Four and a half years ago, we bought a small townhouse with a “postage stamp” backyard. That backyard had a cement pad that we could place our gazebo on, and a bit more of a yard that had a brick path to the gate, and on each side barren strips of lava rock landscape. It seemed so small that I figured there was no point in even trying to garden. And so it sat like that for 2 years until a friend gifted me with some containers filled with soil. I figured, “Well, at least I can grow some herbs.” So I did. But still, I couldn’t imagine how to turn that wee bit of space into a “real garden.”
But the following spring another friend encouraged me to join the Penticton Urban Agricultural Association (PUAA). I did like the fact that they were growing large amounts of vegetables and herbs on the C.URB site in downtown Penticton, that had generously been provided by the City of Penticton. On this site, they not only grew fresh, organic food that was donated to the local Soup Kitchen, but they also provided wonderful lessons on how to garden with our particular climate and soil types. At these teaching garden lessons, community members were not only “taught” but also had the opportunity to dig right in and learn “hands on.” Furthermore, PUAA were encouraging local individuals, organizations, and companies who might have land available for urban gardening, to join in making that land available to raise healthy food within the city.
Now I had gardened in the past, pretty large scale, in coastal climates, but it was great to learn to garden in a way in which I could conserve water – a very important issue in our area – and could use local soils and improve them with locally available mulches and composting materials. I also realized that, small as my little backyard might be, I could probably create a productive garden of my own. And so I started to plant. PUAA had wonderful “raised bed” garden boxes available for a small fee, donated by a generous local company. And so in the past year, my garden started to grow.
I was so excited for the 2014 year at C.URB, looking forward to more wonderful lessons, and to working at the site with master gardeners with many years of experience gardening with our local conditions, and great enthusiasm in developing in Penticton, as is happening in major cities and small towns all over our country and throughout the world, urban gardening for health and self-sufficiency and sharing with those in need. It was a great shock, then, when the City fathers decided not to renew the lease on the land. PUAA had to vacate the property, and sold off, for very low cost, soil, compost, garden boxes, tools, and more. One of the good outcomes of this unfortunate situation is that a lot of people who were just “thinking about gardening” in the past came out and got the supplies that they needed to start!
And PUAA is NOT folding! They are looking into how to develop and grow in new ways, and are working together with other local like-minded organizations, as the “Community Food and Resilience Coalition” in which each group focuses on its own projects, but all work together to educate the public and help each other out. The Coalition includes Penticton Fruit Tree Project (harvests unused fruit and redistributes it to local community organizations), Health Action Network Society (alternative medicine, alternative treatment,natural health, holistic health, natural remedies, and more), Shatford Centre, Okanagan School of the Arts (dedicated to creative well-being and is fundraising for a community learning kitchen), Penticton Urban Agriculture Association (increasing the awareness of the need for local food security and the availability and diversity of locally grown food in the community), Food Forester Society (promoting the propagation of beautiful edible landscapes on private and public lands using combinations of perennial and annual species of herbs, bushes, vines, shrubs and trees; ideal for our dry climate and for communities moving towards food security), Okanagan Master Gardeners (provide horticultural advice to the gardening public in the Southern Interior, from Osoyoos to Enderby), Incredible Edible Penticton, Transition Towns, Upcycle Resource Society, beekeepers, and more.
Anyway, thanks to PUAA and CURB, my “postage stamp backyard” is turning into a wonderful bit of urban garden, and I’m looking forward to being able to share my bounty with others! Below is a little picture history! (click on the 1st picture, and you can see them all full size!)