David Hinks

by David Hinks

A couple of nights of record-low temperatures and some snow have pretty much eliminated the possibility of doing any more outside gardening tasks. It’s time to turn our attention inside and catch up with some of the jobs that have been neglected in the rush to get the outside jobs done. The first job is to clean all of the garden tools, sharpen if necessary, cover metal parts with a bit of oil and hang in a safe place in the tool shed or garage. The next job is to complete the garden records from this growing season – I have a written record of each growing bed, the date it was planted and the variety of vegetable that was planted and whether it was planted from seed or transplants. To this record I add some short notes such as the earliness of the harvest, any particular growing issues, the quality and yield of the harvest and a recommendation to myself as to whether I would grow this variety again.

One other thing that I like to do this time of year is to create a written inventory of all of the garden seeds that I have left over from this year’s garden. I create a record of the vegetable variety, the source of the seed, the year that I bought it and approximately how many seeds are left in the packet.

Why not buy all fresh seed every year?

Many seed packets contain enough seeds to produce many more plants in a year than I could conceivably want or have space to grow, for example I only have room for 12 celery plants, not 50. But I find it extremely wasteful to throw out partial seed packets knowing that seeds will remain viable for many years. And often I will purchase larger packets of seeds than I need for one year, since often for twice the price I’m getting four times the number of seeds.

How long will seed last?

The following are approximate ages at which seed of good initial viability stored under cool dry conditions will still provide a satisfactory rate of germination:

-Beans – 3 years

-Beets and Swiss chard – 4 years

-Cabbage Family – 5 years (includes broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts)

-Corn –1 to 2 years

-Cucumbers – 5 years

-Eggplant – 5 years

-Onions – 1 to 2 years

-Parsnip – 1 to 2 years

-Peas – 3 years

-Peppers – 4 years

-Pumpkin – 4 years

-Squash – 5 years

-Tomatoes – 4 years

This is also the time when I will toss out any seed packets that are clearly ones that I will never plant or ones that I have serious doubts that I will still get a good germination rate. Nothing is more disappointing than preparing the growing space and planting the seeds for a crop that is very time-critical, waiting two weeks for the seed to germinate and then seeing absolutely nothing happen. I’m thinking of vegetables such as squash or pumpkin that I might plant directly in the garden Victoria Day and where I don’t have a lot of leeway if they are to ripen before the first fall frost.

I had the privilege of touring ‘The Table’ in Perth last week. The Table provides the functions of a Food Bank as well as many other services and programs such as cooking classes, community dinners three times a week, after school drop-in program as well as running a kitchen garden and a collaborative community garden that provides fresh organic produce for the volunteers as well as for the Food Bank. In the following photo I am being given a tour of the kitchen garden by gardening coordinator April Mallett.

Perth Table
Perth Table

An Action Planning meeting for the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens for 2014 was held last Friday. A dozen people spent the better part of the day reviewing the achievements of 2013 and making plans for 2014. Achievements included six potluck dinners, eight gardening workshops, eight new growing boxes in Augusta Park and improved maintenance and productivity of the existing growing boxes. One of the very pleasant surprises of the year was an overflow crowd of 220 at the first potluck that overwhelmed the OldTown Hall. Plans for 2014 are still in a state of flux but will include a major ‘signature’ project. Stay tuned!!

The fourth community potluck (actually the sixth if you count the two potlucks at Augusta Park in July) sponsored by the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens will take place Thursday November 28 at 5:30pm at the Civitan Club in Almonte. Tell your friends, invite a new neighbour, whip up your favourite dish, and bring your family to the Almonte Civitan Hall for a wonderful and welcoming evening of sharing good food and getting to know your neighbours. This is a free event and everyone is welcome!

Please remember the Lanark County Food Bank (which covers Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills) at the 2013 ‘Light up the Night’ event that takes place Friday evening December 6 in beautiful downtown Almonte. We will be receiving donations of food or money in front of Baker Bob’s all evening!