It’s all over except for the growing. For the second year in a row, gardeners in Hunt Club were invited to sign up to receive a free seedling, package of vegetable seeds and an information pamphlet through GetGrowing Hunt Club. This year 250 seed kit packages were delivered door to door. The value of produce that can result from this locally grown harvest is $16,000! That’s a lot of nutritious green beans and carrots and tomatoes! As the growing season stretches in front of us, watch the Hunt Club Community Association Website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter , share pictures of your garden and learn of local initiatives such as opportunities to share excess produce.
GetGrowing Hunt Club is funded by the Hunt Club Community Association and City Councillor Riley Brockington. We are grateful to our sponsors: Lee Valley Tools, Richmond Nursery, BWYL Group and Riocan. And none of this would be possible without the many volunteers working with dedication and spirit during the COVID 19 pandemic. All of it was done to deliver the promise of fresh locally grown produce to doorsteps in our ‘hood. Thank you one and all!
We’ve got eleven gardeners now, all just a’itching to get down and dirty, planting and growing! Our group met via Zoom in February to discuss the planning of our garden plots for this new season. We will be obtaining our seeds in March as well as working on a mural of our MMMCG sign. In April we will plant seeds indoors (tomatoes and peppers), build our plot borders and have a possible Rain Barrel fundraising sale on Saturday, April 24th (information will be posted on the HCCA FaceBook page). We will hold our official opening celebration on May 15th and plant our seeds the following weekend.
Do stop in for a chat whenever you see a gardener or more ‘at work’. If you have something to donate to help our veggies grow better, we welcome what you have with open arms. Perhaps you would appreciate a tip or two about your own gardening? Just ask to see if someone may be able to help. We too are open to receiving your friendly tips. This is a community garden and we are engaging in this project fully in the spirit of community! You know where to find us: in behind the Emmanuel Apostolic Church at 3347 McCarthy Rd.
Community gardens are spreading in Hunt Club and there is a reason for that. We want to ensure food security for all of us, now and into the future. Learning to grow our own food is a local action that helps with this objective.
If ever you were thinking about starting a community garden in your Hunt Club neighbourhood, and were wondering how to go about it, why not come out and meet us on Saturday, May 15 (2-4 pm) at 3347 McCarthy Rd, in behind the Emmanuel Apostolic Church? We’ll be having our official Maudlin Matilda McEwan Community Garden opening. All our gardeners will be present and we’d be happy to share with you how we got this garden ‘in the ground’, with veggies growing last summer.
There are all kinds of spaces suitable for accommodating more community gardens in Hunt Club, including local parks, school yards, on site at your condo or co-op complex, and other places.
If this is a project you would like to make happen, come talk to us. Talk to your neighbours. Talk to Councillor Brockington. Contact Just Food’s Community Gardening Network: https://justfood.ca/community-gardening-network/ . There are all kinds of people to help you get your community garden started. It’s hard work , … AND … it’s fun!
Last year over 450 seed kits (with one package of seeds and one seedling in each) were given free of charge to Hunt Club residents. The event was called Get Growing Hunt Club. Thanks to funding from the Hunt Club Community Association and Councillor Riley Brockington once again, we are happy to announce there will be Get Growing Hunt Club 2021!
Get Growing is designed to help discover and support the joys of gardening and the benefits of growing our own nutritious food. We can grow salad greens in a pot in a sunny window, when the weather warms we can grow vegetables outside on a sunny doorstep, a balcony, small space or larger gardens. While it’s currently winter, it’s still fun to dream about growing our own salad greens or harvesting delicious beans, tomatoes or peppers in the summer and fall. There will be information on growing and tending vegetables and much more. If you’d like to stay current on the 2021 Get Growing Hunt Club event please visit the Hunt Club Community Association website, follow the HCCA on Facebook or Twitter and if you’d like to be on the list of those interested in receiving seeds/seedling please register at https://hunt-club.ca/getgrowing.
Please consider supporting the local seed growers and supplies who contributed to the event’s success last year: Greta’s Organic Garden, GAIA Organic Seeds, Lee Valley, Artistic Landscape Design Ltd and Green Thumb Nursery.
We know supplies will be limited and will do our utmost to provide to all who are interested. If you have any suggestions or comments about the upcoming program or would like to volunteer in some way please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
To plant a garden, is to believe in the future.
HCCA President Brian Wade and Councillor Riley Brockington picking up some seeds
HCCA has a new website – read all about it in this issue. It’s almost spring. Have you got your garden plan? Check out these articles: Get Growing Hunt Club: Year Two, The Maudlin Matilda McEwan Community Garden, A Community Garden and Pandemic Gardening – the Pigeon Patch for inspiration. Lots on environmental issues: More Tornadoes, City Stream Watch, Paul Landry Park. And there’s a whole lot more. Click on the links to read whole articles.
For many years, my neighbour, Jim, and I had lamented the state of our yards. Slowly, dead patches were replaced by flowers, fallen trees by rock gardens, and decks appeared. However, the bane of our existence continued to be our boulevards. No amount of seeds or sod could stop the plethora of weeds from taking root and providing an unsightly mess each summer. Without lawn mowers, we had to rely on the kindness of neighbours or more primitive measures.
During those years, we had also talked about a garden. I have many fond memories of gardening as a child and worked on sustainable development and food security issues with the UN. Jim had a keen interest in trying his hand at urban agriculture. Despite our interest in food production, we simply didn’t have enough room or sunlight in our backyards to sustain it. Raised gardens were a possibility, but where would we put them? How would I care for them never being home? Jim became occupied with building a greenhouse (by hand!), and I concentrated on my flower garden. The universe, however, had different ideas.
Covid 19 Opportunities
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. While it has had its share of negatives, it has also provided many opportunities to take stock of how we spend our time, and to make time for those activities many of us have been putting on the back burner. In a little corner of our community – Pigeon Terrace – one of those opportunities was the time to grow a wonderful garden. What became known as the Pigeon Patch not only provided a wonderful source of food and activity, but a means to meet neighbours, share stories, educate children, and provide respite in the face of a global pandemic. This is our story.
Enter COVID-19. In the space of a few weeks, many of us were working from home. Gyms, rinks and stores were closed. Limits were placed on social gatherings. In a stroke of luck, however, it was March. Spring was just around the corner and, with spring, gardens. We agreed that if there was ever to be a year to plant a vegetable garden, this would be it, and what better place for a garden than the sunny, weed-filled boulevard.
Making it Happen
The first step was to reach out to the city to ensure the garden would be allowed. After all, who wants to go through all of that work only to have it removed?! Despite many conversations, the guidance was ambiguous. In the end, we were told that as long as nothing permanent was installed on the boulevard, and the vegetation did not impede road safety, it would be allowable.
The next step: come up with a plan. I drew up a visual of my garden and began to source seeds and material (including Get Growing Hunt Club!). Jim started to turn up the soil, and had additional soil delivered. I added peat and manure to improve the condition of the soil. Jim had a soaker hose, which he was willing to install the length of our garden. We researched how to grow items that we had never attempted before. Fortunately, Ottawa has a great climate for growing vegetables (Zone 5a), and amazing resources for gardeners, new and old (refer to the end of this article for a list of some of our favourites). By the end of May, beds were prepared, and seeds and plants were planted.
The Waiting Game
Have I mentioned, however, that patience is the enemy of a gardener? That first month can be frustrating, with hours spent weeding and foiling the attempts of squirrels to dig up seedlings, while seeds take their sweet time to appear. Even a good gardening playlist can find it tough to pick you up. This is a great time to remind yourself of the benefits of what you are doing. As they say, mindset is everything!
Over the months, the days got warmer, and plants appeared: radishes, beans, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Seedlings were booby-trapped with wooden skewers and plastic forks. Supports were added to keep plants off the ground and help them grow. Once plants were well-established, bales of straw were placed on the garden beds to help with weed control and water retention, and the time to weed went from hours to minutes. Jim made sure to water the bed deeply every morning, and I tried to get a handle on the powdery mildew that appeared. We enjoyed our first harvest the second week of July and, despite a bit of frost and snow, removed the last of the vegetables in early November! The amount of food surprised even us, and the food in my freezer will easily get me through any lockdown!
Benefits of Gardening
The benefits of gardening are well-documented but have faded into the background as societies become more urban and less connected to their food sources. Gardening is a source of wellness, learning, and sustainability. It is also a source of community and cohesiveness. Can’t make it to the gym? Gardening is a source of low-impact exercise that allows you to enjoy being out in the sun and fresh air. Kids are bored of online learning. Watch them light up as they start to recognize that little sprout is something they can eat. Struggling to make ends meet? Growing your own food helps stretch your dollar and provides food security for many. Feeling isolated? Tending to your garden allows you to meet your neighbours and share experiences that you may not otherwise have had.
We hope that our experience will inspire you to try your hand at gardening. If you are interested in growing your own garden, here are some simple rules to follow: 1) Start small: you want your garden to be enjoyable, and not a source of frustration; 2) Have a plan: taking the time to prepare your garden and grow the right things in the right place will set you up for success; 3) Grow what you eat: remember that little zucchini plant will be prolific come July; 4) Water. Weed. Check for pests. Rinse. Repeat; 5) Share your bounty, and enjoy the experience: your body, friends, and neighbours will thank you for it!
Looking to the Future
What is next for us? We’re expanding. The garden will be back next year, with modifications to what we grow (those mung beans took up a lot of space, and 400 tomatoes might be a bit much) and staggered planting. Jim’s greenhouse will be operational next season. We’ve also been asked to help and share our plans with neighbours who installed, or plan to install, their own gardens. Perhaps there will even be time to work with the city and others to review the bylaw and encourage this type of land use. With growing interest in health and wellbeing, the environment, and food security, this would be a wonderful opportunity for the City of Ottawa to expand its green initiatives and actively promote urban gardening!
While the garden has been put to rest for the season, we’re already thinking about next year. Feel free to stop by the Pigeon Parch and say hello.
Once all of the hard work of building our garden in June and July was done and we had finally sown our garden and planted young seedlings on July 20th, the fun just continued. Here are a few things that we learned through this experience:
Alexis was reminded of how much she enjoys working in the ground and growing her own food, and teaching folks how to garden; that she needs to work on her own abilities so as to pass along the best information; and that gardening is such a personal thing.
Christine learned that green beans are much more difficult to harvest than yellow ones, because they are so difficult to see; beet greens are exquisitely delicious to eat in sautéed garlic and onions with some red pepper flakes and just a wee bit of salt; and carrot tops are edible and can be turned into pesto and other delicious dishes all packed with good nutrients!
Emily learned how rewarding it is to plant a seed and watch it grow; so heartbreaking to watch a plant struggle; and that the food you grow is sooooo delicious!
Kim learned that nature was smarter and far more talented than us, considering the late date at which we sowed our seeds. Although we had agreed that this season would just allow us to gain practice for the next season … what happiness and what a great surprise to have been able to harvest from all of our plants! Kim always thought that carrot tops and beet leaves were rabbit food, but since tasting them, she now knows that rabbits have long been outsmarting us. And, her trick of planting forks in the ground, the tips in the air to keep squirrels away from the plants? … Well, it turns out that on the contrary, it gave them the message that the table is set and that there is nothing left to do but to serve themselves!
Len observed that garden plots grow as differently as gardeners’ personalities.
Marie learned that there is a better use for autumn’s fallen leaves than putting them in the recycle bins: they are the perfect ‘blanket’ for our garden plots as we ‘put them to bed’, an end of October activity, which allowed us to spend some time together again. Marie also learned that we can plant Egyptian onions and garlic in the fall and that they will survive the winter and give us some delicious greenery in the spring. She is looking forward to the coming planting season to keep learning new stuff!
Moto learned that green tomatoes at the end of the season should not be thrown out! She had four big green tomatoes sitting on her kitchen counter, which finally turned red after a few weeks and … were delicious!
And we all learned that gardening as a group is lots of fun, a great way to meet others in the neighbourhood and a definite source of joy for everyone involved directly or as interested observers and supporters. We are looking forward to a regular gardening season with our seed planting sometime in May 2021, with new gardeners Noëlla and Denyse joining us. To view our garden, which is now ‘sleeping’, walk along the pathway running along the south-east end of the Emmanuel Apostolic Church (3347 McCarthy Rd) next to the condo complex.
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 email@example.com.
An idea was planted. Like a seed, it germinated and grew. And a project was born. It rolled out right here, within the geographical boundaries of our Hunt Club community, between May 4 and 24, with its visible manifestation on Saturday and Sunday, May 23rd and 24th: GET GROWING HUNT CLUB.
So, just what was the genesis of this project?
Barb Shea proposed an initiative to help address food security needs in our community which was passed at the May 4th Hunt Club Community Association (HCCA) board meeting. The idea was to provide kits with a small vegetable plant and a package of seeds to as many residents as possible to encourage self-sufficiency by learning how to grow one’s own vegetables. Seed money of $250 from the HCCA, matched by Councillor Brockington, plus two anonymous donations of $100 each, launched the project. Using Zoom meetings, HCCA Director Barb Shea pulled together a planning team and volunteers and an action plan with tight timelines, identified responsibilities and specific targets. In the space of two weeks:
A project logo, posters, communications pieces and the Get Growing kit handout were designed by Kat Gracie and Jason Dubue (co-founders of BWYL Group) with the OSEAN group contributing the educational component of the gardening handout
Andrea Ward, Assistant to Councillor Brockington, coordinated the printing of the posters, communication pieces and the Get Growing kit handout
A team of volunteers distributed posters around the neighbourhood encouraging residents to contact the HCCA Get Growing team through email or Facebook. Thanks to Lorraine Busby, Christine Johnson, Jason Dubue and Kat Gracie
www.hunt-club.ca/getgrowing was created through the efforts of Brian Wade (President, HCCA) and BWYL Group and then promoted on the HCCA Facebook page to allow residents to register online for a free seed/seedling starter kit
Barb Shea and Tania Mushka successfully identified our five other wonderful sponsors, who either donated the seed, seedling plants or provided a significant discount towards their purchase. Thank you to Greta’s Organic Gardens, Gaia Organic Seeds, Lee Valley Tools, Artistic Landscape Designs, and Green Thumb Garden Centre.
Seeds and plants were picked up by Tania and Barb.
Christine, Lorraine, Barb and friend Caroline bagged and sorted all the products into ‘kits’ with one small plant, one seed package and an information sheet about the ‘Get Growing’ initiative along with an additional ad for free Zoom gardening tutorials.
Manuel Costa volunteered his trailer to take all packages to the delivery points.
Distribution dates were identified along with five different distribution sites and volunteer helpers for each shift.
Safety Guidelines were developed to ensure protection from the COVID-19 virus at all distribution sites.
Mother Nature offered perfect weather for both distribution dates. Volunteers handed out the kits at the Ashgrove and Shearwater Community Housing sites on Saturday and at household driveways on Archer Square, Twyford and Pattermead on Sunday. Any remaining kits were delivered locally.
Thank you to Alexis Doyle, Sophie and Pauline Pazur, Lorraine Busby and her husband Len, Christine Johnson, Piero Narducci and his wife Živana, Dianne Nahal, Kat Gracie, Jason Dubue, Barb Shea and her husband Mick and Bert and Millie Beechey, for manning the distribution sites. HCCA President, Brian Wade and Vice President, Sue McCarthy, each came by to show their support. Councillor Brockington also took the time to visit each site with his daughter Katie to show his support and encouragement.
And that was Year 1 of the GET GROWING HUNT CLUB initiative, 450 kits later. We’ll call it ‘the ‘COVID Get Growing Kickoff Year’.
What made this project so unique?
Residents from across our community participated in it from households in Quinterra-Woods, on and near Uplands Drive at the Riverside, middle and Hunt Club Road ends, to streets at the Airport Parkway end with all kinds of residences in between, this project brought the community together!
New connections were made with neighbours from all sectors of the socio-economic, cultural, gender and age demographics in our community.
Conversations, exchanges of gardening tips, laughter, information about each other’s cultures and ‘neck of the woods’ all happened, when residents came to pick up their ‘Get Growing’ kits.
Growing food, growing community is GET GROWING HUNT CLUB. Watch for this initiative on our HCCA Facebook page in March/April 2021 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on our mailing list. Let us know what you’d like to see for next year!