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Grow on! Calgary community gardens still sowing despite coronavirus

Calgary gardeners like Julia Hinman are eager to get their hands dirty in city community gardens, while still abiding by coronavirus health rules.

The City of Calgary has decided to keep community gardens open, with some rules.

Community gardens in the Calgary have been given a pass to sow their seeds, so long as they comply with health guidelines.


Members of Inglewood Community Garden may not be able to come together for socials or Saturday morning coffee, but they can still exercise their green thumb.

“We’re still able to garden, and really, for gardeners, that’s the priority for us,” said Hinman, chair of the Inglewood Community Garden.

It used to be a space where one could come and go. Now there’s scheduled, two-hour weekly blocks for organized and monitored prep and planting.

They’ve taken the guidelines extremely seriously, publishing a list of access protocols for those who wish to access the garden.

For such a large garden, these specifications are necessary. The Inglewood Community Garden supports 119 rental beds of different sizes and close to half an acre in communal garden space.

Even with the new procedures, those in Inglewood are still ready to grow.

“It’s worth it to do it,” said Hinman

“We’re taking this in stride.”

Size doesn’t matter – gardening goes on

At smaller gardens, the sentiment is the same.

Those at the Renfrew Community Garden, which supports 30 beds and plenty of communal space, were quick to adopt their own guidelines.

The space may not be fenced in, so foot traffic can’t be controlled, but they’ve been setting up various times and schedules for gardeners to work.

“We’re putting the restrictions out there, and trusting our members to maintain that,” said Lisa Mulder, who co-founded the garden with Heike Pauli.

Though there are restrictions, people are still eager to get out and garden.

Co-ordinated (and well distanced) meetings have been set up to maintain the garden, and spots fill quickly.

“I have a full roster of workers who just want to come out, and hang out, and weed grass,” Mulder said.

Gardeners at the Renfrew Community Garden staying 6 feet apart while prepping their garden beds / FACEBOOK, LISA MULDER

One thing is for sure; gardeners are enthusiastic to get growing.

At the Twin Views Communal Garden in Dover, the gardening goes on, despite the lack of public access.

Like other gardens, it used to be a come-and-go model; however, a core group of volunteers has taken on the task of managing the 50-bed garden.

“It’s going to be difficult for a lot of people this year,” said Cathy Taylor, founder of the Twin Views Communal Garden.

“So, it’s even more important that we grow the food this year.”

Those at Twin Views share the garden’s produce communally, both with members of the Dover community, and with various organizations – such as The Alex Community Kitchen and the Forest Lawn Seniors Centre.

Gardens give back and connect neighbours

This kind of community donation can be seen at the Inglewood and Renfrew Gardens as well.

The Inglewood Community Garden produces about four thousand pounds of organic produce for external agencies. There’s also a plot at Renfrew dedicated to Food Bank donations. The Renfrew Community Garden also features a communal bed free to pick from. And, it has what Mulder calls an “Edible Tree Forest.”

Community gardens enrich their communities from the inside out. They not only provide food for those in need, but they also provide a way to connect.

With social distancing precautions in place, it’s harder to get out and socialize. We can’t hang out with our neighbours much anymore, and interacting with the community has hit a roadblock.

But community gardening provides a solution. You’re getting out of your house into a communal space where it’s fairly easy to keep your distance.

“It’s one more way that we can meet our neighbours in the community, and interact with people in a safe way,” said Mulder.

Calgarians have sacrificed a lot recently, but community gardens aren’t one of those things. Neighbours can connect with neighbours, the community and the Earth.

“When people come to the garden and they start, they realize there’s something in there for their soul,” said Hinman.