Learn the basics of gardening

Mentor on site at Sunriver Allotment Garden

Emily Moreland is the new gardening mentor at the Sunriver Allotment Garden

Mentor on site at Sunriver Allotment Garden

Gardening is something people used to take for granted. They may have grown up in neighbourhoods where every yard had a garden and it was not unusual for kids to go garden raiding at night, running along with their bounty of freshly pulled carrots and handfuls of peas. Gardens were just there, no fanfare, no big deal.

But things have changed and a generation seems to have skipped that common fixture in the back yard. Concrete parking lots have replaced kitchen gardens and planting flowers is the extent of “gardening.”

The people involved with Sooke Food CHI and the Sunriver Allotment Garden want to change that situation. Starting in early February, a gardening mentorship program is beginning at the Sunriver Allotment Garden. With funds from the Victoria Foundation, a mentor has been hired to teach people the basics of gardening.

“We used to learn from neighbours, the elderly and friends,” said Phoebe Dunbar, president of Sooke Food CHI (Community Health Initiative). “The Sunriver Allotment Garden and Sooke Food CHI recognize this is one of the better ways to learn. Not everyone has the time or money to take a course.”

Emily Moreland knows about gardening. Although she is relatively young at 30, she grew up in Metchosin and has been somewhere behind a gardening shovel since she was 13. Her grandfather, Don Collis, has been farming in Sooke for 30 years and he always used to clean-up at the Sooke Fall Fair.

“It’s my life goal to clean house at the fall fair,” said Moreland.

A Sooke resident for the past three years, Moreland is a horticultural technician certified through Royal Roads University.

“She will have the ability to be a problem solver for gardeners,” said Dunbar. “What’s unusual about Emily is that she is only 30 but has astounding experience with food and gardening.”

Starting on Wednesday, Feb. 2, from 1:30 to 4 p.m., Moreland will be at the Sunriver Allotment Garden to meet people and get them excited about seed selection, plot preparation and the like.

“There’s a lot you can do in February,” said Moreland. “There’s early kitchen gardens, indoor planting and cold frames.”

She wants people to grow a garden — even a little one.

“It doesn’t have to be big, you can focus on little things like what would you want on your table,” said Moreland. “It is amazing how much money it can save you. My goal last year was not to buy any vegetables for three months and I did it.”

Building a simple cold frame will be part of what Moreland will teach. She said she isn’t an expert in building things but she can facilitate different designs for those who can handle a saw and a few nails.

There are still 10 plots left for the taking at Sunriver and they can be rented for $50/year. Email sunrivergarden@gmail.com if interested. BC Hydro has funded the building of raised beds for those folks who cannot easily bend down. They will be specially-alloted plots for seniors and low-income people.

The plot holders held their first Annual General Meeting on January 21 and elected a new chair and executive.

Allan Poole, the new chair of the Sunriver Allotment Garden Council would like to encourgae more folks to take on a garden plot.

“It’s a welcoming and happy experience,” he said. “A year ago that place didn’t exist. It’s amazing how much food was grown last year.”

He also said some people are also managing to maintain a winter garden.

The garden itself was instrumental in gaining an extra bloom in the 2010 Communities in Bloom competition. As well the Sunriver Allotment Garden entry in the Sooke Fall Fair for Community Garden Display won first prize.

The garden mentoring project is funded in conjunction with projects planned for the Ladybug Garden and Greenhouse, a T’Sou-ke First Nation initiative. The program runs to the end of September, 2011 taking gardeners through four seasons and giving them the basics.

“Give it a year and you will have some successes and some failure. Once you try you know you can do it and success can be very small for people,” said Moreland.

For more information Emily Moreland can be contacted through the Sooke Food CHI website at: www.sookefoodchi.ca.