Gardening in Almonte: A Very Unusual December!

David

I spent some time on Sunday cleaning out a composter, spreading the compost on a couple of new veggie beds and then spading the bed to just cover the compost with soil leaving it in the top six inches of soil where most of the microbial action is going on. I just turned the bed over once with a round nosed shovel leaving the soil in large clumps to break down over the winter.

Not a particularly unusual activity for me but the timing was absolutely unique. This is by far the latest date where I have been able to comfortably spade a garden bed with absolutely no frost in the ground. I believe that my previous latest date was December 6 or 7 and of course we all remember the year when over a foot of snow fell on November 16 and was still there in April.

Not at all a bad fall and early winter for a gardener – I know that it will make winter seem much shorter. However I am starting to notice more complaints from serious fans of cross-country skiing!

You may have noticed that I omitted to run my compost through a screen to remove some of the larger chunks, such as corn cobs, that have not completely broken down. When it was suggested to me that I might do this, I responded that I was using a well known gardening technique called ‘sheet composting’ and that the coarser material will break down over the winter and early spring. I resorted to Dr. Google who pointed me to a website called Gardeners’ Supply Company where I was directed to the following:

Sheet composting is an ideal early-fall technique that makes use of abundant leaves. Remove spent plants from your garden beds, layer on kitchen scraps, shredded leaves, rotted straw, grass clippings, and a bit of fertilizer to supply some nitrogen. Dig or till it in, and by spring you’ll have lots of earthworms and a few un-decomposed chunks.

Sheet composting is also a very good way to reinvigorate a garden with poor or depleted soil. This fall, pile on a 4-6″ layer of material, sprinkle on some granular organic fertilizer (something with plenty of nitrogen), till it in, and let it sit there until spring. You can read more about sheet composting in The Rodale Book of Composting by Deborah L. Martin and Grace Gershuny (Rodale Press, 1992).

Now of course I would not use granular fertilizer as I have a secret source of horse manure ready to use. So was I being a lazy gardener or just using the most appropriate technique for the situation? I suspect that the tale will be told in the spring when I work up the beds to start planting.

Seedy Times

Circle the date of February 20 on your 2016 calendar. Local entrepreneur Johvi Leeck (with her mom acting as treasurer and administrator) has taken the initiative to create a Seedy Saturday event here in Almonte. It will take place at the Civitan Club on February 20 from 9am to 3pm.

Seedy Saturdays are relatively informal events with seed and other vendors, educational workshops, information booths for not-for-profit groups, informal seed swaps and on and on. For more details on the great network of Seedy Saturday events taking place across the country, check out the Seeds of Diversity website.

I have enjoyed participating at enormously successful events in past years at Britannia Park in Ottawa and have visited the Perth event as well. The Ottawa event was held last year in March at Britannia Park (Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre) – it is a jam-packed auditorium full of vendors of heritage seeds, a seed exchange table, some yummy locally baked goods, presentations on gardening and booths by organizations such as the Ottawa Community Gardening Network and the Canadian Organic Growers. Last year at 10 am there was a line-up of people at the doors waiting for them to open and by afternoon it was so crowded that it was almost impossible to move (let alone find a space in the parking lot).

I have agreed to lead a workshop here in Almonte and I know that there will be lots of excellent presenters. I think that if the area Horticultural Societies, the Neighbourhood Tomato, the Master Gardeners and the Seed Library all join forces this has the potential to be another amazingly successful Almonte event. Stay tuned for more details.