The Penticton Community Garden on Vancouver Hill is not only growing food, they are growing community.
Current garden president Dennis Hrycun said he’s been growing everything from cucumbers and tomatoes to herbs while his wife grows plate-sized dahlias since they rented a plot in 2006.
“Gardening is a great way to get outside and there’s a lot of reward to it when you get to eat what you grow. Plus, garden food tastes so much better than store-bought. There’s just no comparison,” he said.
There are 67 plot holders with the oldest gardener being 89-years-old.
Gardeners were thrilled to hear that Penticton council extended the garden’s lease for three more years.
On Oct. 4, council voted to approve a $1 a year lease for the gardens on Vancouver Hill.
The tiered plots are in a prime location.
But the benefit of such a large community garden outweighs profit according to the gardeners.
There is a two-year waiting list to rent a plot which speaks to the need for such a project.
The Penticton Community Garden’s story began in 1998.
A hillside of native Okanagan wildflowers and sages was added in 2009, along with the gardens’ signature ironwork pheasant. In 2012, the gardens doubled in size – growing from 26 individual gardens to 51 places to grow.
Plots are $30 a year or $60 for a double plot.
With the price of produce these days, you pay for it fast if you plant what you eat, said Hrycun.
Everything from peppers and Brussels sprouts to Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes grows in this community garden.
Lots of what is grown go to the Soupateria and food banks.
For gardener Lisa, she loves to see what she can grow in the garden. Her echinacea thrived this year as did her ever-bearing strawberries which are still producing in October.
Gardeners tend to their plots, tilling the soil, watering the flowers and watching food grow.
Hrycun is teaching about composting. His compost barrel has an abundance of happy worms.
One requirement of the gardens is they must be organic.
No pesticides are allowed either.
Sure the aphids come and the weeds too, but that’s all part of gardening, he said.
The members are always learning from each other too.
“We are teaching each other as we go. I’m always learning something new and I’ve been gardening for 60 years,” said Hrycun.
This summer’s heat brought an abundance of late cucumbers and tomatoes.
“I think I fed four families with the amount of cucumbers I grew,” he said.
The local orchards just exchanged their apples for some of the gardens’ tomatoes.
Next spring, they hope to bring some school and seniors groups to see the gardens.
“These gardens are a real gem in Penticton,” said Hrycun.
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