It has been seven years since the notion of creating a community garden was fully realized by the Sault Ste. Marie Horticultural Society and six other partnering organizations. With the help of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, funding was secured in 2003 and the garden was built in six weeks at its current location at 105 Allard Street.
Leasing land adjacent to the Canadian Red Cross building, the Allard Street Community Garden initially offered citizens 32 garden plots and several raised planter boxes in which to grow healthy, nutritious and affordable food that would not otherwise be available to them. Open to individuals and families of all ages, abilities and incomes, the garden has become a second home to many who live in apartments or who have no access to green space.
This organic garden has undergone many changes over the past years. The apple and pear trees and raspberry bushes are now producing fruit, the perennial border and herb beds are awash in blooms and the comforting presence of birds and beneficial insects that reside in the garden radiates an undeniable energy that is positively exhilarating. The garden plots have been expanded little by little to meet the needs of a swelling and diverse membership.
In 2007, it was identified that the garden would have to undergo some radical reconstruction if it was to survive for years to come. Crumbling paving was proving to be a real safety hazard for those individuals with limited mobility and the garden bed timbers were beginning to show signs of rot and decay. The waiting list of interested gardeners hoping for a spot in the Sault’s only community garden had also grown considerably long.
The garden membership, elated to learn in November 2007 that they had secured $15,000 in funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to address these challenges, eagerly set to work in the spring of 2008 to deconstruct the existing 32 beds in the lower half of the garden. By mid May, the garden area was expanded and touting 50 new garden beds fashioned out of cedar on full display. As well, new patio stones were laid down to make the ramp and area surrounding the recently rebuilt Community Tool Shed more wheelchair accessible and the hazardous, cracked stones were replaced.
In 2009, the garden’s other raised garden boxes beds in the upper part of the garden were rebuilt out of cedar. The perennial border and raspberry beds were permanently edged and a new sunflower garden promoting peace was created along the western side of the property. The garden now boasts a total of 63 rental plots and has never looked better!
Our members have come to realize that we just don’t grow vegetables. We also grow hope and cultivate a sense of community when we work together towards a common goal. The garden promotes self-reliance by teaching and supporting people to help themselves. We value team work, cooperation, service and lifelong learning. Most importantly, we honour diversity and respect for all living things.
Spring Registration will soon be underway for the 2010 season. There are a number of raised garden beds that are available to those in the community who are interested in renting a garden plot. The $20 rental fee includes water and access to organic gardening supplies and tools housed in the nearby Community Tool Shed. Members are required to donate 8 hours of community service maintaining the garden’s communal areas over the course of the growing season which runs from April to the end of October. Work bees and Socials are held every two weeks.
Don’t miss the Allard Street Community Garden display at the 3rd annual Seedy Saturday being held this Saturday, February 20th in the Cafeteria at Sault College which is located at 443 Northern Avenue in the B Wing West. Sponsored by Clean North, the Sault Ste. Marie Horticultural Society, Sault College and Seeds of Diversity Canada, this event runs from 10 am to 3 pm and features speaker presentations on gardening-related topics, various hands-on activities and numerous informative displays. Over 35 vendors will be on site promoting their products and services and there will be tasty refreshments for sale. Admission is by donation.
Someone once said, “Gardens don’t grow just where they’re sown; they spread out runners, teaching the young, inspiring the old and giving neighbourhoods new hope.”
If you would like to volunteer at the Allard Street Community Garden, book a tour or rent a garden plot for the 2010 season, please contact Suzanne Hanna, Garden Co-ordinator at (705) 759-2893 or firstname.lastname@example.org.