Gardening in Almonte: Breaking News from Carleton Place!

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David

Community gardeners in Carleton Place were overjoyed to learn that they have been awarded a $4,700 grant to rejuvenate the garden next to St. Gregory School on Townline Road. The Community Gardeners formed a partnership with the Lanark County Food Bank (aka the Hunger Stop) to apply for a grant from a program administered by the Ontario Association of Food Banks with funding coming from Sysco, a large food wholesaling and distribution company. On Friday we learned that we had been awarded the full amount that we had applied for.

The Carleton Place Community Garden was initially developed 11 years ago with 20 beds measuring ten feet by ten feet. After many years of successful gardening, the need for rejuvenation had become apparent – the lumber that supports the beds has rotted; perennial grasses and weeds have grown up between the beds; deer and other mammals have become a major concern; there is no on-site storage for gardening tools; watering depends on the availability of rain barrels, many of which are cracked and leaking; and, the clay soil is no longer friable. Many gardeners have left the program due to the difficult growing conditions; others for whom the garden is critical to their dietary requirements have persevered.

The rejuvenation will be lead by the Lanark County Food Bank in collaboration with existing gardeners at the site and in consultation with local Master Gardeners. A new Carleton Place men’s group, the Hackberry Men’s Shed has agreed to design and build the shed and other structures that are part of the plan.

Our plan is to rent a sod cutter, remove existing vegetation from a 10,000 square foot area and remove existing lumber. Sound pieces of lumber will be used to build eight 24 inch-high accessible beds – some of these will serve as teaching areas for nearby school classes, others will be used by mobility-challenged gardeners.  New eight-inch-wide rough-cut eastern cedar will be used to construct 30 boxes 4 feet by 12 feet by 8 inches high (a more efficient size for gardening) for individual allotment gardens. The remainder of the area will be made into growing beds 4 feet wide and up to 20 feet long (these will have permanent pathways but no perimeter support) – these will be collaborative beds used to grow produce for the Food Bank.

Pollinator plants will be incorporated in several areas for teaching purposes and to attract pollinators necessary for many vegetables and fruits. The nearby school has committed to providing water to fill the rain barrels as required. Thirty cubic yards of mushroom compost will be purchased and worked into the underlying clay soil to improve its friability. Pathways between growing beds will have a thick layer of wood chips to prevent the growth of weeds. Vegetation which is removed from the growing area will be piled in a berm about four feet wide, a hundred feet long and two feet high – it will be covered with six inches of wood chips and pockets of soil will be created to plant approximately 25 fruiting shrubs such as gooseberries, haskaps, and currents. The berm will promote permaculture principles as it will incorporate large volumes of organic materials such as straw and brush that are available at the site. An aggressive multi-faceted strategy will be developed to deter deer and other pests.

A small board-and-batten wooden shed will be constructed to hold gardening tools and hoses. A signboard will be added to facilitate group communication. Attractive compost bins will be constructed in close proximity as well as a platform to serve as a base for rain barrels. Eavestrough from the shed will help fill the barrels.

Ongoing programs at the garden will include weekly meetings to mentor beginning gardeners and share expertise. Several Master Gardeners will be available on a rotational basis. There will be greater outreach to local print media and to social media creating much more awareness of community gardening. More signage and informational material will also be available.

Volunteer labour will be used for the construction phase. The past weekend seemed like we are still stuck in the depths of winter and that garden season is a long way off but it is creeping up on us pretty quickly. Planning for a couple of initial workdays is underway and will be publicized shortly.

The Carleton Place Community Garden has had a very close relationship with the Neighbourhood Tomato Gardening Program in Mississippi Mills over the last few years. The two gardening groups created the Great Veggie Grow-off in 2014. Leaders from both groups meet regularly.