David Hinks

by David Hinks

 

It has rapidly become that time of year when I can’t go into a store without earplugs (why won’t someone make that music stop!!!)

On a more serious note it is also the time of year when I become more mindful of all that I have and my thoughts turn to those who do not always have enough to eat. Please join me at the 2013 ‘Light up the Night’ event that takes place Friday evening December 6 in beautiful downtown Almonte – I will be in front of Baker Bob’s from 6 pm until 9 pm receiving donations of cash and food for the Lanark County Food Bank (our local Food Bank serving both Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place). Any donation will be greatly appreciated.

Last week I wrote about the action planning meeting for the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens for 2014 and I also described a visit to ‘The Table’ in Perth – the many wonderful things that they are doing there include a kitchen garden for their community dinners and a collaborative community garden that provides fresh organic produce for the volunteers as well as for their Food Bank.

Inspired in no small part by the project in Perth, the Neighbourhood Tomato is exploring the possibility of developing a similar collaborative community garden in Almonte. The bare bones of the project would include a garden of about 5000 square feet, with a fence to keep out critters, a small tool shed and a three-chamber composter. The aim is to have the garden in a central, highly visible part of town so it’s gonna’ have to be ‘purdy’ which does have an effect on materials chosen and the cost of the project.

Town council has been asked for a relatively small amount of ‘seed’ money and help in locating a suitable piece of land – volunteers would provide all of the labour and fund-raising projects to cover the rest of the costs are being developed.

If you happen to know a councillor or if you run into one, please put a ‘bug’ in their ear to support this project (after you pick them up and dust them off – that is if you’ve run into them).

On the home front any garden tasks that didn’t get done will just have to wait until spring – it looks like this snow is here to stay. The sedum and the yucca are still showing their lovely structure and colour above the snow – maybe not for much longer!

Gardening in winter

The vegetable growing beds are cleared and now have a lovely blanket of snow. 

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Looking at the snow cover that we now have in place leads me to thinking how fortunate gardeners in this area are for the protection that this gives to perennial plants. Many factors enter into the determination of climatic or plant-hardiness zones. In 1967, Agriculture Canada scientists created a plant hardiness map using Canadian plant survival data and a wider range of climatic variables, including minimum winter temperatures, length of the frost-free period, summer rainfall, maximum temperatures, snow cover, January rainfall and maximum wind speed.

Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service scientists have now updated the plant hardiness zones using the same variables and more recent climate data (1961-90). They have used modern climate mapping techniques and incorporated the effect of elevation. There have been changes in the hardiness zones that are generally consistent with what is known about climate change.

Complicating the equation are significant local factors, such as micro-topography, amount of shelter and subtle local variations in snow cover. Year-to-year variations in weather and gardening techniques can also have a significant impact on plant survival in any particular location.

As I said we are very fortunate with the generally reliable snow cover – this is more important for some perennial plants than it is for others. In general I take the zone information on a plant label as a general guide only – the ‘proof is in the pudding’ – many times we only learn by trial and error if a particular plant is suited for our little micro-climate.