The biggest grow op in Pitt Meadows

A column by Mike Lascelle, who is a nursery manager in Pitt Meadows and gardening author

No, you won’t find any Cannabis growing here, but you will see a lot of people walking around with silly grins pasted on their faces.

They are experiencing the joy of gardening, vegetables to be precise, although if you look hard enough, there are plenty of berries, fruit trees and flowers.

This oasis of contented urban farmers is formally known as the Pitt Meadows Community Garden, an aggregate of 106 plots shared by approximately 150 members. The garden is also wheelchair accessible and includes four raised beds for people with physical limitations.

The crowd here is an eclectic bunch, ranging from two-year-olds playing in the sand box to 83-year-old Gerry, whose beautiful plot belies his age. It is also quite ethnically diverse, with members appreciating the unique plants that arrive with each culture.

The first person I bumped into was Dave Bisset, who was happily harvesting his cabbage and tidying around his already impeccable plot. Dave is one of the original members who moved from the old Harris road site due to the construction of a right of way. There was little at the new site but city water and a lot of hardpan and clay. But thanks to help from the City of Pitt Meadows, the parks department others, they now have a first rate facility. There’s an indoor kitchen, meeting room and washroom facilities, a gazebo to enjoy a little shade, composters for scraps and even a pair of bee hives to provide pollination and a little honey at the end of the season.

We visited Ena d’Ambrumenil’s plot (which she shares with a friend) and found beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, Swiss chard, kale, cabbage, dill, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, leeks, peas and tomatoes, all peacefully co-existing.

I also dropped by John Blackman’s garden, where the scarlet runner beans had reached the top of their poles, the gooseberries were in training and the espaliered apples and pears showed their promise with tiny green fruits.

John has been gardening since the Second World War, when he was a Victory Gardener. But life in his nearby townhouse left him little room for the plants he loves, so he decided to rent a plot and just grow his favourites here. Judging by the looks of the manicured gardens, he is not alone, as the love and effort that goes into these 15-by-15 foot plots is evident from the healthy produce and beautiful flowers literally brimming over the edges.

In fact, demand for garden plots here is such that there is an expansion (of roughly 50 per cent) in the works. So if you think that you might be interested in renting one, you can contact them by email at pmcommunitygarden@yahoo.ca. The cost per plot is just $25 a year, but since the garden is run as a cooperative, that also means helping maintain the common areas – which translates into about three hours a year of weeding the paths or cleaning the shared facilities. Everything you could ever need to grow a pesticide-free garden is provided, including tools, manure and topsoil (which you can buy on site by the wheelbarrow), a seed exchange and, of course, free advice from some of the nicest people you will ever find behind a hoe.

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author. Email him at hebe_acer@hotmail.com.

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• There’s a new story – The United Nations of Gardening – on Mike’s blog at www.soulofagardener.wordpress.com.

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