Community gardening : Growing vegetables can be a group effort (Google / Calgary Herald)

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Growing vegetables can be a group effort

Don’t have any land? Join a community garden

Donna Balzer, For The Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, June 07, 2008

OK, it is time to call uncle on winterkill and deal with it. If part of a shrub or tree is dead or partially dead or needing a bit of trimming, it is time to prune off the dead wood now — no more waiting to see if it will come back. Removing dead wood is as simple as trimming back to live wood or a main stem with green growth. Many roses die back every winter and can be trimmed back to the living branches. Other shrubs, such as hydrangea, are little more than perennials in our climate and often die back, too, but we wait to prune them until we are sure we know how much is coming back and what is dead. Removing old spent blooms of lilacs happens as soon as the lilacs fade over the next few weeks. Reshaping any spring-blooming woody plant, such as double flowering plums or spring blooming spirea, can happen as soon as the blooms are finished but no later than the middle of July. That is because — as hard as this is to imagine — the new crop of flower buds which will over-winter will be forming by mid- to late July, so shaping needs to happen in the next several weeks.

Get involved with neighbours

Condominiums popping up all over town are ideal for people who do not want the cares of a large garden, but where do people go who still want to play at gardening and continue producing their own food? How exciting it is to find out there is a place where would-be gardeners can spend an hour or an afternoon gardening and growing vegetables and in return share the produce when it is ready. What a great way to participate in weeding without working alone and to take part in a community of like-minded people to produce food.

The Cornucopia program, supported by the Garden Path Society of Calgary, is filling this gardening niche. It is based out of Inglewood and there are two part-time staff people who have been working to co-ordinate everything and get the garden planted this week. Yes, it is a bit late, but gardens — especially new ones built on old sites — are like that. In 2003, the community garden in Victoria Park lost its lease and relocated to Inglewood.

At the same time the Community Association in Inglewood was pushing to set up a vegetable garden for individuals who did not have enough space to grow vegetables on their own land.

Based on the concepts of Community Supported Agriculture these two ideas came together.

There are now 104 rental plots near the Colonel Walker School in Inglewood and a large half-acre plot called Cornucopia where The Garden Path Society will grow vegetables for share members as well as local charities.

The Cornucopia garden was formerly a waste area near the Inglewood Community Centre (when heading east it is right off 9th Avenue on 20th Street, then right again on 22nd Avenue just after the Colonel Walker school grounds).

The new piece of city-supplied land will be used as an urban garden co-operative. Co-op members buy shares from $25 to $250 in the program and from there they share in the harvest. No need to be there and pull every weed although weeders are encouraged because they can earn an extra portion of the harvest.

“I told our volunteers to please take ownership and leadership. Linda and I represent the demographic that will be coming to the garden. It’s all about learning and we only have half an acre so it should be workable,” says Jackie Puff, who together with Linda Mummery is a garden co-ordinator at Cornucopia.

The “share” program allows the Garden Path Society of Calgary to get money in its hands at the beginning of the season although it is also depending on grants and help from the City of Calgary for the garden, which cost close to $100,000 to prepare for planting this year.

Puff says the site was a mess when they took it over. Earlier this month city staff helped clear the site of gravel and quack grass.

After city employees helped clean up the site, soil and compost were brought in. Puff and Mummery had the soil tested and they purchased compost from a reliable source so although the garden is initially not certified organic it is using green gardening practices. Workers and volunteers are going to be on-site every Wednesday night and on Sundays and whenever volunteer weeders are there, the garden will be open.

Although individuals manage the 104 plots, the larger Cornucopia Garden is done with the help of grants and volunteers.

This year they are growing the basics — herbs, peas, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and potatoes.


Donna Balzer is a Horticulturist, garden consultant and author. She is the co-host of the televised Bugs & Blooms and is also heard regularly on CBC radio. E-mail comments or ideas to

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.