The fervent supplications to the rain-gods finally paid off. A heavy all-day rain on Saturday delivered over two and a half inches of water to my Clayton vegetable garden. Gardeners were dancing in their garden patches – participants in the Pakenham Fair were perhaps somewhat less enthusiastic.
Not to criticize Mother Nature but it would be nice to have the rain spread out a bit – it had been over four weeks since the last good soaking. Most vegetable and fruit crops are happiest when they receive an inch or more of water a week.
A Visitor from Ottawa
In between rain showers on Saturday I was able to show my visitor from Ottawa around several of the community garden projects in Almonte. Jordan Bouchard is the Coordinator of the Community Gardening Network (CGN) of Ottawa which is part of Just Food. CGN is an information and resource-sharing network that supports the sustainable development of community gardens within Ottawa.
The central activities of the CGN are:
- to assist two or more community gardens to get established each year, including building skills and capacity through their “How to Start a Community Garden” workshops and resources;
- to work with private and public landowners to increase access to land for community gardens in the city;
- to keep food and gardening information flowing between Just Food, the community garden coordinators, and the gardeners;
- to build gardening skills in the city through the beginner level gardening workshops (which I have had the privilege of leading for close to ten years);
- to encourage food preservation of the summer’s harvest through canning and food preservation workshops;
- to raise awareness in the city about community gardening through online newsletters and special events such as the annual Urban Agriculture Bike Tour;
- and to celebrate the season through a harvest party.
In his three years in the job Jordan has seen the number of community gardens in Ottawa increase from 45 to 66 and interest continues to increase.
We had a very fruitful discussion about creating community gardens. One of our conclusions was that one model does not fit all. Each situation is unique and each garden is the product of the partners that come together to create it.
I also got the impression that Jordan gets a bit impatient with the layers of bureaucracy that are involved when dealing with the City of Ottawa. He seemed a bit envious when I described the great relationship that we enjoy with the Parks and Recreation Department in Mississippi Mills and how wonderful it is dealing with Calvin, Bonnie and Tiffany.
Where did the summer go?
We are now getting into the waning days of summer and many vegetables are now ready for harvest and are truly beautiful in their own right. This summer has really been an amazing one for vegetables that love lots of heat!
The eggplant has finally put on a growth spurt with the continued hot weather.
Sweet peppers are finally starting to turn red.
The late zucchini, planted June 20, are finally starting to produce.
One vegetable that I have grown most years and that is generally very easy to grow and generally very successful, is tomatillo – in fact this year some gardeners have found that they are running out of ideas for dealing with this year’s bounty. They have been grown in Mexico and Central America for centuries and are an integral element in many Latin American dishes.
I planted the seeds April 16 and grew them under lights until transplanting to the garden in early June. They are now healthy plants nearly a metre in height and loaded with 5 cm pale-green fruit covered with a paper husk. The plants tend to sprawl so I try to direct them with some tomato cages.
The fruit is usually harvested when it is a deep green and the husks are tan-coloured. Husked, it can be eaten raw or cooked. It can be substituted in any dish demanding whole tomatoes where it provides a different colour (green) and a mild flavour. It is often used in a green salsa.
There are no stupid questions!
Hands-on educational opportunities are available weekly throughout the summer.
- ‘Weed and learn’ sessions take place at Augusta Park Community Garden on Thursdays from 9 to 11 in the morning and from 4 to 8 in the evening
- Gardening advice is also available Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 at the garden in front of the Food Bank at 5 Allan Street in Carleton Place.
Master Gardeners will be there to help with your gardening concerns.
Great Veggie Grow-Off
Please remember to drop off surplus garden produce at the Hunger Stop (aka Lanark County Food Bank). All you have to do is 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.
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.