Gardening in Almonte: Bums in the Air!

[David Hinks]There have been many sightings over the last couple of months of ladies bent over with their bums in the air. No, this is not an unusual Ottawa Valley mating ritual but rather lady gardeners hard at work. We have so much to thank the ladies of the Almonte Horticultural Society for. The next couple of photos show them hard at work cleaning up some of the excess vegetation along Mill Street in preparation for Puppets Up. They can also be seen at many other locations around town including the Cenotaph and the Library gardens. But don’t look for men in that position – apparently they are not bendable!

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It was certainly a frenetically busy weekend for most of our citizens and many visitors. It was a fantastic celebration of the eleventh anniversary of Puppets Up! And I hope that you managed to squeeze in a visit to either the Garlic Festivals in Carp or Perth this past weekend. The Garlic Festival in Carp was a huge success with large crowds and even traffic congestion. (Unfortunately I was not able to get to the Perth Festival as well since Puppets Up was also on – why is everything scheduled for the same weekend?!?) One of the most striking things for me at Carp was the number of varieties of garlic that were on display (and for sale). There were an estimated 60 varieties available ranging from very mild to very hot. As I’ve mentioned in other columns most of our vegetables are available (but not easy to find) in great diversity. However very little of this diversity finds its way into the commercial food system for a number of reasons such as consumer preference, ease of growing, uniformity of growth and harvest, adaptability to mechanized harvesting and so on. For me this is a powerful reason to grow my own vegetables and to patronize local farmers’ markets. For example, in my seed catalogue I can choose from 39 varieties of lettuce, 18 varieties of carrots, 20 varieties of cabbage, 24 varieties of peppers, and 44 varieties of tomatoes. Local farmers will not be growing this full diversity but they will certainly have more choice than your local food stores. Join the food adventure and tease your palate with a myriad of different and exotic tastes. Who knows, there may be scope for other vegetables to have their own festivals!

If you bought garlic with the intention of planting it this fall it needs to be kept in a shaded cool place with good air circulation until it is time to plant it. I leave mine hanging in my garden shed. Do not store it in the refrigerator as this is too humid and may lead to rot. Plant it in the fall if you can as it requires a long cool growing season – garlic planted in the very early spring (as soon as the ground can be worked) will do almost as well. Some gardeners plant garlic in September – others believe that the last half of October is preferable.

The potatoes that were planted July 23 are growing well and no sign of Potato Beetles! Time will tell if we get a reasonable crop.

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Shortly after harvesting the garlic and hanging it to ‘cure’, I decided that it was timely to harvest the yellow cooking onions that had been planted as sets (small onion bulbs) in the last half of April. Most of the tops had fallen over and many of the tops were dead. As with the garlic the onions need to be cured if they are to be stored for extended periods of time. 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. As shown in the following photo I am spreading them on the lawn for a couple of days for an initial drying (bringing them indoors at night). I will then spread them out in the garden shed and allow them to cure for several weeks. I will bring them indoors to store in a cool, well-ventilated and dry area, certainly before there is any risk of freezing temperatures.

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 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.

“The Great Veggie Grow-Off”

It is hard for me to believe that in this land of wealth and abundance there are people that do not have enough to eat. The Lanark County Food Bank (that serves Carleton Place, Beckwith and Mississippi Mills) provides food to about 700 people a month. The goal is to provide enough food for three days once each month for those in need.

Many food banks are reinventing themselves – for example the Table in Perth has a range of programs and activities that include hot meals, cooking classes, a community garden and advocacy for their clients. The Lanark County Food Bank has recently rented additional space and we have hired a contractor to convert our space to a self-serve model. Stay tuned for more details.

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!