David Hinks by David Hinks

I don’t know about your garden, but mine is bone dry and it is impossible to keep everything watered – shades of the great drought of 2012! (Aren’t you glad that you bought extra rain barrels). The following photos from the Augusta Park garden show cucumber and squash vines that are stressed and cucumber vines that are toast – the later are much dryer as they are close to a tree that is obviously taking more than its share of the moisture.

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But how can this be? It seems like we have had much more than our share of rainy days and threatening thunder storms and temperatures have certainly not been above average but has there been a lot of rain? I find that many people have no idea how much rain has fallen. People complain after 3 or 4 days of overcast weather with a bit of drizzle that we have had too much rain already. (I would certainly agree that we have not had nearly enough sunshine.) The reality may be that the total amount of rainfall has only been a fraction of an inch. I like to make sure that I have an empty container sitting on the patio if I know that rain is forecast so that I can tell at a glance how much water has actually fallen. The other certain indicator is to just look around at all the lawns that are turning brown. Rain from thunderstorms can be very localized – the statistics for the Ottawa airport weather station show much more rainfall than what we have received in Almonte.

Sufficient water is the single most important ingredient for growing a successful vegetable garden. A minimum of at least an inch of water is required every week for most vegetables whereas average rainfall in this area is about 3 inches a month in the summer. (You do the math.) As we saw in the great drought of 2012 there can be lengthy periods in mid-summer without rain – this stretched to eight or more weeks with virtually no rain. Be prepared to water if you want to grow vegetables successfully.

 As I have mentioned many times, mulching helps to conserve moisture. As well proper soil preparation with lots of organic matter (compost) added improves the structure of soil allowing it to hold much more water. Surface soil that is loose or friable will prevent run-off in a heavy rain and absorb more water. A light sprinkling everyday is counter-productive as it encourages plants with shallow roots that will not have the capacity to withstand dry weather. Soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches and do it only once or twice a week. Do not water at mid-day or in the hot sun if you have alternatives.

Try drip irrigation or using a watering wand. If you have a sprinkler that puts the water way up in the air you are going to lose much more to evaporation. Try planting more intensively – shaded soil loses water more slowly. Plants require more water when blooming and in very hot or windy conditions.

Many thanks are due to the organizers of the five Wednesdays in July dinner and concerts in Augusta Park. Notwithstanding the rain and thunder that threatened several

Wednesdays they were a tremendous success in building community. They were also an opportunity to show off the newly expanded Augusta Park vegetable garden. The Augusta garden includes a collaborative community garden as well as individual allotment gardens for which there is absolutely no charge. If you would like to be involved with the garden please let Jeff at Mills Community Support know that you’re interested. Jeff can be reached at jmills@themills.on.ca .

 The Augusta Park garden is continuing to produce in abundance. The following photo shows pole beans covered with beans that are ready to harvest – without a doubt beans are the most productive plant in the vegetable garden offering the greatest poundage of produce per square foot gardened.

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It has been a long wait for lovers of juicy succulent tomatoes warm and fresh just-picked from the vine. There have been some cherry tomatoes but the full-size tomatoes will not be far behind. I’ve found that the lack of heat and sunshine has slowed them down this year.

IMG_2906 There are a couple of beds of potatoes in Augusta Park that were created basically by putting some seed potatoes on the ground and then covering with a thick layer of straw. So far they appear to be doing very well and absolutely no sign of the dreaded Colorado potato beetle. How can this be? The good news is that the larvae of the potato beetle do not travel and the adult appears to have limited flying ability particularly when they first emerge from the soil in the spring. So if you are growing potatoes in an area where potatoes have not been grown recently and you are far from the nearest grower you may escape from this scourge. Of interest, there are no potato beetles in Great Britain and something akin to a national emergency is declared if any should happen to drift over from the continent on a strong breeze.

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Don’t forget the Garlic Festivals in Carp and Perth August 9 and 10 where garlic will be the main event (I don’t know why these growers can’t get together and hold their festivals on separate weekends and preferably on a weekend other than Puppets Up!). If you plan to plant garlic this fall (I aim to plant mine in mid-October) buy from a local producer – you know that what you are buying was produced locally and is suited for local conditions. Garlic that is sold in supermarkets may have been shipped in from southern producers and may not be hardy in the Canadian climate – many of the imported varieties are easy to braid whereas the hardy locally-grown stiff-necked varieties are not. Ask if the garlic has been cured. If it has been recently pulled and has not been properly cured it will not store well.

 Also, don’t forget our great little treasure of a Farmers’ Market in downtown Almonte next to the library (and the Beer Store). Held on Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 12:30 there was much fresh produce (and some awesome sweets and crafts) available this past Saturday.

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The Neighbourhood Tomato hosts a weekly ‘weed and learn’ session every Thursday evening through the growing season 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Join us at Augusta Park for a collaborative community gardening session as we share our knowledge, mentor new gardeners, weed our new garden and share some fellowship. Come out this Thursday and help us set up the rain barrels (which are now desperately needed), composters and storage structure.

The Neighbourhood TomatoHeads are also working with TYPS to create intergenerational educational/hands-on gardening sessions Tuesday evenings at the TYPS garden behind the library from 6 to 8 pm. We have joined forces with several downtown gardeners to help develop additional garden space and are helping to provide gardening resources. This garden includes both individual and communal gardening opportunities – check it out, there are some awesome things growing there.

Don’t forget the “The Great Veggie Grow-Off”!!! The launch of the Veggie Grow-off took place May 1 in Augusta Park. The Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Mississippi Mills, and the Community Gardens at St.Gregory’s Next Door in Carleton Place, challenged the towns of Beckwith, Carleton Place, and Mississippi Mills to see which town can grow the most local produce for the Lanark County Food Bank in 2014. Bring your bags and 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. The Food Bank is open Tuesday 9am to noon, Wednesday 7 to 9 in the evening, Thursday 9am to noon and Friday 9am to noon. Try to drop it off first thing in the morning if possible. Mississippi Mills has a commanding lead however that could turn around quickly as more and more vegetables are ready to harvest and we know that Carleton Place has planted a lot of ‘heavy’ potatoes. We continue to need your help – plan to donate to the Food Bank (especially heavy stuff – like cucumbers or zucchini!).