Community gardens taking root

At least two new community gardens are off to a strong start, despite the unseasonal summer weather, thanks to hard work by Mount Pearl’s Green Team and its collaboration with a couple of community partners.
At the Parish of the Good Shepherd on Richard Nolan Drive, the Green Team is busy building growing beds, which Archdeacon Charlene Taylor is offering to share with anyone in the community who would like to try their hand at growing local produce.
The team has also set up four growing beds at Hillcrest Estates, the senior citizens home on Mount Carson Avenue for residents there to use.
The latter project is part of the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Growing Through the Ages program. The Green Team is administered by the Conservation Corps but assigned to the City of Mount Pearl for direction. The City decided the Green Team would be a great tool for helping local groups cultivate the idea of starting community gardens.
Green Team Leader Heather Reid said the Conservation Corps has presented the City with 10 pre-made growing beds, which the City is distributing throughout the community. At Hillcrest Estates, the idea is to encourage seniors to become healthier and more active. The site for the remaining six growing beds has yet to be determined.
The Growing Through the Ages project is separate from the one at the Parish of the Good Shepherd, which is an early adoptee of the community garden idea.
“They already had an idea of what they wanted,” said Reid, referring to the Parish. “They already had a plan and Provincial Health and Wellness Grant to get it going. So the City decided to kind of ‘give us’ to them because they already had the ball rolling so well and they had such a clear vision. So we’ve been working with them and learning from them and helping them by doing the manual labour and giving advice.”
Reid, a masters student in geography, has a background in agriculture, having worked for two years on an organic farm in Ontario.
“We’ve been helping them out as best as we can and things have been coming together so quickly,” Reid said. “It just speaks volumes about how well the Parish works together and how clear the vision is about getting this community garden.”
Because it’s already into late summer, the parish is looking at concentrating its efforts on greens – lettuce, spinach, perhaps some turnip tops - that can be grown and harvested by the fall.
Reid said it’s not too late to plant some crops. “Because it’s been cool, it’s actually a great temperature to start growing spinach,” she explained. “Arugula still grows (this time of year), basically all of your greens are still going to grow, assuming we don’t get an early frost. The only things that are not going to grow (if you plant them) now are onions, or any kind of root vegetable or cabbage, or anything like that is now going to grow super well. But we’re hoping to get some lettuce planted next week and it’s never too late for turnip tops.”
Next year the plan is to expand the range of produce to help supply the weekly café that the Parish operates. But most of the beds are available to families, or groups who want to care for a bed. “On a first come, first served basis, at no cost, they’re opening it up to people in the neighborhood and throughout the city to come and adopt a bed and get their hands dirty, basically,” Reid said.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” Reid said of the Parish. “Words cannot express how great the church has been to us, so supportive. It’s been a wonderful place to partner with.”
Archdeacon Taylor said the Parish got interested it the idea of a community garden last year, because it would complement its weekly café and seemed like a good thing to do for the community. “And as you can see, we have lots of land,” Taylor said. “So we researched it to see what we would have to do.”
The timing was great. Around the same time the parish was researching community gardens, the provincial government called for proposals from groups looking for grants of up to $10,000. “We thought, ‘Let’s see if they will fund the start up for our community garden?’” Taylor said. “And we were fortunate enough to get $8,000. That has given us the starting money… all the material for making the beds, the lumber, the soil, all the tools we need, seeds… we bought all of that out of the grant money.”
 Taylor said the church is going to use only two of the beds for itself. “We can use lettuce and spinach and some of the produce in our own kitchen – we serve a hot lunch program every Wednesday here that is free to the community and all walks of life.”
The Church feeds some 120 to 140 people every Wednesday at the café.
The other beds are available to whoever would like to adopt one. “We’ve already put out notices and bulletins to the surrounding neighbourhood for any family or groups of people who would like to come and adopt a bed and plant their own things,” Taylor said. “It’s really for the community, any parishioners or anyone in the neighbourhood who wants to dabble in growing some stuff.”
Anyone who is interested in taking on a bed can call the church at 747-1022.
Taylor is looking forward to celebrating this year’s harvest in the fall and to future harvests. “This will be an ongoing thing now,” she said. “The biggest work was getting it going, prepping the land and building the beds and all that kind of thing. Now that that’s ready, it’s here for perpetuity for whoever wants to be part of it. That’s the plan.”

Posted on August 7, 2015 .