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What’s Happening

Water scarcity is becoming an increasing reality and is affecting communities across the globe. Climate change and its impacts are leading us to realize that the time to act is now. We must do more to preserve our precious water resources. We must use water wisely and conserve it. We must recharge our acquifers. We must keep our streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans free from pollution.

How and where do we begin? The simple answer is, it begins at home! The change will come only when we shift our lens towards convential water use. We need to conserve water, capture it, store it, recycle it.

We, at Dallington Pollinators Community Garden, are working hard to reach out to community members to provide much needed water education. As well as providing solutions for capturing and harvesting rainwater and recharging acquifers. You can learn more by reaching out to us for 'Water-wise' updates and solutions!

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As if by magic, spring unfolds with warming temperatures and tender shoots that emerge from the ground. With that arises a yearning to tidy up our garden beds and get ready to sow for summer. But before we jump into the cleanup drive, a little patience will help not only the tender shoots but also emerging insects and birds leafing through the litter and building their nests. Towards middle of April is a lovely time to start taking stock of the garden and assess the soil needs. Of course, remove anything that is damaged or appears diseased and prune summer flower-bearing shrubs or trees.

Building Healthy Soils

To really have a successful garden, building healthy soils is the key. It may take a couple of years and you could lend the process a helping hand. Soils are vital to the eco-system and if properly managed, you will reap great benefits as growers and gardeners alike. A healthy soil is alive and teeming with life. It is distinguished by its looks and feel. Ideally it should be dark brown in color, light and crumbly to touch as half of it by volume is porous. The soil crumbs or aggregates in it are formed by organic matter that bind the particles together. How much of organic matter is available to the soil will determine its fertility, structure, feeding mechanism and biological activity. The porosity of the soil adds to its ability to absorb water, allowing water to percolate deep down instead of running off leaving it dry and parched.

Organic matter

The skin of the Earth requires as much care as our own skin, while neglecting it leads to depleted soils. Adding organic material at the time of renewal and regrowth offers many benefits and produces wonderful results for gardeners. Before adding amendments, it will be a good idea to gently rake the soil, turning it over a couple of inches. This will give you the opportunity to examine the texture and color of the soil. If it is crumbly and dark brown as described above, it is perfect soil and will need just a light application of compost. However, if it feels hard and is dry, is light brown in color, indicating poor soil, adding an inch or two of topsoil along with compost will greatly benefit it. Whatever spectrum you land on, adding compost will not harm but help improve the soil.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are another choice for gardeners. These can be planted in fall or early spring and help add nutrients to the soil. In our community garden, we regularly plant cover crops in fall and then in spring. Choose from the recommended cover crops in the table below:

Improving Microbial Activity

Just as we take probiotics to improve our gut health, soils need a similar inoculation as well. Compost remains as the primary energy source for micro-organisms, it provides it all the carbon needed to thrive. In addition, using cover crops, keeping soil well-watered, mulched and avoiding chemicals and pesticides, are all ways to build soil microbial activity.

Ideally, you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars each year on buying new soil. Do focus on understanding the type of soil you have and adding amendments to it. Keep in mind, however, that the crops or vegetables you plant each year, will deplete your soils especially heavy feeders like tomatoes and potatoes. Having a crop rotation schedule in mind would help overcome problems linked to nutrient deficiencies in soil. Take advantage of the mild days of spring and prepare your garden soil for a fantastic growing season!

Links and resources:

Healthy Soils:

Cover Crops:

Crop rotation :

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Imagine if you grow your own food, then cook it using your own wood, then your food is going to be considered relatively safe. In reality, food systems are highly complex. The inter-relationships that have arisen as a result are dependent on a variety of factors.

If we consider maize, a fairly innocuous grain, which variety will be chosen and why it will be chosen by farmers will be dependent on its needs. Is the climate a factor, is soil good enough, would the crop be resistant to pests and diseases? Should the farmer till the soil? If not, then would weeds take over. If weeds are an issue, chemicals and fertilizers will be applied. Run-offs from fields would lead to water pollution, threaten biodiversity and contribute to greenhouse emissions. To add to the complex chain, farmers have to take into consideration subsidies offered by the government, commodity prices in the market, and, setting aside land for bio-conservation otherwise pristine rainforests are clear-cut and used for growing maize. Moreover, maize growers operate large networks of logistics, and prices in the market are determined by the demands and that in turn determines production.

When maize was grown 7 to 9,000 years ago, the priorities had been different. The heritage varieties would have been stronger, resistant, and well suited to their environment. In recent times, commercial demand seems to be the determinant. It is valued as a fuel, cattle feed and remaining for consumption as corn syrup which led to health issues.

Our food culture has shifted and so has our connection with land and growing food. Food has been traded for millennia but food crops were more diverse and varied. Unfortunately, for the sake of convenience, commodification of foods and to take control of food systems, homogenization of foods has been given precedence and completely cut us off from our food systems.

Maize, rice, soya and wheat are grown on industrial scales and have replaced the traditional varieties that were grown. This has led to widescale damage affecting our environment, putting a strain on our water supplies and increased food miles. One would argue that the demand for these foods year-round has brought not only different varieties to the table but also brought along more choices. Earlier, poorer segments of society had few choices and variety and led to health issues. However, the associated risks and demands the modern food system puts on our planet cannot be dismissed.

The pandemic has shown us the fragility of the food systems, heavily dependent on inputs that could come to a complete standstill if not managed properly. The weaknesses exposed have given the proponents of a more just food system a voice, and, lent some credibility to their cause.

To take greater control of our system, we need to find ways to engage with our food systems and to create alternatives to withstand shocks to food supplies. Here are some ways to regain greater control over our food systems:

  • Encouraging and protecting local farmers is one way to bolster the fragile food system. Building meaningful relationships and promoting farmers markets, locally sourced foods, will provide impetus to the farmers to sustain their operations. Connections with consumers will also promote engagement between farmers and end users, and consumers will appreciate the hard work associated with bringing flavorful and tasty foods to the marketplace.

  • Consumers themselves can determine greater control by growing food themselves in local community gardens or their backyards. Seasonal varieties grown are decidedly tastier, bursting with flavor and a much healthier option. It is easy on the pocket, if resistant and heirloom varieties are grown, cuts down on food miles, and can provide a great habitat for pollinators if traditional planting techniques are used.

  • Schools can be engaged to teach the children the importance of growing food locally and to partake in projects where school gardens serve as a source of locally grown food. Children can use the fresh vegetables and prepare their own school meals, leading to healthier choices, and helping them cut back on processed foods and sugars. This in turn will help reduce the problem of obesity and hunger. In Neighborhood Improvement Areas (NIA) and Business Improvement Areas (BIA), school garden could contribute a share of food grown to food banks. These gardens could serve as training grounds for children and teach them lifelong transferable skills and make them future stewards of our land.

Maize or no maize, we need to get back to the table and redefine our goals and get back the food systems from which we have been cut off for too long. It is time to take back the age-old practice of growing food ourselves, adapting it to our needs, and building resilience. So, next time, if faced with disaster, we will not be thinking of high food prices, or disappearance of food from the shelves, instead we will be dealing with an abundance of food grown locally and sustainably and we will be thinking of how to distribute it to those in need around us.


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