Many citizens of our fine community have worked long and hard to grow some extra healthy, nutritious and organic food to share with their neighbours. While we do it because we love gardening and want to contribute to the community it is important that these efforts be recognized.
We are rapidly closing in on the final weigh-in of the Veggie Grow-off. Last year the final total was 4071 pounds as compared to 2830 pounds the previous year. The weigh-in this year takes place at 11 am on Saturday October 8 at Smiths Falls Town Hall (77 Beckwith Street North). Will we exceed last year’s total?
Last October Lanark County Food Bank (aka The Hunger Stop) Chair Karen Lomas presented the coveted Veggie Grow-off trophy to Mississippi Mills for the second year in a row. Who will win this year? I have heard through the grapevine that contributions from Carleton Place are way ahead of last year.
The Great Veggie Grow-off Community Challenge, now in its third year, expanded this year to include gardeners in communities across Lanark supporting all four of the food banks in the County. It started in the municipalities of Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place and Beckwith, the towns supported by the Hunger Stop, and the results were amazing. We saw an increase in people in these towns growing food and sharing it with others. Over two tons of healthy local produce was donated to the food bank last year and the feedback from recipients was extremely positive.
This year we challenged all 9 Lanark communities to grow and donate to their local food bank. Presently all four food banks (Carleton Place, Lanark, Perth and Smiths Falls) take donations of freshly grown produce. They have been asked to weigh and record the community of origin of locally grown donations of food from May 1st until the final weigh-in. Bragging rights will be given to the community that donates the greatest amount of locally grown food as well as to the community with the highest amount of freshly grown food donated per person with the big winner always being our community’s food banks.
We are counting down the days until this year’s wrap-up scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend. Please remember to drop off surplus garden produce at the Hunger Stop (aka Lanark County Food Bank). 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. Or you can do as our mayor does – he drops off his extra produce at a cooler in the foyer of the Almonte library. We are very grateful to the library for making this service available as well as to the volunteers who pick up this produce and drive it down to the Food Bank.
The Food Bank is open:
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
9:00 am – 1:00 pm
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Try to drop your produce off first thing in the morning if possible.
Update on the Potvin Potato Project
I have written a couple of times this summer about the ‘Potvin Potato Project’. This project is being led by our Food Bank and is possible only through the public-spirited generosity of Al Potvin (who provided the land, truckloads of compost and mechanical tillage), the HUB (which provided ‘seed money’), members of the Hoop Housers (who provided labour) and the North Lanark Agricultural Society (which provided 60 bales of hay for mulch).
We decided last week that it was time to harvest the crop – most of the potato vines were dead and a few of the potatoes have been affected by scab. This is a fungal disease that attacks the skin and causes malformed and damaged crops. The disease does not affect the edibility of the potato but the texture and appearance is greatly affected. You can cut out the lesions and use the clean flesh of the potato. Fortunately we were able to dig them all before the disease could affect more than a very small number.
The potatoes are a nice size but in general there were only three or four potatoes per hill. Our total yield from about 2800 square feet of growing area was over 1100 pounds – not a spectacular yield but respectable given the challenging growing conditions and the lack of water for irrigation. The hay we used for mulch made a lot of difference both in the reduction of weed growth and in terms of conserving the moisture that was available.
The one absolute great piece of good news this year was the total absence of the dreaded potato beetles.
An almost equally great result was the absence of green potatoes. I did a final weeding early in the season and then ‘hilled’ them up. This is just simply drawing up the soil on both sides of the row of potatoes in order to keep the new growing potatoes from being exposed to the sun. Potatoes exposed to the sun turn green and are mildly poisonous. I don’t do a lot of hilling-up as I prefer to use a mulch of about four inches of straw or hay on the potato beds which is easier than a lot of hilling-up with a hoe. Many thanks to the North Lanark Agricultural Society which provided 60 bales of hay for mulch – a perfect amount for the area we had.
We did finally have lots of rain in August in the period August 13 to 21 (over 90mm in total) It was not soon enough to help the early potatoes (Superior, Norland and Yukon Gold) but it did greatly benefit the late-growing Russet potatoes. Their yield was almost 50 per cent higher per foot of row than the other varieties.
The productivity of about 20 per cent of the potato patch was aversely affected by an infestation of bindweed (I will be revisiting this horrible scourge in a future column along with a few other weeds that are very difficult to control).