With a pending book on edible plants, I have been spending a lot of time around community gardens looking for photo opportunities, and one in particular never fails to impress me.
In fact, the Pitt Meadows Community Garden is currently undergoing a major expansion – essentially doubling the plot numbers from 100 to 200, and despite a lengthy waiting list, it still have some available.
Unlike the local real estate prices, no one is going to be outbidding you for these spaces – which will cost a paltry $35 a year, plus a one-time $5 membership fee, the price being the same whether you’re a financial tycoon or a regular ‘Joe’ like me.
But the most egalitarian aspect of community gardening is that this is no passive investment, as you only get what you put in, with a little hard work and weeding, plus some cooperation from Mother Nature.
By virtue of that investment of time, I find that these gardens only attract the best of people – those who know the meaning and fulfillment of a good day’s work.
I had a chance to meet two such couples on my last visit, one being a long-time member and the other, relative newcomers.
Thomas and Prunella Quanking have been gardening here for about seven years. They and their grandchildren have side-by-side plots and, by the looks of them, you wouldn’t know that their 13 year-old grandson, Jordan Bradford, was in charge of one side – as they are both producing abundantly.
While their garden provides them with about 95 per cent of their summer vegetable needs, Jordan’s is a little more focused on blueberries and kale (for kale chips).
In fact, Thomas and I were discussing blueberries (particularly ‘Northland’, his new favourite) just a few days ago at the garden centre where I work.
Their garden plot is stuffed full with healthy herbs (chives, cilantro, thyme, rosemary), as well as heirloom tomatoes, orderly rows of Swiss chard and flowers for cutting such as zinnias and dahlias.
They grow here because they live in a townhouse, but they also enjoy gardening with their children and grandchildren.
Prunella appreciates the fact that no pesticides are allowed on site, ensuring that everything they harvest is organic. They also value the many friendships they have made here and the way the executive runs the community garden so smoothly – in essence, everyone seems to get along just fine.
The other couple, relative newcomers who I found tending their second garden in the new expansion (they also have one in the original section) was Erna and Bill Dingwall. They were weeding a healthy crop of potatoes while I asked them a few questions about why they garden here and how they enjoy it.
The answer to the first query is that their home is so full of ornamental plants that they have no room to grow edibles there.
The second plot came into play when they realized that they both wanted to share the gardening experience with their four grandchildren, whose ages range from 4 to 12.
They also had high praise for their fellow community gardeners, who are always giving plants or some kindly advice to help them along.
With its own greenhouse, honeybee hives (for pollination), bathroom, tool shed and shaded leisure area the Pitt Meadows Community Garden is kind of like the world’s coolest fort, but with vegetables growing all around it, and unlike most clubs with these sort of amenities, everyone is welcome.
– Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (email@example.com).