Community garden digs in for another year
Carbonear’s community garden thriving as new season begins
The St. Patrick’s Organic Community Garden in Carbonear is full of activity every year from spring through to the fall harvest. With a greenhouse ready for use at the start of the growing season and new gardeners set up with beds, the group expects it will be another busy summer for those looking to have fun in the garden.
Alicia Hopkins didn’t have a garden of her own prior to being among the inaugural folks to test their green thumbs in Carbonear’s community garden back in 2012.
“I really love the idea of learning about food and how that could contribute to how I can become more food secure myself and how I can grow things,” said Hopkins, now the board treasurer for St. Patrick’s Organic Community Garden.
“I do have a daughter, so I wanted to teach her about where food comes from and how things grow and why. It was kind of like an education tool, and it really developed into a love of gardening, so I’m now growing some things at home as well.”
Situated on land where St. Clare’s High School stood for decades (the reason why it’s named after St. Patrick’s Parish), the garden is entering its fifth growing season, with 39 gardeners occupying raised beds that will be filled with local produce in a few months.
“Nobody is going to live through the winter on what they grow in these beds, but the social aspect of it … just getting people out,” said Judy Symonds, who co-chairs the board with Nellie Merrigan.
“Some bring children, some bring grandchildren. It’s just a family garden, and I think the social aspect is what we’re about more than anything.”
Interest in the community garden has remained steady. There are four new gardeners this year, plus a waitlist with four more names attached.
“We encourage you to have something in your bed and keep it clean and tidy over the year. If not, you may not get it next year,” Symonds said with a bit of a laugh.
Among the new features this year is a greenhouse built towards the end of last year’s growing season. Beds will soon be set up, and Symonds expects a lottery draw will take place to determine which gardeners can make use of the limited space inside the greenhouse.
There are also some fairly ambitious gardeners working away at their beds. Symonds said one gardener is going to try and grow quinoa this year in a couple of smaller beds, having heard it grows well at a com- munity garden in St. Mary’s Bay.
There’s also a bed exclusively devoted to herbs people are free to use, and another is devoted to educating children about plants.
“A lot of the people who do have beds here bring the children down, and it’s really great as an educational tool to teach about how things grow, why things grow — and food security is a huge issue here,” said Hopkins. “If we start with young children, I think that hopefully our food security issue will start to improve as generations move on.”
There’s also a sense of camaraderie at the community garden. Symonds said people are always more than willing to share a few seeds with those who find themselves short.
“You’ll never leave without something to put in your bed,” she said.
An event to tidy up the garden and till some soil was scheduled to take place this past Saturday, and later this year everyone involved will gather for the annual boil-up event. Symonds said a nice man with no prior connection to the garden donated the tiller when registration took place earlier this year.
Lillian Greeley, Alicia Hopkins and Judy Symonds take a look at one of the beds that already has a few sprouts showing at St. Patrick’s Organic Community Garden in Carbonear.