Community gardens aren’t just a great way to flex a green thumb, they bring residents together to grow a neighbourly spirit. ZEN CHUNG
In her children’s novel Anne of Ingleside, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote: “Nothing ever seems impossible in spring.” And for community gardeners from coast to coast, the allure of getting one’s hands dirty and planning the seasonal bounty of flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables is an experience that’s even better when shared.
Community gardening is also a way for local residents to increase food security, share culture and traditions, and pledge their commitment to sustainability and biodiversity.
Gardens Manitoba is committed to raising funds for community gardens across the province. Alongside the Manitoba Master Gardener Association, which promotes horticultural education and events, the non-profit supports community gardening in several centres, including Altona, Beausejour, Birtle, Dauphin, Stonewall, Virden and Winkler.
As an urban gardening incentive, the City of Winnipeg has some 150 plots at seven locations available for rent annually. And thanks to the North End Food Security Network, newbie gardeners can follow A Community Gardener’s Guidebook, A Month-to-Month Guide: Covering the Basics in Gardening in Winnipeg. Available at gov.mb.ca, the guide offers insider knowledge and tips on where to get freebies, as well as worksheets for planning which vegetables, herbs and fruits to plant. And in addition to seed catalogue details, it has answers to basic questions, such as explaining what raised beds and containers are, or the difference between perennials and annuals.
First-timers will also appreciate knowing when to begin planning (January), when to plant (after the last frost), which plants can be started indoors (cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini), how much space plants need (tip: grow lettuce in those in-between spaces), composting, pruning and what to do in September, when the harvest comes to an end.
Here are three community-garden organizations in Manitoba that showcase how green spaces are vital to healthy cities and towns:
RAINBOW COMMUNITY GARDEN PROJECT Knox United Church in Winnipeg supplied tools and resources and continues to fundraise for this initiative, while the City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba offered support and access to the project’s initial plot. Created in 2008 by 16 immigrant families from nine countries, the garden is now managed by the Immigrant Integration Farming Community Co-op (IIFCC) and has a little more than 4 hectares in Landmark and Niverville, just outside of Winnipeg. Besides being a budget-friendly food source for its participants, this garden is a way to forge community connections, share cultural traditions and also practise English. In one year, it yielded 10,000-plus kilograms of produce, and extra vegetables were sold at Winnipeg’s Central Market for additional income.