My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.
Call me a keener, but soon after the calendar changed to Jan. 1, I bought myself some squash seeds to grow in my garden this summer. I got a seed catalogue in the mail the week before, so I figured I had the all-clear to start planning what I’d like to do months from now with my tiny patch of earth. I won’t be planting those butternut or bush delicata seeds in my backyard, though. That’s the domain of a big, old silver maple casting shade over my postage stamp lot. It’s heavenly if you’re a human sitting outside on a hot July day, but not so much if you’re a tomato plant clamouring to catch some sun rays. Those squash, along with a handful of tomatoes, perhaps a melon, and most definitely some kale will take root in my own 10×20-foot plot behind Grantham Mennonite Church in St. Catharines instead. My tiny tract is part of a sunny swath behind the church that’s used as a community garden run by Links for Greener Learning. This will be my third summer as a community gardener with Links for Greener Learning, an non-profit dedicated to providing newcomers to Canada with experiential learning opportunities. Links is one of a handful of local groups running community gardens in the region. It’s currently taking applications from green thumbs who need a place to plant this year. Selfishly, Links fulfils my need to feel like a master gardener with every vegetable I successfully harvest. (I hoist each haul skyward like baby Simba from the Lion King and celebrate by snapping a pic.) But that community garden has given me more than fodder for Instagram and fishing hole-type stories about giant tomatoes I’ve grown. It’s given me one of my favourite ways to while away a lunch hour, take a break from writing or spend an evening outdoors. I get to be in the company of ambitious amateur horticulturalists who have a whole world of experience growing eggplant, tomatoes, sesame seeds, corn, herbs and leafy greens. It was the highlight of my summer last year to pull weeds around my peppers while my gardening neighbour from China tended to her sesame plants, the family from West Africa tied their prolific tomatoes, and a couple from the Middle East raked between fertile rows of inky black eggplant. We broke ground together in our fertile mosaic, and broke bread together at potlucks and other events Links held to celebrate the growing season. Read the rest of the story and find a community garden in Niagara.