Community Gardening-Year Four

We are well into our fourth year of tending our 1,000 sq. ft. community garden plot.  Looking back:

Year One

Our first year was about discovery and learning the ropes.  It had to be about something for it certainly wasn’t about garden bounty.  The soil was hard, there was lots of clay and we spent hours weeding (unsuccessfully) as it was pretty much impossible to dig down to most roots.

Year Two

Year Two we decided to go big or go home.  We invested in 9 cu. yds. of mushroom compost, an irrigation system, uber row covers and more straw for mulch.  The results were outstanding.  Broccoli plants higher than your waist, tomato plants burdened with fruit and weeds that were much easier to remove. And bounty was an issue, a good issue at that.

Year Three

We are starting to get the hang of this, sort of.  As with any garden, there were failures and successes.  There was enough butternut squash to feed a small village, tomatoes by pail and the squash beetles continued to win in the end.  As they had every year in the past.  

Year Four

We are officially an expanding enterprise.  We are now three partners tending the garden.  

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There is plenty enough for three to do and it’s great in giving some flexibility in time away over the summer.  Snippets of the season thus far:

  1. A few planning sessions to determine what we’ll grow and where it should be grown (plant rotation and all that).
  2. Everyone took on starting some plants from seeds.  For the most part, we all had success.
  3. More mushroom compost was ordered and delivered in spite several false starts and an almost saga of a stuck dump truck.  
  4. Introduced our friend and new gardening partner to the garden and the neighbours.  
  5. Garden progress to date:
  • Late start to spring/summer
  • Everything is planted (sometimes twice)
  • Trying to grow leeks from scratch. Am thinking we may be lucky to have leeks that are the width of a pencil by harvest time.
  • Trying other new things this year, such as horseradish, kale and arugula.
  • The garlic is prolific.  
  • Irrigation system up and running, straw mulch in place.
  • Cut worms have murdered two pepper plants.
  • Squash beetles are showing up already.

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No matter, it’s great to get out there with your friends or on your own.  We convene with Mother Nature and if we’re lucky, we’ll have carrots, organic carrots, from our own effort and they will average about $10 a two pound bag!  

How is your garden growing? And do you have any advice about combating squash beetles?

 

Virtual Soup Across the Miles

We have a dear friend who loves soup.  Any kind of soup.  I wish we lived closer together for I think he would like what I made yesterday.  It started with this picking from the garden: 

And thought I’d make cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup.  Most of the ingredients were fresh from the garden. 

Onions, broccoli, cauliflower simmered together


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used a hand blender to puree the soup.  Add a little cream and fresh parsley and there you go!  Now if I could just figure out how to get a bowl of it across three provinces and still serve it hot.  And so it is really a virtual bowl of soup across the miles.  I hope it’s the thought that counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Truths of Community Gardening in Ottawa

Green (sometimes) Thumb-Year Two

A former colleague used an interesting phrase when trying to make a point and wanting to convince you of the veracity of his comment.  “There is a truth”, he would say and then he’d go on to tell you that “truth”.  I always thought it odd, that phrase, and a bit of a push to have you believe something or make it true by prefacing it with that phrase.  

Yesterday at the “farm” (community garden plot), in addition to several weeds, I unearthed the following three “truths”.

1. There is no such thing as making a “quick visit to the garden”  

If you are a gardener, do tell me if it’s possible to have a quick visit to your garden.  There’s no such thing in my experience.  Oh, I’ll just go quickly and see how the tomatoes are doing.  I’ll pinch them back and bit and then I’ll leave.  Well, the tomato pinching is one thing, then you see potato beetles and off you go down those rows, and hey what about those squash that need watering and well look at how the weeds are taking over in that corner.  And so the planned 20 minute visit ends 2.5 hours later.  It is a truth there is no such thing as making a quick visit to your garden-whether it be flower or vegetable.  

2. Gardeners are generous in spirit and advice

Gardeners are a friendly sort.  It’s not a competition and they give freely of their advice.  “Cover up your cabbages until they are stronger or the moths will eat them”.    They commiserate in your sorrow.  They say, “Yes,  those cucumber beetles are terrible and no I don’t know what to do to combat them.  It really is too bad after all the effort you’ve put in but it’s a bad year for them this year. ”  If they have too many plants, they will ask you if you want some for your garden.  Here, take these.  I thought they were romaine lettuce plants and turns out they are swiss chard and now I’m drowning in swiss chard.  Or, have some peas and some beans, they are very good and here’s how I cook the beans.    It is a truth gardeners are generous in spirit and full of advice.

3. Gardening in Ottawa is an opportunity or observe the interaction of many cultures and to joyfully watch the mingling and richness of the interaction.  

Ottawa, Ontario is a very multicultural city.  This city has the 5th largest immigrant population in Canada.  Our neighbours in the allotment garden are a shining example of Canada’s rich multicultural citizenry.  Here’s an example of interactions yesterday in our little corner of the garden:

  • Lebanon: Lebanese born neighbour (Lebanese-first language, English-second language) brings over some sort of beans.  He doesn’t know their English name but explains how to cook and serve them and hands over a goodly amount to this unilingual anglophone.  He grows Lebanese beans.
  • Burundi: Burundi born neighbour who speaks either Rundi or Swahili along with French and English.  He grows African corn. He is a neighbour to the man originally from Lebanon.    They don’t seem to understand much of what each are saying but they stand around and point at different plants.
  • Francophone: the man who does roto-tilling with his garden tractor speaks French as a first language, English as a second.  The Lebanese neighbour tries to explain some sort of request to the francophone who does not understand.  When he’s not understood the Lebanese man starts to speak louder, as if that would help.

Quite a thing to be part of and to observe.  Makes you happy to be Canadian…even if you aren’t much of a gardener compared to many of those around you.  

If we stay at it long enough perhaps we will be able to make short visits to the garden (because we are on top of everything), we will have bounty to give away to others.  We already are part of the culture, although learning some new languages like Lebanese and Burundi would be a nice touch.

Do you have any garden observations to share?  Or multicultural experiences?