GUEST POST – MAUREEN FLYNN-BURHOE
Community member, visual artist and Parkdale Community Garden perennial and herbs aficionado
A busy October in the Parkdale Community Garden means gardeners working diligently to empty their garden beds in preparation for the upcoming winter. At the beginning of the month, the garden bursts with produce and florals―from leafy greens like kale and exotic multi-coloured carrots, to peonies and petunias.
As the weather cools, gardeners know that fall is one of the best times to get out the rubber boots, spades and wheelbarrows, order a load of garden soil with peat and compost amendments and get a head start on next year’s gardening season. With slower plant growth and just enough moisture from rainfall, it is ideal to transplant plants at this time.
Raised beds are cleared of their final harvest and covered in leaf mulch in mid-October. Gathering dozens of bag of leaves, the compost team collects to produce quality compost for 2017, while undaunted by the predictably unpredictable Calgary fall weather.
Hardy naturalizers like creeping thyme, strawberries, sedums and fairybells are already divided and transplanted in October to provide ground cover, texture and colour in the newer garden beds next spring. The hardiest of these naturalizers seem to grow even in winter, like pansies blossoming through the snow in March.
With many volunteers working in a large community garden, keeping track of perennials is crucial. In the fall, plant markers for perennials can be added to avoid losing them to zealous weeders in spring when they become unrecognizable.
Tubers and Bulbs
While some delicate tubers like the Lemon Ice gladiolus will need to be uprooted and stored in peat moss over winter, newly acquired spring flowering bulbs such as Siberian squill, Tarda botanical tulips, and snow crocus. Most exciting will be the Canada 150 tulip bulbs that will be planted soon—red and white tulips developed in the Netherlands to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Woody plants like roses can be pruned in early winter but many of the perennials and herbs like catmint can be cut back. To stretch the gardening season, plants such as evergreen groundcovers, sedums, and lavender will provide winter texture and interest, inviting visitors for a stroll at any time of year.
The garden has come a long way from 2013, first inspired by community catalyst Audrey Smith, and coming to life with the support of community volunteers, Parkdale residents, and corporate volunteers like Brookfield Residential. The garden now has a food forest, sixty raised beds, Parkdale Station tool shed, an irrigation system, a herb circle, perennial beds, a sedums rock garden, and demonstration winter gardening beds.
In September 2015, Brookfield Residential extended its neighbourly hand when it offered to transplant a seven-year-old laneway garden with dozens of perennials—that was in the path of The Henry‘s construction—to create new perennial beds in the community garden.The multi-generational “Parkdale Community Garden Transplant” was successful and every plant thrived.