With accelerating speed each day gets shorter and shorter with less and less sunlight as we head towards the December Solstice.
We all know that this incredible run of summer-like weather will soon come to a bone-chilling end, just as we knew at some level that politicians would inevitably disappoint and sunny days would come to an end.
In the midst of these sombre thoughts, several bright rays broke through the gathering clouds. Last Thursday was a garden clean-up day at the Carleton Place Community Garden. Several folk showed up and transformed beds of soggy rotting tomatoes into pristine canvases topped up with life-giving mushroom compost ready for next years gardener artists to craft a masterpiece. And perhaps most heartening was the busy voices of a class of grade three students as they appeared to pull some weeds and help put the gardens to bed.
One of the realities of being a parent or a teacher is that you never really know for certain what kind of an impact you are having on kids. This was brought home to me by one of the young students who kept asking me if I remembered her. She had been part of a gang of kids that swooped in on bikes on a glorious summer evening a couple of months ago. In the exuberance of youth they were all over the garden sampling here and there. I tried to rein them in a bit, explain what they could and could not pull, and demonstrate a few rather more uncommon veggies. And yes I did remember her – it appears that the idea of gardening has made a positive impact on her and really that’s all I’m hoping for.
One of the other activities on that warm afternoon was the planting of a few small beds of garlic. I always find this such a symbolic activity, planting in anticipation of a harvest next August. While most of the vegetable garden is winding up the annual cycle of growth and harvest, the little garlic cloves will be growing up to ten cm of roots this fall and will be ready to produce strong green shoots when the snow has barely gone next spring. While garlic is pretty flexible as to when it is planted, I usually aim for mid-October and have had excellent results for the more than thirty years that I have been growing garlic.
I first prepared the growing bed by adding a couple of wheelbarrow loads of well-aged mushroom compost and then worked it up with a spading fork. I then broke apart the garlic bulbs into the individual cloves, planting the large ones and saving the small ones for culinary purposes. The variety I plant is called Music – I have found that it is the most versatile garlic for my purposes – it is reliable and easy to grow, it is very winter hardy, it produces large cloves, stores relatively well and has a very pleasant pungent garlic flavour.
I plant with the pointed end up 15 cm apart in rows 20 to 25 cm apart (I plant four rows on my raised beds that are a bit more than a metre wide). I push the cloves into the soil with my fingers until they are covered with about four cm of soil and then use the back side of a steel garden rake to level the bed and fill in the space over the cloves. A light tamping with the rake to ensure that they have good contact with the soil and the larger air pockets are eliminated and the garlic is planted! Once we’ve had a couple of hard frosts I will cover the beds with about ten cm of straw as a mulch to protect the garlic from winter thaws.
There remain a few available garden beds in the Carleton Place Community Garden although they are going fast. There are also several projects that we would like to add to the garden – the construction of a berm, planting of shrubs, building compost bins and mulching pathways. To see how you might get involved contact the food bank at 613-257-8546 for more information.