Old and new ways meet in gardening

July 26, 2022

Many of us mark the coming and going of the seasons by the appearance of the violets, the hummingbirds, the lobster feeds, the fireflies, the strawberries, and the first greens and beans from the garden. And then it is with some reserve we greet the first tomatoes, for the summer is peaking and preparing to leave.

Hand in hand with this appreciation of these seasonal gifts is a special appreciation of how abundant and beautiful our little corner of the world is. For generations, the Mi’kmaq, the Acadians, the Gaels, Black and White Loyalists, the Dutch, and the many others that have come and stayed, attest to our great fortune.

The cucumber beetle can present a real challenge in the garden.

For many people this is the most beautiful time of the year, the seedlings are ready to plant, the roses are blooming, and the wildflowers are making their show. Gardening is often a way to really feel personally connected to this spectacle of growth and development; the unfolding of the blossom, the forming of apple, and the natural and ancient practice of gathering our foods for the table.

The beauty of gardening is that, although we often have this interest and love passed down in homes as children, the wonder and satisfaction is there for anyone to pick up. It is as easy as keeping a planter on the deck, or a flower by the step. Gardening may not be for everyone, but the many benefits of gardening make it a very good candidate for a hobby. After all, what pursuits provide you exercise, an outlet for artistic expression, reduce grocery bills, provide far healthier and tastier foods than you can buy, and a profound sense of satisfaction?

There was a time when just about every home had a garden, and even the hospital maintained a garden to provide food for its patients. Our dependence on earned income and two-income homes has changed the way we spend our time and resources, but there are so many factors that have brought our attentions back to the garden.

While the practice of gardening nearly skipped a generation, young families are returning to simpler ways. I have talked to many people who have put in their first garden over the last couple of years. They recount their parents’ practices, and what their parents recall from their own childhood.We have a tremendous resource of knowledge in our communities from those who grew up with a garden as an important household contributor. People cherish the stories of their mother’s favourite peony, or the cosmos seeds that their father shared widely across the county. Gardening is a part of our culture.

My passion is that we seed a new generation with the joys and values of our gardening culture, for their well-being, and for the good of our communities and the wider world. We will benefit from having food in our own yards and communities, and not relying on truck fuel to bring it all to us.

Gardening News

2022 is a great year to dip your toe into gardening. This is ‘Canada’s Year of the Garden’. ‘Garden Day’ was celebrated on June 18, and Cape Breton’s Chapter of the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs (NSAGC) hosted a day of garden talks and activities in Sydney. The NSAGC has a useful website for the gardener, an annual convention, and a Facebook Page where gardeners can post questions, and brag about garden successes.

The Inverness Garden Club, a NSAGC Member, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Formed as a way for gardeners to connect, they have raised the fund-raising bar to a new level, and their baskets and barrels really put a polish on the Inverness streets.

The Inverness Garden Club hosts great events, and this year featured talks by our County’s own Jamie Ellison and Beth Cameron. Jamie spoke on “Gardening for Acidic Soils”, the subject of his new book, and Beth shared her extensive knowledge of growing succulents.

Veteran and new gardeners may be shocked this year with with the great numbers of cucumber beetles. These cheerful looking yellow and black striped beetles have been decimating people’s cucumbers, zucchinis, squash and pumpkin plants in short order. The beetles will reappear each year, so it is best not to let them get established. They suck the juices from the plants, but worse, they can carry a disease that will cause the whole plant to wilt and die.

Control measures for cucumber beetle include covering plants with fabric before the bugs arrive, putting tanglefoot on yellow sheets of paper in the garden to trap them, and planting them out later to avoid the beetles’ ‘busy season’. There’s an effective powder made from microscopic sea life (diatomaceous earth) that is not a poison, but still needs to be used carefully because it also kills any harmless pollinators. Whole plants that are wilted should be removed, since they serve as a source to spread the wilt to your other plants.

Another exciting development is the arrival of the greenhouse kit for Inverness’s Mill Road Social Enterprises Community Garden and Greenhouse. With a focus on accessibility, their first raised beds have been built, and work will begin this year to raise the 20 x 48 foot hoophouse. This space offers a place for all ages and abilities to share and learn.

Our next Participaper gardening feature will focus on school and community gardens across the county. Please contact me at 902.258.5768 or strathlorne@gmail.com with information on your project.

Happy gardening!

Caroline Cameron lives in Strathlorne, and offers gardening and guiding services around Cape Breton Island. Please submit any gardening tips, questions, and news to strathlorne@gmail.com and visit Facebook at Nature/Nurture Gardening & Hiking.