Over my many decades of growing vegetables, I have always been consistent — consistent in having a garden that is just a bit too big (sometimes a lot too big) for me to comfortably look after.
While envious of gardeners that patrol their gardens with tools in hand just daring a weed to show itself, I have become reconciled to the reality that that will never be me. While much of my garden will be well organized and under control, there will be corners that quite frankly are in need of attention with a machete.
Back in the early days of community gardens in Ottawa the standard size garden was 25 feet by 50 feet, an area of 1250 square feet. Over the years I gradually expanded my holdings until I had 10 gardens under cultivation. With this amount of land I was able to grow loads of garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and virtually any other vegetables you might find in a seed catalogue. This also gave me enough space to grow several perennial crops including strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb, gooseberries, currants and many types of perennial herbs.
I worked the soil by hand developing a system of permanent raised beds and permanent pathways with lots of straw used as mulch. My favourite tool was a sturdy spading fork. Although the soil was a bit on the heavy side I was able to amend it over the years until it was delightfully workable. When I added compost, I bought it by the truckload.
Over the years I was always looking for the magic number of how many square feet of garden I could realistically care for and have totally under control. I think that the peak that I reached was over 7,000 square feet and it reflected what I believe was a relatively low-maintenance system. This was at least a couple of decades ago and my gardening capabilities have gone downhill pretty steadily since then.
I no longer have a nearby family that consumes large volumes of vegetables so my focus has changed. I actually grow very little in my own garden and garden almost exclusively in community gardens. I have been involved in community gardens in Almonte for over six years much of it aimed at growing food for our local food bank, ‘The Hunger Stop’, which serves Beckwith, Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills.
More and more food banks across the country have invested in community gardens and are finding large corporate sponsors who are keen to contribute. These gardens provide fresh food for food banks and opportunities for learning about gardening and using vegetables.
The Hunger Stop has been very fortunate in obtaining grants over the last three years. Gardens have been created in Carleton Place, Almonte and Pakenham. So getting back to my theme of ‘how big is too big’, the reality is that this type of gardening depends on team work. There are already many volunteers in place in the several locations but more volunteers would really be appreciated. This could be for a regular weekly gig or a one-off contribution. If you are interested please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 613-295-2295.