For me, it is always a small miracle to see garlic shoots emerge in April. The photo, taken April 17, shows rows of garlic shoots more than ready to stand up to anything that Mother Nature can throw at them. Planted in mid-October in one of our Food Bank Gardens, they have happily survived the winter, and are a welcome harbinger of the gardening season to come.
And, what of the season to come? There are two things that have caught my attention. The first is the explosion of interest in planting a vegetable garden as attested to by breathless media interviewers and by the seed packets that have become the new target of hoarders. The second is the concern that those most vulnerable in our society will become even more dependent on food banks that may face food shortages.
But first to all those new gardeners. The ideal would be to have been taught how to garden by parents and grandparents, but my experience in leading dozens of gardening workshops for keen young gardeners is that this knowledge has skipped a generation and many new gardeners can’t tell a rutabaga from a kohlrabi. The truth is that it requires a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. Many techniques are learned only by trial and error over several seasons. But plants do just want to grow – look to the miracle of the garlic – if we look after the soil, water our plants, plant them at the right time and protect them from pests the results will be spectacular.
In the absence of multi-generational tutoring, there are many resources out there. But before you start surfing the web make sure the advice is suited for our area and is pitched to your level of knowledge. I highly recommend free introductory garden courses being offered by Ottawa not-for-profit Just Food (JustFood.ca). For my part I will post regular columns in this fine publication showing what is going on in my gardens.
The second attention-getter is the bind that food banks will face. The Lanark County Food Bank (the Hunger Stop) is facing dual challenges of more clients and a reduced capacity of the community to give. Hopefully we can fill some of that gap with fresh garden produce.
I had posted an article April 7 inviting gardeners to help grow food for our local food bank. I have received several replies with local gardeners offering to plant extra rows of vegetables in their gardens to harvest for the food bank. I am suggesting people consider root vegetables like carrots, potatoes or turnip or onions (not really a root). These could then be harvested at one time with one trip to the Food Bank.
We invite you to help us meet the challenge. If you have available land, can spare some time, or can grow more produce in your own garden please let us know – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will try to match resources to make this work – our goal is to exceed government safety rules – with many small projects allowing gardeners to work in isolation.
David Hinks, Garden Programs Coordinator, Lanark County Food Bank