Gardening in Almonte: “The Big Dig”

[David Hinks]

The ‘Big Dig’ is happening at Augusta Park May 8 & 9 when we will be creating a much enlarged allotment garden and new collaborative community garden in Augusta Park when we will be at the park from 8 am to dark until we ‘Git ‘er done’!

If you weren’t able to make it to the planning meeting and want to be involved please let me know if you are able to participate in the “Big Dig’ at (hinks.david@rogers.com). We need people with shovels, hammers and enthusiasm to strip sod, make raised beds, and build a fence, tool storage and composters. Bring your shovels, gloves wheelbarrows, and a chair for break time and be prepared to get really dirty. Please let me know if you have any leads on possible donations of lumber, fencing, compost or top soil.

The launch of “The Great Veggie Grow-Off” took place May 1 in Augusta Park. The Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Mississippi Mills, and the Community Gardens at St.Gregory’s Next Door in Carleton Place, challenged the towns of Beckwith, Carleton Place, and Mississippi Mills to see which town can grow the most local produce for the Lanark County Food Bank in 2014.

About 25 gardening enthusiasts and invited dignitaries gathered at noon for a few short speeches, the signing of a resolution between Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Mississippi Mills, the Community Gardens at St.Gregory’s Next Door in Carleton Place and the Lanark County Food Ban and the turning of a sod to commemorate the expansion of the Augusta Park Garden (aka the ‘Big Dig’)

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Gardening activities indoors and outside are approaching a frenetic pace.

The peas are finally breaking through the soil as are the spinach and other greens. The peas that were planted outdoors April 10 took nearly three weeks to show growth – the peas planted last year on March 30 also took a full three-weeks until I finally saw the first sprouts coming through the soil. If the weather had turned warmer and the soil had become much warmer they could have sprouted in as little as a week. In the relatively short growing season that we have for plants that prefer cooler growing temperatures I always try to plant as soon as I possibly can.

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IMG_1230 Many of the indoor plants are growing very well (perhaps a bit too well in some cases). The following photo shows peppers that are getting a tad crowded.

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Some of my faithful readers may remember the seeds that I planted in plastic containers and placed outside in early February. I started with a half-dozen rigid plastic containers measuring 7 inches by 12 inches by 4 inches deep. I then drilled about 8 holes in the bottom for drainage and about 8 in the top for air circulation. I then added about 2 and a half inches of a moistened soil-less seedling mixture, sprinkled the seeds on top, and covered with growing mix according to packet instructions. The seeds I planted included Helenium, Joe Pye, Little Blue Stem, sweet peas, calendula, stocks, arugula, a lettuce mix, a mesclun mix and onions. Everything was then carefully labelled. The lids were snapped on and I placed them outdoors on a raised flower bed that doesn’t get a lot of sun.

As the following photo shows the results were mixed – certainly the mesclun and lettuce mixes are showing very good growth. The perennials not so much. 

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I decided that it was time to transplant the greens into the garden, notwithstanding the constant rain! I built a three-foot by eight-foot box out of eight-inch wide cedar planks. I decided to use a modified ‘lasagne’ technique as I judged the soil too wet to dig in. I added some wheelbarrow loads of screened top-soil (that was conveniently piled under a tree) and mixed in a couple of bags of mushroom compost. I then dug some short furrows and transplanted clumps of lettuce and other greens. No need to water!! With any luck and if the dogs chase away the rabbits the bed will be ready for harvest in a few weeks.

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The sweet potato tubers that were placed in moist peat moss in mid-April are producing slips like crazy. Some of them are six-inches high and need to be potted up. I am putting them in four-inch CowPots which will give the roots a fair amount of room to spread out. The problem with potting sweet potatoes too early is that the roots will start to circle around inside the pot – and as the root is shaped so is the tuber shaped. I have harvested some really gnarly looking tubers in the past when I left the slip growing too long in the pot. The plan this year for slips that have been potted up too early is to snip off a six-inch piece of the vine and root it just a week or ten days before transplanting to the garden. Sweet potatoes root very readily from any piece of the vine – many of the slips that I am breaking off the tubers have little or no roots – they will produce roots very quickly once stuck in the porous seedling mix.

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The next educational opportunities that have been planned by the Neighbourhood Tomato are a weekly ‘weed and learn’ session May 22 & every Thursday evening through the growing season 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Join us at Augusta Park for a collaborative community gardening session as we share our knowledge, mentor new gardeners, weed our new garden and share some fellowship.

The Neighbourhood TomatoHeads are also partnering with TYPS to create intergenerational educational/hands-on gardening sessions tentatively scheduled for Tuesday evenings at the TYPS garden. More details will be forthcoming shortly.

It is not too late to order your rain barrel!  They are being sold in conjunction with the sale of trees by the Chamber of Commerce.  We are still accepting pre-sale orders for a Fundraising Truckload Rain Barrel Sale at the Town of Mississippi Mills Municipal Garage, 3131 Old Perth Road, Almonte, ON.

NOTE: This event was originally scheduled for April 26 but has been delayed to Thursday, May 15, 3-7:30pm at the Municipal Garage.as the suppliers of the trees are behind schedule due to the extended winter!!

Rain barrels are being sold for $55 each or two for $110. All orders must be placed online in advance at www.RainBarrel.ca/tomato or by calling Deanna at 613-256-7535 or e-mailing deannabarry@storm.ca