Gardening in Almonte: A Really Big Garden Party!!

[David Hinks]I took a few minutes on Friday to drop in to the community garden party featuring an afternoon and evening of great company, music, garden tours and potluck refreshments at the home of Al Potvin and Shirley Deugo-Potvin. Al and Shirley do not think small!!! The following photos show hops growing on poles higher than most two storey buildings and then there are the avenues of gazillion sunflower plants and of course the expansive grounds planted with untold numbers of trees common and exotic.

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The event was being co-hosted with the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists to celebrate and raise funds for the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund which supports awards to graduating high school students going on to study in an environmental field. Of course there were many MVFN dignitaries in attendance. The first photo shows host Al greeting guests and the second photo host Shirley, her daughter and Joel Byrne, expert in all things naturalist. And what would a posed photo be nowadays if it was not photo-bombed – an identified stranger squealed up on his bicycle and slipped into the edge of the photo.

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There were garden tours with Ed Lawrence, local horticulture expert and CBC Radio gardening host and walks amongst the trees on the property with Dr. Ron Ayling, retired University of Toronto forestry professor. In the photo Ed seems very puzzled by something that Ron is explaining.

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One of the ways that Al gives back to the community is very dear to me. He provides an area on his property for residents to dump their leaves and garden waste. Once the plant material has composted he screens it and makes it available for residents to use in their gardens. As the following photo shows, all that he asks in return is for a donation for the Hub Hospice. There are large piles of compost currently available. I find that fall is a great time to apply it on open beds where I have already harvested potatoes, garlic, carrots and onions. I always find that I have more time for gardening tasks in the fall than in our crazy compressed spring.

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I have found that my cherry tomatoes and early tomato varieties are producing ‘great guns’ but some of the beefsteak and heritage varieties certainly are taking their time. Other gardeners have had similar observations. Some suggestions that I have heard recently to encourage tomatoes to turn red include:

  • Slicing downward with a spade out about a foot from the stem of the tomato plant for about half of the circumference – this slices some of the feeder roots and may trigger the plant to hurry up and ripen its fruit (the plant feels threatened which increases the urge to reproduce)
  • Picking off the blossoms and tiny tomatoes that have no hope of developing into any size so the energy of the plant goes into ripening the larger green tomatoes. Some gardeners also do this for winter squash (not zucchini), picking off the blossoms and small squash so that all the energy of the plant goes into developing the squash that will hopefully mature before frost hits.
  • Collect recipes for green tomatoes!
  • Do not apply fertilizer and go easy on the water (returning to the theme of stressing the plants!)

There are several Neighbourhood Tomato events in the planning stages. Here are three great ways you can help with community gardens in Mississippi Mills.

  • Join us next Wednesday August 26th between 2 and 4 in the afternoon for a

“Staining Bee” of the new garden shed in Augusta Street Park.

  • Please bring a stain brush and stain container (a yoghurt container will work well for this)
  • Consider bringing a step ladder if you are comfortable on a ladder (this is not a requirement)
  • Please wear your favourite “paint clothes,” we’ll have rubber gloves
  • Ice tea, lemonade and veggie refreshments will be served

 

  • The Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens will host a booth at this year’s North Lanark Seniors’ Expo.
  • The Expo runs on Thursday September 10th from 1 – 8 pm at the Almonte Arena
  • Please contact Jeff Mills jmills@themills.on.ca by August 28th if you can help out with the NTCG booth at the Seniors Expo
  • Great Veggie Grow-Off
  • Continue to grow and contribute a portion to the Lanark County Food Bank
  • Mark your calendars then join us at the Almonte Farmer’s Market on October 10th (Thanksgiving Saturday) for the final weigh-in

While in Perth on Sunday I took a few minutes to tour the Table’s Community Garden in Last Duel Park and talk to one of their enthusiastic committed volunteers. They have about 8,000 square feet under cultivation and the garden beds were in great shape, Membership in the garden group is open to all community members with the objectives of “increasing access to local food while providing a friendly space to meet new people and learn new skills, all in a beautiful environment.” Group gardening sessions are drop-in so that garden members can attend one or the entire three group sessions held each week as they like. They garden together, harvest together and share the produce. Some food is taken home by garden members and the rest is used in their Good Food Bank, Community Meals, and Community Kitchen programs. Last year the gardens donated three thousand pounds of fresh produce to the hungry in Perth.

We nearly equalled that total last year (at 2830) and I am sure that we will exceed it this year. Remember the Food Bank and 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 – greens in particular if stored over the weekend when the Food Bank is closed do not look very appetizing by Monday. One other option is drop off your produce at the Almonte Library during regular library hours and volunteers will transport it to Carleton Place.

There are no stupid questions!

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.