Port Alberni’s community gardens are flourishing, with budding gardeners weeding and seeding their plots in preparation for the spring season.
The Dry Creek Community Garden opened its fence in May 2015 and today has an active community of gardeners who rent space for planting.
“Everything is full right now but there is a wait list,” said Janette Cormier, Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley project manager.
Located adjacent to Dry Creek Park on a city owned lot, the garden holds 14 rental beds at $25 a year but Cormier said there is room for future expansion.
“Originally we planned to have more beds but then we started thinking that it might actually be better to plan to expand the garden and do more communal gardening with the added space,” she said.
The YPAV is in the process of having a shed built on the property for tool storage, something that Cormier wants to get finished before moving on to expansion projects.
Cormier invites any avid volunteers in the community to take on the task of expanding the community garden but said it is something she wants to wait to tackle herself until her kids are older.
“It’s not necessarily a lot of work, it’s just a lot of coordinating,” she said.
The YPAV created the Dry Creek Community Garden to provide a co-operative space in the Valley for organic food and herb production, a place where community members can share gardening skills and where workshops and classes can be run that encourage community participation and learning.
“It’s good for the soul and the mind to be gardening,” Cormier said. “Growing your own produce is more nutritious and has higher mineral contents and better vitamin contents.”
The YPAV have applied for a $4,000 grant that the group would put towards planting a fruit and nut tree at the Dry Creek garden.
“If we get that we will plant some hazelnut trees on the outside of the fence so [the tree] is a bit more public for people to access,” she said.
Kale, garlic, grapes and figs are some of the popular edibles growing throughout the community garden.
Across town at Alberni Elementary School Sherry Lyons, farmer and master gardener, has began planting peas, radishes, spinach, broccoli and sunflower seeds in the school’s garden.
“The kids start planting in the classrooms in trays and they can transplant out into the garden later,” Lyons said.
The Alberni School garden has been supplementing students’ lunch programs for about four years and is maintained by parent volunteers, community members and Alberni Elementary students.
Lyons, who would like to see a lot more school garden expansion in the future, said teaching kids to grow and cook is “hugely important [in Port Alberni] because our poverty level is 10 per cent over the provincial average. It’s harder and harder for people to eat properly so I think gardening in school totally makes sense.”
With our mild climate, sustaining a garden in a place like Port Alberni isn’t too challenging, said Jacob Colyn, horticulture and parks operations supervisor with the City of Port Alberni.
“With our climate we can do an awful lot of gardening utilizing oriental type crops,” Colyn said. “We don’t have the heavy freeze so if you put a little bit of a plastic cover on your garden you could be growing stuff all year round.”
Colyn encourages community gardens in the Valley and said the city is supportive of any groups who are wanting to initiate the possibility of bringing another one to the community.