In New West, hanging baskets are a traditional Mother’s Day present. After all, why buy a bouquet when you can give flowers that will last all season long? Once again, the Kiwanis Club of New Westminster will be holding their annual hanging basket sale on the day before Mother’s Day (Saturday, May 11) from 10am – 3pm in the parking lot of the Terminal Pub. This year, there will also be cherry tomatoes for sale – and a contest to see who can get the best yield from their cherry tomato plant.
Hanging baskets will be sold for $25 each, with all profits supporting New Westminster charitable causes, including the Lord Kelvin Breakfast Program, St. Barnabas Lunch Program, Monarch House, New Westminster Ambassador Program, Purpose Society, and the New Westminster Secondary School Bursary. Cherry tomato plants will cost $10.
Participants in the cherry tomato growing contest will compare the number of cherry tomatoes on their plants at harvest time. The person with the most cherry tomatoes on their plant on September 8 will win a prize. Any surplus tomatoes will be donated to Plant a Row / Grow A Row.
Last year I started the spring growing season by attending an annual meet and greet event for Plant a Row, Grow a Row, an international organization that had local hubs in many communities.
As it says on the website, it “builds on the long-standing tradition of gardeners loving to share their harvest with others. It is a people-helping-people program to assist in feeding the hungry in their own communities”. In short, gardeners are asked to produce just a bit more than they otherwise would plant, and donate the surplus to the local food bank. The Plant a Row, Grow a Row group makes it easy by having a weekly drop off point in the community. As last year, St. Thomas More Collegiate. has volunteered to host the drop-offs.
This year, as last, the group, organized locally by well known city horticulture manager (and neighbour) Claude LeDoux, is holding the annual Gardener’s Party at the gym of St. Thomas More . It is a great chance to come and meet some fellow gardeners, listen to some fascinating speakers and learn about this great program.
At the event this year, scheduled for March 18th at 6pm, speakers include renowned horticulturalist Brian Minter; Daniel Mosquin and Ingrid Hoff from the UBC Botanical Garden, Conrad Lum from GardenWorks Mandeville and Mark McDonald from WestCoast Seeds. Expect refreshments and some free goodies. The evening was entertaining and informative last year but consider bringing a cushion (seating is on the bleachers in the gym). From the recent press release:
Growing food is this year’s hot horticultural trend, and it’s a great family activity, especially when you can help kids learn about the importance of helping others at the same time. You can grow vegetables and fruits in containers, in with your perennials, or in your own backyard plot. You can even grow Tumbler tomatoes or strawberries in a hanging basket!
So please join us March 18th at 6 pm at St Thomas More Collegiate (7450 12th Ave., Burnaby) to find out more. Admission is free, but we would appreciate the donation of non-perishable food for the Food Bank. See you there!
With the undeniable passion for gardening in New Westminster, the developing sense of food security and local sources of food, the sustained two-year push to gain another community garden in this city (culminating in the recently announced new plots at St. Mary’s in Sapperton), groups like Plant a Row, Grow a Row, really help form a network of community involvement and responsibility out of a passion for a good hobby. Congratulations to them for another great year, and happy gardening.
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.
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).