Emily Moreland (mentor

Earth Day: Community garden has new mentor

Sunriver Community Garden sees new Master Gardener and mentor take reins of education

Sunriver Gardens (SRG) has a new garden coordinator and mentor.

Master Gardener and community educator Paula McCormick, who you may recognize from Home Hardware’s Garden Centre, will take over the volunteer mentoring program from Emily Moreland. McCormick’s main job will be to manage the Grow a Row program while providing mentorship and guidance to volunteers and allotment gardeners.

Moreland, who is expecting her second child in May, will be taking a break to spend more time with her family.

McCormick comes to SRG from Home Hardware where she managed the garden centre. She is both knowledgable and passionate.

“I love to garden,” she said. Having received her SRG orientation from Moreland, McCormick finds that, “it looks like lots of opportunities for people to come through and have fun and garden, whether or not you make a commitment on a regular basis or just show up from time to time when it works for you.”

McCormick knows all about gardening, from the roots up: she received her Master Gardener status in 2005 from Glendale Gardens, became a member of Victoria Master Gardeners Association (VMGA), and has been happily weeding and seeding since.

Among other things, McCormick will be taking over the Sunriver Allotment Garden’s very fruitful, volunteer-driven Grow a Row program.

Grow a Row is a Candian-wide (but locally-managed) movement where gardeners are encouraged to plant an extra row of food. That extra bit of produce is donated to a food bank at harvest time. According to Anne Spice from the Victoria program,  Grow a Row began in Winnipeg in 1986. Last year, Victoria’s Grow a Row program collected over 700 pounds of food from contributing gardeners. Sooke’s SRG singularly surpassed that.

“We (the Sunriver Gardens) were the biggest contributor in the Greater Victoria area,” said Moreland, the outgoing garden coordinator and mentor. “Our 2,000 pounds was more than all of Victoria combined.”

“It’s a neat idea,” says Phoebe Dunbar, one of the garden’s founders and currently a director of the board, “that some of what we do here is part of a larger movement.

“Paula will coordinate the growing of the food for others, and she’s also here to continue the mentorship of all our plot gardeners,” said Dunbar.

This way, even the new gardeners with little or no experience can plant a row for somebody else.

A little known fact is that SRG is available to everyone in Sooke.

“The misconception is that it’s just for Sunriver residents and that it’s not open to the public,” said Moreland. That is definitely not the case as the garden is open to everyone.

Even lesser known is that you don’t have to be a plot holder to participate. Contributing as a volunteer is a great way to get your hands dirty in a garden. And the volunteer schedule at Sunriver Garden is wide open, noncommittal, and incredibly user-friendly.

“Not everyone wants workshops,” said Dunbar, “Not everyone has money to go learn how to garden. What’s really, really positive about the mentorship approach is that it’s hands-on, it’s one-on-one, and it’s non-judgemental so you don’t have to worry about, ‘Oh, I’m not going to know how to do this.’”

“Or ‘I have to fit it in my calendar’,” adds Moreland. “You can come, or you can not come; you can stay (a short time), or stay a long time.”

“So it’s very flexible,” concludes Dunbar.

From now to harvest, McCormick will be at the Sunriver Gardens twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sunday’s from 1 to 4 p.m. Curious and wannabe gardeners are encouraged to drop by for a tour, a cuppa tea, or a chore.