Kids encouraged to start growing their own front-yard gardens

The fifth annual municipal garden contest is underway.

(From left) Zoe Koehn

Your front yard doesn’t have to be just for decoration, a place to impress your neighbours with your lawnmowing skill or weeding techniques.

Your front yard can also be used to provide your next meal, when that space is used to grow fruits and vegetables.

A few people have been trying to show that for the past four years in the District of Maple Ridge’s Front Yard Food Garden Contest.

The contest is now in its fifth year, and if you enter, the odds are with you.

Only three entries came in last year, said Diana Hall, planner with the District of Maple Ridge, so people entering one of three categories, depending on lot size, will have a good chance of winning one of the $25 gift certificates from the Haney Farmer’s Market.

Hall said the goal is to encourage people to use their front yards to grow their own food and develop an appreciation of where our food comes from.

But that doesn’t mean a veggie garden is an excuse to turn your front yard into a mess.

“It has to have a good design to it,” Hall said.

Entries will also be judged by quantity and variety of food grown, the gardening practices and health of plants.

Hall said that making the front yard a place to grow vegetables makes everyone who passes by aware of local food production. It also helps build a sense of community by giving people something to talk about.

She has her own front-yard garden in Burnaby and grows tomatoes, beans and has a few apple trees. She’ll also try kale and may plant a few blueberry bushes, not only for the berries but because the shrubs, look nice.

This year, the contest coincides with another effort to get more people growing.

Thanks to the More Peas Please project, families with young children can get a free kickstart to growing a garden.

Volunteers will visit families armed with seeds, soil and watering cans and help parents and the kids locate a space for a garden and get young plants growing.

“Almost everyone I know had a garden growing up, but throwing in a few seeds as a kid and preparing the whole thing from scratch are two totally different things,” says Leanne Koehn, one of the project coordinators.

“We’re starting with up to 25 families from Glenwood elementary and Hammond elementary,” said Richard Farrance, coordinator.

“The intention is to make it easy for the family to start a garden and hopefully they will want to continue or expand it the following year.”

Two members of the volunteer team will be able to give good advice. Tanis Green is a gardener from Green Plant Care and Catherine Skoro is a landscaper at Swan-e-Set Bay Resort and Country Club.

They’ll bring with them everything to get peas, carrots, cucumbers, kale and lettuce growing.

If you’re in the Hammond or Glenwood elementary areas, e-mail Farrance at rjfarrance@gmail.com.

Anyone who gets a garden growing, can enter the children’s category of the Front Yard Food Garden Contest.

Judging for the front yard contest takes place in late August based on quantity and variety of food produced, health of plants and garden practices.

To enter, send in a “before” photo of your front yard by June 27 to dhall@mapleridge.ca.

Winners will be announced in the fall and will get gift certificates from Haney Farmer’s Market.

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