Gardening in Almonte: A critical path

David Hinksby David Hinks

May 30 – Help build a Critical Path and Berm in Augusta Park Garden!

Calling at TomatoHeads and aspiring TomatoHeads! The Neighbourhood Tomato is planning a ‘Big Dig Revisited’ workday at the garden next Saturday May 30th from 9am to 4pm. We wrote a successful grant for shrubs bearing edible fruit from Tree Canada and need to prepare the garden for this planting. We will be renting a sod stripper and buying top soil and crushed stone to finish the accessible path through the garden and to create a large perimeter berm on which to plant the fruit bushes.

This edible fruit project will be a visually appealing addition to the garden and to the park, will utilize sustainable permaculture principles, will be an additional teaching/mentoring resource and will supply much needed fresh fruit to the community and to the Food Bank. Please bring wheelbarrows and gardening tools for all or part of the day to make this vision a reality.

The Weather

As you might recall last week Mayor Shaun McLaughlin expressed concern about the cooler temperatures forecast for last week and whether it was too early to plant frost-sensitive plants such as tomatoes and peppers. I had questioned the accuracy of the weather prognosticators however as it turned out we had a killer of a frost on Friday night (a killing frost is defined as minus 2). Out in the rural areas where it is often a few degrees cooler than in town the temperature dipped to minus three early Saturday morning. I find it fascinating to see how well adapted some plants are to frost and how vulnerable others are. I found it surprising to see that flower buds and very tender shoots on many trees were killed. I suspect that the trees will bounce back very quickly.

I was chatting to the mayor Saturday evening at the Ragged Flower event at the Herb Garden and he gave the all clear to go ahead and plant tomatoes in the garden. Surprisingly it was not a horticultural event. It was a wonderful musical event with five very talented local musicians!

Many gardeners have been expressing concern about how dry their gardens are and whether we are heading for a repeat of the drought of 2012. Rain is forecast for this week. We will have to see if Mother Nature comes through for us. Sufficient water is the single most important ingredient for growing a successful vegetable garden. A minimum of at least an inch of water is required every week for most vegetables whereas average rainfall in Ottawa is about 3 inches a month in the summer. There can be lengthy periods in mid-summer without rain. In 2012 this stretched to eight or more weeks with virtually no rain. Be prepared to water if you want to grow vegetables successfully.

I find that many people have no idea how much rain has fallen. People complain after 3 or 4 days of overcast weather with a bit of drizzle that we have had too much rain already. (I would certainly agree that we have not had nearly enough sunshine.) The reality may be that the total amount of rainfall has only been a fraction of an inch. I like to make sure that I have an empty bucket sitting on the patio if I know that rain is forecast so that I can tell at a glance how much water has actually fallen.

As I have mentioned many times, mulching helps to conserve moisture. As well proper soil preparation with lots of organic matter (compost) added improves the structure of soil allowing it to hold much more water. Surface soil that is loose or friable will prevent run-off in a heavy rain and absorb more water. A light sprinkling everyday is counter-productive as it encourages plants with shallow roots that will not have the capacity to withstand dry weather. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and do it only once or twice a week. Do not water at mid-day or in the hot sun if you have alternatives.

Try drip irrigation or using a watering wand. If you have a sprinkler that puts the water way up in the air you are going to lose much more to evaporation. Try planting more intensively – shaded soil loses water more slowly. Plants require more water when blooming and in very hot or windy conditions.

Almonte Hort: Burnt Lands Presentation June 1

The next meeting of the Hort Society on June 1 at 7:30 at Cornerstone Church promises to be a ‘don’t miss’ occasion. Naturalist Brian Carson will be making a photographic presentation titled “the Beauties of the Burnt Lands”. Guests are always welcome!