Gardening in Mississippi Mills: Spring hopes? Hope springs?

 David-Hinksby David Hinks

Eternally optimistic gardeners are eager for any sign of life in the garden. The following photo shows snowdrops valiantly forcing their way through the snow.

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On the other hand the sedum plants that have stood tall and proud through the winter were surprised to be wearing a new coat of snow on Saturday. Is the glass half full?

IMG_5743 Some days it seems like winter is dragging on forever. Certainly not a whole lot is happening outdoors as of yet but now is a good time to start looking around to find a spot to try growing a few vegetables.

Don’t think you have room in your garden for a vegetable patch but have a hankering for fresh picked greens? Do you think that the vegetable patch should be hidden behind the garage? You might want to reconsider. There are many edible plants that are both healthy additions to your plate as well as being a visual feast. While ordinarily found in the vegetable patch, they are great additions to flower beds or ornamental borders.

A few years ago I ripped up the sod in my front yard, created some raised beds and pathways made of bark mulch. I created a bit of a circular pattern but the only limit is your imagination.

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I have had the most success with vegetables that form vigorous, well shaped plants with interesting or attractive foliage or fruit and that continue growing strongly through the summer and into the fall. I plant them where I would plant annual bedding flowers. The most important growing requirement is a minimum of 6 hours of full sunlight. Plants that I have grown and would recommend mixing in the ornamental beds include peppers, eggplants, globe artichoke, Swiss chard, kale and a variety of herbs, such as basil, thyme, sage, lovage, oregano and tarragon.

Raised beds and well drained soil assist an early start by warming up much faster. Raised beds don’t need to involve a lot of work. I create beds a little over a metre wide and about three metres long with pathways about half a metre wide. I scoop the soil from the pathways onto the raised bed, add some compost, mix it up a bit and you’re ready to plant. You can make it much fancier with cedar planks as edging, particularly if you want to raise it more than a few inches. 

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But don’t try to work the soil too early. In order to determine if soil is workable, take a handful and squeeze – if it stays together in a ball it is still too wet, if it crumbles it is ready. Also if it clings to your boots and shovel in great clumps wait a few more days. As the six year old daughter of a gardening friend found out on Friday the soil may be too wet for gardening but at this stage it is really great for mud pies (and cakes).

While things appear to be moving slowly outdoors the indoor seedlings are growing at a great rate – now is the time I start using a diluted liquid fertilizer – I use an organic fish fertilizer – it doesn’t smell that great but any odour quickly dissipates – I just mix it in the water that I am using to water the plants with – at this stage watering is necessary every three days or so for the larger plants. Remember to let the seedlings dry out between waterings.

It is also time to adjust the lights to keep them within an inch or two of the plants – what is extremely important for plant growth is the intensity of the light and this falls off very quickly the farther the plants are from the light.

Rubber-boot tour of Augusta Park

May I remind you to 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 in the morning. 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, the walking path and the basketball court to completion this spring by engaging with contractors, service clubs and the general public.

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.

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.

Transplanting Workshop

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 saving workshops.