A new project started last spring by a local, avid gardener is looking to grow from its recent success and bloom into a larger effort between neighbours and friends at a local park in Niagara-on-the-Lake this year.
Newark Park’s community garden is set to nearly double in size this spring, after receiving approval from the town to add 26 new gardening plots to the existing garden, which gardeners began working on last June.
Julian Trachsel of the Niagara Community Garden Network was the brainchild behind the idea, and helped raise $20,255 last year to fund the installation of 32 10x10-foot plots, plus two raised garden beds to accommodate those with physical accessibility needs.
During the town’s committee of the whole meeting Jan. 24, he shared the accomplishments of the garden’s inaugural year: the end of the season saw a plentiful bounty of fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers produced by 19 different gardeners.
“Overall, we had a really successful year,” he told the committee. “We learned a lot, and boy, we had fun.”
Each plot costs $60 to rent, or $90 to rent two, and each person is responsible for tending to their gardens. Every plot was occupied last season.
“I think everybody was really happy with their crops,” Trachsel said. “Even people in the neighbourhood who were walking by, or riding their bikes by, they’d stop in and say how pleased they were to see the parking being used to a much greater degree.”
More than that, however, he said the community garden brought people in the neighbourhood together to the great outdoors, bonding and helping to improve the area’s environmental diversity.
It was a place for community engagement, meeting new people, and making new friends, he said.
Already, Trachsel said 20 of the 26 new plots have been claimed by those hoping to rent a spot for this year’s season. One raised bed for accessibility needs is still available.
As well as adding the new plots, he wants to introduce a 24-foot round pollinator garden into the mix: a pollinator garden hosts plants native to the local environment, which attracts creatures like bees, butterflies, and wasps. These gardens benefit both the flora and fauna of an area.
“There’s clearly a need for gardens like this,” he said. “If we don’t provide a suitable environment for our native pollinators of all varieties, we run the risk of losing them forever.”
Trachsel said the NOTL Horticultural Society is agreeing to cover the cost of $1,200 to purchase suitable native plants.
“I’m thrilled that you’re putting in a pollinator garden,” said Coun. Sandra O’Connor. “I think that is great for the environment and for sustainability.”
After spending the majority of the money fundraised in 2022 on the first phase of the project, he said this second – and final – phase needs $6,555 to be completed. With $9,095 leftover in donations from last year, Trachsel said the town won’t be required to cover any of the costs.
Instead, the committee approved a staff report detailing that the municipality’s staff will be in charge of assembling the garden plots, preparing the site, tilling the soil, and other activities to complete the expansion. The labour costs will be billed to the project’s donations account.
“This is a really perfect example of how community engagement can work well with a municipal partnership,” said Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa, before he and council members voted unanimously in favour of supporting the expansion.
The town is aiming to finish the expansion by Friday, May 19, depending on weather conditions.