To step into the lush green space that is the Parksville Community Garden Society is to almost forget you’re in a city at all.
After you’ve been immersed in the greenery for some time, catching glimpses of the nearby stores and gas stations on McVickers and the Island Highway can come as a surprise.
If that sounds like heaven to you, you’re in luck.
Although there is a waiting list of about a year for one of the 31 existing plots, there is room right away for keen gardeners who don’t mind building a plot from scratch.
Lyle Pollmeier has been a member for a year now. He built his plot from below the ground up, tilling the soil and hauling rocks and concrete blocks out of the lot leased to the society by the City of Parksville. He also brought over two truckloads of manure to use as rich fertilizer for the soil.
It wasn’t easy, but as a reward for his effort, his plot is bursting with edible life, including an archway where a crop of fresh peas dangle, waiting to be picked.
He estimates it would take a week of solid effort to revamp some of the available space into a viable garden plot.
The sense of community within the society is strong. All the tools needed to tend to a garden are available on-site for members to use as they please.
Many members will keep an eye on their neighbours’ plots, and will tend to each others’ gardens when someone is out of town.
Riki Sato has been involved in various community gardens since 1972. Her motto is simple.
“Eat, grow, garden,” said Sato with a laugh.
She spends 30 to 40 minutes at her plot in the morning and loves the connection with others that comes from working side by side to grow food. It’s something she’s done for so long because she loves it.
“Wherever I moved, I was involved in helping to create community gardens,” said Sato.
She’s planned her garden so it yields produce 12 months a year, and estimates that 80 per cent of her diet comes from what she grows in her plot. Whatever is leftover, she shares with friends that can’t garden themselves.
President of the Garden Society Lois Jeffery grew up gardening in Manitoba. She doesn’t have space for a yard at her current home, and the society provides all that and more.
“I like to get out, get a little fresh air, get a little exercise, it’s a nice group of people here. I’ve made some good friends here,” said Jeffrey.
The food grown here also travels beyond the walls of the garden and the homes of its gardeners.
Upon entering the garden, the plot on the right hand side is designated for donation to the Parksville Food Bank. It’s currently bursting with two types of potato plants and a rogue squash plant. The potato seeds were donated to the garden by Shar-Kare in Parksville.
The garden is entirely member-funded. It costs $5 to become a Friend of the Garden, and $25 for an annual plot rental.
The lot is owned by the City of Parksville and leased to the society for a nominal fee. Membership is limited to Parksville residents only.
Those with green thumbs itching for a plot of their own can contact the society via email at email@example.com.