Community Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner

My husband and I recently attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Wash., where I spoke on Grow a Sustainable Diet, the title of my new book. Since we live in Virginia, traveling to the West Coast was a big deal for us and we wanted to make the most of those airline miles. After visiting some sights in Seattle and catching up with friends for dinner, we headed to Victoria, British Columbia for a few days. As always, there were racks of brochures for tourists, but what we took in couldn’t be found in those brochures. We found the list of community gardens in Victoria on the internet and went to visit a few.

The photo you see was taken in the Michigan Street Allotment Garden. We also visited the James Bay Allotment Garden, The Ferncliff Community Garden, the Victoria Compost Education Center, and the Agnes Street Community Garden. You will find more photos and descriptions of what we found there at Homeplace Earth. There are many more that we didn’t visit; so many gardens, so little time. During the gardening season, someone is usually at a community garden working their spot. We found these gardeners and had wonderful conversations. Every gardener has their own way of doing things—and their own creative ideas for trellising and spacing the plants. From the number of chairs that were part of the garden spots, it is evident that the gardeners don’t just work their plot and go home. They enjoy just being in their gardens. We all need to practice just Being.

Besides meeting the gardeners and seeing the gardens, the garden visits helped me understand how the climate and crops are different from the ones back home. The nights are cooler there than in Virginia all through the summer, bringing challenges to growing tasty tomatoes. Many of the tomatoes were in small greenhouses or coldframes. Here in Virginia we need to keep the air flowing around the tomatoes to prevent disease. Victoria doesn’t get the extremes of heat and humidity that we do. The winters are milder in Victoria, so gardeners should be able to put something on their tables from the garden all year.

When I made my cover crop and garden planning DVDs, I had in mind that they would be self -teaching tools. Someone who couldn’t take my classes at the community college could learn from me through the DVDs. I also had in mind that they could be used with groups, such as with the gardeners at community gardens. It is a way of presenting a core of common knowledge to a group so they are all on the same page, so to speak. People who have gardened all their lives may not want to learn anything new, but those who are fairly new to gardening would benefit from having that common “language.” However, even experienced gardeners can benefit from the DVDs.

At the Agnes Street Community Garden I met a retired teacher who spends most afternoons in the garden. He said that there is a members meeting every month that is open to all the gardeners. Not everyone comes to the meetings, but meetings such as this would be great opportunities for learning and sharing. Maybe the members feel they get enough of that on a casual basis in their gardens. Just being in the gardens is a learning experience. The gardeners are already sharing with each other as they are working their plots.

It was a great experience for me to meet like-minded people during my few short days in Victoria. Hopefully more cities everywhere will make community gardens a priority. Community gardens will enhance the beauty of the area, provide opportunities for residents to grow their own food, and bring residents together into a community of sharing.