OK all you avid gardeners, get ready to start your engines. Spring is upon us. At this time of year, it’s a bit cold still and a bit wet. However, spring does not wait for those still yearning to sit by the fire and look out at the weather. It’s time to get going.
Maybe you are like me and feeling a little overwhelmed by the possibility? Where to start? I want to introduce you to someone who inspires me, not only as a person who is working to promote healthy and sustainable food systems but also because of his fabulous green thumb. His name is Mathew Kemshaw and he is the quiet yet fearless leader of LifeCycles, a community organization with a long history in cultivating community health by connecting people with the food they eat and the land it comes from. Mathew is an avid community gardener, seed saver and lover of plants.
A few weeks back I asked Mathew if he would share his thoughts on spring and what he will be up to. You are in for a treat. I hope you enjoy. Mathew writes:
I’m holding magic in my hands, carefully burying peas in the ground. No matter how many times I plant my spring garden I am rapt in the honest miracle of a seed. For us coastal kissed south islanders, gardens are beginning to sprout with the promise of abundance. Whether it’s your first or 50th garden, there’s much to do and learn this season!
There are many great reasons to plant a garden – your reasons will help advise what you plant. Some folks love big, showy flowers. Others want to provide habitat for birds, bees and yes, even bats. Still others have a passion for growing food. Me? I love all plants that play nice with each other. But in my little city lot, I focus most of my energy as a gardener on growing food.
For me this means cultivating vegetables, caring for a fruit tree, and curating an indigenous plant garden. I try to grow food for my family, and I like to think of my family as encompassing the many wild relatives with whom I cohabitate.
Right now I’m busy pruning my apple tree before it begins to break bud and start blossoming. It’s a unique skill set, fruit tree pruning, which I’m still feeling novice at after a few years of practice. When I can I enjoy attending LifeCycles’ bi-monthly work parties and seasonal workshops at the Welland Community Orchard.
I’m also deciding what seeds to plant. I love looking through the Victoria Seed Library’s collection and choosing a few seed saving projects for the year. For me, it’s strangely thrilling to grow unique, rare and locally adapted seeds. I love thinking about how the seeds have evolved and adapted to this place, through the careful stewardship of gardeners before me. It’s humbling to pass seeds from one generation to the next.
Most exciting for me this year is the planting of a native plant garden. Ideally suited to the needs of local animals, native species also provide food, medicine and beauty to us humans. While Lekwungen and WSANEC people have always understood, it’s heartening to see others attuning to the rhythm and gifts of these plants. I personally have learned much from the events and workshops hosted by Saanich Native Plants.
Thanks to Matthew Kemshaw for his contribution to Local Flavour this week. Is spring inspiring you? Let me know what you have planned for the season ahead. OK Saanich, let’s get growing.
Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.