“It’s a beginner’s guide to getting a garden started, but also for someone who’s been gardening for a few years and wants to up their skills and knowledge to get more productive harvests or to try growing different things,” says Kristin Bickell, Manitoulin Community Fresh Food Initiative project manager with Noojmowin Teg.
The workshops will involve a look at soil preparation, tilling, succession planning for future years of growth and companion planting—choosing plants that grow well together. Ms. Bickell says these tips will increase garden productivity.
The guest facilitators for the workshops are Chuc and Linda Willson of Our Garden Products and Anastasia Eranosova of The Island Gardener.
Ms. Eranosova brings over seven years of gardening experience and expertise to the presentation. She organized the second-annual Tehkummah Seed Exchange earlier this year and has been gardening on Manitoulin for three seasons.
“There will be a big emphasis in the beginning on seed starting as a follow up with the seed exchange. People have lots of seeds and we feel it’s important to pass along knowledge of what to do with all their seeds,” says Ms. Eranosova. She adds that some of the biggest benefits of saving and growing one’s own seeds is that the process can build confidence and offer opportunities to grow varieties not available in stores.
“We’ll also be talking a little bit about different approaches to gardening, for example a permaculture approach, square foot gardening and traditional row gardening,” says Ms. Eranosova.
All the workshop facilitators say they plan to discuss strategies to deal with the challenges of growing on the Island.
“We’re going to talk about pollinators and how important they are for gardens. We’ll also talk a little bit about troubleshooting and how to deal with pests and insects and drought and cold weather, all the different things that get thrown at us doing gardening on Manitoulin,” says Ms. Willson.
She and her partner have been gardening for over 30 years and create unique plans for their gardens every season. When The Expositor spoke with them over the phone, they happened to be in the process of planning their own gardens for the upcoming season.
“I’ve done a course in square foot gardening and two in edible forest gardening, so I’m going to bring some of my experience and things I’ve learned from those programs to the workshop. Anastasia brings a whole wealth of her own information, experience and expertise to it, too. I think it will be interesting,” she says.
Ms. Willson adds that the workshop is designed for beginners to moderately experienced gardeners and will cover topics such as the elements of the soil, garden layouts, raised and flat beds and watering techniques. They will discuss the importance of pollinators, soil preparation, sun exposure and protection from the elements.
“Every year we try something new. Sometimes it’s successful, sometimes it’s a flop. We’ve garnered a lot of experience from gardening just by doing, but we’ve also done a lot of studying,” says Ms. Willson. “Over the years we’ve developed a lot of interesting techniques we want to share.”
Both Ms. Willson and Ms. Bickell say the key objective of this event is to enable people to eat healthier through growing their own food.
“When we run workshops like this, it’s to support the idea of not just putting a garden in someone’s backyard but really giving them opportunities to learn and build knowledge and skills to make it successful,” Ms. Bickell says.
The garden planning workshop arrives at the Sheshegwaning Health Centre this coming Tuesday, March 26, Wiikwemkoong Children’s Services on Wednesday, March 27 and The Island Jar in Little Current on Thursday, March 28.
The Sheshegwaning and Little Current workshops start at 6 pm and the Wiikwemkoong date begins at 10:30 am. Funding for the garden workshops is made possible by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.