The Haven Community Garden in Barrhaven is one of the city’s newest community gardens. It’s beautifully situated on Via Chianti Grove off Longfields Drive, at the end of a row of townhouses and adjacent to two low-rise buildings. Residents of these new buildings gaze down upon 25 beds of lush green vegetables and fruits.
The idea of a community garden was first discussed last year, as the neighbourhood was taking shape, but it was not until this year that the idea took fruition. Residents worked with the landlord to secure a spot for the garden, and to sign up interested gardeners from the adjacent residences. The raised beds around the perimeter were completed at the end of May; the ground-level beds were finished by the first week of June. Despite the somewhat late start, the garden has flourished. The beds are filled with massive tomato plants that are heavily laden with fruit, as well as other favourites such as carrots, peppers, beans, and even fennel and bok choy
What makes this project remarkable is that about 70% of the gardeners at the Haven Community Garden had never gardened before they acquired a plot this year. The response has been tremendously positive. The garden has been a true community effort that readily brought together individuals from various cultures and abilities to work towards the common goal of growing fresh, nutritious produce. Experienced gardeners help newcomers identify weeds, determine how many plants a bed can sustain, and ensure that produce is picked when it is ripe. Though it has been a hot and dry summer, there is always at least one person on hand to ensure that all of the beds are watered. And, when food is ready to be picked, it is often delightfully shared amongst family members and neighbours! One family, having only one strawberry plant, which produced only one strawberry, split it four ways so that each family member could have a taste!
This year, much of the effort was spent getting the infrastructure authorized and built. Next year, emphasis will be placed on organizing the gardens before they are planted, by divvying up seeds and seedlings, and providing more educational opportunities for new gardeners. Interest is growing, and if space can be obtained for additional beds, the garden organizers would love to see a kid’s garden, an herb garden, and a central community garden, in which seedlings could be started before being dispersed to individual plots. They would also like to invest in composters and water barrels, and more tools to make gardening tasks easier for everyone. The garden is open to members of the adjacent residences, but right now, all of the plots have been spoken for.
Mara Watson, one of the gardening coordinators, says that the main positive outcome of the garden is that it provided an opportunity for people to really get to know their neighbours. Individuals who do not otherwise share common interests – or a common language – still find the means to communicate about their plants. It is also a fundamental source of joy for the community. She relayed one story of a new gardener who lovingly photographs her plants and speaks of them as her babies. “The garden gives her such joy and peace,” Mara said, echoing the feelings of the other gardeners who had gathered to discuss their endeavour. Indeed, it is easy to see why this beautiful community garden has become a centrepiece of one of Barrhaven’s newest communities.