Gardening in Almonte: Ed spills the beans!

David

Early Sunday morning and the locals were lining up for a pancake breakfast at the Union Hall at Wolfgrove and Tatlock Roads. I had the good fortune to have a bit of a chat with local garden experts Ed Lawrence and Allan Goddard. The menu was pancakes with a choice of ham or sausages and a choice of blueberries or beans. I chose the blueberries; Ed chose the beans.

The gardening talk inevitably gravitated to plans for this year and what we had seen poking through the ground already. There was a bit of a segue to the Central Experimental Farm, the Arboretum and the genius of Trevor Cole, the last curator of the Dominion Arboretum. Trevor was known to many in the area as he and his wife Brenda lived nearby in Kinburn. He passed away New Years Eve at the age of 83. The Arboretum has many very special trees – several that one would not expect to find in this climatic zone. Much of the success has to do with how the trees are sited and the favourable micro-climates that have been created. The trees of the Arboretum are celebrated in a beautiful, well-illustrated guide created by Richard Hinchcliff and Roman Popadiouk of the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm. “For the Love of Trees” was published in 2007 by General Store Publishing House of Renfrew and it belongs on the book shelves of all tree lovers.

But let’s return to the topic of micro-climates. Within our yards the spot where the snow melts first may well be a favourable micro-climate. Micro-climates are often the best location for sensitive heat loving plants – a perfect spot for tomatoes or peppers for example. It could be on the west side of the house, on the south side of a grove of trees or on the south side of a shed. It may also be a spot where the frost is first gone and the very first very cold-tolerant vegetables, such as peas, radishes and spinach, can be planted. Several years ago in 2012 I was able to plant my peas on March 18. Obviously this year is going to be much later. It goes without saying that we may also have very unfavourable micro-climates – the north side of the house, an area completely exposed to the northern winds or a low-lying spot where cold air pools.

A wander around town reveals a few over-wintering perennials doing a gradual striptease as their covering of snow melts away. The yuccas behind the Almonte Library are particularly healthy. Although they look deceptively tropical, they are amazingly hardy and survive for years taking our winters in stride.

In other locales, spring bulbs are sending up tentative sprouts. I looked but have not yet seen any of my October-planted garlic poking through the snow.

Unfortunately the melting snow also reveals the detritus from our throw-away society.

I am often asked if this early growth will suffer if the weather turns really cold or if we get lots of snow. Don’t worry if some of your early bulbs or your fall-planted garlic poke their heads out of the ground – they are very well adapted to cold conditions and will bounce right back when the weather turns warmer.