Gardening in Almonte: Planting a seed

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David

I spent a week with family in Arizona in mid-December and had the chance to do some bird-watching with grandkids. Six-year old Joe was particularly enthusiastic and really quite proficient at spotting the movement of birds in the yard. Early one morning we headed out with binoculars for a longer adventure along a promising neighbourhood path. We saw the usual doves, mockingbirds and grackles -but then Joe called out “Look Grandpa!” There in the shade was a large bird that looked like nothing I had seen before. Before I could react, Joe ran forward for a closer look and by the time I could get my binoculars focussed the bird was long gone.

I must admit that my first reaction was anger borne out of frustration – perhaps that dark shape was the elusive Elegant Trogon that I had been looking for! But I managed to bite my tongue and quietly explained to Joe that perhaps next time we should approach the quarry more slowly and quietly. Afterwards, I thought about how easy it would have been to step all over that youthful innocent enthusiasm.

I find that this kind of patience reaps rewards in gardening – children, or in fact any beginning gardener, comes with enthusiasm, perhaps mixed with doubts, but nevertheless keen to try their hand at growing food. The reality however is that growing things is not all that simple. But it can’t all be taught in a classroom – there really is no substitute for hands on experience and people have to be allowed to try it their way and learn what succeeds and what fails.

Is it easy to garden with kids? Sometimes they plant seeds too close together; sometimes they pull carrots out with the weeds, sometimes they pick squash long before they are ripe. (Come to think of it so do new adult gardeners as well!)

But to get back to the point I was trying to make – whatever brought one to gardening is a fragile sprout that needs to be nurtured.

The Neighbourhood Tomato gardening group held a pot-luck last Thursday with about 75 in attendance – a large number of which were families with young children. This hearkens back to a theme that I have repeated many times – get them interested when they’re young! Several of the gardening plots in the Augusta Park gardens have been gardened by families and of course Almonte Horticultural Society has an ongoing program at Naismith school. I believe that it is very important it is to have gardening programs at schools, however I have become convinced that if at all possible there are many benefits in locating a gardening program in a public park in close proximity to a school rather in the school yard itself. This facilitates multigenerational gardening, mentoring of new gardeners and has gardeners who will be there through the summer and who will help look after ‘school’ gardens when the schools are closed.

It is rapidly approaching the time to plan to start some seedlings indoors under lights. I will write more about this next week but my purpose today is to segue into a reminder that Seedy Saturday comes to the Almonte Civitan Club this Saturday February 11 from 9am to 4pm. Local entrepreneur Johvi Leeck of Beyond the Garden Gate is bringing Seedy Saturday to Almonte’s Civitan Club for a second year. The inaugural year of 2016 was a tremendous success and Johvi is building on that success.

It will be a jam-packed auditorium full of vendors of heritage seeds, a seed exchange table, and presentations on gardening. And of course all of our local gardening groups will be well represented – the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardening Program, Almonte District Horticultural Society the Canadian Organic Growers, the Seed Library at the Almonte Library and the Lanark County Master Gardeners are all enthusiastic supporters of Seedy Saturday. It promises to be another amazingly successful Almonte event and a terrific opportunity for gardeners from the area to network, for local producers to showcase their wares and for learning.

I have written about Seedy Saturday and Sunday events in past years in Ottawa and in Perth. These events have been overwhelmingly successful gardening events so much so that it was too crowded for me! Before the doors opened there was a line-up of people at the doors and by afternoon it was so crowded that it was almost impossible to move! So I was extremely delighted when Seedy Saturday came to Almonte.

Seedy Saturdays are a remarkable phenomenon. The Canadian charitable organization Seeds of Diversity has taken on a loose organizational role, providing some guidance and some publicity for these events. They are not one event, but a series of separate events, which have sprung up across the country, each individually and uniquely organized under the same general themes of encouraging the use of open-pollinated and heritage seeds, enabling a local seed exchange, and educating the public about seed saving and environmentally responsible gardening practices.

Some Seedy Saturdays are hosted by established public sites; others by the voluntary effort of a few individuals in community centres or church basements. The events all are relatively informal, have a low cost of entry for visitors and vendors, and a general theme that is attractive to growers of heritage seeds, organic practitioners, native plant growers, and environmental groups. This is aligned with Seeds of Diversity’s interests – that organization has come to be viewed as a natural participant and promoter of these events. Seedy Saturdays’ grassroots nature — low overhead, low admission, local talent, and volunteer energy — distinguishes them from expensive, commercially driven garden shows. Attendees are able to contribute, not just consume.

For more details on the great network of Seedy Saturday (and Sunday) events taking place across the country, check out the Seeds of Diversity website. This year Seedy Saturday in Ottawa takes place March 4 at Britannia Park (Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre) and Seedy Sunday is in Perth on March 5 at the Royal Canadian Legion.