Local residents without access to garden space will soon be able to flex their green thumbs in Rockingham.
The very first communal garden in the neighbourhood, Birdland Community Garden is an experiment that has been in the works for some time, but it will finally see its launch this summer, giving Rockingham a home for like-minded horticulturalists.
“It’s a good place because we have a fairly large community,” says garden coordinator Erin Clements of the growing neighbourhood located on the northwest side of the Bedford Basin.
A budding community that boasts an expanding immigrant population, as well as many senior citizens who have relocated into apartment complexes, Rockingham has never had a communal garden to allow locals to share their ideas and show off their skills in the garden.
“I personally think that community gardens are incredible. It helps improve food security, people learn how to grow their own food, or a portion of their own food and gardening is an essential life skill,” says Clements.
“Being out in the garden also feels like therapy to a lot of people, so getting out and being part of a community garden, you meet new people and potentially make new friends.”
Clements points out that there is an increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of the food and shipping industry and she anticipates that awakening will translate into strong interest from the general public to participate.
In fact, she adds that growing even a portion of one’s own foods in a community garden can help boost local sustainability and lower the amount of rising food bills piling up at home.
“We’re all aware of how much food production is costing our planet and ourselves so I think people gardening more at home can help some of those problems.”
Birdland Community Garden will feature 15 gardening beds, each being separated into different categories based on accessibility and other characteristics. For example, seniors and people with mobility issues will have their own dedicated space, as will vegetables and fruits being grown specifically to donate to local food banks.
“We really want to be very inclusive and we want to learn from each other,” says Clements, who adds gardeners of all abilities are welcome to participate and join the community. “With a beginner, they should not be scared. There will be a lot of gardeners around and they can always ask for advice and I have no problem communicating with them as much as they feel they need.”
To help launch the community garden, Birdland will be holding a rain barrel sale until April 24 as a way to raise start-up funds, which Clements sees as an awareness campaign in general for the benefits of rain barrel use on the environment.
“First of all, it’s water from mother nature so it doesn’t have the chlorine and the additives that our tap water in the city especially has, so plants do better with it,” says Clements, adding rainwater can help balance the pH level in soils. “(Plus) you can get a huge amount of water off of what's not a very large roof area, which is very nice.”
In addition, the rain barrels Birdland is selling in particular will be made from materials recycled from the food industry, “so if you needed, in a pinch you could drink it,” laughs Clements. "I don’t know how much you would want to, but the barrels are not going to leach out chemicals into the water.”
For more information on Birdland Community Garden and their rain barrel sale, visit their website.