Gardening in Almonte: Amazing Gardens!

[David Hinks]In mid-June I wrote about raised planting boxes at the Town and Country apartments in Almonte that had just been planted by some of the residents. I don’t know what their secret ingredient is but the results are truly astounding as the following photos attest with tomatoes, beans and beets on the cusp of being ready to harvest. I am always amazed by how much fresh nutritious food can be produced in a very small space.

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Many gardeners are busy harvesting their garlic. A small bed of garlic in the Augusta Park garden was harvested on Thursday and is now hanging in our brand new shed to cure. Curing simply means to allow them to air dry in a warm place for two or three weeks. This allows the skin to dry and harden thus protecting the inner flesh from outer contaminants. Thus garlic needs to be ‘cured’ if you want to store it for an extended period. Shake off the loose earth (do not wash them as introducing moisture at harvest can invite rots and moulds) and dry in a sheltered but well-ventilated location.

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The question then was what to do with all this beautiful real estate. There was also additional vacant growing space where the early carrots and onions had been pulled. We also decided to harvest the cabbage and pull out the cauliflower and broccoli that had been very badly affected by the swede midge.

Some of the options considered were beets and more carrots but the suggestion getting the most votes was to try potatoes. The challenge was to find seed potatoes for a short season potato. Some varieties such as Irish Cobbler might produce a reasonable crop in sixty days; others such as Russet can take ninety days or more. After a bit of searching we were able to locate a fifty pound bag of Irish Cobbler at Five Span Feed in Packenham which they gave to us at a great price. Three beds at Augusta Park were planted. The beds were treated to composted manure that was spaded in, a trench was created with a rake and the potatoes spaced about eight inches apart and then covered and there were enough left over for the raised boxes at Mills Community Support that had been pillaged by Bambi and friends.

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Many gardeners are planting their potatoes late in an attempt to escape the ravages of the Colorado potato beetle. The adult beetle over winters in the soil, emerges early in the spring and then lays eggs on newly growing potato plants. If you plant potatoes late they have hopefully moved on to your neighbours. And the beetles can make it almost impossible to grow potatoes especially without resorting to chemicals. Something akin to a national emergency is declared in the UK if the beetles come drifting over from the continent. Constant vigilance has kept them off the island.

The potato beetles are also huge fans of the closely related eggplant. A fellow gardener could not find a single beetle on her potatoes but was surprised to find that there were many larvae happily munching away on the eggplant.

Happy Anniversary!!

There was lots of activity at the Almonte Farmers’ Market on Saturday – there was a delicious cake baked by Alyssa Toshack in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the market. And kudos to Alyssa in her job as Secretary of the Almonte Fair for another great year. Besides the cake there were of course also lots of wonderful fresh very local vegetables for sale as well.

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Library Gardening Workshops

Also happening on Saturday morning was a gardening workshop at the Almonte library. Titled “Creative Ideas & Recipes for Your Garden Produce” Patricia Wallinger shared simple & delicious recipes based on her garden’s bounty. There was also a table of tasty samples and some ideas on foraging in your own backyard! Stay tuned for more upcoming gardening workshops organized by the library.

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Five Wednesdays in July

Remember that Augusta Park is the place to be in July! Every Wednesday through July from 6 to 8pm features music and food. This Wednesday July 29 is the last one and will be a Community Pot-luck and features the Ramblin Valley Band. Come and tour our greatly expanded garden, the new hard-surface path through the park, the new perimeter berm planted with 45 fruit-bearing shrubs, our new huge beautiful shed and the greatly expanded BMX course.

This Wednesday we are also expecting a special guest from Tree Canada and it would be really nice if the garden and berm were looking as good as possible. This will be an opportunity to thank the organization that has provided the grant that made possible the construction of the berm and the purchase of the shrubs. The edible shrubs planted in the new berm in Augusta Park have responded well to their new location with several showing new growth. Of course they are not the only plants responding – weeds are growing at an incredible pace. Some of the Augusta gardeners did some weeding last week but it would be great if you were able to help pull a few weeds in Augusta Park before Wednesday evening.

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There are no stupid questions!

And come on out to Augusta Park on Thursdays. The Neighbourhood Tomato will continue weekly ‘weed and learn’ session every Thursday through the growing season. Join us at Augusta Park from 10 to 12 in the morning or from 6 to 8 in the evening every Thursday for collaborative community gardening sessions as we share our knowledge, mentor new gardeners, weed our new garden and share fellowship. Master Gardeners and other very experienced gardeners will be there to help with your gardening concerns for both the Augusta gardeners as well as for any other gardeners in the community and will be doing short presentations on gardening topics at 7 in the evening.

“The Great Veggie Grow-Off”

I must admit that my paperwork is sketchy at the best of times but I do make a concerted effort to record what I am growing. I maintain charts that have a record for each bed showing the variety of vegetables and the date planted.

Over the years I have built up some knowledge of what varieties I prefer. Of course what I am recording is only one small part of the data that I would have to collect if I was serious about having a quasi-scientific record. That would require weather data, planting information, information on pest and disease pressure, information on neighbouring plants, changes in available sunshine and on and on. Clearly I am a bit of a dabbler and any advice I might provide should be viewed with healthy scepticism. And of course when it comes to preferences there is a high degree of subjectivity involved.

Before laying out the garden and planting it helps to have a plan. While there is a large measure of luck in what the weather will be and how well things grow there are lots of books and information out there for example as to how many tomato plants are required for a family of four. A bit of planning can help avoid egregious lapses in judgement for example planting a twenty foot long row of zucchini.

Many gardeners try to provide some produce for the less fortunate in our communities. Even here some forward planning may help to produce a surplus of foods that are in demand by food bank clients. For example clients may be happier with vegetables that they are familiar with such as potatoes, onions and carrots rather than less common vegetables such as kale, collards or arugula.

Many vegetables are now moving into large scale production, particularly cucumbers and zucchini – remember to bring your baskets of surplus produce to the Lanark County Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place and make sure that it is weighed and credited to Mississippi Mills as we compete against Carleton Place and Beckwith in the Great Veggie Grow-off. The Food Bank is open Monday 5pm to 7 pm, Tuesday 9am to 1pm, Wednesday 7 to 9 in the evening, Thursday 9am to noon and Friday 9am to noon. Try to drop it off early in the week if possible.