-minute cloche, but keep in mind that it will absorb moisture. Heavy rain could cause the box to collapse onto your tender plant and damage it.
If you want to learn more about what frost damage is and how to deal with it, here are some resources:
Are you wondering how to plant seeds for your garden? Today I’m sharing my best tips for starting seeds indoors and outdoors.
Starting your plants from seed can be a rewarding experience! There’s nothing quite as satisfying as planting a tiny seed, watching it grow, and then enjoying the rewards of your efforts.
It can also be a very frustrating experience, though, and I don’t want you to feel that! With a bit of information, you can plant your seeds knowing that you’ve given them the best chance of growing well.
How to Plant Seeds
There’s a lot of information on seed starting here, so I’ve broken down this article into sections. Click on a link to jump to a specific section, or scroll through and read everything in order.
Every spring my mom and I pick a few vegetables to grow. It’s a tradition she started when I was a kid and we were living on the 6th floor of an apartment building.
Obviously, we could only do container gardening back then, but even now we find that there are certain plants we’d rather not grow in the garden. Our eggplants and tomatoes, for example, live in their own containers. Meanwhile, flowers and some of my berries occupy the garden beds.
We don’t usually grow a ton of stuff, just enough to keep ourselves occupied during the warmer months. A few carrots here, maybe a small patch of berries there.
We’ve had excellent luck growing tomatoes and mint. We’ve also had the WORST time trying to grow broccoli (it bolted), Brussels sprouts (grew too slow) and dill (ravaged by caterpillars!!).
One year in the apartment, we even had a pretty nice avocado plant! Although I don’t think it ever had fruit on it…
This year we decided to try growing more types of herbs and veggies, but we also wanted to try to keep our costs down, so I had to learn how to plant seeds properly.
Gardening can get expensive when you buy baby plants, or established plants, from a greenhouse. So we opted to grow as many things as possible from seeds – something that we’ve had minimal success with in the past.
I’ve decided to share what we’ve learned through this process so far, in case it’s at all beneficial to anyone else who might be trying to grow their own food at home.
Growing Your Own Food from Seeds
While the principles of how to plant seeds in this article can apply to any kind of seed, I’m going to be focusing on starting seeds for edible plants.
When it comes to growing your own food, starting your plants from seeds can be very cost-effective. Seeds are much less expensive than baby plants (a.k.a. seedlings).
However, it’s important to note that the reason seedlings are pricier is because someone else has done the work of germinating and hardening off the plant for you.
If this is your first time starting seeds indoors, start small. Don’t get carried away with too many types of seeds, or you may become overwhelmed.
If you’re new to growing your own food, start with a few plants that you actually want to eat. There’s no point in planting eggplant if no one in your family will eat it!
Pick a couple of vegetables that you like, and maybe an herb or two that you always find yourself buying at the grocery.
I love growing my own herbs because it saves me money! A packet of seeds costs less than a plastic package of herbs from the store, and once it grows I can just snip what I need whenever I want some.
Herbs like mint or rosemary are fairly hardy and low maintenance plants if that’s something that appeals toyou. Mint is honestly so hard to kill that some people even consider it to be an invasive plant.
My mom and I decided to do a mix of herbs and vegetables in containers this year and started sprouting our seeds in March. Since some seeds take longer to germinate than others, and some seedlings can’t go outside until well after the last frost (i.e. peppers and tomatoes), we continued to start seeds throughout spring.
We sprouted thyme, basil, hot peppers, sweet peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, okra, and bittermelon this year. Most of it did fairly well, but I think we may make some adjustments to our selection next year.
Planting your seeds directly into the soil is easier than starting them indoors. You don’t have to worry about hardening off the plants, and there no risk of shock from transplanting.
Also, not all edible plants can tolerate being started indoors anyhow. Carrots, for example, are prone to becoming deformed when transplanted. Beans and peas also go directly into the ground or a container outside, once the temperature outside reaches a certain range.
Be sure to check the recommendations on the back of your seed packet to determine how to plant your seeds. The packet will usually tell you how deep to sow the seeds, how far apart to space them, and how long they will take to germinate under ideal conditions.
There may also be a warning about what temperature to sow the seeds at. Some plants, like green beans, cannot be sown into cold soil or they will rot. It can be difficult to determine the temperature of your soil, so you might want to invest in an inexpensive soil thermometer to take the guesswork out of the process.
Radishes, carrots and peas love cool weather, so they’re usually the first plants to be sown outdoors for the spring growing season.
If you’re practicing companion planting, you can sprinkle your radish and carrot seeds into the same container and cover them lightly with soil. Water them lightly to keep the soil moist until they germinate, and then thin them to the package recommendations. The radishes will grow and be harvested before the carrots need the space, which is pretty cool!
Protecting Seedlings from Frost
Let’s say you’ve already directly sown your seeds and then you find out the temperature outside is going drop drastically. What do you do?
You can drape your seedlings with clear plastic or garden fleece to help trap the heat around your germinating seeds or seedlings. Or, you can create an inexpensive cloche by cutting off the top of a 1-litre soda bottle and placing it over the plant. Leave the cap off for ventilation.
Be sure to check your overnight temperatures, because while it might be nice during the day, your seedlings will benefit from being covered at night if the temperatures are expected to dip significantly.
Alternative Way of Planting Seeds Outdoors: Winter Sowing
Winter sowing is kind of a hybrid between starting your seeds indoor and planting your seeds outside.
In this method, seeds are sown when it’s still cold outside into clear plastic containers (like empty juice bottles). The container creates a micro-climate that is warmer than the air outside, so the seeds will sprout sooner in the container than they would in the exposed soil.
This allows you to get a jump-start on the growing season, while still being able to avoid the hardening off process. Stick to cold-hardy crops for best results.
How to Plant Seeds Indoors
Again, be sure to check the recommendations on the back of your seed packet to determine when/where to sow the seeds, and when to move seedlings outside.
In a large container, add just enough water to a seed starting mix to saturate it. The soil should be damp not soaking. If your using just plain soil, you may want to add in a starter fertilizer.
This year I’m using the Pro-Mix Organic Seed Starting Mix to start my seeds because it already has fertilizer built in, and it’s supposed to be bug-free (unlike the bug-ridden potting mix I ended up with last year).
Fill your container with soil, leaving about 1 inch free on top to allow room for watering.
Use a pencil or a dibbler to poke holes into the soil.
Sow seeds according to the package directions. You will usually want to sow 2-3 seeds per pot, in case one of the seeds doesn’t sprout.
Cover the seeds lightly with more seed starting mix and mist until damp (but not soaking wet).
Cover with plastic wrap (or plastic dome, if using a proper seed tray). This traps the humidity and warmth that the seeds need to germinate.
Label your containers so you know which plants are in which containers.
Leave containers in a warm place, out of direct sunlight unless the seed packet instructions tell you otherwise. Most seeds germinate best in the dark, but some seeds need sunlight to germinate, so check the instructions for your seeds.
While you’re waiting for the seeds to germinate, keep an eye on the plastic or dome. Too much condensation build-up can cause your seedlings to become mouldy.
Once the seeds have sprouted, they will need a ton of light! Remove the plastic, and place under grow lights or by the sunniest window in your home. Most seedlings need 8-12 hours of sunlight a day to thrive.
If you’re using a grow light, it needs to be relatively close to the seedlings to prevent them from becoming “leggy” (overly tall with thin stalks). How close your lights need to be will depend on what kind of grow light you have. You can learn more about using grow lights here.
BONUS: I like to run a fan near my seedlings about a week before I start hardening them off. This helps to get them adjusted to wind. The seedlings will dry out more quickly if you use a fan though, so be sure to keep an eye on their moisture levels.
Picking a Container for Your Seeds
Most hardware stores and garden centres carry seed starting kits. You can sometimes find them at the dollar store, too. These kits usually have some kind of tray that either holds peat pucks or has room for soil and comes with a lid. These kits are handy, and I own one myself, but they aren’t your only option.
In the photo above you’ll see that my mom and I used empty plastic trays for this batch. Both trays are from the grocery store: the big clear one had croissants in it, and the three small ones had mushrooms in them. It was a perfect little set up though!
We put soil in the small trays, added our seeds and labels, misted everything, and then just shut the lid. Once the seeds had sprouted, we simply took the three small containers out of the big one.
Other Container Options:
Cut down plastic milk or juice containers
Plastic takeout boxes
I encourage you to use what best suits your needs. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, use what’s available to you. If you’re worried about damaging the plants when transplanting them, use a container that will break down when it gets wet (like the cardboard cups).
Do make sure you have seed starting mix or peat pucks to use in these containers, though. You could use a regular potting mix, but I’d recommend using a seed starting mix instead. It’s lightweight, encourages fast root growth, and is often sterilized so there’s less risk of disease or bugs.
Additionally, you may want to buy organic soil/seed starting mix if that’s important to you.
Caring For Your Seedlings
Once your seeds have germinated and grown into seedlings, you’ll need to start making some adjustments. Weak plants will need to be removed, the remaining plants will need to be moved to bigger containers, and eventually, you’ll have to start preparing them to go outside.
First, begin by thinning your seedlings. Remove the weakest from each container, and discard them. You should be left with 1 strong plant per container.
When your seedlings grow to about 2-3 inches tall, with multiple sets of leaves, you’ll need to move them to a bigger container. If you started with seed starting mix, you can switch to potting soil now.
When the seedlings are tiny, you’ll want to keep misting them to water them gently, aiming for the soil. As they get bigger, you can switch to an eyedropper.
Overwatering can cause the seedlings to wilt or attract fungus gnats (more on this below). But also, baby leaves may wilt if the soil is too dry.
I usually just stick my finger into the soil to determine if the soil needs water or not, but this year I’ve invested in a soil moisture meter which I love!
If you don’t have a meter, stick your index finger all the way into the soil. If it’s dry, water the plant. If it’s damp or wet, check again the next day.
How to Harden Off Your Seedlings
As you get closer to the date that you can move the plants outside, begin to gradually harden off the plant.
This requires you to move the plants outside, in a shady area protected from wind for an increasing amount of time each day. Over 10-14 days, you’re going to place all the seedlings outside for an hour or two, not in direct sunlight. Every day, increase the amount of time that they spend outside until they can stay out all day.
This is where I really felt that we had too many plants this year. The photo above shows about half of the plants we had. I stuck them on the deck rail that day because it was damp and overcast out, and I didn’t want to deal with moving them further from the door.
The process of dragging every plant outside and back in again was tiresome. I did eventually start corralling the smaller containers into large baskets and trays so I could move more plants at a time, but it was still not fun.
(Just as a side note, that orange tray came out to get sprayed for bugs that day, the plants were too tiny to need to be hardened off yet.)
Once the plants are hardened off, be sure to set them in a sunny, partly sunny, or shady spot, depending on the seed packet recommendations.
The nice thing about planting in containers is that if your plant isn’t getting enough sun, or is getting too much sun, you can just pick it up and move it somewhere else. Keep an eye on your plants to see how they’re doing as the weeks go by, and adjust their location as needed.
Dealing with Bugs
We ended up with a bad case of fungus gnats from using an infected bag of potting soil (from a very popular brand). They are technically harmless, but they are also a total nuisance!
We had to spray the plants every few days with a mixture of water, dish soap, and neem oil to get rid of them. We also used sticky strips to catch whatever was already flying around, which works really well.
Try to avoid overwatering your plants as fungus gnats love wet soil and that can just make your situation so much worse.
I hope you found this article on how to plant seeds useful!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for content creators to earn fees by linking to Amazon and its affiliated sites. This means that if you click a link and purchase something, I will receive a tiny percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for supporting this website!
Are you growing vegetables from seed for the first time? Here’s a list of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed and tips to get started!
Growing vegetables from seeds can be a rewarding experience! There’s nothing quite like harvesting (and eating!) something that you grew yourself.
While growing vegetables from seedlings can be a bit easier, you’ll find that you have more options on varieties when you start from seeds instead. Plus, seeds are generally inexpensive compared to seedlings.
If you’re not sure where to buy your seeds, you can check out local garden centres, hardware stores, or order them online. You can read more about where to buy seeds online here.
I’m going to share some general tips for growing each vegetable below, but please always be sure to follow the directions on your seed packets! Those instructions are written specifically for the seed that you’re planting and will help you yield the best results.
Note: I’m going to refer to your “last frost date” quite a bit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or aren’t sure when your average last frost date might be, you can learn more about frost dates here.
Twelves of the Easiest Vegetables to Grow (and Three Difficult Ones)
In this article, I’m going to talk about the 15 different plants. The first 12 are vegetables that are easy to grow, and the last 3 are vegetables that I don’t recommend for anyone who is planting vegetables for the first time.
Some of these are technically fruits, but since most people treat them like a vegetable, I’ve included them in this list.
Jump to a Specific Plant
Use these links to jump directly to the specific vegetable that you want to read about. I’ve included detailed information for each vegetable on how to start the seeds and other handy tips.
First, let’s talk about the easiest vegetables to grow from seed that need to be started indoors.
Some vegetable seeds need to be started indoors and then transplanted outside once the weather warms up. This is especially important in colder zones where our growing season is short.
Also, some plants (like sweet peppers) take a very long time to grow. If we were to wait until the threat of frost is over to sow the seeds outside, they might not have enough time to reach maturity before the end of the season.
I’ve found that eggplants are fairly easy to grow, so long as they are able to stay warm.
Start your eggplant seeds indoors, about 8-12 weeks before you want to transplant them. This will likely be 6-10 weeks before your average last frost.
For example, if I’m planning on planting my seedlings outside around June 11th (when it’s nice and warm out), I’ll need to start the seeds indoors around March 19th.
Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep in cardboard or coir pots (made from coconut husk fibre). These types of pots decompose when wet, so you can plant them directly into the soil or a larger pot without having to remove the seedling. This will reduce root disturbance when transplanting.
Eggplant seeds can benefit from a seedling heat mat (if you have one). Otherwise, place the tray somewhere warm.
People say to put them on top of your fridge, but I checked the temperature there with a thermometer, and it turns out that the top of my fridge isn’t warm at all!
Note: I’m actually testing leaving my seed trays in my car since it’s only about 10 degrees outside right now, but the inside of the vehicle is much warmer. I won’t be doing this when it’s hot outside though, as I think the intense heat would actually kill the plants…
Eggplant seeds should sprout in 7-12 days, depending on the variety.
Once you have nice little seedlings, transfer each one to a larger pot so it has room to grow, making sure to keep them warm. Keep moving the seedling to larger pots until it is consistently warm outside both during the day and at night.
Harden off the plant gradually to avoid shock. Then chose a very sunny place in your garden, as eggplants need 8 or more hours of sunlight each day. Space your seedlings 18-24 inches apart. Eggplants have moderate watering needs, so be careful not to let them dry out.
Eggplants can thrive in raised beds and containers because the soil heats up quickly. You may want to introduce a trellis or tomato cage to help keep fruit from sitting on the soil.
I’ve never grown lettuce myself (but I will this year!), so this information is purely from what I’ve learned through reading and my previous work training.
Unlike eggplants, lettuce doesn’t mind cooler weather. This means that you have the option of starting your lettuce seeds indoors or sowing them directly into the ground.
If you want to start your seeds indoors (which can be beneficial for those with a short growing season), start them 4 weeks before you want to transplant them. This will be about 6 weeks before your average last frost.
Pre-moisten your soil before setting the seeds and don’t bury lettuce seeds when you sow them. Surface seeding will result in better germination. Just scatter the seeds on top of the soil, then rake them in very gently to settle them in the soil. Some people will leave the seeds like that, while others recommend covering the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Keep the soil moist. Seeds should sprout in 7-15 days.
Lettuce needs a bit of shade in very hot weather, so don’t plant it in your sunniest spot. It doesn’t need a ton of water in spring, but water needs will increase as temperatures rise. Regular watering is essential to prevent leaves from getting bitter. Lettuce does well in containers and raised garden beds.
Leaf lettuce may be easier for beginners to grow compared to head lettuce, as you can snip what you need and the plant should keep growing.
I know that many people don’t recommend that beginners start tomatoes from seeds, but honestly I’ve never had an issue with them. Last year we grew so many seedlings that we had to give a bunch of them away!
There are two categories of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes have a set or “determined” short size and a limited fruit bearing period. Once they produce, they may not set fruit again. These are usually the “bush” varieties that require a tomato cage for support.
Indeterminate tomatoes will grow and produce fruit until they are killed by the first frost. The fruit takes longer to develop and the plants can get quite tall. These are usually “vine” varieties that can run up a trellis.
If you have a short growing season, look for tomatoes that don’t take a very long time to mature. Otherwise, they may not have enough time to mature and ripen before the first frost hits.
Start your seeds indoors 6 weeks before your last frost date. You can germinate the seeds on a heat mat or in a warm place. With bottom heat seeds should germinate in 7-14 days.
Move the seedlings into larger containers and keep them indoors until nighttime temperatures are at least 10°C (50°F). Tomatoes can get “leggy” without enough light, so keep your seedlings under a grow light, or your brightest light source until they go outside.
Prepare the soil for transplanting by amending it with a slow-release fertilizer that includes calcium, or add powdered milk. Tomatoes that don’t have enough calcium may end up with blossom-end rot. Also, when transplanting the seedlings, be sure to bury the stems deep – so that the first pair of true leaves are only a few inches above the soil level. This encourages deeper root growth, because the plants will produce roots along the buried stems.
Also, be sure to set your trellis, stakes or tomato cages when planting, or you won’t be able to get them around the plant later.
Tomatoes need a lot of sun and water, but take care not to wet the actual plants. While this is true for many plants, watering the leaves/fruit/stems and not just the soil can lead to diseased plants.
Recommended Variety: If you’ve never grown tomatoes before, you might want to start with a cherry tomato, like Sweet Millions. We used to sell a ton of these (as seedlings) in the garden centre. It’s a hardy variety that is easy to take care of and matures in about 60 days.
The growing conditions for both hot and sweet peppers are basically the same. They like a lot of heat, a lot of water, and a lot of sunlight.
Start your seeds indoors 8-12 weeks before you plan on moving them outside. Like eggplants, pepper seeds may benefit from a seedling heat mat, if you have one. If not, germinate seeds in a warm place. The seeds can take 10-21 days to sprout, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything happening for a couple of weeks.
Move seedlings into larger pots as needed until the temperatures outside are consistently warm, and nighttime temperatures are around 12°C (55°F). Harden them off properly before transplanting.
Once you do transplant them, move them to the hottest and sunniest spot in your garden (they need 8 or more hours of sun) and make sure to water them regularly.
Note that while the plants themselves love heat and sunlight, the fruit can get sunscald from too much sun exposure. This presents as white areas on the fruit. If this happens, try to provide afternoon shade until the hot weather calms down.
I have personally found that hot peppers are much easier to grow than sweet peppers. They grow more quickly and seem to be more resilient to not getting enough water.
Peppers can thrive in raised beds and containers because the soil heats up quickly. Also, peppers are actually a perennial plant in areas that don’t get frost!
Okra loves warm growing season. While it usually does best being directly sown into the garden, you will need to start your seeds indoors if you live in a cold climate.
Sow your seeds 1/2 inch deep in a deep container about 4 weeks before you want to plant them outside. Okra plants germinate faster if you soak your seeds overnight in lukewarm water. They also prefer warm soil, so use a heat mat or place the tray with your seeds in a warm place.
Once the temperatures are consistently warm, you can transplant your okra outside. Okra does best in raised garden beds that have a lot of depth, as the roots are long. Pick a very warm and sunny spot in your garden. Okra needs 8 or more hours of sunlight, and will grow quickly when temperatures reach about 26°C (80°F). Okra’s watering needs are low though – a weekly deep watering should suffice.
If you want to grow okra in a container, you will need to look for “compact” varieties.
Important: some people have a skin sensitivity to okra’s leaves, so please wear gloves when handling the plant and harvesting.
Vegetable Seeds to Direct Sow
There are some plants that don’t need to be started indoors because they grow quickly or they like cooler weather. Other plants, like carrots, are started outside because they cannot tolerate being transplanted.
Here are the easiest vegetables to grow from seed that need to be directly sowed outside.
I’ve been wanting to grow radishes for a while now, and I’m finally going to do it this spring! Radishes are very appealing because you don’t have to wait very long to harvest them. Most varieties are ready in just 4-6 weeks!
Radishes don’t like a lot of nitrogen in their soil, so don’t add a fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen, and don’t plant them in a spot that had beans last year.
Radishes are a great companion plant to carrots. Mix the two seeds together and sprinkle on the soil. Cover with a light coating of soil. Seeds should sprout in 5-7 days.
As the radishes grow, they will loosen up the soil for the carrots. By the time you harvest the radishes, the carrots will have all the space they need to grow and loose soil means less deformed carrots!
Direct sow your radish seeds 6 weeks before your last frost in spring, and 4 weeks before the first frost in Autumn.
Radishes need about 4 hours of sunlight a day and don’t need a lot of water. Harvest your radishes before the temperatures heat up because hot weather = spicy bitter radishes.
Like carrots, they work well in containers and raised garden beds.
Carrots are not difficult to grow, so long as your soil is loose and sandy. Use a garden trowel to loosen the soil to a depth of about 8 inches, removing any rocks or solid pieces of soil as you go.
Carrots prefer cooler temperatures, so direct sow them 4-6 weeks before your last frost, or 4-8 weeks before your first frost. Hot weather will make your carrots taste bitter, while very cold temperatures can actually make your carrots sweeter.
Please note that carrots generally do not tolerate being transplanted! Moving the seedlings can cause deformity. Always direct sow your carrot seeds.
Prepare the soil for seeding by giving it deep watering. Humus-rich soils work well for carrots. Sprinkle the seeds onto the soil and gently rake in. Water gently but frequently until germination. You might need a lightweight row cover to prevent the seeds from drying out until they germinate.
Plant your carrots in a sunny spot, as carrots need about 6-8 hours of sunlight, and water regularly.
Carrots can take 2-3 weeks to germinate, so be patient and keep the soil moist. Once the plants germinate, you can thin them out to 2-3 inches between plants.
As mentioned above, radishes and carrots are great companions. Mix the seeds together, sprinkle of the soil and either rake in gently, or cover with a very light coating of soil. Once the radishes grow and are harvested, they will have broken up the soil and left lots of space for the carrots.
Carrots work well in containers and raised garden beds.
There are two options to chose from when selecting beans for your garden: bush beans and pole peans.
I personally think that bush beans are easier to grow. They mature quicker, work in containers because they don’t need a trellis, and you can harvest them quickly.
That being said, pole beans take up less ground space, so you can fit more plants into a small area. You will need a trellis for pole beans, though.
Wait until the soil is very warm before directly sowing your bean seeds otherwise the seeds will rot. The seeds will also germinate faster in warm soil (about 20°C/68°F). Plant the seeds 3 inches apart, and about 1 inch deep. The seeds should sprout in 8-16 days. You can thin the plants to be spaced out further after germination.
Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet or the seeds will rot. Also wet bean leaves are susceptible to diseases.
Green beans need 8 or more hours of sunlight, and a moderate amount of water.
Green beans can be very easy to grow, and they make great use of vertical space in your garden. However, you do need several plants in order to be able to harvest enough beans for a couple of meals. If you are planning to grow beans in containers, you will need more than one and make sure they have a trellis in each container.
Green peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed, because they don’t need a lot of work! Peas are a cool weather plant that germinates quickly, so they do best when directly sown into the ground in early spring. You can plant your seeds as soon as the soil is soft enough to be worked – probably 6 weeks before your average last frost date.
Sow pea seeds 1 inch deep, and 1-3 inches apart. Seeds should sprout in 7-14 days.
Peas need 6 or more hours of sunlight each day and need a moderate amount of water. Be sure to give them a trellis for support.
Like green beans, peas are easy to grow, container-friendly and are a great way to make use of vertical space. However, you do need several plants to get enough peas for one meal. If you are short on space, opt for snap peas as they only need about one-tenth of the amount of space that shelling peas require. Snow peas are a good option, too.
Cucumbers love warm weather, lots of sunlight, compost and a ton of water.
Since cucumbers do not transplant well, direct sow your seeds instead. Wait until after the last frost – when the soil has warmed up. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep, and about 3 inches apart. You’ll need to keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. Otherwise, the seeds will rot.
Cucumbers are container and raised bed-friendly and are a great way to make use of vertical space, too. They need 8 or more hours of sunlight, so be sure to plant them in a sunny spot.
Kale is another vegetable that is considered one of the absolute easiest to grow. I haven’t grown this one myself yet, though.
Like lettuce, kale seeds can be started indoors or sown directly into the ground. Kale prefers cold weather and actually tastes better when harvested after going through a frost.
Sow kale seeds directly into the ground 1/4 inch deep and 3 inches apart. Seeds should germinate in 7-10 days, then thin to about 12 inches between plants. Sow 4-6 weeks before last frost in spring, and 4-6 weeks before first frost in fall.
Kale needs about 6 hours of sunlight a day, and needs a moderate amount of water. Keep the soil around kale moist to prevent the roots from drying out.
Kale does well in containers and raised garden beds.
While you could start beet seeds indoors, it’s not entirely necessary. You can direct sow them outside about 4 weeks before your average last frost date. Beets will not produce roots if planted when the soil is too cold, though. Seeds should germinate in 5-12 days, depending on the soil temperature.
Beets do well in raised beds, in-ground beds, or containers. When sowing the seeds outside, plant them 1/2 inch deep and space them about 4-6 inches apart so they have enough room to grow.
Some people swear by soaking beet seeds for 24 hours in water to speed the germination, but I haven’t tried that. Regardless, you will need to keep the area moist until the seeds gerimnate, then water regularly. Muchling the plant may help to keep the soil moist, but it can also attract mice or voles, so use with caution.
Beets only need about 4- hours of sun a day, so they may do well in partial shade depending on how many hours of light you get.
Zucchini & Summer Squash
You can either start these seeds indoors, or direct sow them once the weather warms up.
To direct sow your zucchini seeds into containers or raised garden beds, ensure that the weather will be consistently warm, and there’s no chance of frost.
Sow the seeds 1 inch deep and 3-6 inches apart. Seeds should sprout in a week or two. Once seedlings emerge, thin them to 2-4 feet apart. You need to keep these plants away from each other, or they will compete for nutrients and water.
Plant your zucchini and summer squash with nasturtiums to repel squash vine borers that can kill your squash plants.
Zucchini and summer squash have similar needs to cucumbers: lots of light, lots of water, and lots of nutrients.
Plants That Beginners May Want to Avoid
Ok, so we covered some of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed, now let’s take a look at some of the hardest.
Broccoli is very sensitive to heat, so a warm spring can spell disaster for this green vegetable. A sudden spike in temperature can cause broccoli to bolt, turning it’s tight head into seperate flowers. Once this happens, there is nothing you can do.
You may find that broccoli is easier to grow in the fall when there’s less chance of very hot days.
Also, broccoli takes a very long time to grow, making it difficult for gardeners with short growing seasons. The one year that I tried growing broccoli, I managed to harvest one tiny stalk (shown in the photo above) and then everything else bolted and was ruined.
Brussels sprouts need a long cool growing season, and they grow very slowly. Some varieties take up to 130 to mature! If you want to try growing them, you’ll need to start them indoors in June and transplant them by mid-August. Make sure your soil is nutrient rich to get the best results.
Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts perform better in cooler weather. And a few moderate freezes can actually make them taste sweeter!
Are you noticing a theme here? Plants in the Brassica family tend to be a bit harder to grow than other vegetables.
Cauliflower in particular is very sensitive to changes in temperature. They like cool, but not cold weather, and will bolt like broccoli in warmer temperatures.
Also, they require consistent moisture to prevent “buttoning”, where the head develops into several small flower heads instead of one large head.
Additionally, they need a LOT of water. Otherwise, they become very bitter in flavour.
Find Your Planting Calendar
If you’re new to gardening or just want to plan out your growing season a bit better this year, you might want to print off the vegetable planting calendar for your area.
Go to the planting calendar page on The Old Farmer’s Almanac website and search for your area by city, state/province or ZIP/postal code. This works for both Canadian and USA cities and gives you planting dates for specific fruits and vegetables, for both the spring and fall growing seasons.
Do you agree that these are the easiest vegetables to grow from seed? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to find out what you enjoy growing in your garden too.
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