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Bountiful harvest reaped at the new Fort Calgary garden

Volunteer Louise Patterson Bruns said they couldn’t drag her away from participating in next year’s garden at Fort Calgary.

Patterson, along with several other volunteers, attended the Fort Calgary garden harvest on Wednesday evening. It’s the first harvest since the new garden went in after being torn out a number of years ago.

“I’m just really excited to see it all taking place and taking shape. It was a pretty big challenge, said Patterson, who grew all the bedding plants for the garden in a greenhouse that her dad built back in 1980.

Patterson said there are 12 beds, laid out according to the four directions – north, south, east and west – and they planted what’s called a SPIN garden. That stands for Small Plot Intensive, Patterson Bruns said.  Inside they had tomatoes, zucchini, herbs,  potatoes, rhubarb and more.

It had been a garden for years prior to being taken out, Patterson Bruns said, but the horseradish from before remained.

“The horseradish remained because horseradish is an extremely hardy, hardy perennial. So, we have a huge patch of it here,” she said.

The new design was circular, a change from the 900-square-metre square parcel it was on before.

According to Lindsey Bruns, Director of Creative Experience at Fort Calgary, said a team of about 50 people tended to the garden throughout the spring and summer months.

“It was a very successful first season,” said Bruns.

“Since we were starting from scratch to dig the beds, we really felt the brevity of Calgary’s growing season, but we had a lot of generous volunteers who made it all happen and the garden was very productive.”

Social impact of the Fort Calgary garden

The Calgary social impact agency Carya benefitted from the vegetables – and some fruit – from the garden this year. Fort Calgary donated the 600-plus pounds of food from the garden for use in Carya’s culinary programs.

Chris Grosse, Carya’s supervisor of culinary and event curation said that they used the food in programming to help people learn everyday cooking skills.

“Many young people today don’t take home economics classes in school, and they lack basic culinary know-how,” said Grosse.

“We used the produce to practice knife skills and cut up a bazillion vegetables for minestrone soup.”

Some of the vegetables were also used by participants in their homes. Grosse said the Fort Calgary garden program was a natural partnership fit for them.

““It’s such a treat to have hyper-local, organic vegetables to work with and you really notice a difference,” said Grosse.

The garden is located on the northeast side of the Fort Calgary location. It’s the same site, just a different design, as the prior garden.

Fort Calgary made the commitment to ensure an Indigenous connection to the garden, particularly with the planting of sacred herbs. The plants were also pollinated by three beehives that were stationed in the garden over the summer.

The program was supported by the City of Calgary, the Calgary Horticultural Society, ABC Bees, the Fairmont Palliser, River Café,  and the East Village Neighbourhood Association.

  • With files from Aryn Toombs