Little gardens for big benefits

Summerland Earth Week runs from April 15 to 22 and is filled with free earth-conscious events and activities for all ages.

Summerland Earth Week runs from April 15 to 22 and is filled with free earth-conscious events and activities for all ages. Kicking off the week is a Square Foot Gardening workshop at Grasslands Nursery; the week culminates on Earth Day with a planting session at Dale Meadows Sports Field.

One of the themes of Summerland’s Earth Week this year is food security. The World Health Organization states: “Food security is in place when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”

Toni Boot, founder and owner of Grasslands Nursery, said, “We live in an agriculture-rich area populated with many people who are willing to pass on their knowledge of sustainable ways to grow food. And, with the growing popularity of square foot gardening, lack of space is no longer a valid excuse not to participate.”

Food gardening need not be relegated to the back 40 of your yard anymore, she said. One of the concepts of square foot gardening is to position your raised beds near your house – with ready access from your kitchen, if possible.

Perhaps you have a deck or patio on which to place a square foot garden or a few containers. Or you have an unused area of lawn or other such nonproductive space you can convert to a food-growing area.

If you are able to observe your garden easily, you are more likely to tend to it, harvest from it and enjoy the thrill of watching a covered seed emerge and grow into a plant that provides food for you and your family.

There are many reasons to grow your own food in a sustainable way, said Boot.

Eliminating the use of oil-based, toxic products such as chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides means you will not be consuming them. This has a positive effect on your health as well as the health of billions of micro-organisms living in the soil in which your vegetables are growing.

Additionally, there is no possibility these poisons will contaminate our groundwater.

Many things we consider waste can be composted and added to the soil to increase fertility and improve soil structure.

Not only does this reduce the burden on our landfill, homegrown compost is the best kind: you know what is in it and, perhaps more importantly, what isn’t.

Square foot gardening is a no-till, low maintenance and resource-conscious method of gardening. It conserves space, money (over the long-term), time and water, while creating a healthy environment for both soil organisms and plants. It can totally transform otherwise unproductive or resource-hungry areas of your yard.

Converting some areas of your yard into food gardening is the perfect time to rid your yard of invasive plants, which typically have few redeeming qualities. Disturbed soils that are not planted to desirable food plants, ornamentals or native species, will quickly be overtaken by invasive plants which can be challenging to control.

As well, planting native species is a good way to bring pollinators to your vegetable bed.

To learn more about square foot gardening, register for the workshop being held at Grasslands Nursery on Sunday April 15 from 1 to 4 p.m. by phoning 250-494-4617 or e-mail info@grasslandsnursery.ca.

To learn more about food sustainability, take in the award winning documentary film, The Future of Food, being shown at Centre Stage Theatre on Monday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m.

This film delves into food security and the impact of genetic modification and industrialization on the security of our food supply.

Another event to consider attending is the monthly Philosopher’s Café, held Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Summerland Art Gallery.

Join host Andrea Gunner, Chair of the Food Action Society of Vernon, who will lead a discussion of Vernon’s local food sustainable policies and how local programs ensure food security for community residents.