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Best Vegetables to Grow In Nova Scotia [and Planting Schedule!]

From asparagus to zucchini, Nova Scotia’s climate supports the growth of a wide variety of vegetables. With careful timing and the ideal cultivars, any gardener can produce a bounty to be proud of and share! There are a few nuances about gardening in the Maritimes, though.

So – which are the best vegetables to grow in Nova Scotia and other short-season wintry growing climates? And – what do you need to know about the Nova Scotia growing season and scheduling?

We want to share our best tips.

Sound good?

Let’s get our hands dirty!

Nova Scotia Planting Schedule

Yes, the Maritimes get winter weather. But don’t be dissuaded! As soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws, you can head outside and sow your cool-season crops. The snow usually melts in late March or early April.

In Halifax, the last frost date is usually in the last week of April, but if you want to play it safe, wait until May to plant your warm-season crops. The first frost is usually in the second week of October. All your frost-tender seeds should be sown and grown in that window.

If you still have frost-tender crops in the ground past the second week of October, you may need to get a bit inventive with bedsheets or floating row covers to protect your plants.

Believe it or not, with a cold frame or a hoop house, you can grow a wide variety of cool-season vegetables throughout the entire winter. Building a hoop house is a great way to help prolong your growing season.

(Niki Jabbour, an author from Halifax, wrote an excellent guide called the year-round vegetable gardener. It’s perfect if you want to learn how to grow food 365 days a year.)

When choosing perennials, it can be helpful to know that the chilliest parts of Nova Scotia fall into zone 5a, while the warmest parts are zone 7a.

basket stuffed with farm fresh vegetables
The biggest trick for Nova Scotia gardens is watching your final day of frost! Keep a close eye on this Nova Scotia planting calendar. Your last frost day is likely as late as the start of June! That’s much further than other parts of North America – so plan accordingly!

Best Vegetables to Grow In Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s climate provides gardeners with plenty of options for what to cultivate. Here are some of our favorite vegetables to grow in Nova Scotia. 

Beans 

climbing beans with trellis
Climbing beans

Did you know that beans add nitrogen to the soil? Their nitrogen-adding abilities make them a super companion for other heavy-feeding crops. And there are so many different types of beans to choose from – more than most homesteaders think!

Climbing beans are rambunctious and should grow against fences or arches where they can guide and glide upwards. By contrast, bush beans are ideal for small spaces and can be grown without support. 

Here’s where to buy bean seeds.

Carrots 

freshly harvested organic carrots from garden
Carrots are one of our favorite colors, and they taste surprisingly delicious when mashed. They’re also perfect for Nova Scotia gardens as you can sow carrots as soon as the soil thaws. They’re easy to grow – but they don’t tolerate dense or rocky soils. Carrots also hate weeds – and they appreciate lots of water.

Carrots can be slow to start but are steady through their growth. Carrots are a bit of a gift because the window where you can harvest them is so large. Pull some in the summer when they are tender and tiny.

Or, you can pull larger ones in the fall when they’ve reached maturity. Or, if you’re like me, harvest your carrots in early winter when you finally find that spare moment you’ve been searching for – no rush. Your carrots will patiently wait for you.

Here’s where to buy carrot seeds.

Garlic 

freshly dug garlic plants
Freshly dug garlic plants

I’d be a happy gardener if I could feed my family garlic. Exclusively! Although I might be less pleased with how my family smells.

Garlic is easy to grow. Plant the cloves in October with the skin on, and then harvest the plants in early summer when the bottom 30% of the plant has died back. Hardneck garlic varieties are better suited to cold climates.

Leafy Greens

butterhead lettuce freshly harvested from garden
Lettuce is one of our favorite leafy greens for Nova Scotia homesteaders! Lettuce can handle light frost – so you should be able to sow lettuce at the end of May or early June at the latest. Lettuce also matures in as little as 40 days, making it a perfect short-season crop for northern gardens.

Spinach and lettuce are tremendously versatile in the kitchen and provide a steady harvest once established. Leafy greens can be sown in March when the ground thaws. And they’re ready for harvest several weeks later.

Late summer is another good time to plant leafy greens. Leafy greens tolerate cool weather, so some years, they’ll grow until the snow comes to stay. Other easy and leafy greens include arugula, kale, and bok choy.  

harvesting spinach from garden
Spinach is perfect for Nova Scotia gardens. It handles early spring planting and cool temperatures like a champ and is also tremendously healthy. Spinach has tons of lutein, magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins B6, B9, C, E, and A.

Potatoes 

potato plant
Potatoes are a superb vegetable to grow!

Potatoes are a reliable favorite. Grow them in the ground, raised beds, buckets, barrels, straw towers, or even tires. Every time the leafy tops reach a height of 6 to 8 inches, you should mound soil or straw around the plant until only the top few leaves remain.

Mounding encourages the production of more tubers. Folks tend to get pretty inventive with how they hill their potatoes, sometimes making rather impressive potato towers. 

Here’s where to buy potatoes for planting and here’s the difference between determinate and indeterminate potatoes!

Tomatoes 

my tomato plants this year
These are my tomato plants for this year’s crop! I’m growing only cherry tomatoes this year, including yellow varieties which are believed to confuse birds and insects into thinking they aren’t ripe – thus they won’t eat them before we do!

Tomatoes need a head start and should be started indoors in March. It’s more effort, but tomatoes are a good bang for your buck because they are prolific. It’s not unusual for one plant to produce dozens of tomatoes.

Like a cherry tomato, summer in Canada is small and sweet. So choose early-maturing varieties for best results. The following tomato cultivars do well in the Maritime climate.

  • Scotia (60 days): Medium-sized fruits form on sturdy plants. Ideal for containers.
  • Brandywine (78 days): They’re known for their exceptional flavor. This beautiful variety is over 200 years old. And delicious!
  • Sun Gold (57 days): Perhaps the most delicious of all cherry tomatoes, sun gold is ludicrously sweet!
  • Sweet Million (62 days): Do you dream of being inundated by a million cherry tomatoes? Then this is the variety for you!

(Also – check out the farming schedule from Farmer’s Almanac. It’s perfect for Canadians from Nova Scotia who want a reliable planting schedule.)

Here’s where to buy tomato seeds and here’s our tomato growing and harvesting guide.

Squash 

spaghetti squash
Squash plants grow quickly and produce a bounty harvest!

Summer squash like zucchini and pattypan are prolific and fast maturing. Spaghetti squash is a good choice for quick-maturing and bountiful winter squash.

Be forewarned! Squash takes up a lot of space! Some seed companies sell more compact bush varieties.

Here’s where to buy squash seeds and here’s our spaghetti squash growing guide!

Read More – Best Vegetables for Growing in British Columbia Gardens!

Nova Scotia Gardening Tips

Gardening in Nova Scotia can be tricky!

So – these are our top three gardening tips for Nova Scotia gardeners, and we hope they help.

Soil Drainage

Nova Scotia’s springs can be very wet. If your soil has good drainage, this isn’t a problem. Mother Nature is the cheapest automatic watering system you’ll ever have!

But if you harbor heavy soil, you may need to improve the draining capability of your soil by adding compost or sand to prevent plants from drowning

Managing Rocky Soil

Nova Scotia is rocky, and there are some areas where there isn’t much soil to speak of – and in some areas – there’s even less!

If your yard seems to be more rock than soil, don’t fret, but you’ll have the best success in raised beds where you can add your soil. Here’s a handy-dandy soil guide we found for Nova Scotian gardeners and here are some great trees that grow in rocky soil.

Extending Your Growing Season

Extend your growing season and use cold frames, cloches, and floating row covers. If you’re willing to do a little DIYing, these can be affordable solutions.

Milk jugs with the bottoms cut off can make easy cloches. Repurpose old windows into cold frames. Use your imagination! You’ll be surprised by how much additional time these gardening gadgets can give you.

Best Vegetable Seeds for Nova Scotia Gardens

Growing fresh garden vegetables in Nova Scotia is a daunting endeavor. It seems like other gardeners from the USA and southern growing zones are already harvesting by the time you get to planting.

But worry not! We put together a list of our favorite vegetable seeds for Nova Scotia gardeners.

(We also tried our best weeding out the junk seeds with dismal germination rates!)

The following seeds can help you plan an immaculate Nova Scotia garden – even if you can’t sow seeds until late May or early June!

  1. Heirloom Tomato Seeds | Eight Organic Assortment
  2. Heirloom Tomato Seeds | Eight Organic  Assortment
    $17.97

    Not sure which tomato cultivar you want to grow first? Try these! You get a delicious and breathtaking tomato seed variety pack with nine cultivars, including Yellow Pear, Valencia, Brandywine, Roma, Green Zebra, Three Sisters, Amish Paste, and more! The heirloom tomato seeds are also USDA Organic and Non-GMO.

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    11/30/2022 08:06 am GMT
  3. Rainbow Kaleidoscope Blend Carrot Seeds | Burpee
  4. Rainbow Kaleidoscope Blend Carrot Seeds | Burpee
    $8.03

    We love this kaleidoscope blend of carrots from Burpee! You won't believe the beautiful colors - orange, purple, red, yellow, and white! Sow the seeds in garden soil after your final frost date. The plants grow four inches and spread three inches, and the roots grow eight inches deep. You get 1,500 carrot seeds.


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    11/30/2022 08:21 am GMT
  5. Three Color Blend Bush Bean Seeds | Burpee
  6. Three Color Blend Bush Bean Seeds | Burpee
    $6.56

    These royal burgundies and mellow yellow beans taste delicious, and they're also tiny. The plants only grow around 15-inches tall! They flourish best with full sun and produce beautiful plants with four-inch bean pods. You'll also love the colorful harvest - it will keep your eyes and your tummy satisfied!

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    11/29/2022 12:46 pm GMT
  7. Best Zucchini Summer Squash Seeds | Burpee
  8. Best Zucchini Summer Squash Seeds | Burpee
    $8.91 ($0.45 / Count)

    We love zucchini for short-season growers because they mature and harvest quickly - in only 40 days! Zucchini plants grow to around 30-inches tall and spread about sixty inches. Expect to harvest zucchini gourds around six inches to eight inches long. Zucchini is a blast to eat - perfect for stir fry, pasta dishes, and soups. Or, you can drizzle them with olive oil and toss them in the oven. Yum!

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    11/29/2022 06:51 pm GMT
  9. Blue Scotch Curled Kale Seeds | Earthcare Seeds
  10. Blue Scotch Curled Kale Seeds | Earthcare Seeds
    $7.95 ($1.19 / Gram)

    Blue Scotch is one of our favorite kale cultivars - it has oodles of fiber, vitamins, and minerals! It's also tremendously easy to grow and yields plenty of yummy and healthy crops. Blue Scotch handles the cold weather without fuss making it perfect for Nova Scotia gardens - ideal for growing zones three through ten.

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    11/29/2022 07:36 pm GMT
  11. Brunswick Cabbage Heirloom Seeds | Burpee
  12. Brunswick Cabbage Heirloom Seeds | Burpee
    $6.10 ($0.02 / Count)

    Brunswick cabbage is a German cabbage heirloom with intense flavor and lovely drum-shaped heads. But be warned that germinating and growing cabbage takes time. We recommend sowing Brunswick cabbage seeds indoors eight weeks before your final frost date. The plants grow to around nine inches and spread about twelve inches.

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    11/30/2022 01:21 am GMT

Nova Scotia Gardening FAQs

All gardeners have questions! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about gardening in Nova Scotia.

Read More – Best Vegetables for Growing in Ontario Gardens!

Conclusion

Every year as a gardener is a new adventure. Some years, things grow like magic, and every trip to the plot fills your basket with produce.

Other years, gardeners spend more time waging war on pests than harvesting veggies.

I have found that no matter what kind of year it is? There’s a joy in the process. Doubly so when growing fresh veggies in Nova Scotia!

So I hope that you join us on the adventure and tell us how it went in the comments! Or – if you have questions about growing vegetables in Nova Scotia, please ask.

Thanks again for reading.

Have a beautiful day!

Read More – Greenhouse Gardening in Winter – Our Winter Growing Guide!

Author

  • Elle

    Jack of all trades, master of some. Wild garden grower. Loves creating stuff. From food forests and survival gardens to soap and yoghurt. A girl on a farm with two kids and one husband (yep, just one - although another one would be handy). Weirdly enjoys fixing fences and digging holes. Qualified permaculture teacher and garden go-to.

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