Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Free Spirit Gardens

The topic for this week, if anyone wonders, is gardening. Because it's the end of May, and that's what's happening. Nonstop. Day after day. Hopefully, another week and almost everything will be planted and we can take a little break before tackling the weeding. However, today for once it's about other people's gardens.

I've been getting info for a while from Free Spirit Gardens. They're a group in Collingwood dedicated to the encouragement of growing food locally. You can hire them to do garden work and design, the money from which gets put back into building community gardens and local food education.

In the last couple weeks they've had a couple sessions of an activity that appealed to us, and we finally made it out to one of their events: a local farm has more asparagus than it has use for, so Free Spirit was invited to pick it, sell it and use the money for their projects. They put out a call for volunteers to pick and sort asparagus in exchange for keeping some it, and got an excellent turn-out.

While we were there, we heard about their next event; the opening of Cook's community garden in Collingwood. On Saturday we headed out to the garden to see what was happening.

We found the garden without difficulty - it's south of Collins Street, between St. Marie Street and Leslie Drive. The area could easily be sold to enlarge the local subdivisions, but the owner has been gardening it for many years. While they are no longer running a market garden, they still prefer to see it as gardens and have opened it up for community use with the aid of Free Spirit.

An enthusiastic collection of volunteers were on hand with seeds for swapping or for sale, and information about local growing.

The gardens themselves have been neatly tilled and are ready to go. Right now there are just 6 plots of 10' x 15', but more can be made available if the demand materializes. Rent is $25 for the season.

Some people were getting right to work! And yes, it looks dry. It IS dry. We're having a droughty spring after a droughty winter, and we are desperate for some rain.

With the help of local high-school students, the garden has acquired some state-of-the art compost bins. We looked on their works and despaired. Ours aren't half as good, let me tell you. Also they plainly have access to some primo rottables. Sound in background is the gnashing of our teeth.

The garden has also been endowed with some excellent rain barrels, which are certainly going to be needed.

The communal shed even has an enviable collection of tools, courtesy of Fiskars, who donated them.

The garden is owned by Mrs. Cook (in the middle). She and her family have been gardening here since 1974. It was a commercial market garden until the late 1990's. That's when the chain grocery stores implemented a "no local buying" policy, and since gardening and marketing your produce directly is a ridiculous lot of work, they stopped growing commercially, just growing enough for their own family use.

The actual garden work has been taken over by her son, seen in the middle about to cut the ribbon to declare the garden officially open. Kim Edwards and Matt Code of Free Spirit bookend the group. The man in the yellow shirt is a city councillor who's name I did not get. (Yes, I am a bad reporter.) One of the other women is the local high school teacher who's students have been part of the project, and who's name I did not get either... and I only have this photo because even though my battery died just as the ribbon was to be cut (that's it - I'm fired), Dan Plouffe of kindly sent me some of his to use. Thank you Dan! (You can see more photos of the day here.)

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