People are interested in gardening: Spencer

Now that spring is here, people are pretty anxious to get going on their gardens.

With a delayed spring, Stettler and area residents have not been thinking about gardening at home or at the Community Gardens much.

And according to Rob Spencer, chair of Heartland Beautification Committee and Stettler Community Gardens, weather has certainly played a vital role this year with spring taking its time arriving.

“Now that spring is here, people are pretty anxious to get going,” said Spencer. “On a much more far-reaching scale, over the past decade or two, there was a decline in gardening interest, which has now swung back the other way. People are interested in gardening, growing their own vegetables and beautifying their yards.”

However, the challenge according to Spencer, is doing it in the space that they have and with the current level of competition for time that exists in our society today. “Regardless, people are doing it. There tends to be less large-garden growing, but more containers, or raised bed gardening.”

Spencer commented that people aren’t growing enough to feed an army, but tend to grow more in smaller spaces.

One of the ways in which people can transition from winter to summer soil if things seem to be slow to get going, is working the area, which can speed up soil warming or regrowth.

“Rake the lawn to remove some of that insulating dead growth,” Spencer added. “Work up the soil if it is dry enough. Making mounds or raised areas in a garden can encourage warming and ensure soils are drained, and in addition it gives a bit more easy access rooting zone for plants to grow in.”

The other alternative would be to add organic matter, such as composted manure, compost, etc. to the soil, and this can be done prior to working the garden soil, either in spring or in the fall, Spencer suggested.

Stettler’s Community Gardens

In their seventh year now, the Stettler Community Gardens have been in the community, taking care of many residents who have nurtured a passion for growing their own fruits, vegetables and flowers, among other things.

In 2010, they started with a mere 5,000 square feet at their main site by the schools.

Now, In 2017, they have three gardens, totaling somewhere around 35,000 square feet, including garden plots, orchards and fruit borders.

There are typically around 60 families growing in the gardens and we are usually full, most years, Spencer commented.

“We’ve got a nice-sized Food Bank garden each year and the fruit borders are starting to come into full production, or will in the next year or two,” Spencer stated. “At present, our focus is really on improving soils that have been a bit on the rough side, due to past construction and to what we have to work with in Stettler.”

Spencer and his team are also looking at sourcing funding for future projects, like a true community orchard and are always trying to incorporate a bit of community garden into every project.

If people have questions on growing fruits and vegetables, the Heartland Beautification Committee is offering a Q&A session on Tuesday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Stettler Public Library.