Calgary Herald

Community gardens have growth spurt

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Community gardens are sprouting up all over Calgary. Their appeal is easy to understand, says Gael Blackhall, coordinato­r of the Community Garden Resource Network, a project of the Calgary Horticultu­ral Society.

“There is always a combinatio­n of floral beauty, food growing and friendly people of all age groups and all experience­s. Community gardening is a great focus for making friendlier neighbourh­oods,” Blackhall says.

The network has seen an incredible proliferat­ion in community gardening in Calgary in the past few years.

From 2008 to 2010, the number of public and private community gardens grew from 12 to 85. Now, an additional 40 garden teams are proposing to build new community gardens in Calgary, and Blackhall expects even more groups to come forward this spring to ask for assistance.

With all of the action going on in community gardening, the CGRN has recently overseen some key initiative­s that will enhance community gardening in Calgary.

First, Burpee Seeds, a Pennsylvan­iabased company, has agreed to finance a gift of Celebrity tomato seedlings for every garden bed in every community garden in Calgary — and the CGRN is working with a local grower who will grow the Burpee’s seeds into seedlings.

“It’s a wonderful gift for community gardens,” Blackhall says, noting there are more than 2,000 garden beds in Calgary community gardens. “The Celebrity Tomato is good for first-time gardeners. It gives a mid-size, eight-ounce fruit, and it’s nice and hardy.”

Another major initiative is the Fiskars Orange Thumb Community Garden Makeover Project which chose Calgary’s Albert Park Radisson Heights as the 2011 Canadian Garden Makeover recipient.

Project Orange Thumb’s mission is to help gardens and gardeners in an underserve­d area or with limited access to fresh produce, by transformi­ng a barren lot into a beautiful, productive community gathering space. The garden makeover will take place on July 27.

Community gardening in Calgary is also getting a boost this spring with the release of the CGRN’s searchable community garden database, which is being designed to help Calgarians obtain year-round informatio­n on community gardens in Calgary.

For more informatio­n, visit www.calhort.org

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