Saturday November 22, 2014

Keep feeding your soil


Garden produce is always so delicious! The farmer’s market on the corner of Gladstone and Independent St. is now underway, Saturdays from 10 a.m. till noon.  Stop by and see what local gardeners have to offer each week; the market continues till the latter part of September.  I always remember how absolutely wonderful the meals that were entirely of fresh produce from Mom’s garden tasted: new potatoes garnished with dill; tender carrots glistening with butter; crunchy cucumbers sliced with onions in an oil and vinegar dressing; sliced ripe tomatoes still warm from the sun… I can still remember how good it all tasted and smelled! Mmm. But even if you don’t have a garden you can still enjoy this taste treat with veggies from the farmer’s market!  Your family will love it!

The Assiniboine Food Security Alliance is once again promoting their “Grow ‘N’ Share” program. This is a great program that helps to share the bounty of locally grown fruit. If you have fruit trees and have too much fruit to use all by yourself, just call AFSA and register your fruit tree for picking. It works like this: volunteers come and pick the fruit, and the harvest is split with one third going to the tree owner, one third to the volunteers, and one third to a local organization such as a community kitchen or food bank.  The numbers to call are (306)521-0332 or (306)782-3249. This is a great program, so if you have fruit trees, keep those numbers handy.

You know what interesting reading a seed catalogue can be. I found a spring/summer 1995 catalogue from “The Cook’s Garden” in Londonderry, Vermont.  This lovely seed company is still growing strong, and you can check them out at

But for now, I’d like to tell you about an article in that old catalogue. The article is called “A Green Thumb Manifesto: The Six Basic Principles of Organic Gardening”, by Shepherd Ogden.  Whether or not you decide your garden will be “organic” is up to you, but certain methods of caring for the soil are practical for all of us to follow.  

The first principle Mr. Ogden mentions is that we should “feed the soil, not the plants”. His idea is that if we care for the soil, and enrich it with compost, manure or cover crops, that will in turn help our plants produce to their utmost ability.

Second, we should “take only what we need”. Take the harvest from our plants, and wherever possible, we should compost the rest and return what we can to enrich the soil. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process: it can be as simple as leaving your bean plants to dry on the garden, then mowing them down with your lawnmower (without a bag) to return the shredded leaves and stems back onto the soil.

Third, “embrace diversity”: by growing a wide variety of plants, and not just one variety of each type of vegetable, we will not be greatly disappointed if, for example, a tomato blight affects all our Manitoba plants. Plant a variety of plants to increase the “resiliency” of our gardens.

Fourth and fifth principles ask us to try to work with the natural cycle of the garden. This  calls for some homework on our part, to determine when our plantings will hopefully miss periods of frost or insect infestations. And number six is called “live and learn”, where Mr. Ogden says that gardening is like “a puzzle, a challenge, a game that never ends.”  Each season is different and wonderful and always something new, and we should embrace and enjoy it!

So true! Have a great week, gardeners, and be sure to wear a hat!



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