Yesterday was planting day for some of the residents of the Town and Country apartments in Almonte. Over the last couple of weeks volunteers have assembled raised planting boxes and filled them with good quality planting soil. Now the plants are in the soil and the happy gardeners are part of the growing part of our community that is raising part of our own food and sharing with our community.
The TomatoHeads got together with the Friends of Augusta Park on Saturday June 13 to complete the accessible path. We got a really great boost from Ultramar who showed up with seven or eight (young and strong) volunteers and a cheque for $5000 to help with the work in the park. There were more that 20 volunteers in total that spent about four hours Saturday morning clearing the pathway, shovelling very heavy crushed stone into wheelbarrows, dumping it onto the pathway and then raking it level and then compacting it with a rented packer.
What the Haskap?
Also on Saturday the first ten shrubs were planted on the perimeter berm that the TomatoHeads had created May 30th. Volunteers from Ultramar displayed their gardening expertise as they helped with the planting. The first shrubs chosen were Haskap, which is the Japanese name for Lonicera caerulea (Edible blue Honeysuckle). It is the “branding name” being used in North America to differentiate the newer varieties of edible blue honeysuckle. It is a circumpolar species native to northern boreal forests in Asia, Europe, and North America. It is mainly found in low lying wet areas or high in mountains.
Haskap is a deciduous shrub growing 1-2 m tall. The fruit is an oblong blue berry about 1 cm diameter and is reputed to have many health benefits. This project is part of the project for which we have received funding from Tree Canada.
The approaches to the bridge and the connecting paths to the bridge had to wait until Monday due to all the rain and the wetness of the soil. On Monday Glen Gordon was busy with his Bobcat doing a great job moving and levelling aggregate and the soil slopes. Come and have a visit!
Some observers of the Augusta gardens are concerned about whether we are missing opportunities to harvest our produce. The following photo show kale after a picking – the general rule of thumb for harvesting these greens is to take no more than a third of the leaves off the plants and then give the plant time to recover and generate new growth. If properly managed over the growing season they can be producing really great leaves through the early frosts into the end of October.
The following photo shows tomato plants that have reached and exceeded the top of their cages. I will probably add some much higher stakes to keep these tomatoes growing upward.
In very general terms there are two basic categories of tomatoes – determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes grow to a relatively short height of three or four feet and much of the fruit ripens at the same time. Many of these are paste or Roma tomatoes and these are the tomatoes that you might grow if you wanted a lot of tomatoes at one time for processing or canning. Indeterminate tomatoes just keep on growing and tend to ripen just a few fruit at a time. At the end of the season the vines might be eight to ten feet in length. These are the tomatoes to grow if you just want one juicy red tomato to slice for your BLT sandwich at lunch.
In terms of pruning or suckering tomato plants there is a lot of mythology about the best way to grow tomatoes. Many people believe that suckers (the branches that develop where the leaves join the main stem) should be removed so the plant puts more energy into the fruit on the main stem and that lower leaves should be removed to help prevent blight. Generally I do not sucker or prune my tomatoes. I tend to believe that it is a waste of time and may even contribute to sunscald as it reduces the foliage canopy. The key to healthy plants is to set down mulch under the plants and have them all caged. That being said tomatoes are very vigorous and adaptable plants and whatever has worked for you is the best way of doing it.
Continuing Gardening Education
The next educational opportunities that have been planned by the Neighbourhood Tomato are weekly ‘weed and learn’ session beginning this Thursday June 18 and every Thursday through the growing season. Join us at Augusta Park from 10 to 12 in the morning or from 5 to 7 in the evening every Thursday for collaborative community gardening sessions as we share our knowledge, mentor new gardeners, weed our new garden and share fellowship. Master Gardeners will be there to help with your gardening concerns for both the Augusta gardeners as well as for any other gardeners in the community.
“The Great Veggie Grow-Off”
As our gardens start to bear produce in abundance it is time to make sure that our community wins the “The Great Veggie Grow-Off” (Who suggested that gardening is not a competitive sport?)!!! The launch of the Veggie Grow-off took place May 1 in Carleton Place. The Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Mississippi Mills, and in Carleton Place, challenged the towns of Beckwith, Carleton Place, and Mississippi Mills to see which town can grow the most local produce for the Lanark County Food Bank in 2015. All you have to do is bring your 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. I have heard through the rumour mill that Mississippi Mills already has a commanding lead over Carleton Place and Beckwith!.