A beautiful day on Saturday permitted some last minute tasks to be completed in the garden (after buying a few ‘new’ gardening books at the book sale at the library). Some deep discount ‘scratch and dent’ shrubs were planted in the ground, some raking, clipping of hostas and spreading of composted manure was completed and a few last minute discounted spring-flowering bulbs were planted in the ground. Perennial flowers and shrubs certainly have a much better chance of surviving the winter if they are planted in the ground than if they are left in pots. It felt good to get more of the clean-up done this fall knowing that our spring is such an incredibly short period of time to get all of the gardening chores completed.

The allotment garden beds are laid out in military precision ready for a quick turning over in the spring before planting time. As shown in the following photo many of the beds are empty, some are planted with garlic and some are planted with oats that were seeded in mid-September in beds where garlic was harvested. The oats are dying down now and they appear to have done their job of keeping the weeds at bay plus improving the structure of the soil. In the early spring the remains of the oats will be spaded under and allowed to break down before planting one of the heat loving vegetables such as sweet potatoes in late May.

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One of my long-time gardening neighbours in the allotment gardens is a group of four plots (5,000) square feet which is gardened intensively by the Shepherds of Good Hope. Relying on donations of compost, seeds and plants, and a drip watering system set up every year by the generous people at LeeValley an enormous quantity of food is grown for the kitchens at the Shepherds. Each volunteer is given responsibility for an area and they go around daring the weeds to grow. As well as growing food, the Shepherds also grow community – volunteers work together in a sociable setting and celebrate with a harvest party that everyone is invited to every year that features live music and a donated feast. As the following photo shows the growing beds have all been cleared and topped up with compost.

IMG_9473 In the allotment gardens I just make a free-standing compost pile – I try to make it about three feet wide and about three feet high as shown in the following photo. I will turn this pile in mid-season next year moving it to a spot about three feet away. The ground that is then cleared will be rich and moist and I will use this for late greens as it is partially shaded. Another pile that is in a sunny location will be levelled a bit, some top soil dug into the centre and a ‘hill’ of pumpkins will be planted there.

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The Belgian endive (Witloof) that were potted up about a month ago have been happily growing in the dark at room temperature. As the photo shows the Belgian endive heads or chicons are ready for harvest – if I had wanted to harvest later in the year the pot would have had to have been stored in much colder conditions (around 5 degrees).

Witloof or leaf chicory is very bitter to use as a salad green in the summer and is used mainly for forcing in winter. These chicons are mildly bitter and will be delicious with a vinaigrette and perhaps apple slices and walnuts.

I had planted the chicory indoors under lights at the end of March and then transplanted to the vegetable garden May 20th. I dug up four plants, trimmed the tops to within an inch of the soil and then potted them in garden soil in a large pot in mid-October.

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The coleus slips that were potted up in mid-October have developed roots and are now growing (relatively) happily under fluorescent lights as shown in the following photo – these plants would be happier if I had brought them indoors about a month earlier. Towards the end of February I will break off some of the best slips on the plants and pot them in four-inch pots ready for transplanting to the garden in late May.

IMG_9482 The fourth community potluck (actually the sixth if you count the two potlucks at Augusta Part 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!

Also coming up in November for the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens is an Action Planning meeting for 2014.  It will be held November 22, 2013 from 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM at Hillside Reformed Presbyterian Church Hall located behind the church at 273 Almonte Street, Almonte.

We encourage anyone to attend who is interested in supporting the NeighbourhoodTomatoCommunityGardens. Its mission, “Growing food, building community,” and guiding principles:

  1. We support the growth of a vibrant local food network.
  2. We value learning through doing, mentoring, and skill sharing while building respectful relationships among all people, food and nature.
  3. We celebrate and nurture the abundance of strengths, gifts and passions in our community.

In the morning we will be reviewing our 2013 achievements and looking at what opportunities exist while creating an “action plan” for this upcoming year.

To Register Click Here: http://neighbourhoodtomato.eventbrite.com