David Hinks

by David Hinks

The Neighbourhood Tomato is extremely grateful to the HUB for a donation of $500 which will help us buy materials for the creation of the collaborative Community Garden in Augusta Park.

It’s time to start Sweet Potato slips! Unlike regular potatoes where the tuber is planted in the garden, Sweet Potatoes are started by planting either shoots (called slips) or vine cuttings in the garden. Slips can be purchased by mail order (one Canadian source is Mapple Farms) or can be grown by placing tubers in water or moist peat moss 4 to 6 weeks before slips are required for the garden.

The key to successful growing of Sweet Potatoes in this area is choosing a variety that will produce a good crop during the relatively short summer. DO NOT try to grow slips from a tuber purchased from a supermarket. The varieties found there generally require 120 days to produce a crop compared to the 90 or so days of hot weather available to the local gardener. Georgia Jet is by far the best variety that I have found for the local climate, having excellent taste and producing many large-sized tubers.

The very helpful folks at the Five-Span Feed Store in Pakenham are able to obtain Georgia Jet slips grown by a local market gardener. These will be grown in a pot and will be available in late May but they must be ordered soon!

I used some of the smaller tubers that I had grown last summer and had saved over the winter (they are relatively easy to store if they are cured when they are harvested and then stored at temperatures above 55 F. I laid them in the soilless seedling mix in Styrofoam boxes as shown in the following photo and will keep them moist.

IMG_0959 I decided this week that I could not wait any longer – I had to plant something outdoors. The soil in the little micro-climate next to my shed was ready-enough for me to plant peas. One caveat – do not try this if your soil is really muddy – my spot is well-drained soil that has been amended with lots of compost.

I was out in the garden on Thursday April 10 and planted a ten-foot long row of peas. Not quite as good as last year when I planted peas March 30 or 2012 which was truly exceptional when I planted my peas on March 18. So what happens if the weather turns really nasty?  One year I had peas that were about 4 inches high when we had a late snowfall of about 8 inches. Once the snow was melted the peas were still growing with no problem.  The following photos show the peas being planted generously in a furrow 4 inches wide before being covered with about an inch of soil.

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An early start is essential for plants that do not tolerate heat.  The Ottawa spring can be incredibly short, with snow still on the ground at the end of April and 30 degree temperatures by late May.  Some plants such as peas, broccoli, cabbage and turnip grow quickly in cool temperatures and practically stop growing in the heat of the summer. Others such as lettuce and spinach will “bolt”, that is produce flowers when temperatures climb above 20C, resulting in bitter unpalatable leaves.

The first Neighbourhood Tomato hands-on gardening experience took place Saturday April 12 – a seeding and transplanting workshop at the greenhouse/workshop of one of our members saw ten ‘tomato-heads’ busy transplanting tiny seedlings from five-inch pots into individual pots that will be grown under fluorescent lights in the greenhouse until they are ready to be transplanted into the community gardens. We were also planting seeds of cucumbers and butternut squash into five-inch ‘CowPots’ where they will grow under lights until it is warm enough to plant in the garden (around May 24) – the CowPots will placed directly in the garden so as not to disturb the roots of the growing plants. The following photos show ‘tomato-heads’ happily at work.

IMG_0957 IMG_0955 IMG_0953 The next big event for the Neighbourhood Tomato will be a planning meeting this Thursday April 17 at 2pm at the Mills Community Support Boardroom on Industrial Drive in Almonte. Come and join the team as we develop detailed plans for the ‘Big Dig’ at Augusta Park  May 8 & 9 when we will be creating a much enlarged allotment garden and new collaborative community garden in Augusta Park when we will be at the park from 8am to dark until we ‘Git ‘er done’!

Come to the planning meeting this Thursday or if you can’t make it to that meeting please let me know if you are able to participate in the “Big Dig’ at (hinks.david@rogers.com). We need people with shovels, hammers and enthusiasm to strip sod, make raised beds, and build a fence, tool storage and composters. Please let me know if you have any leads on possible donations of lumber, fencing, compost or top soil.

The other educational opportunities that have been planned are a weekly weed and learn session May 15 & every Thursday evening through the growing season 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Join us at Augusta Park for a collaborative community gardening session as we share our knowledge, mentor new gardeners, weed our new garden and share some fellowship.

It is not too late to order your rain barrel!  They are being sold in conjunction with the sale of trees by the Chamber of Commerce.  We are still accepting pre-sale orders for a Fundraising Truckload Rain Barrel Sale scheduled for SATURDAY, APRIL 26 at the Town of Mississippi Mills Municipal Garage, 3131 Old Perth Road, Almonte, ON from 9am to noon. Rain barrels are being sold for $55 each or two for $110. All orders must be placed online in advance at www.RainBarrel.ca/tomato or by calling Deanna at 613-256-7535 or e-mailing deannabarry@storm.ca