We are lucky in the Okanagan to have a relatively long growing season with temperatures hot enough to grow most vegetables. As a very novice gardener, I have had great veggie garden success the last few years in my backyard. These plants are forgiving and want to grow and produce for you and your family! I had intended to focus on the heat-loving veggies but had a request from a coworker for more shade tolerant recommendations. She has beautiful tall trees but they don’t let much light in, so I have divided this fun list of edibles into sunny, shady, and seedy plants.
Best for hot, south or west facing – Tomatoes
Tomatoes and other nightshades like peppers and eggplants need high heat and sun to produce, but if they have that, you’re in luck. Water at the base and avoid splashing the leaves to keep your plant happy. Think about what you want out of your plant before you buy one. Determinate varieties only produce once so may not be the best if you’re wanting months of tomatoes. However, determinates are smaller and bushy, so are great options for balconies and other small gardens. They are also the only kind I would try for the upside down hanging tomatoes that are recently coming into fashion.
I am lucky enough to have a decent sized yard and because we can salsa every year I only grow indeterminates. These produce all summer and can get very big, last year some were almost 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
Best for cool, north or east facing – Leafy Greens
I have not grown a lot of shade preferred vegetables, so can only comment on leafy greens. There are many types of spinach, some more shade tolerant than others. Lettuce, arugula, and celery like cool growing seasons and part shade.
If you have a shady garden do not despair! The shade on your leafy greens helps avoid the bitter taste they can sometimes develop. Some shade can also be very beneficial for cool weather crops like broccoli and cauliflower to extend their growing season and avoid them getting too hot.
Best for edible seeds – Sunflowers and Squash
You can’t live in Penticton without coming across someone’s fabulous sidewalk sunflowers. There are so many kinds, and most are very hardy making them great options for brightening up sad looking laneways and boulevards. Later in the year when you harvest the seeds you can add these to salads, baked goods, and roast for snacks later.
Due to the abundant variety of summer and winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds, there is a seedy friend just waiting to join your garden. Some people just want to carve their pumpkins for Halloween, others love the heartiness squash and pumpkin can add to winter meals. Either way, most varieties will produce seeds you can use in much the same way as the sunflowers. Delicious, nutritious, and are great examples of plants that keep on giving!