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Garden Plans and Strategies for a New Year Susan Rehner


n October the GrassRoots Growers hosted a gardening roundtable in which local experts Karen ten Cate, Susie Meisner, Dorothy Wagar Oogarah, and John Wise answered questions from the audience on a variety of topics. Questions included best techniques for growing garlic, onions, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts; and useful and not so useful methods of irrigation in drought seasons (drip irrigation, sprinklers attached to aluminum piping, hoses, and watering cans). Of course, the question of weed control came up. Knowledge of the weed’s life cycle (annual, biennial, perennial) is helpful in managing it. Suggested strategies for defeating weeds included early spring hoeing, mulching, applying horticultural vinegar to the tops of weeds, and sowing cover crops. Because garlic doesn’t grow well with competition, Dorothy Wagar Oogarah has purchased rolls of garden mats to lay between the rows of garlic. She is hoping this technique will minimize the need for weeding. Coexisting with weeds for the sake of pollinators is another possibility. (Have you ever noticed that those first dreaded dandelion flowers in early spring are magnets for bumblebees searching for food?) Panel and audience members were asked what successes and/or failures they had experienced during the 2018 growing season. Apparently, melons enjoyed the summer heat and grew well as long as water was provided. Garlic heads and potatoes were smaller than usual mostly due to the weather, and several people reported that the growth of many plants (carrots, tomatoes, annuals and herbs) picked up in the fall when cooler, moister weather prevailed. Weeds, of course, did well and earned new respect from some gardeners and farmers. In the heat of July, with nothing else flowering at Karen ten Cate’s farm, the thistles and viper’s bugloss were covered with bees and butterflies. John Wise had a similar experience when he went out to plough a one-acre area of weeds to keep them from going to seed. The weeds were covered with swallowtail and monarch butterflies and John (Wisely) left the area undisturbed. With her customary wit, moderator and panellist Susie Meisner frequently had the audience laughing. The lively evening concluded with a seed exchange, refreshments, and more discussion. In

addition, a number of gardening books were offered by David Field in return for a donation to a Syrian refugee children’s education fund. In December, with Christmas almost upon us, the garden doesn’t figure often in our thoughts. Today though, I’m admiring my garden, transformed by a thick covering of fresh snow. Since I don’t cut down or remove plants in the fall – so winter birds can glean seeds from them – other gardeners would probably think my garden looks messy, with stems of different lengths poking up through the snow. I rather like the effect though, and besides, the plants hold snow to help insulate the soil beneath from frost/melt swings. In January, gardeners do tend to begin thinking about their gardens – after all, some relief is needed from the cold, the ice, and the snow, if only in the imagination. Happily, it’s at this time that the seed catalogues with their colourful photographs of flowers arrive. Who can resist pouring through them, imagining a garden radiant with flowers? When planning our 2019 gardens and ordering seeds or buying plants, environmental groups and many gardening experts ask that we consider the needs of pollinators by growing plants that they can utilize. We’re all familiar with the honeybee (an introduction from Europe) and the bumblebee. But there are around 400 species of native bees in Ontario that are also important pollinators. Since they are mainly solitary bees, they go mostly unnoticed by gardeners. Other pollinators include butterflies, moths, small fly species, wasps, and beetles. Pollinators are responsible for an estimated one in every three bites of food we eat; however, they are in serious decline throughout the world due mainly to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. One thing we can do, no matter the scale of our gardening, is to address habitat loss by providing pollinatorfriendly gardens that include plants or areas for foraging, nesting, sheltering, and overwintering (as eggs, larvae, pupae, or adults, depending on the species).

Canada (www.pollinatorpartnership. ca). There you will find lists of plants for our Ecoregion (Manitoulin–Lake Simcoe) and the requirements or preferences of various groups of pollinators for flower colour, shape, height, and blooming season. Other good sources of information on supporting pollinators in your garden and farm are found on the Pollination Canada website (www. seeds.ca/pollination) and Farms at Work website (www.farmsatwork. ca/pollinators/resources). “A Landowner’s Guide to Conserving Native Pollinators in Ontario” is available as a PDF file at feedthebees.org. It’s a very helpful resource for understanding the needs of native bees. Are you a seed saver? A caution based on hard experience: if you collected seeds this fall, make sure they are safely stored in mouseproof containers – glass or metal – or in a cabinet that closes securely. My seeds, the ones I could rescue, are now in paper envelopes and stored in tin boxes, the kind you get with assortments of Christmas cookies. GrassRoots Growers is now planning a spring speaker event; visit our website in 2019 for details. And, of course, our annual plant sale will take place at the end of May. Check it out for pollinator-friendly plants.

Monarch on butterfly milkweed. Photo by Lois Smith.

Tamworth/Erinsville GrassRoots Growers is a community-based group. Our mission is to encourage interest in local and organic gardening for both the home garden and the market garden; to raise

awareness of issues surrounding food production; to improve our practical knowledge of all aspects of plant life; and to provide networking opportunities for gardeners. We welcome new members. Visit our website at te-grassrootsgrowers. weebly.com

Bring Home the Feeling of Christmas

There is a wealth of information available on pollinator-friendly gardening and farming. One source of information that I find very useful is Pollinator Partnership

May the Christmas Season fill your home with joy, your heart with love and your life with laughter!

Merry Christmas!

All clients & customers, your business through the year has been sincerely appreciated.

LANTHORN Panellists Susie Meisner, John Wise, Karen ten Cate, and Dorothy Wagar Oogarah at the “Plant Matters: Fall Gardening Roundtable” held on Tuesday, October 16 at St. Patrick School in Erinsville. Photo by Michelle Mather.


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December 2018 / January 2019 • The SCOOP


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The SCOOP // December 2018 / January 2019