April 16, 2013

Gardens great and small

Sweet garden

On the weekend I attended a vegetable gardening workshop at my local urban farm, hosted by the lively farmer, Gavin. It was an informative session on seed starting during which I figured out why my tomato seeds hadn’t germinated. He took the small group of us on a brief tour afterward and had funny (if not sometimes tragic) stories to tell about the arugula (sown somewhat erratically by a teenager and now bursting with leaves under the tent) and disappearing carrots (slugs are voracious). It’s only half an acre — tiny compared to UBC Farm‘s 60 acres. But my hope is that this small model of local, urban agriculture will get people excited to grow more food in their backyards, or on their balconies, and support future urban agriculture projects in the community.

My walk home from the farm took me along a route I’d never walked before in my new community. On bicycle it’s harder to notice gems like colourful pots and tulips in someone’s front yard. I also noticed how much I admired the wild garden versus the manicured. One place had a large willow and magnolia out front that made me pause to sigh and take photos. It was so beautiful and felt like the countryside. But the garden that inspired this blog post was incredible. A small house tucked behind large shrubs gave most of its land to a massive, dense garden. One side of the corner lot was hedged with cedar which concealed the garden on the inside. They were obviously growing food, including a large oval ring of strawberries next to the road. I was so in awe of their oasis I left them a note: “Your garden is incredible! We need more of this.” That I’ve always been uncomfortable walking up to a stranger’s door without a Hallowe’en costume speaks to how I felt.

Two things became apparent on my walk. One, that parts of this area are greener than I thought, and two, that the ones that aren’t are really, desperately missing out. I walked under two large horse chestnuts just coming out for spring and felt like I was in another place entirely. The feeling of walking under large trees, especially deciduous trees with wide arms, is wonderful and takes you by surprise when the rest of the street has none. It’s truly sad how many areas lack large trees. I don’t understand why they didn’t plant them 50 years ago. Aside from the benefits trees offer like cleaning the air and cooling, and helping us de-stress, they absolutely beautify a neighbourhood. While we don’t have the enviable canopies here that streets like 10th Avenue and Eton St do, many places could benefit greatly from planting a few trees. Perhaps growing up where I did I took it for granted.

I have a tree obsession and maybe love nature more than most, but I know that gardens make our communities better places to live.