[David Hinks]

On a sunny day last week I prepared a raised bed for planting some early greens. My goal was to create a raised bed about a metre wide and three or so meters in length. The first step was to dig over the area and get rid of any weeds. Then I dug out the pathways between the beds down about three or four inches, tossing that soil onto the beds on either side of the path. I then added some compost – some of my own and a bag of composted sheep manure. I then mixed it up a bit with a spading fork and was ready to plant. I used the back side of a steel rake (I could have used a hoe instead) to dig three parallel rows about a cm deep. I then planted three rows – one row of a mesclun mix of a variety of greens, a row of lettuce and a row of spinach – then drew the soil back over the seeds and tamped it down lightly with the bottom of the rake.

Caution: Make certain that your soil is ready to work – take a handful and squeeze – if it stays together in a ball it is still too wet, if it crumbles it is ready. If it sticks to your boots or your shovel it is not ready!

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Some plants that we grow in the vegetable garden are very hardy perennials. In particular both rhubarb and asparagus will thrive in the garden for 20 or 30 years or more if the planting bed is well prepared, if the plants are given some time to get established (with asparagus this may take three years), if some compost is worked in around the plants in the spring and if you are able to keep perennial weeds such as grasses and thistles from getting established in their patch. In the photo the rhubarb is up and growing rapidly in the cooler temperatures. Some of the earliest shoots were nibbled on by a critter (yet to be identified) but have recovered very nicely.

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Most herbs can be treated as hardy vegetables – such as oregano, mint, lovage, dill, chives, sage, tarragon and thyme. The exceptions are rosemary which is a perennial but must be brought indoors in winter and sweet basil which is extremely sensitive to cold and is best started indoors from seed in April or grown from seedlings purchased from a garden centre. At the least hint of cold weather in September basil leaves turn black and start to fall off.

All the hardy herbs are showing signs of life. In the following photo are lovage and chives – off to a great start!

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Eight enthusiastic members of the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens got together for a planning meeting last Thursday April 17 at the Mills Community Support and developed detailed plans for the ‘Big Dig’ at Augusta Park May 8 & 9 when we will be creating a much enlarged allotment garden and new collaborative community garden in Augusta Park when we will be at the park from 8 am to dark until we ‘Git ‘er done’!

If you weren’t able to make it to that meeting and want to be involved please let me know if you are able to participate in the “Big Dig’ at (hinks.david@rogers.com). We need people with shovels, hammers and enthusiasm to strip sod, make raised beds, and build a fence, tool storage and composters. Please let me know if you have any leads on possible donations of lumber, fencing, compost or top soil.

The next educational opportunities that have been planned are a weekly ‘weed and learn’ session May 15 & 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.

It is not too late to order your rain barrel! They are being sold in conjunction with the sale of trees by the Chamber of Commerce. We are still accepting pre-sale orders for a Fundraising Truckload Rain Barrel Sale at the Town of Mississippi Mills Municipal Garage, 3131 Old Perth Road, Almonte, ON from 9am to noon.

NOTE: This event was originally scheduled for April 26 but has been delayed as the suppliers of the trees are behind schedule due to the extended winter!! Please check with the Chamber for updates as to the sale date.

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