David Hinks

 by David Hinks

The end of the season for tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil and other frost-sensitive vegetables came to an abrupt end in my garden early Friday morning when the temperature dropped to -3C (a killing frost is usually considered to be -2C). The average first fall frost is October 7. September 19 is pretty close to a record early date. By way of comparison the first killing frost last year was late in October. Congratulations to those gardeners that had the foresight to cover their tomatoes!

While many annual flowers died as well, most perennials are still happily blooming. It always amazes me that many of our flowering plants have so much built-in tolerance for cold. It’s the same way for vegetables. The tomatoes, peppers, squash and basil are gone for the season and their spaces can now be cleared, spread with compost and spaded to be ready for next season. The cool-weather plants such as kale, Swiss chard, parsley and salad greens will continue happily for a few more weeks (hopefully). The following photo shows a bed of salad greens which is still thriving and regenerating growth after several harvests have been clipped for dinner.

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For me this underlines the importance of knowing the growing requirements of vegetables and how they fit with the realities of the Almonte climate. Plan to take some workshops with the Neighbourhood Tomato in the spring as we share our experience with starting seedlings indoors and getting our gardens ready for another year.

It is now time to start thinking about planting spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus. The effort now will be hugely rewarded in the spring.

Don’t forget to dig and bring inside the dahlia and cannas tubers – they will not survive the winter in the ground! I usually wait until after the first hard frost (not a long wait this year!). The dahlias in particular were a sorry sight after the frost as they were just at the peak of their flowering. (Note to self: get them started earlier indoors next spring!)

The following photo shows a dahlia tuber dug with a spading fork and with the stem snipped off. The tubers need to be dried and then stored in vermiculite in a cool and well-ventilated place.

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The next photo shows cannas tubers pried out of an old barrel – they have really grown very vigorously this past summer. Cannas multiply very rapidly and you soon find that you are producing more surplus tubers than you can give away. Storage is very similar to dahlias except they need somewhat warmer temperatures.

IMG_9308 Some of the perennial ornamental plants are best if they are cleaned up in the fall. The leaves of hostas become very mushy and are easier to clear in the fall. Other perennial flowering plants are worth leaving as they are over the winter. The following photo shows a clump of sedum that has strong erect stems that will show nicely against the snow (depending on how much snow we get of course…).

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And of course there are some flowering plants that have strong stems with seeds that many birds are fond of. The following photo shows a coneflower seed-head that I will leave until spring. (And don’t forget to stock-up the bird feeders and put out suet!)

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And now is the time to trim and clean up those garlic bulbs that have been hanging patiently in the garden shed.

The end of the Great Veggie Grow-off is coming up fast! The final weigh- in and crowning of the victor will take place October 11, at 10:30 am at the Carleton Place Farmers’ Market. It is the final day of the market and it corresponds with World Food Day. To date over 1,200 pounds of food has been donated to our local Food Bank. Many gardeners are now harvesting potatoes and squash – I am sure that 2,000 pounds is attainable!! Our efforts have even attracted the attention of the United Nations!

The launch of the Veggie Grow-off took place May 1 in Augusta Park in Almonte. The Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Mississippi Mills, and the Community Gardens at St.Gregory’s Next Door in Carleton Place, challenged the towns of Beckwith, Carleton Place, and Mississippi Mills to see which town could grow the most local produce for the Lanark County Food Bank in 2014.

Bring your bags and armfuls of produce to the Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place and make sure that it is weighed and credited to Mississippi Mills. The Food Bank is open Tuesday 9am to noon, Wednesday 7 to 9 in the evening, Thursday 9am to noon and Friday 9am to noon. Try to drop it off first thing in the morning if possible.