When a couple of keen gardeners in Killarney came up with the idea of a community garden plot last fall, they did not expect the response they got. Holding their first “work day” last month, they were overwhelmed with help, machinery, supplies, goodwill – and a great sunny day to get things done.
“It’s our work party day, and we are really excited to see such strong interest,” said one of the seven Westside Community Garden committee members, Tamara Kemp, who helped come up with the whole idea. “We didn’t expect to see this much support from the community. We thought we would have 10 gardeners sign up, and we have doubled that. It’s gone beyond our expectations.”
Committee members Miguel Boulet and Rob Clark were busy setting up the 20 pre-cut box borders which they had constructed from both cedar and composite TREX material in readiness for the busy day. Local company Pugh’s Sand and Gravel had donated 20 yards of topsoil to fill the 4×8-foot boxes, which were lined with thick cardboard to inhibit grass growth from underneath, and Lakeside Implements loaned a tractor and loader for the weekend to move the soil around. Joe King (a company employee) volunteered to operate the tractor and haul around the soil while the gardeners and volunteers shovelled it into the beds.
“Both myself and the school board are excited to see the land being used like this,” said Lakeview Christian School principal Nancy Reimer. “The kids are seeing this community project first hand, because many of their parents are involved. They will be watching the progress out of the windows.”
That’s because the school owns the piece of rough land which is being turned into gardens, and has loaned it to the Westside group indefinitely. It’s just a few steps away to the edge of the school’s mowed grass, and Reimer said that the 28 children there (kindergarten to Grade 9) have already signed up for one of the growing boxes. It was the students themselves who came up with the name for the garden project, which is on the west side of the school, after holding a competition earlier this year.
“The school will have one of the plots, and the food raised will be for charity,” Reimer said. “We want to share the happiness.”
Some of the high school boys from Killarney Collegiate, who also turned up to help, hand dug four postholes, three feet deep, to hold some used hydro poles that will frame the corners of the site for deer fencing. The hard spading hours they racked up will go towards their graduate portfolio, said Kemp. Metal stakes between the poles will hold up seven-foot poly mesh to help keep out the town’s prevalent pests, and two gates will be erected for the gardeners to come and go. Rainwater will be collected from the nearby school roof, and piped to the site.
The chance to grow their own food has attracted people in town, both young and old and of different abilities, said the organizers.
“Our gardeners are various ages, from their early 20s to their 80s,” said Kemp. “Some are new gardeners, and some are wonderful, experienced farmers’ wives that we are hoping to gain knowledge from. Gardening is a bit of a lost art.”
Top planting picks from the gardeners include plans for tomatoes, carrots, onions, beets, beans, cucumbers and zucchini. The site can be expanded to hold more raised boxes should the need arise, and Kemp hopes to see more of the sites pop up around town in the future.
“We want it to be easy for people to garden,” she said. “There will be no charge at present, and we will provide garden tools. We will supply compost containers, and we hope the community, as well as the gardeners, will add their material to the compost. We want it to be a sanctuary, and we don’t want to turn anyone away.”
The group also received $50 in cash support from the Westoba Credit Union to help pay for the boxes, some private donations and a “great” price for their fencing materials from Killarney-Cartwright Consumers Co-op. The Killarney Foundation granted them $2,000 last fall to get the project started, the Killarney Gardening Club presented them with $100, and Communities in Bloom supplied a composter. The local Chronic Disease Prevention Initiative backed them up with $1,000 at the start, plus another $550 once things got underway, and local farmer Barry Reimer has provided them with a 300-gallon water tank to hold the rainwater.
– Kim Langen writes from Holmfield, Manitoba