With 10-year-long wait lists for allotment garden spaces in Fernwood, there is clearly a high demand for urban garden space.
Add to that the difficulties the City of Victoria is facing in trying to install new community allotment gardens and the result is an innovative new match making service that connects would-be gardeners with idle land (usually grass).
The garden matching service is managed by the Compost Education Centre on Chambers Street, which has made four introductions since it was included in the centre’s spring newsletter.
“The idea is to get people who need garden space matched up with the boulevards, front yards or back yards of private landowners” said Compost Education site manager Kayla Siefried. “Getting a community garden space is surprisingly difficult, and here’s something as easy as linking a person who wants to see their front yard gardened with someone who says, ‘I really want space to grow things.’”
Once a landowner is matched with a gardener, the Compost Centre’s work is down and it is up to the two of them to reach an agreement. It’s important to note that while the City endorses the service, including it in their boulevard garden guidelines, the responsibility of maintaining a boulevard falls on the resident who lives directly adjacent it.
The key issue is to negotiate access to water.
Other issues include defining the size or area of the plot, whether there’s a shared use of the food that might be grown, and also the terms of maintenance (weeds). It’s also worth considering the future of the garden should the user wish or need to move on from gardening it at some point.
The benefits are many.
It alleviates the pressure on the local community garden plot wait lists, which reach 10 years at the Fernwood Allotment Garden (also on Chambers) and the Earthbound Community Garden on Garden Street, next to Bay Street. It’s at least two years at most others (numbers from Lifecycles’ 2018 Community Garden report by Justin McCann).
There’s also the obvious benefits of food security, the esthetic benefit of beautiful flowers and perennial plants that help take care of the Earth, Siefried said. More importantly, is that garden matching enables community building at a level exponential to the maintenance of grass.
“It’s a massive community building piece,” Siefried said. “When you’re gardening on the boulevard or private land, the potential of you meeting your neighbours is exponentially more than if you’re in a back yard.”
The Compost Education Centre will soon be launching more awareness around the program.
Interested landowners and gardeners can email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the list.
A somewhat similar initiative called Welcome Gardens is already underway through the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society. Welcome Gardens put newcomers and local residents together to grow food in household and community gardens. Participants share resources to help start their food gardens, attend workshops and connect with local agricultural initiatives. As of last year Welcome Gardens has 130 participants from 16 countries ranging in age from 10 to 76 years old.