Submitted by Nicholas Olson of Carmichael Outreach. This article will appear in the Fall 2013 edition of HCA’s Heritage Happenings Newsletter.
As I type this my fingernails are black with the rich dirt of the Carmichael Community Garden. After a long day of cooking in the 6-square-foot kitchen of Carmichael Outreach, the greatest thing I can think to do is to walk north a block and a half to the 1800-block of Halifax Street to the empty lot next to Souls Harbour, and tend to the garden. Mid-July is an exciting time—when the tomato plants reach your hip, the carrots begin to bush up nice and thick, and the peas climb up the garden trellis to greet the sun. The earth is finally fertile and airy on this, the fourth season of sowing at this location, and with development of empty lots in the city it is always possible that each season will be our last.
This summer, in a last-minute bit of planning, all the planting and tilling was done between the last weekend of May and the first week of June. In true Carmichael fashion we ignored tradition and planted past the recommended threshold of May Long. This year a total of 11 crops were sown. Because of a lack of time, necessary pruning of overhanging elms did not occur, and the shade of the massive trees has inhibited growth on the east side. The garden is composed mostly of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and beans—four fairly easy-growing crops that are basic staples of the Carmichael kitchen and the kitchens of most of our clients. Other crops include peas, swiss chard, zucchini, strawberries, onions and corn, which rest on the more experimental side of the garden approaching Halifax Street.
Being an empty lot bridging the Heritage neighbourhood and the downtown area, foot traffic is always steady. The impressive uniform growth of a variety of family-favourite vegetables always brings out excited onlookers—people willing to share gardening tips or talk about their mother’s garden back home. It is the greatest conversation piece in an already conversational community. Several passers-by have expressed their willingness to participate in caring for a green space, offering their time to collect garbage and pick weeds, increasing our part-time workers into a collection of green-thumbed volunteers sharing their love for gardening in order to assist in the food security of many of their neighbours, as well as to foster a sense of community unlike any other community event can.
Because of the lateness of our planting, we are still awaiting first fruits of our crops. Massive thanks to the help from Eat Healthy Foods, Little Village Greenhouse on 13th Avenue for the plants and seeds, Souls Harbour for the water source, the City of Regina for the lot, Heritage Community Association for their guidance, and all the help and good vibes from the members of the community. In August, when you are reading this, Carmichael and friends will be enjoying the bounty of our great garden and we thank you for your support!
See you next year!