LA Times gives props to local balcony veggie-gardening program

New West’s Biggest Little Garden program has attracted attention from the LA Times, which has published an article about the innovative community gardening initiative. The program is the brainchild of Fraserside Living Well Program director Diane Cairns, who had to find a solution to increase local food production in a city where 70% of us live in apartment buildings. She wanted to revive the old ‘Victory Garden’ concept of growing your own fruits and vegetables – and sharing the harvest with your neighbours – but how could it take off when so few residents had backyards? 

There was only one solution: Bring the dirt to the people. Despite having no gardening background, Cairns designed a compact, three-tiered planter made of a handsome (and rot-resistant) cedar — just the right size for a small balcony. The 32-by-8-by-8-inch planters are narrow enough to squeeze through small apartment doors, raised high enough so no stooping is required for planting and picking, and built with a trellis on the top tier to support bean and squash vines.
The garden, soil and plants are delivered for free to whomever opts into the program. In return, participants promise to water and weed and to share leftover produce with neighbors.
Cairns hoped to have eight to 10 pilot Biggest Little Gardens in 2007, but the project was so popular in that first year, she wound up with 54. Two years later, 108 gardens are in operation and Cairns has secured funding for an additional 70 in the coming growing season. A community service group in nearby Surrey is planning to copy the program.
– LA Times | Balcony Vegetable Patch


The program is completely free for low-income apartment-dwellers in New Westminster, however you must sign a contract in which you pledge to care for the plants and ensure the produce doesn’t go to waste – any excess must be given to family or friends or donated to the food bank via New West’s Plant A Row, Grow A Row program administered out of St. Aidan’s Church.

I’m one of the lucky ones with a yard in New West, but since spotting the planter and reading about the program last year, I’ve thought I’d like to buy one for my back deck! Those who don’t qualify for the free program can buy a planter for $175 (proceeds go back to the program). 

For more info the Biggest Little Garden, visit Fraserside’s website


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Dig This! Gardener’s Party for Plant a Row, Grow a Row

Plant a Row, Grow a Row, a non-profit agency that organizes the donation of high value garden produce to food banks and low-income families will be teaming up with St. Thomas More High School (Burnaby) for their 2009 programme and to kick things off, the school is hosting a Gardener’s Party on Thursday evening, March 26th featuring presentations and question and answer sessions with the regions top gardening gurus.

Potential guests are asked to bring items for the food bank. More information is listed below.  Claude Ledoux, New Westminster Horticulture manager for Parks and Recreation is an organizer for the program and an avid gardener. He is also a neighbour and we frequently pepper him with questions for our own project, the Tenth to the Fraser Victory Garden. Always ready to help, Claude has encouraged us to grow an extra row for those whose food budgets make fresh vegetables difficult to afford.

Having a garden, especially a vegetable garden is a privileged that many can not enjoy and in many cases the fruits of the season are much more than one family can consume. This national program is a great way to share the bounty of the earth and the fruits of your labours with others.

Plant a Row Grow a Row”


Beginning this spring, STMC will be involved in a Plant a Row – Grow a Row program to assist the needy in our community (

Please join us for a Gardeners Party on Thursday March 26th to jumpstart this event.

Plant a Row – Grow a Row builds on a long-standing tradition of people sharing their harvest with their neighbours. It’s a simple but effective idea.

Gardeners plant an extra row or two and donate the produce to the Food Bank.

In troubled economic times like these, it is more important than ever that the Food Bank is able to supplement their supply of non-perishable food with fresh fruit and vegetables.

St. Thomas More Collegiate would collect food items on a Sunday and deliver them to the

Food Bank the following day.

Gardeners’ Party

The Gardeners’ Party will be held Thursday, March 26th, from 6 to 9 PM in the gymnasium of Saint Thomas More Collegiate, at 7450 12th in Burnaby.

  • Brian Minter, co-coordinator of the national PAR-GAR program. Brian is always an inspiring speaker, will kick things off at 6.

  • Claude LeDoux, the local co-coordinator, will introduce an exciting line-up of speakers who will discuss different aspects of vegetable gardening.

There will be coffee and treats as well.

Plan to join us; because it’s not often you have the opportunity to hear so many garden experts in one place,

The price of admission is right — a donation of non-perishable food for the Food Bank!

Speakers for the Gardeners’ Party:

Brian Minter – Co-coordinator of the national Plant a Row Grow a Row

Conway Lum – Gardenworks Mandeville

Jeanette McCall- Westcoast Seeds

Heather Havens – Gaia Green

Daniel Mosquin – UBC Botanical Gardens

June Hewko – Lee Valley Tools

For more information or if you would be interested in assisting with this program please contact David Mattiazzo, Campus Ministry for St. Thomas More Collegiate

604-521-1801 ext 127

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