It’s no secret Sunriver Community Gardens is a busy place during the spring and summer, but you might be surprised to know the winter months are also very active at the garden.
In the spring and summer, locals work away at the garden growing a multitude of fresh veggies, fruit and flowers. There are also events held there, such as the annual Apple Fest that draw in community members and out-of-towners alike.
But during the colder months, many people still keep busy by winterizing and tidying their plots, and due to our moderate climate, can harvest some vegetables like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and Swiss chard year round.
“This is what we call biannual, when crops can grow in to the off-season,” said Paula McCormick, who has been involved at the garden for more than five years.
As part of the winterizing, McCormick said a lot of people generally like to make their own soil by adding manure and old leaves on the top of their plot and letting it decompose.
She explained that not only is this great to prepare for the next season, but if someone still has plants growing, it will help keep them warmer.
There are also a couple of programs that run throughout the year to keep people involved, including the Grow a Row program, which volunteers grow food for local organizations such as the Sooke Crisis Centre and the Sooke Food Bank, as well as an ongoing compost program.
McCormick organizes Grow a Row, and said the program is great for anyone who wants to meet people, learn about gardening, socialize, and make a difference. Grow a Row regularly runs every Wednesday and Sunday from April to October, but people volunteer all months of the year.
“People would never expect they could do these things all year, but we can because of the weather. And it’s fun because you feel like you are doing something positive in the community,” said McCormick.
The compost program doesn’t have any set dates, but essentially consists of ongoing lessons that are great for newcomers, as well as people who don’t have a plot but want to get involved, to come and learn about gardening and help out.
“We often get people come in with little to no experience, and after a few months they start to gain confidence and want to grow things on their own. And a lot of times they will end up buying a plot the next year or so,” said McCormick.
McCormick added that above all, the garden brings people together, and is important for community building.
“We have everything from people coming to find tranquility, people wandering though the garden and bringing their children to come and explore and see things growing, to people who want to take ownership of growing their own food, have a healthier lifestyle, or people just who want to socialize and meet new friends,” said McCormick.
“All of those things are tied up in to one community garden, and I think there’s something really special about that.”
To volunteer with the Grow a Row program, contact Paula McCormick by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.