Our beaches are full of fascinating things – swans, cygnets, ducks, ducklings, sweet-scented pineapple weed underfoot, four-leaf clovers. And the latest addition: the Beach Community Edible Garden.
It’s been in the works for months, as you may have heard, and now it’s really putting down roots. Unlike other community gardens, this one isn’t there just for the gardeners’ benefit. Most of the veggies they’re tending will be going to the Glen Rhodes United Church food bank. Some will be used by the kids at the cooking camp run by the Beaches Recreation Centre in August, and some will be available to visitors for on-the-spot snacking.
From tiny seeds…
The project came about as an offshoot of Friends of the Beach Parks. (The same nice people who brought us the winter fire pit near the skating rink.)
“We were looking for ways to animate our waterfront,” says Alex Rochon Terry, leader of the garden gang. “We have a lot of green space in our parks to use.”
With help from parks supervisor Stuart Slessor and councillor Mary Margaret McMahon, Alex and friends were given a good-sized chunk of sunny ground on the southwest side of Ashbridges Bay. An IndieGoGo campaign on the Web helped raise money for garden basics like boards to make raised beds, seeds and a giant mound of lovely, rich soil.
…Great things grow
After much measuring, nailing, digging and seeding, the garden now has eight big rectangular raised beds: six for produce for the food bank, one for the culinary camp and one for public snacking.
“We wanted to grow nutrient-dense plants,” Alex told me, so the beds contain beans, heirloom tomatoes, beets, cabbage, lettuce, kale and other leafy greens. Marigolds help protect the green goodies from insect pests.
Five large, round containers also hold plants of special interest: one for medicinal herbs, one for the First Nations’ “three sisters” – squash, corn and beans – and three for pollinator plants.
Call for gardeners
So far, the garden’s steering committee has been the main force behind the garden. Besides Alex, members include Adele Gendron, Adam Smith, Joyce Mclean, Tom Sinclair, Fran Battaglia and Skye Vandenberg, who’s an urban agriculture assistant at Evergreen Brickworks.
Now they’re looking for additional volunteers:
- Gardeners, especially people with some experience in organic vegetable gardening, who can put in one hour a week on daily jobs like watering, weeding, thinning, planting, etc.
- Steering committee members who can commit to two hours a week planning and directing garden activities such as organizing volunteers, creating events and fundraising.
- Food bank distributors who can set aside at least two hours a week, on Wednesday mornings, to harvest and deliver produce to the food bank.
Later in the year, the steering committee hopes to hold workshops in the garden on topics like seed starting, composting, pollinators and more. They’d like to hear from anyone who has gardening know-how to share.
And if you just want to come around from time to time to get your hands dirty, drop by Monday evenings between 6 and 8 p.m. to join the regulars. The habit might, ahem, grow on you.
For more on the Beach Community Edible Garden, see beachcommunitygarden.wix.com or check out their Facebook page.
Mary Fran McQuade is a local writer specializing in gardening and lifestyle