Community Garden: A Year of Growth

As fall sets in the Many Feathers Garden is wrapping up. We had an amazing season from May – October of harvests enjoyed by our volunteers and customers. The garden was an amazing learning opportunity and we hope to take the lessons we learned and apply them to an even more prosperous growing season next year!

Here are some important takeaways from this year:

Weed Prevention: Newspaper & Burlap are an excellent weed barrier. In the garden we noticed almost no major weeds in areas where there was a barrier between the ground and the soil that we added. We learned that natural barriers work just as well for the small scale that we were growing, as well as weekly care from our volunteers.
 

 

Native Plants: We started to identify unknown plants in and around our garden and we discovered what we thought were "weeds", were important native plants. Native plants are indigenous to the area and support the ecosystem. They’re not in our way, as much as we are in theirs! 

We learned that we do not need to worry too much about keeping a tidy garden, and should continue to support the existing ecosystem. The results were beautiful butterflies coming by for the milkweed nearby, and almost no pests in our garden!

A favourite reference this season was, Ontario Wildflowers, (http://www.ontariowildflowers.com/) a thoroughly curated collection of native plants! 

Companionship: Plants need friends too! We discovered how important it is for plants to be paired off with ones that could help support them. Marigolds that we grew from seed were key to the success of our cherry tomatoes, which we were afraid would attract pests. The smell of the marigolds kept the pests at bay, and added a colourful addition to our garden! 

 

Planning: The biggest mistake and lesson we learned was to make sure we plan our layout correctly next season. We were too cautious and planted extra seeds of squash, and cucumber incase some didn’t make it. Then come September the squash really took over, and soon our garden was overrun with vines. We’re going to do more work on the design for next year to make sure that we maximize the space we have!

 

Timing: We started our seedlings in April last year, and they did so well! A big lesson is to continue starting from seeds, and starting even earlier. Just last weekend we planted garlic bulbs in the ground to grow and root over the winter and be ready for next spring.

 

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No waste: We were happy to generate no waste with this project, through the use of recycled materials, and allowing the plant matter to decompose over time instead of shipping it elsewhere for disposal.  Following the principles of permaculture was the best guideline in developing the garden. Ensuring future sustainability is an important takeaway for the future of the Many Feathers Garden. The environmental impact of our projects is an important factor when considering additions, or ideas. 

 

Personal Growth: Our team started to plan and work on the project from December 2015, and to see it come to fruition, and literally bloom, is a great lesson in patience. We put a lot of energy into this, and that’s why with each harvest, and little new discovery in the garden, we were genuinely excited.

This project was an excellent way to work together and make something unique for our community, and network of volunteers. We were able to share that through our harvest dinners & at the farmer’s market we hosted every Sunday!

Thank you for following along, and supporting the Many Feathers Garden. We will be back again next season, bigger, and greener!

Email volunteers@manyfeathers.ca to join our team of gardening enthusiasts! 

Written by Maleeha Farooq

Photography by Maleeha Farooq