Maudlin Matilda McEwan Community GardenSep 14, 2020 - By Christine Johnson
I’ve had a vision of community gardens dotting our Hunt Club community since 2013, not long after transitioning out of my career in education. I shared this vision with the Hunt Club Community Association, and this summer we took the first steps to making it become a reality.
Thanks to the generosity of Bishop Bryan Williams and the board of directors at his church, we were able to secure a site for our community garden at the Emmanuel Apostolic Church property at 3347 McCarthy Rd. With the financial support of our Hunt Club Community Association and the Community Gardening Development Fund of ‘Just Food Ottawa’, we had the soil tested and once given the green light, we started digging. Since early June, a dedicated group of twenty local volunteers turned an 18 foot by 32 foot piece of lawn into a community garden. We were happy to name our garden in honour of the mother of Bishop Williams’ wife, who passed away five years ago: Maudlin Matilda McEwan. She too, loved to garden!
Through the sweat of our brows and the power of our muscles, we dug up the sod, piece by piece, preparing it to go into one of the three compost bins after releasing its soil. Discarded lumber from neighbouring driveways was scavenged on garbage days and hauled to the garden site, screened, released of any screws and nails, then repurposed to create a border frame for our garden. As one team continued to work on the sod pieces, line the pathways with locally donated mulch, enrich the earth with three cubic yards of organic top-dressing soil, another team built a chicken wire fence with a gate to enclose the garden, safeguarding it from ravenous critters. And there it was: a garden with ten separate plots ready to be planted, each gardener responsible for one of nine plots, the tenth being a ‘common plot’ this year, but designed specifically to welcome a person confined to a wheelchair to join our gardening team next spring.
Councilor Brockington attended the soft opening of our community garden on July 20th, helping the volunteer team celebrate its first late planting season by sharing a Frozen Raspberry Torte made by one of the volunteers. Stoked with sufficient calories, we planted our seeds and young plants and the growing began. Or should we say ‘continued’, as most of the volunteers participating in this adventure, some living on the same street nearby, hadn’t previously known each other. However, through the many collective work bees to get this garden ‘in the ground’, friendships grew and along with these a sense of JOY, of shared purpose and of belonging.
Although addressing Food Security issues in our community is what first propelled this initiative, what became clear as it unfolded, was that a sense of belonging and connectedness within our community was as big a need being fulfilled. Caring about things that grow has parallels with raising children. You need to be consistently present, attentive, caring and reliable for your product to grow strong and healthy. That takes responsibility. Assuming it produces competencies and a sense of confidence. Sharing this responsibility with others nurtures community. We all know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” Indeed, it is this very community engagement that sparks vibrant communities everywhere.
As passersby on the sidewalk observed this project develop, some engaged in friendly conversation; some wanted to know how they could contribute; one couple offered us a nearly full bag of peat moss; we got to know many of their (and their dogs’) names; others wrote letters of support to help us secure funding for the cost of building the garden; still others just wanted to know what we had planted and if there would be a harvest before this winter.
So, to satisfy everyone’s curiosity, young regular and cherry tomatoes transplanted from home-started plants are already yielding their fruit; as are the radishes, lettuce and sisho. Before the end of October, we expect to be harvesting yellow and green beans, cucumbers, carrots, beets, Asian spinach, peas, pumpkin, squash, and peppers.
Not bad, for a late planting season. There are open spaces all over our Hunt Club community with full sun exposure for six hours or more each day. These would all be perfect for community gardens. Community gardens are such a great way to increase our food security, our sense of community and safety within it as we get to know more of our neighbours. So, if you have a space in mind where you can imagine a community garden, let us know; we know how to make it happen and would be happy to help you get it started. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.