Have you ever wanted to start a community garden? With many communities building more and more high density housing , community gardens are becoming all the rage. People living in townhouses, apartments, condos and basement suites often don’t have enough room to grow plants. Although you can grow a lot of food on a balcony, some places don’t have this kind of space. Starting a community garden means looking for a piece of land that can often be leased from a landowner. Surprisingly these pieces of land are often found quite easily. Lets take a look at this tour of community gardens to see how they got started. Below is a photo of Alexandra House community garden in South Surrey. It’s hard to believe this garden is just over a year old.
The gardens are full of abundant harvests and so much fuller than the first season. This garden was built by volunteers on private land belonging to Alexandra Neighbourhood House. They fully supported this community project and their volunteers organized the first community garden tour this year. I mentored this start-up so it’s really rewarding to see how far this project has come.
Look how full the gardens are. Its been a very successful project in South Surrey. Did you know a new garden is about to open this fall? The new community garden will be located along 152nd in South Surrey and will donate 50% of the food grown to the local food bank. Now that’s giving back to the community!
On the tour we visited Burquitlam Community Organic Gardens. This garden is in southwest Coquitlam. Whats unique about this garden is the relationship between the city and the community garden society. The garden space is leased from the city but the city maintains parts of the garden like fencing, washrooms and water. The garden has wheelchair accessible garden allotments as well.
Its gravel pathways make it easy to walk on. Some of the garden is sloped but the grade is not steep. This garden has been here for many years and has unique features such as mason bee houses and a water collection system. They even have a natural creek bed along one side of the property bringing in all sorts of wildlife from birds to amphibians.
Our next stop on the community garden tour was to Terra Nova Rural Park at the very west end of Westminster Highway in Richmond. I was inspired by this garden when I started planning one for Ladner. This allotment garden has 99 allotments! That’s the largest community garden in the lower mainland. This large parcel of land dedicated to allotments was leased from the City of Richmond and is part of a larger public park. As you enter the Terra Nova Rural Park, you walk by a children’s garden where hundreds of children come to learn. They also have a large red barn for classes and a demonstration composting area. You really have to see this garden. You will be amazed at the community connections it has made from having senior social days in the greenhouse to cooking with children in the barn. If you click on the photo above, you will see a unique Asian vegetable garden. This is a very active gardener and he was proud to show us the crop of hairy melons he had growing. I love the structure he has made to support them. You have to love the diverse cultures in this garden that are displayed in the food they grow.
It interesting to see the different ways people grow food and flowers. In this community garden at Terra Nova park many of the allotment gardeners have composters on their garden plots. All the community gardens on the tour are organic. There is no use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Here I couldn’t resist a peek into the tomato greenhouse. It was full of luscious ripe tomatoes ready for picking. The last time I was here it was full of bok choy.
Next the tour took us to Earthwise Gardens in Tsawwassen. If you haven’t walked around Earthwise Gardens, it’s a must see to get ideas on planting schemes. There are many gardens from herbs, native and bee friendly gardens. It’s all there to see and glean ideas for your own gardens. They even sell plants at their garden store. This large garden is a demonstration garden and allotment garden complete with classes, educational tours, festivals and weddings. It is on private land which the owner has agreed to use for this purpose.
I found yet another greenhouse just behind the allotment gardens at Earthwise. You know my addiction for tomatoes is bad when I had to peek into this greenhouse. Loads of tomatoes are ready for their annual tomato festival at Earthwise Garden.
Our last stop on the tour was to the Ladner Community Garden. I hosted this stop and showed everyone around. We started by showing the group our rock garden made from four recycled driveways. It was a good way to recycle something that would cost the homeowner a small fortune to dispose of.
The Ladner Community Garden was built in 2011 and is in its third growing season. This half-acre parcel of park land was leased from the Corporation of Delta and has 46 allotment beds, a children’s garden where food is grown for the food bank and a seed trial garden operated by West Coast Seeds. The city has been a great partner and very supportive of the community garden. It’s in Kensington Park North along Holly Park drive in East Ladner. The land was acquired back in February of 2011 by approaching the city and asking to build a community garden.
So why did we have a community garden tour? It was a great way to get community garden managers out to see other gardens and we had lots of questions on how each garden was run. It’s great to get together and brainstorm for new ideas and hash over problems you may be having in your gardens.
Do you have a community garden in your neighbourhood? You can read about how to start a community garden here. It’s not just about growing food. It’s about connecting people, building community and having conversation.