Gardening in Almonte: Lots of green tomatoes!

David Hinksby David Hinks

This year it seems like it will be a race between the late blight and frost as to which ends the tomato harvest first. We have not had enough heat and sunshine for the heat loving plants such as tomatoes to turn red – let alone enough heat to expect a great crop from the real heat lovers such as eggplant and sweet potatoes. As the following photo shows there are lots of green tomatoes this year.

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Some suggestions that I have heard recently to encourage tomatoes to turn red include:

  • Slicing downward with a spade out about a foot from the stem of the tomato plant for about half of the circumference – this slices some of the feeder roots and may trigger the plant to hurry up and ripen its fruit (the plant feels threatened which increases the urge to reproduce)
  • Picking off the blossoms and tiny tomatoes that have no hope of developing into any size so the energy of the plant goes into ripening the larger green tomatoes. Some gardeners also do this for winter squash (not zucchini), picking off the blossoms and small squash so that all the energy of the plant goes into developing the squash that will hopefully mature before frost hits.
  • Collect recipes for green tomatoes!
  • Do not apply fertilizer and go easy on the water (returning to the theme of stressing the plants!)

All of which underlines the importance of planting a diversity of plants in the garden  – some that love cool moist conditions and others that like lots of heat – thereby increasing your chances of having a successful gardening season (Have I mentioned this before?). Speaking of diversity, I was walking through a small field with lots of goldenrod with my brother who has a background in botany – he opined that there were at least ten different species of goldenrod in the field. Who knew! I used to think that some goldenrod was just shorter or just had a different shaped flower head but it is a completely different species – pretty amazing when you reflect that there is only one species of humans on the planet.  Contrary to the beliefs of many, goldenrod does not cause hay fever – it is caused by ragweed. And as the following photo shows goldenrod is a beautiful plant – it is grown in Europe as an ornamental garden plant.

IMG_3156 - gardening Thanks to all the community leaders that attended the Town Hall meeting August 20 at Almonte’s Agricultural Hall to talk about food insecurity in our community. This meeting was convened by the Lanark County Food Bank (that serves Carleton Place, Beckwith and Mississippi Mills) that plays a critically important role in our communities. Last month the Food Bank provided food to 379 adults and 239 children in our communities. The goal is to provide enough food for a minimum of three days once each month for those in need.

Many ideas were exchanged about the role of the food bank in our community particularly as many food banks are reinventing themselves – for example the Table in Perth has a range of programs and activities that include hot meals, cooking classes, a community garden and advocacy for their clients. The recent press coverage of the Parkdale Food Bank in Ottawa illustrates the strong feelings we have around food security. The Board of Directors of the Lanark County Food Bank will meet later this month to develop a strategic direction for the next three years.

Speaking of the Table in Perth, I had the good fortune last week to tour the Table’s Community Garden in Last Duel Park and talk to a couple of their enthusiastic committed volunteers. They have about 8,000 square feet under cultivation and the garden beds were immaculate (apparently they were recently toured by some dignitaries, so a weeding blitz had been organized).Membership in the garden group is open to all community members with the objectives of “increasing access to local food while providing a friendly space to meet new people and learn new skills, all in a beautiful environment.” Group gardening sessions are drop-in so that garden members can attend one or the entire three group sessions held each week as they like. They garden together, harvest together and share the produce. The food is taken home by garden members and used in their Good Food Bank, Community Meals, and Community Kitchen programs. The following photos show some of the healthy abundant plants growing and the beautifully laid out gardens and structures.

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If your garden is producing bumper crops that are more than you can handle, don’t forget the “The Great Veggie Grow-Off”. The launch of the Veggie Grow-off took place May 1 in Augusta Park in Almonte. 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. To date the total amount of food donated from the three communities is over 750 lbs.

Bring your bags and armfuls of produce to the Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place and make sure that it is weighed and credited to Mississippi Mills. The Food Bank is open Tuesday 9am to noon, Wednesday 7 to 9 in the evening, Thursday 9am to noon and Friday 9am to noon. Try to drop it off first thing in the morning if possible. Mississippi Mills has a commanding lead however that could turn around quickly as more and more vegetables are ready to harvest. The final weigh- in and crowning of the victor will take place October 11, at 10:30 am at the Carleton Place Farmers’ Market. It is the final day of the market and it corresponds with World Food Day.

 The Neighbourhood Tomato hosted weekly ‘weed and learn’ session every Thursday evening at Augusta Park to share our knowledge, mentor new gardeners, weed our new garden and share some fellowship. The Neighbourhood TomatoHeads also worked with TYPS to create intergenerational educational/hands-on gardening sessions Tuesday evenings at the TYPS garden. Those sessions have ended for the season – many thanks to all those that participated and created beautiful gardens with bountiful produce. For example just last week I was able to harvest 19 pounds of beautiful fresh produce from the TYPS garden to deliver to our local Food Bank.

And kudos to Almonte Library for getting involved in gardening with the creation earlier this summer of a seed lending library. It is a free exchange designed to promote healthy local food and a stronger community. It’s also a great way to save money and try seed stock that is suited to your own climate. More than ten years ago, a New York State librarian had the idea of adding seed packets to his branch’s offerings — a project that has blossomed in public libraries. Lanark County Grows’ first seed library began in 2013 at the Perth & District Union Public Library. Once the library has enough seeds to lend library clients will be able to check out a package of seeds for free at the library, plant them & let them grow to maturity. They will then save some of the seeds from their harvest and bring some to the library where they will be packaged for others to check out!

The library is currently getting the word out – look for them at venues such as the Seniors’ Expo next week. The Library is also planning workshops and seminars, possibly in conjunction with the TomatoHeads – watch for details.