Gardening in Mississippi Mills: A bridge not quite far enough!

David-Hinksby David Hinks

Circle the morning of April 10 on your calendar. The Friends of Augusta Street Park are planning a simple get together in the park for Friday April 10th at 10. It is called a “Rubber Boot Tour of Augusta.” It is hoped to bring many of the proposed projects within the park such as the bridge and the basketball court to completion this spring by engaging with contractors, service clubs and the general public.

IMG_5717 - Garden bridge in winter

What we are hoping to achieve in the Augusta Street Park Community Garden by the end of May includes a shed, water barrels connected to the shed roof, a path through the garden that connects with the bridge and the street, water service to the garden, completion of the raised wooden beds to 24 inch height, fence around the garden, beds planted and pathways mulched, soil and compost added to some of the beds, berms augmented and planted with edible shrubs, signage posted and a teaching area with decking and a couple of tables. Come on out on April 10 and learn how you can help make these dreams reality.

A walk through the garden on Sunday revealed that we are still a long way off from being able to clean up the garden and get down to work. The next photos show the beds just peaking through the snow.

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IMG_5719 - garden in winter = Augusta Park

The Augusta Street Park Community Garden will again be a mix of individual allotment plots and collaborative community plots where we will be growing food primarily for our Food Bank. While we have many gardeners looking for individual allotment gardens this spring, there are still several available and there is absolutely no charge. If you would like to have an allotment please let Jeff at Mills Community Support know that you’re interested or talk to us on April 10 at the park. Jeff can be reached at jmills@themills.on.ca . We are hoping that gardeners with individual beds will also join in and help with the collaborative community gardens.

It’s time to start Sweet Potato slips! Unlike regular potatoes where the tuber is planted in the garden, Sweet Potatoes are started by planting either shoots (called slips) or vine cuttings in the garden. Slips can be purchased by mail order (one Canadian source is Mapple Farms) or can be grown by placing tubers in water or moist peat moss six or seven weeks before slips are required for the garden.

The key to successful growing of Sweet Potatoes in this area is choosing a variety that will produce a good crop during the relatively short summer. DO NOT try to grow slips from a tuber purchased from a supermarket. The varieties found there generally require 120 days to produce a crop compared to the 90 or so days of hot weather available to the local gardener. Georgia Jet is by far the best variety that I have found for the local climate, having excellent taste and producing many large-sized tubers.

The very helpful folks at the Five-Span Feed Store in Pakenham are able to obtain Georgia Jet slips grown by a local market gardener. These will be grown in a pot and will be available in late May but they must be ordered soon!

I used some of the smaller tubers that I had grown last summer and had saved over the winter (they are relatively easy to store if they are cured when they are harvested and then stored at temperatures above 55 F. I laid them in the soilless seedling mix in Styrofoam boxes as shown in the following photo and will keep them moist.

IMG_5734 - sweet potato slips in soil less mixture

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the incredible advantage that a micro-climate can offer to a gardener. This was borne home to me this week. While my garlic bed is still covered with a foot of snow the garden of friends Michel and Blanche is in a protected sunny corner next to their house. As shown in the following photos the garlic is happily poking its head through the still very cold soil.

IMG_5704 IMG_5705 - garlic poking through the snow

The snow is very slowly receding and revealing gardens that have been hidden for many, many months. Snow is a valuable protection to all perennial plants and for many soils its accumulation and gradual thawing help improve the physical texture of the soil. I am very mindful that spring is not far off and that we can probably expect a very short spring this year as we leap from winter to summer so I am trying to do as much cleanup as I can as gardens are exposed. But I am limiting that to areas that I can reach from walkways or pathways. The gardens are still far too wet to walk on – the soil structure can be very adversely affected when it is compacted at this stage

There has been a lot of activity going on under the snow. The following photo shows sprouts of flowering bulbs that are yellow as the snow has kept them from being exposed to the light.

IMG_5722 - yellow bulbs in garden

Many other very hardy perennial plants have benefited greatly from the stable covering of snow. Lovage is already starting to grow as is the sorrel.

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IMG_5728 = sorrel through the snow.

The thyme has also survived the winter quite happily – the snow has done a perfect job of protecting it from the drying winds of winter.

IMG_5726 - Thyme emerging from winter

Plants are not the only things being revealed as the snow recedes! C’mon people please pick up your garbage or better yet don’t throw it away in the first place.

IMG_5724 - garbage

Currently the Almonte Library in partnership with the Neighbourhood Tomato is offering a series of organic vegetable growing workshops. We have had a very successful trio of workshops with the forth scheduled for April 18 (note the change in date from April 11). This will be a hands-on transplanting workshop. Space is limited so if you wish to attend please register first with Library staff – the first three workshops have been sell-outs. The library will be scheduling further workshops through the summer and fall including seed