Thursday, 27 September 2018

Un-Secreting the Garden

Join us for Culture Days on September 29th between 10 am and 2 pm to participate in this free activity!

Can you find all 14 fairies in Garden@Kimbourne?

These fairies read The Secret Garden and thought, “Hey! That reminds us of Garden@Kimbourne. Except our garden is NOT a secret. We should make sure people know all about it!”

So they each took a quote from the Secret Garden and nestled into their favourite spots in the garden. As you find each fairy, find their quote below to uncover another secret fact about the garden.

*Please stay on the paths and do not step on the soil. We promise you can find all the fairies this way. What’s so special about the soil? The fairies will explain…

“Might I… might I have a bit of earth?”

In 2014, a young woman who missed the gardens and forests of her hometown in northern Ontario learned that this piece of land beside Kimbourne Park United Church was empty. She and a friend made a plan for a community garden where people could learn how to grow food and share it with people in need. They presented their idea to the church board, and asked if they could use the land. The board members said yes, and Garden@Kimbourne was born. Today, we have twice-weekly Garden Together sessions, run special workshops every year, and give half of the food we grow to the Glen Rhodes Food Bank.

She bent very close to them and sniffed the fresh scent of the damp earth. She liked it very much.

Hugelkultur means “mound culture” in German. Our mound was made four years ago by burying huge branches under a big stack of smaller branches, leaves, straw, and other plant materials. Now most of those materials have broken down into beautiful, good-smelling black earth.

"It's as wick as you or me," he said; and Mary remembered that Martha had told her that "wick" meant "alive" or "lively."

Look at the branches around you. We know they are alive now because they are covered in leaves, but what about in the winter? If the tips are springy and there’s a little bit of green colour in their brown or grey, you know that those sections are new growth from this year. You can also tell by stripping away a little bark to see the thin layer of green underneath. We do not cut into the tree leaves or the tree will be exposed to disease.  

When I dig I'm not tired at all. I like to smell the earth when it's turned… "It's th' best fun I ever had in my life—shut in here an' wakenin' up a garden."

Some of the people who work in this garden have illnesses that make them extra tired or sad. When they garden, they feel better. Scientists have found that some of the tiny microbes that live in the soil actually help human health when we get them on our skin.

"There doesn't seem to be no need for no one to be contrary when there's flowers an' such like, an' such lots o' friendly wild things runnin' about makin' homes for themselves, or buildin' nests an' singin' an' whistlin', does there?"

Most of the plants that grow in Garden@Kimbourne produce edible food for the community. Half of the harvest each week goes to Glen Rhodes Food Bank and the other half goes to the volunteers--we want to grow as much food for the community as possible! But then why also make space for flowers? They aren’t just pretty--flowers provide nectar for bees to eat. Because we love our pollinators, flowers bloom in Garden@Kimbourne from late spring to fall.

“Tha' knows us won't trouble thee," he said to the robin. "Us is near bein' wild things ourselves.”

The creatures in a garden are just as important as the plants. All fruits and many vegetables start as flowers that have to be pollinated by bees or other insects. Birds fertilize the ground with their droppings. And in the soil, tiny microbes and bigger earthworms turn dead plants into beautiful soil that gives new plants food and vitamins--like the red wriggler worms that turn “waste” into rich compost in the bins beneath this fairy.

“By this time it was plain that though the lovely wild place was not likely to become a ‘gardener’s garden’ it would be a wilderness of growing things before the springtime was over.”

A permaculture garden is not neat and tidy. In permaculture, we look at the way nature grows plants in an ecosystem: all mixed together, and all helping each other in some way. In our garden ecosystem, lettuce can protect and shade the soil around turnips without getting in their way. The smell of some herbs can keep pests away from tomatoes. On our big hugelkultur mound, bush beans add nutrients to the soil while the strawberries around them shelter it from the sun and wind.

“They drew the chair under the plum-tree, which was snow-white with blossoms and musical with bees. It was like a king’s canopy, a fairy king’s… Between the blossoming branches of the canopy bits of blue sky looked down like wonderful eyes.”

When you look at this patch of the garden from above, it doesn’t look like much. Just a patch of grass. But what happens if you join our fairy friend on the ground? If you sit, crouch, or even lie down, it turns out that there’s a grand big sky up above you. The garden is a great place to delight in the plants and critters, but it’s also a great reminder that nature is up, above, and around us all the time.

“Something began pushing things up out of the soil and making things out of nothing.”

Soil is the most important part of the garden. When it’s healthy, it holds plants steady, soaks up water, and has billions of tiny creatures living inside it. Plants feed those creatures by making sugar out of carbon dioxide and squeezing it out their roots. The creatures feed the plants vitamins by breaking down dead plants in the soil.

"All a chap's got to do to make plants thrive… is to be friends with 'em for sure.”

An important part of permaculture—and of all gardening—is to pay attention. Look at your plants as often as you can. See when the sun hits them and how much rain they get. See how they change and grow. With enough observation, you’ll always know when they need help, and you’ll probably know what help to give.

“Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow."

To keep its billions of tiny microbes and insects alive, soil must be covered and protected from the sun and wind. It must be full of living roots. That’s why nature always plants weeds in bare soil. We plant lots of fruits, veggies, and flowers in ours!

There’s naught as nice’ smell o’ fresh growin’ things when the’ rain falls on ‘em.

Our rain barrels collect water every time it rains so that we don’t have to depend on city water from the hose. It’s better for the plants because it hasn’t been treated with chlorine, it doesn’t use up extra resources, and it’s free!

At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.

It’s hard to believe now that 4 years ago there was nothing here but an empty lawn. What new thing would you like to do? Never doubt that you too can change your own corner of the world.

"Now it need not be a secret anymore.”

This fairy wants to remind you that Garden@Kimbourne is welcome to all. We are completely volunteer-run and accept all levels and abilities of gardeners (even if you don’t think you are a gardener). During the growing season, we meet twice a week to garden together--but we also appreciate help with watering and other garden tasks throughout the rest of the week, too.
As you can see by the Little Lending Library and tether ball, we are also a community space for neighbors to meet and enjoy this urban oasis.

You found us all!

Thanks for helping us un-secret Garden@Kimbourne. We would love to see you again at Garden Together, a workshop, or to visit and bask in the glory of nature.

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