Gardening in Almonte: A Tale of Two Markets

David

At great physical and mental risk, I visited two Christmas markets on Saturday morning. First on the list was the Carp Market – my worst fears were realized – no parking spots, line-ups to get into the buildings, huge crowds that made it nearly impossible to move from one vendor to another, and, worse of all, an endless line-up at the bacon-on-a-bun stall (why has no one franchised this operation!?!).

On the plus side, there were all the usual friendly vendors, lots of veggies, crafty ideas for Christmas gifts, Santa and an elf handing out candy canes and, of course, the afore mentioned bacon-on-a-bun!

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Next stop was the Almonte market. It was a much more relaxed event – room to stop and chat with friends, soothing live music, incredible freshly-made food and the fruits of the labour of our local market gardeners.

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But, hold on!! Just before 11:30 it was becoming apparent that something was afoot! An influx of citizens came flooding into the hall and it was obvious that they were not looking to buy winter squash. They gathered at the far end of the hall and … then ….began to sing. We were the happy recipients of the loosely-held- secret machinations of a ‘pop-up’ choir led by Jennifer Noxon. Forty-odd choir members raised the roof in celebration of this amazing community!

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Finishing the gardening season

Several days and nights of low temperatures has pretty much eliminated the possibility of doing any more outside gardening tasks – when a pickaxe is required to break through the frozen crust on my gardening beds I know that it is now time to turn my attention inside and catch up with some of the jobs that have been neglected in the rush to get the outside jobs done.

The first job is to clean all of the garden tools, sharpen if necessary, cover metal parts with a bit of oil and hang in a safe place in the tool shed or garage.

The next job is to complete the garden records from this growing season – I have a written record of each growing bed, the date it was planted and the variety of vegetable that was planted and whether it was planted from seed or transplants. To this record I add some short notes such as the earliness of the harvest, any particular growing issues, the quality and yield of the harvest and a recommendation to myself as to whether I would grow this variety again.

One other thing that I like to do this time of year is to create a written inventory of all of the garden seeds that I have left over from this year’s garden. I create a record of the vegetable variety, the source of the seed, the year that I bought it and approximately how many seeds are left in the packet.

Why not buy all fresh seed every year?

Many seed packets contain enough seeds to produce many more plants in a year than I could conceivably want or have space to grow, for example I only have room for 12 celery plants, not 50. But I find it extremely wasteful to throw out partial seed packets knowing that seeds may remain viable for many years. And often I will purchase larger packets of seeds than I need for one year, since often, for example, for twice the price I’m getting four times the number of seeds.

How long is seed good for?

The following are approximate ages at which seed of good initial viability stored under cool dry conditions will still provide a satisfactory rate of germination:

-Beans – 3 years

-Beets and Swiss chard – 4 years

-Cabbage Family – 5 years (includes broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts)

-Corn –1 to 2 years

-Cucumbers – 5 years

-Eggplant – 5 years

-Onions – 1 to 2 years

-Parsnip – 1 to 2 years

-Peas – 3 years

-Peppers – 4 years

-Pumpkin – 4 years

-Squash – 5 years

-Tomatoes – 4 years

I will toss out any seed packets that are clearly ones that I will never plant or ones that I have serious doubts that I will still get a good germination rate. Nothing is more disappointing than preparing the growing space and planting the seeds for a crop that is very time-critical, waiting two weeks for the seed to germinate and then seeing absolutely nothing happen. I’m thinking of vegetables such as squash or pumpkin that I might plant directly in the garden Victoria Day and where I don’t have a lot of leeway if they are to ripen before the first fall frost.

Seedy Saturday in February   

And speaking of seeds, this is another reminder to circle the date of Saturday February 11, 2017 on your gardening calendar! Local entrepreneur Johvi Leeck of Beyond the Garden Gate has announced that Seedy Saturday will return for a second year to Almonte’s Civitan Club.

The inaugural year of 2016 was a tremendous success and Johvi plans to build on that success. And of course all of our local gardening groups will be well represented – the Neighbourhood Tomato, Almonte District Horticultural Society and the Lanark County Master Gardeners are all enthusiastic supporters of Seedy Saturday.