by Heather Menzies
The Commons South Gardeners hosted a gathering of all the allotment gardeners associated with the Commons last Thursday, with Pollen Heath of Watercliff Farm as guest speaker to share best practices for growing tomatoes.
Twenty-four people from Namaste Gardens, the North Garden, the Seniors and PHC Gardens showed up in the waning heat of a hot summer day, bringing food and refreshments. They also brought notebooks and many took notes as Heath drew from his extensive experience growing up to 40 varieties of tomatoes, distinguishing between self-pollinators, heritage and F1 hybrids, sharing his thinking about the source of blight and ways to combat it, how often to water depending on the soil type, and how ‘potting up’ seedlings into ever-larger pots before transplanting can help enlarge the root base. He also answered the many very knowledgeable questions asked by the allotment gardeners, which added to the richness of the discussion.
It was something of a homecoming for Pollen Heath, as he was one of the original Commons allotment gardeners, helping to break the sod in the first plots made available in the South and North gardens when the allotment gardens were started in 2006. Since then, there has been a steady expansion and sustained commitment to this form of gardening, with the bonus not only of social connection but of a generous sharing, or “commoning” of knowledge as well – and in the traditional form of knowledge creation too. It’s knowledge gleaned from experience and paying attention to what the plants and the soil have to teach us.