David Hinks

by David Hinks

 

All ‘TomatoHeads’ are invited to the first of regular monthly meetings of the Neighbourhood Tomato this Wednesday March 12 at 2pm in the large Boardroom at the Mills Community Support on Industrial Avenue.

Just what is the Neighbourhood Tomato?

It is a community gardening phenomenon that owes much to the support of the Mills Community Support Corporation and to the inspiration and perspiration of community developer Jeff Mills. Last year it included:

  • Eight vegetable growing workshops
  • Six community potlucks
  • Raised vegetable growing boxes at six locations around town

Other associated events included the five concerts at Augusta Park and private gardening initiatives by friends of the ‘Tomato’. In earlier years fruit and nut trees were planted in the various towns and hamlets of Mississippi Mills.

Plans for this year include:

  • A mobile container garden
  • More potlucks and community celebrations
  • An expanded collaborative community garden in Augusta Park
  • New teaching/educational initiatives including gardening as therapy
  • New community partnerships with TYPS, the Lanark County Food Bank and the CommunityGardens in Carleton Place

All of this will require money and people power. Come to the meeting on Wednesday to be part of the excitement! Details on the sale of Rain Barrels to raise funds can be found at the end of this column.

The pace is picking up on the indoor gardening front. The coleus plants are growing well – in order to encourage a fuller plant I pinch out the tiny growing tips of the tallest stems as shown in the following photo.

IMG_0663 The geraniums that I potted up four weeks ago continue to grow full speed ahead. The following photo shows very healthy plants with fully developed bushy leaves – and shows the importance of keeping the plants very close to the lights – within an inch or two.

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Last week I planted a mixture of salad greens in a larger 13-inch pot (the pot is only 5 inches deep so uses less soil). Stand back! These seeds germinated in just a few days as shown in the following photo. If all goes well we will be able to start harvesting in a month and a half.

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I had the pleasure of stopping in and chatting with the very helpful folks at the Five-Span Feed Store in Pakenham last week. One of the things that I was looking for were ‘Cow Pots’. Many of the seeds that I am planting do not like to have their roots disturbed when they are transplanted into the garden – this is particularly true for vining plants such as melons and cucumbers (I will be starting these around the middle of April). You may also see instructions on other seed packets that the plants do not like to have their roots disturbed.

For these plants I like to use pots that allow me to put the plant and its pot directly in the garden. I use a pot that is biodegradable and will break down over time as it lets the plant’s roots grow through the pot wall. There are three possibilities for pots that I am familiar with – peat pots, coir pots and CowPots. I have used peat pots very successfully in the past but some gardeners are opposed to them as they use a non-renewable resource. Coir pots are made of Coconut husks – I have used them the last few years but found that they did not break down as much as I had hoped in the soil. Last year I tried something new – CowPots – they are made from the composted solids of cow manure and are marketed as breaking down very easily. Last year I used the 4 inch size and was quite happy with them. This year I want to try a larger size and found that I had to order them ahead of time. I ordered a couple of dozen of the five inch and the six inch size.

The other topic I enquired about was the availability of 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.

Five Span Feeds is 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!

Rain barrels are being sold in conjunction with the sale of trees by the Chamber of Commerce.  We are now 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. Rain barrels may also be ordered at the March 18 Tree talk, “Branching out with Ed Lawrence”, at the AlmonteOldTown Hall.

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