Manitoba’s wide-open spaces are not just a pretty landscape.
Prairie dwellers have known it for centuries: Manitoba is a gold mine of rich, productive soil, and new generations of gardeners are being cultivated every year in community gardens all over Winnipeg.
Over 50 community vegetable gardens are thriving in the city. Our perfect growing conditions mean inexpensive, organic produce that can keep even a weekend gardener in potatoes, beans and carrots almost all year round. Art Brose is an avid gardener with the St. James Horticultural Society’s Garden Club. "If you freeze or can your vegetables, they will last you through the winter," he says.
Gardening could be an important part of an economically viable and diverse food system. Even with Winnipeg’s relatively short growing season, there are plenty of nutritious, easy-to-grow crops that might ease food insecurities for people who have little money for groceries.
The community garden at Silver Avenue and Linwood Street is a large piece of city property that would otherwise likely remain undeveloped, due to its proximity to the airport. Gardeners rent a plot for a small fee each year and are responsible for planting, weeding and harvesting their own fruits and vegetables. Currently, there is a waiting list for plots, and no shortage of people willing to do some work to reap the benefits.
For those not lucky enough to have a garden plot or even a yard, there are many creative ways to squeeze edible harvests out of planters and other small spaces. Gardening books and websites show lettuce growing in old wooden pallets or sections of rain gutter. Many municipalities are encouraging people to plant fruit trees or berry bushes when old trees or hedges need to be replaced.
Even for beginners, a green thumb isn’t strictly necessary. According to Brose,
gardening is one of the up-and-coming hobbies for young people. "Experienced gardeners are always willing to share information," he says.
And if it turns out you do have a green thumb, there are places to show off the fruits of your labour. Check out the St. James Horticultural Society Garden Club’s 99th annual Exhibition on Aug. 20 and 21 at the Heritage Victoria Community Club (950 Sturgeon Rd.). You might be surprised what inspirations will sprout.
Jennifer Dunsford is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia.