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LivingGardeningGardening in Almonte: A Neighbourhood Tomato Reminder

Gardening in Almonte: A Neighbourhood Tomato Reminder



Allow me to remind you that the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardening folks are looking for your input. An on-line survey has been created to learn what resources existing and prospective members are willing to commit to community gardening, both individual allotment gardens and community collaborative gardening. As well interest in creating new community gardening locations needs to be assessed as the existing garden plots in our community gardens have all been allocated.

Here’s the link. Have a look and please fill it in…

….and if you know of a relative, neighbour or friend who is unlikely to see this survey but may have a garden or some skills to share, please make them aware of this survey and help them to get in touch.

A Hoop House Update

As readers may recall, I wrote a column last November  about a Hoop House adventure that I was fortunate to be part of in 2015 as a group of gardeners took over a 1500 square foot Hoop House. I also gave a report on the project at the Almonte Seedy Saturday as well as at the last meeting of the Almonte District Horticultural Society.

Last Friday March 11 we were back it! The Hoop House heats up incredibly quickly on a sunny day. There was absolutely no frost in the ground and our bags of composted horse manure that we had put in the Hoop House in the fall was nicely thawed and ready to use. But the first order of business was to check out whether any of the plants from late last fall had survived. The mâche, spinach, Winter Marvel lettuce, claytonia and cilantro that we planted last fall are alive and well, though there is some browning of leaves on all but the mâche.

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There was patchy survival of endive and winter cress.

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Group member Susan Brown reported on the fun for the day:

“Lucy brought visitors – she and a friend, Mike, are teaching ESL to a Syrian refugee couple, and they came along to practice English and help us with the work.

As planned, many beds were worked up with the manure we had kept in the greenhouse – about half the beds using about two bags per bed. There were 30 bags and we used nearly all of them.

Though we hadn’t planned to plant, we couldn’t help ourselves, and planted two varieties of snow peas, two beds of radishes, two varieties of spinach, and a bed of turnips, and a tiny bit of minutina. We also filled in the empty spaces in a bed of a winter Marvel lettuce with same.

The hose from the house was frozen and embedded in ice in places, so Lucy and her Syrian friend carried water from the house that we used to water the very dry existing plants, and the beds that we planted.”

What is a Hoop House? It is basically an unheated greenhouse – a tunnel made of polyethylene usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The interior heats up because incoming solar radiation from the sun warms plants, soil, and other things inside the building faster than heat can escape the structure. Air warmed by the heat from hot interior surfaces is retained in the building by the walls.

A group of 16 enthusiastic gardeners (some experienced, some novice) was formed last year as we learned about the potential to expand our gardening season as well as our gardening knowledge. This opportunity was created through the generosity of the owners of the Hoop House who determined it was no longer required for their use. Our Hoop House creates 1500 square feet of ‘indoor’ gardening space.

The garden has been operated as a collaborative garden – no gardener has an individual allotment. Most of the work gets done in a weekly Friday morning work party. Short meetings are generally a part of the work party as is coffee and a chance to socialize. A couple of half-day planning sessions and pot-lucks have helped to solidify a team with shared goals. The organization is the antithesis of a hierarchical structure and has evolved with virtually no conflict as members have assumed roles over the year.

One of the most important goals is to share food with the community. More than half of the produce in 2015, a thousand pounds, was donated to the Lanark County Food Bank. A second goal is to advance our own gardening knowledge. This has been accomplished in spades as experienced gardeners share their knowledge and we all learn about the tremendous potential in extending our gardening season. A third goal is to document what we are doing so that we can share our experience and knowledge with others

The Hoop House cools down over the night until the inside temperatures are the same as the outside temperatures. The rapid build-up of heat on sunny days means that plants will benefit and grow faster but the reality is that without over-night heat in the Hoop House we are limited to plants that can tolerate cold temperatures. A big part of our learning experience is finding out which vegetables are appropriate for the early spring and late fall seasons. Last year we were able to plant in mid-March and we were able to harvest until the end of December.





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