Gardening in Mississippi Mills: A big week for the neighbourhood tomato!

Neighbourhood Tomato Work Party Wednesday April 29

The heavy lifting for the Neighbourhood Tomato will start this year on Wednesday April 29. Join us at the Augusta Street Park Community garden this coming Wednesday throughout the day. We will start at 9 and work till we are done (or until it is dark). We need people with rakes, shovels, and wheelbarrows to help get the beds ready for planting. Come one, come all – bring drinks and snacks if you can’t shovel. Come for an hour, come for the morning, or come all day. All help will be appreciated. Come for as long or as little as you can.

The Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Augusta Park and behind the Library 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 a few 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. Jeff can be reached at jmills@themills.on.ca . We are expecting that gardeners with individual beds will also join in and help with the collaborative community gardens.

Great Veggie Grow-Off May 1 at St.Gregory’s School at 176 Townline Road West in Carleton Place (Erroneously reported last week as being held at the Carleton Place Farmers’ Market)

This year the kick-off is May 1st at 12:30 noon in Carleton Place at the community gardens next to St. Gregory’s School at 176 Townline Road West in Carleton Place. Join us for the kick-off of the `Great Veggie Grow-Off` – a community challenge between the towns who use and support the Lanark County Food Bank. Again this year, the communities of Beckwith, Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills will square off to see which community can grow the most produce for the food bank. Last year the three communities donated 2830 lbs of healthy fresh food to the Food Bank.

Hike for Hunger May 2

Also happening over the next week is a special series of events to help our Food Bank, and the people that depend on it for emergency food assistance, over the summer period when people are busy and donations really drop-off. Every Plate Full will run from May 2nd to 8th, and a number of local events are planned to help rally the residents of Beckwith, Carleton Place, and Mississippi Mills to help feed our communities. The first of these events is a Hike for Hunger, Saturday May 2nd at the Goodwood Marsh Nature Trail in Beckwith Township, behind the soccer arena and sports field at 1319 9th Line, just south of Carleton Place. Participants will be able to register and solicit sponsorships.

Join us for registration between 1:00 and 2:00 before embarking on your jaunt, and then stay for a BBQ afterwards with all proceeds going to our local Food Bank.

Outdoor planting in full swing

On a sunny day last week I prepared three raised bed for planting some early vegetables. My goal was to create raised beds about a metre wide and three or so meters in length. Before you start make sure that the soil is dry enough to be workable – take a handful and squeeze – if it stays together in a ball it is still too wet, if it crumbles it is ready.

The first step was to dig over the area and get rid of any weeds. Then I dug out the pathways between the beds down about three or four inches, tossing that soil onto the beds on either side of the path. I then added some compost – some of my own and a bag of composted sheep manure. I then mixed it up a bit with a spading fork and was ready to plant. I used the back side of a steel rake (I could have used a hoe instead) to dig three parallel rows about one cm deep. I then planted three rows on the first bed – one row of a mesclun mix of a variety of greens, a row of carrots and a row of spinach – then drew the soil back over the seeds and tamped it down lightly with the bottom of the rake. The second bed was planted with peas – a row of sugar snap (edible podded) peas and a row of snow peas.

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Another raised bed was used to plant potatoes. I planted one bed of Yukon Gold – I was fortunate to find my seed potatoes at the Five-Span Feed Store in Pakenham. I prefer to plant potatoes about the size of an egg if I can. I plant two rows on my metre-wide raised beds.

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I plant my potatoes rather deep (ten cm or more) for a couple of reasons. Firstly if they come up too soon the tops can freeze – this will not kill them but it does slow them down. Secondly and more importantly is that the new potatoes will grow on the plane above the seed potato or along what will be the main stem of the growing plant. This tends to push the potatoes into daylight where they will turn green and be mildly poisonous if they are not planted deeply enough.

This is the reason that gardeners ‘hill-up’ their potatoes. This is just simply drawing up the soil on both sides of the row of potatoes. I prefer to use a mulch of about ten cm of straw on the potato beds which helps keep them from being exposed to the sun and is easier than a lot of hilling-up with a hoe. This makes potatoes adaptable to other methods of growing. For example some people are trying to plant potatoes in the bottom of a barrel or other container and then keep adding soil as the potato vines grow, always leaving about 20 cm of vine exposed. In theory the container will be full of potatoes at the end of the season.