Urban Agriculture Business Information Bundle
Growing Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit - Vegetables - Fertilizing - Food Safety - Legislation - Specific Crop Infosheets - Pollination
Growing vegetables is perhaps the simplest and least expensive form of urban agriculture.
In addition to the specific information below, you'll find lots of good advice on growing vegetables in the Community Gardening Network of Ottawa's Garden Guide and the "Growing Tips" section of OMAFRA's Online Gardener's Handbook.
Which vegetable varieties grow best will depend on your local climate.
Late blight caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans is a devastating potato and tomato disease, the same disease that was responsible for the 'Irish potato famine' in the mid 1800's. Spores of the late blight fungus are spread by rain splashing and wind and can travel long distances. Urban gardeners cannot access commercial crop protection materials and unfortunately there are no organic solutions for managing this disease. The best way for urban gardeners to control the disease is to plant certified disease free potato seed pieces obtained from a reputable garden center.
Tomato seed is not a source of late blight, and can be used to start seedlings in urban garden greenhouses or in seedling trays left in a sunny spot of the house. However, tomato seedlings purchased from a garden centre or box store should be careful inspected for disease and only, healthy disease free seedlings should be planted in the urban home garden. There are a few late blight resistant tomatoes varieties available that urban home gardens can plant.
Late blight is a community disease. Once it gets into someone's garden or field, all fields and gardens in the region are at risk of becoming infected. Under favourable conditions, late blight can destroy unprotected gardens and fields of potatoes or tomatoes within 5- 7 days.
Adding fertilizer before and during the growing season will help to maximize your vegetable production.
Note that although some gardeners use manure to improve the soil and add nutrients, this can create food safety risks. If you are storing manure or compost, bagged or unbagged, ensure that it is covered from the elements to avoid run-off into city sewers, neighbouring properties and ponds.
Setting up your own orchard or berry patch lets you enjoy the flavour of freshly picked fruit and grow varieties that may be hard to find at your local grocery store.
Keep in mind, however, that many fruit plants require a greater investment of time, money and effort than vegetables do. Tree fruit, for example, won't bear fruit for several years after planting. Most fruit trees, shrubs and vines require regular pruning to produce good yields, while managing insects and diseases can be a significant challenge that often require the use of chemicals - something restricted in home gardens under Ontario's Cosmetic Pesticide Ban.
You'll also need to contend with a wide range of mammalian and avian pests, from deer that browse on young trees to birds that nibble the fruit before it's fully ripe.
Since fruit trees, vines and shrubs are perennials, planning your orchard is even more important than planning your vegetable garden. Be sure to select the right cultivar for the local climate and soil conditions, choose the right location and spacing and prepare the soil in advance. For some fruit trees, you'll need plant a second cultivar to provide cross-pollination.
Food safety begins with the planning of your garden and extends to storage and food preparation, since contamination can occur at any step along the way. The primary sources of pathogens are poor-quality water, manure, pets, wild animals and poor personal hygiene. By following a few commonsense practices, you can keep the risk of contamination to a minimum.
For details see:
The OMAFRA Advantage Good Agricultural Practices manual offers informative advice on food safety and discusses risk assessment and reduction.
OMAFRA also offers information on traceability and how to incorporate this feature into your project.
For new food safety products and advice, check the OMAFRA food safety website.
Note that Ontario's Cosmetic Pesticide Ban limits the use of many pesticides in Ontario, including for household vegetable gardens, home orchards and berry patches.
For other laws that may apply to urban agriculture, see the Relevant Legislation and Regulations page.
Pest Control and Disease Management
British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands' Pollination Factsheet
Specific Crops: Nuts
Specific Crops: Tree Fruit
For more information: