Dunnville Horticulture Society

Dunnville community celebrates Thompson Creek Eco Centre opening

by Tamara Botting

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It was a day of celebration in Dunnville, one that Dan McKay wasn’t sure he’d ever see.

Over 20 years ago, McKay was part of a group that included representatives from Ducks Unlimited, the Dunnville Horticultural Society and the Grand River Conservation Authority; they worked together to rehabilitate 20 acres of land behind Grandview Lodge along Thompson Creek.

“It was not in very good shape. There wasn’t much life here,” McKay said.

Now, however, after countless volunteer hours and financial support from various sources, the Thompson Creek Eco Centre is thriving.

Wildlife, including birds, turtles, snakes and more, has returned.

“It’s just amazing,” McKay said on Sept. 25 as the ribbon was officially cut on the rejuvenated park.

A crowd of volunteers who had worked on the project, as well as interested community members, gathered for the special day.

Jeff Krete, conservation program specialist with Ducks Unlimited, spoke to the audience about the work his group had done and would continue to do in helping to restore the wetlands.

“It’s an ongoing responsibility that we have,” he said.

Debbie Thomas, co-chair of the project and past president of the Dunnville Horticultural Society, said, “Our vision is that all of the schools in this area will use this park.” McKay agreed.

“The big reason I’ve done this, why I’ve stuck with this for so long … is for the children,” he said, adding that he wants area students to learn about nature so that they will not only take joy in it, but also work to preserve it as they grow older.

The celebration included the official recognition of a heritage tree in the park by Forests Ontario.

Photo 1: Many area residents, and past and present volunteers on the Thompson Creek Eco-Centre project came to the park on Sept. 25 for the dedication. – Tamara Botting/Torstar
Photo 2: The new Thompson Creek Eco-Centre includes signage to let visitors learn more about the park and its features. – Tamara Botting/Torstar

Sweet Potatoes: It’s Harvest Time

Unlike Irish (white) potatoes, which save better if the vines are allowed to die down for three weeks before digging, it’s extremely important to dig sweet potatoes before the first frost.

Unfortunately, many gardeners do not grow this very easy, productive, and nutritious crop because of the perception they are a southern crop.

Because Southern Ontario days are longer than in the south, by planting sweet potatoes in early June and growing a 100-day variety, they are very mature (good size) by mid-September, although they will continue to grow until dug.

The 2019 crop has been superb – best ever!

Harvesting sweet potatoes is effective by following these suggestions:

  1. If the ends of the vines begin to yellow, digging can begin.
  2. Watch the weather reports and dig before the first frost.
  3. Dig on a warm, sunny day if this is possible.
  4. Use a spade fork and dig at least 40 cm away from the hill to prevent damaging a tuber as the roots spread widely.
  5. Remove the tubers carefully from the hill and gently rub off the soil.
  6. Do not wash the tubers. Handle carefully so the skin is not damaged.
  7. Allow the tubers to lie in the sun for the day, turning them once.
  8. Put them into trays/containers so tubers do not touch each other.
  9. Sweet potatoes are tastier if allowed to cure for two months:
  10. For the first two weeks, cure them at 27C with 80-90% humidity.
  11. Store through the winter at no lower than 12C (e.g. basement).
  12. NEVER put sweet potatoes in a refrigerator.
  13. Sweet potatoes are grown from rooted slips (not eyes).
  14. This can be done in February by placing a tuber in soil or water.
The spade fork is placed 40 cm from the vines. A green string is attached to indicate the top of the tuber. By placing it in a vase of water, slips will grow to root cuttings for the following year’s planting. This variety (Superior) has been grown continuously for over 45 years in the writer’s garden. —Haldimand Press photo by Lester C. Fretz.

DHS Receives $5000 from Haldimand County’s 2019 Mayor’s Gala

Mayor Ken Hewitt presented a generous cheque of $5000 to DHS President Deb Zynomirski and Thompson Creek Chairperson Debbie Thomas at Council Chambers. DHS was one of the recipients from Haldimand County’s Mayor’s Gala Fund Raiser earlier this year.  The money will be used for the Thompson Creek Eco Park Restoration.

Deb brought greetings from DHS, expressed our heartfelt thanks and provided an invitation to the Thompson Creek Grand Opening on Wednesday.

Expediting Tomato Ripening

Are you one of many gardeners who is experiencing slowness in the tomatoes ripening? For various reasons, this seems to be a very common problem to many this year.

Having a special cherry tomato plant that has grown to a height of over two metres and is loaded with an abundance of clusters of large, green tomatoes, a very simple and effective solution to speed up their ripening was to cover the staked plant with extra-long  plastic dry-cleaning bags.

Soon it was necessary to make a vent in the top as the temperature quickly soared to 35C. This particular variety has clusters of eight and 10 large tomatoes.  It is also a variety that does not crack when they reach maturity, underscoring the desire of creating something which will hasten the ripening process and prolong the season.

How does one get these long plastic bags used for gowns? Taking a quart of ripe cherry tomatoes to the local cleaners facilitated an easy exchange! It is conceded that had this plant been grown indoors from seed and transplanted to the garden, it would have matured earlier than using direct seeding.

Nevertheless, it is also comforting to know this healthy, vigorous plant is ready for the first fall frost!

    Lester C. Fretz is a Haldimand gardener and member of Dunnville Horticultural Societ

LOWBANKS—Paula Patterson needs a stepladder to pick the highest cherry tomatoes at this Lowbank’s roadside garden. Covered with two plastic dry cleaner bags, the white thermometer needed to monitor the solar heating is also visible. —Haldimand Press photo by Lester C. Fretz.

Enjoying the Beauty of Seventh-Son Flower

Marlene Link details how to train a seven-son shrub into a tree shape

Do you have a favourite tree or shrub? My favourite is “hepdicodium miconiodes,” commonly known as seven-son.

This unusual member of the honeysuckle family is a vase-shaped shrub, but can be trained into a tree form by pruning techniques. After selecting a strong stem to be the trunk, cut all lower stems to remove one-third of the growth, leaving the rest for a year.

Continue pruning until all but the single stem is left. Stake it closely to keep it growing straight. Remove any new shoots around the base of the trunk to maintain the tree form.

Seven-son will bloom in August or September, with white flowers consisting of whorled sets of seven, hence the name. The flowers turn reddish as they mature, and the bark peels in strips similar to paper bark maple.

The bees will swarm to this plant when in bloom. I have had two trees in my garden for several years and I really enjoy them. Hope you can find one to enhance your gardens, too.

Why not join other happy gardeners and would-be gardeners at our next program night, Thursday, Sept. 19?

Our featured speaker is Mark Zelinski, who will be talking about photographing flowers, gardens and landscapes.

The Dunnville Horticultural Society meets every third Thursday at the Optimist Club Hall, 101 Main St. from 7 to 9 p.m. Or, visit us online on our Facebook page or website,www.dunnvillehortandgardenclub.org.

For questions or comments, contact president Deb Zynomirski at 416-566-9337 or debzyn@gmail.com.

- Marlene Link is a member of the Dunnville Horticultural Society.

Dunnville Horticultural Society, Ducks Unlimited Canada & Haldimand County Celebrate Restoration Of Thompson Creek Park & Wetland

Press Release – In 1993, a group of conservation-minded volunteers from the Dunnville Bio Region Association (DBA) hosted a workshop to create a sustainable development plan—related to social, economic and environmental concerns—for Dunnville. One of the action items proposed was to build an outdoor education facility by restoring Thompson Creek, the Wetland and Tallgrass Prairie and plant a Carolinian Arboretum.

While that goal wasn’t entirely realized at that time due to changing resources and partners, on Wednesday, September 25 the new project partners—Dunnville Horticultural Society, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Haldimand County—will celebrate the completion of the vision with the opening of an Eco-Centre at Dunnville Thompson Creek Park.

“We are so excited to have been able to help re-start this project and get it done,” says Dunnville Horticultural Society (DHS) Past-President Debbie Thomas, who co-chaired the project with volunteer Dan McKay, the original President of the DBA and now a DHS member. “This was a wonderful project when it was started more than twenty years ago and, although it stalled somewhat due to unforeseen circumstances, we are so happy to have been able to work with the volunteer who had a lot to do with the original vision—Dan McKay—and build on it with our Ducks Unlimited Canada and Haldimand County partners.”

The event begins at 10:00 a.m. and runs until 2:00 p.m., with an official welcome at 11:00 a.m. Volunteer tour guides and guest educators will give visitors an opportunity to explore the Park’s revitalized wetlands and tallgrass prairie, as well as the Carolinian arboretum, and learn about the history and significance of the Park from an ecological and conservation perspective. As well, the Park is now home to a Heritage Tree, estimated to be more than 250 years old and newly-designated by Forests Ontario.

DHS’s request to complete the original vision of the DBA was a project approved through Haldimand County’s Community Partnership Program, including grant funding of 35% from the municipality.

As well, for more than twenty years, the County had partnered with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) to manage the parklands. For the new restoration DUC provided resource funding to support wildflower replanting—for the next five years—of the grassland area. This work was initiated in spring 2019 following a controlled burn of the area arranged by DHS.

Other work undertaken by the partners during the past year to help prepare the site for the restoration included the spraying late last year for invasive phragmites, removal of dead and unsafe trees in the arboretum, brushing of overgrown areas, creation of a new naturalized pathway around the wetlands and tallgrass prairie, a controlled burn to rejuvenate the area intended for wildflower replanting and installation of educational signage along the Eco-Centre pathways.

“It has been incredibly gratifying to have the opportunity to work with the Dunnville Horticultural Society and its wonderful volunteers to realize the Dunnville Bio Region Association’s original vision for this Park,” adds Dan McKay. “I am excited by the community’s interest and engagement in the new project, and feel confident this is only the beginning of the ongoing conservation of this ecologically-significant Park.”

Thompson Creek Park Opening Flyer