LISTOWEL – The Salvation Army’s Harvest of Hope Garden will allow people to learn some basic gardening skills this spring.
“Last summer, because of outdoor restrictions, we were limited by how many people we could have out,” said Food Bank Coordinator Carolyn Saunders. “This year, so far, we don’t have outdoor limitations, so we’re back to gardening courses. So far, we’ve had one on April 25, and it was a square foot gardening course.”
The courses are free. To register, phone 519-291-2900 or email email@example.com.
Upcoming courses are no-till, also known as lasagna gardening on May 9, planting on May 30 and bucket or container gardening on June 13.
“They are all Mondays between 7 – 8:00 p.m., and they are all here at the garden next to the Salvation Army Church,” said Saunders. “We go indoors if it rains, so there are no rain dates.”
Although she has been gardening for about six years, she noted she has been learning new things while preparing for these courses.
“Topsoil, it’s not what I thought it was,” said Saunders. “The difference between topsoil and good quality nutrient dense compost soil, when I got a truckload of screened topsoil it’s whatever is being removed, the top layer of soil from construction sites or housing sites, that top layer that’s being taken away and screened. But, that’s not the best soil to grow your vegetables in because you need to add more nutrients and organic matter back into the soil.”
She said people have talked to her and said they got topsoil and the vegetables didn’t do very great.
“It’s because you need a lot of that organic matter mixed in,” she said. “Topsoil is great if you have a deeper bed that you want to fill. You can layer it first with logs, sticks, leaves, all sorts of things, topsoil, and then you put the good quality stuff on top.”
Saunders said they are also teaching money-saving tips for anybody interested in gardening.
She talked about learning the difference between determinate and indeterminate plants and proper pruning techniques.
“I didn’t know anything about this stuff, and I’ve been gardening for about six years,” said Saunders. “I studied urban agriculture, but I studied how it impacts people socially. How it impacts them at the individual level, the household level and then the community level, so it was very much urban agriculture tying in with social studies and social benefits.”
Harvest of Hope is not a community garden, but it is designed to educate the community. All vegetables from the garden supply the food bank with fresh, healthy produce.
“It is a spot where people can learn in a low-pressure environment,” she said. “We will be covering topics like what you can plant together for companion planting and what types of things you should keep separate from each other because of the nutrients required.”
Saunders has reached out to community groups to help with the overall maintenance of the garden, not the events.
“There are a lot of mental health benefits to gardening, being outside and getting your vitamin D in the sunshine,” she said. “There are lots of health benefits for that, so I have been reaching out, and many people are interested. There will be things like getting people out to water the gardens in the mornings, or maybe we can get them to have a weeding party.”
She said one example of community involvement already in the works is flower maintenance.
“I’m not a flower person,” said Saunders. “I don’t know how to take care of flowers, but I have a group of ladies who are flower people, and they said they would love to take care of the flowers.”
Participation in the Harvest of Hope Garden is open to community members no matter what stage of life or gardening they are at.
“It’s a place I hope people can meet others,” said Saunders.
The North Perth Public Library will be pitching in to share information related to the garden’s free courses. Coordinator of Public Services Sherri Berfelz is putting aside books for anyone interested in getting more information on the topics.
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