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Veggies galore in Golden City garden

Effort provides education and community spirit
Nate and Noah Johnston

One year later, Rossland’s community garden is in full bloom.

It’s a far cry from last year, where bed plants either died or didn’t grow much at all.

“We found out that our wonderful, clean soil was also sterile,” said Hanne Smith, a Rossland councilor, garden volunteer and driving force behind the initiative’s startup.

When the garden’s co-ordinators realized the problem, they used some of the community project grant money to purchase manure and fertilizer to increase fertility.

Their efforts have certainly paid off — the colourful space is full of squashes, peas, garlic, bok choy, raspberries, strawberries, chives, tarragon, sage, oregano and many other veggies and flowers.

“We’re so excited about the change,” Smith said. “The plants are thriving and it’s a happy consequence of all the bumps from our first year. We made the changes we had to make and now everything’s growing.”

Besides the manure and fertilizer, the garden planted fall rye in the beds last year, cut it this spring and turned it over in the soil to help increase fertility. They also purchased plastic hoops so gardeners could drape plastic covers over their plots, effectively increasing the bed’s “growing season” for things like tomatoes and squash.

Along with the obvious benefit of having a growing garden, Smith said the public space is important for a variety of reasons, mostly about learning to garden and community building. There’s a large communal bed for the whole community, and then private beds for seniors, daycares and other citizens who reserved spots.

“We’ve involved everyone — from the daycares to the seniors, the whole community is interested and interactive, its truly been a community bonding experience.

“It’s enforced and enhanced relationships with a lot of our members. Most of our mentors are 60 years old and up, with extraordinary talent and sense of giving time to teach the adults who are keen to learn. It’s a wonderful interaction and I personally think that’s one of the best results.”

Kristen Coull, owner of the Four Winds Daycare in Rossland, was out watering the centre’s bed with some of the kids. She decided to continue with the garden because of what it teaches the kids.

“It encourages them to develop healthy eating habits,” she said. “They planted everything in the bed from seeds as well, so it’s pretty cool for them to see things as they grow.”

The kids have also learned to respect other’s space and property too.

“They’ve learned to appreciate what others have done with their own gardens. And it’s incredible what has been done and what’s available here.”

Not only do the kids love visiting the garden each day and sampling it’s edible delights, but the birds that bathe in the water channel and the pet frog that used to live there is also a highlight.

Brothers Noah and Nate Johnston, ages seven and four, both love the garden, but for different reasons. Noah likes to nibble on the chives and peas, while Nate prefers to do all the watering — and occasionally start a waterfight with Noah.

When asked about future plans for the space, Smith and Rachael Roussin, farmer’s market co-ordinator, both said they’d like to see the learning aspect expand.

“It’s a big hope that we can turn this into an educational facility for the community,” said Roussin, adding that now the space is a functioning garden it would be ideal to hold workshops and camps in the area.

Smith also hopes to begin a catalogue of seeds that grow well in Rossland’s many microenvironments and possibly see a knowledge and produce sharing program with surrounding communities.

“This is a nucleus for many things,” Smith concluded. “We can only build from here. It’s fun and it makes everyone smile when they come.”

For more information on the community garden and its workshops, visit