Community Gardens

Community garden applications not abundant this year

Halifax Regional Municipality usually gets two or three garden requests a year

Gate of Hope Blooms Garden in North Halifax.
Gate of Hope Blooms Garden in North Halifax.   Nicholas Frew

The Halifax Regional Municipality received only one application to start a new community garden this year.

Lee Moore, a community developer for the HRM, says the municipality usually receives two or three new applications each year.

“I don’t really know why each year is different. A few years ago we had five applications, for example,” she said.

Tuesday was the deadline to submit applications. There are no details about the submission, but Moore says the applicant asked for more time to go over the plans.

There are currently 19 community gardens in the Halifax region. The HRM defines a community garden as “a small-scale site that is operated by a non-profit society,” on municipally owned property. It’s for growing plants for food or display.

It has to have a common area with shared upkeep and can include individual garden plots. It’s strictly voluntary.

Rae Marlborough, a member of the Beaver Bank Kinsac Senior Association, helped found the community garden in Beaver Bank. To her, community gardens help bring a community together and their garden helps children, from preschool to junior high, learn about how to grow plants and produce, as well as donate vegetables to those less fortunate.

That’s why she’s disappointed that only one group applied to start a new community garden.

“I think that’s a real shame, but I can understand their reason for it,” Marlborough said. “There are lots of rules and regulations. There’s possibility of liability issues in some areas.

“It definitely requires you to take on those endeavours. It requires some kind of leadership: a group together, or a person who is very good at keeping people interested — because that’s what you need to do. The other thing is the funding.”

Marlborough says there are many grants in the HRM, including one for community gardens. However, you can only receive that grant if you aren’t already leasing land that belongs to the municipality.

“That is a major problem,” she said. “It’s pretty impossible for them because they have to buy a piece of land first.”

Marlborough’s group has been going for about eight years and fundraises throughout the year, allowing them to keep up their garden and reinvest a little into it.

She says it took nearly three-and-a-half years to finally get land, and the land they got was a fixer-upper with no water. Early on, people brought bottled water to water the plants. So she understands that people may not be able to make the commitment.

Moore says the municipality hasn’t set a deadline for the new applicant. However, she thinks if they don’t get it started by June, it won’t happen this year.