David Hinks

by David Hinks

I was reflecting this week on the role of gardening in my life. In many ways it has always been a constant, helping me through periods of major illness, relationship upheavals, and the everyday stresses of family and career. Putting my hands in the soil, planting and nurturing a seed or a young plant, engaging the senses of touch, smell and vision have always put me ‘in the moment’. After spending eight hours or more in meetings and in front of a computer the joy was in getting away from all the churning thoughts in my head and connecting directly with nature.

Not surprisingly, these benefits of gardening have been observed by others. A quick check of the internet revealed the existence of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association. Their definition follows:

Horticultural Therapy (HT) is a formal practice that uses plants, horticultural activities, and the garden landscape to promote well-being for its participants. HT is goal oriented with defined outcomes and assessment procedures Research indicates that HT is proven to be beneficial in a wide variety of healthcare, residential, school, and rehabilitative settings.

They also observe that:

In Canada, horticultural therapy has been used increasingly as an evidence-based practice over the past sixty years. Care of hospitalized war veterans after World War II greatly expanded the use of gardening and horticultural activities in structured, rehabilitative programs. Now a discipline taught and practiced throughout the world, HT is used in a diversity of settings and cultures.

Now we have even more justification for an obsessive pursuit of our favourite hobby and this is one further possible activity that is being researched by some of the ‘tomato-head’ volunteers of The Neighbourhood Tomato.

The geraniums that I potted up two weeks ago continue to grow full speed ahead. The following photo shows baby leaves popping out all over. You may recall that I had taken plants that had hung dormant for four months, cut the stems to about four inches, cutting out completely any stems that were obviously dead and cutting the roots back severely leaving a small plant with little obvious signs of life. It is always a challenge for me to see how many of these plant remnants survive and thrive. As of Sunday the count is 32 growing well out of the 40 planted for a survival rate of 80 per cent.

IMG_0552 The coleus slips that were potted in planting medium in four-inch pots the first of February are finally fully rooted (the leaves were wilted for the first couple of weeks) and growing well as shown in the following photo.

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The vegetable seeds that were sown last week are starting to show some activity. The onion and globe artichoke seedlings are showing growth as shown in the following photos. For the parsley, celeriac and celery I will have to be patient.

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I am looking to plant some more seeds indoors – this time my focus is on flowers. Remembering that we are still 12 weeks away from the May 24 frost-free date, I am looking at seed packets that recommend an eight to 14 week early start indoors – it is far too early to start varieties that call for four to eight weeks – as is the case for many common bedding plants such as marigolds, cosmos and zinnias. This week I am planting Gaillardia, Helenium, Rudbeckia, Ascepias, Browallia, Snapdragons and Cotton.

Rather than using the cell inserts this time I am planting in five-inch plastic pots. I’ve filled the pots with my seeding mixture and then am broadcasting the seeds of the varieties that I have chosen in each pot (following directions on the packet as to seeding depth), and then covered with a clear plastic ‘green-house’ lid (which I remove as soon as the seed has germinated). Planting a bunch of seeds in one pot means that they will have to be transplanted into individual pots once they have two or three sets of leaves. I choose to use this method when I am not really sure what to expect – some are difficult to germinate and I am using some packets of older seeds. And of course the job is not done until the paperwork is finished – I make charts of all my trays and use some labels in the pots as well – I am not that familiar with some of the flowers that I am planting and they are easy to mix up.

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A major event for vegetable gardeners is being held March 1st in Ottawa at Britannia Park (Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre) – called Seedy Saturday it is a jam-packed auditorium full of vendors of heritage seeds, a seed exchange table, some yummy locally baked goods, presentations on gardening and booths by organizations such as the Ottawa Community Gardening Network and the Canadian Organic Growers.

There is also a similar event in Perth on March 2nd at the Royal Canadian Legion – Ed Lawrence is one of the presenters. In order to obtain more details about these events just Google ‘Seedy Saturday’.

Let me remind you again of the Neighbourhood Tomato fund raising project. We have launched a sale of rain barrels 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 9 am to noon. Rain barrels are being sold for $55 each or two for $110.

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

 

And for vegetable gardeners looking for more information on growing vegetables, there is a new resource created jointly by the Master Gardeners of Lanark County and the Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton. Called the Edible Garden it can be found by visiting the web-site of either Master Gardener group.