Gardening as a team sport

October 13, 2022

Community gardens have been popping up all over Inverness County to answer to people’s needs and gardening interests. A garden, and a sunny yard for that matter, can be a luxury for young families and for people in apartments.

For the wannabe or veteran gardener, a community garden is a welcome place for people with an interest in sharing their experience, knowledge, and plans, and trade seeds and plants.

There are a few approaches to community gardening. Some gardens are just a big planting that everyone is welcome to pull a few weeds from and take home some herbs and vegetables. Others provide individual plots for gardening for free, or a small fee.

Often organizations play host to community gardens because they have the resources to rally for the project, but there is always a gardener in the mix with a passion to share their love of gardening.

It all starts with someone who decides that it should happen. It usually isn’t hard to find a central sunny spot in the community that an owner will make available. If the soil is lacking, it can be enriched, if people have mobility issues, there can be raised beds.

Libraries in Margaree Forks and Mabou were some of the first organizations to establish community gardens in the county. We’koqma’q First Nation has built raised beds that provide a medicine garden as part of its Skye River Trail. Many travelers have admired the unique Tartan Garden as they travel through Judique.

Like the planting of a tree, the best time to start a community garden is twenty years ago, and the second best time is today.

The L’Arche community in Orangedale maintains an accessible garden and greenhouse as an opportunity for learning and growth for the staff and residents. Mill Road Social Enterprises in Inverness is developing a community garden and greenhouse as a way for its participants to connect with the community through providing good produce. Also accessible, the Mill Road garden provides a centre for the county for activities that accommodate people with all abilities.

Seniors’ homes are also a great place for providing gardening activities. The Inverary Manor has built raised beds that allow seated gardening.

There are school gardens in the county that educate on many fronts. Cape Breton Highlands Academy in Terre Noire has maintained a garden, and in Inverness, Community Based Learning 11 students have designed, built, and maintained cold-frames and garden boxes. Younger grades work with them to help plant, weed, water and harvest.

As students participate, interested students can connect with community members and groups interested in food production and agriculture. Cheticamp has a school garden at NDA, as well as raised beds there for community use.

Of course, there is the concern about continuity. Schools and other institutions have seasonal cycles that don’t always accommodate the growing season, so aren’t always active, and might benefit from the boost of a community partnership.

I’m sure that I have missed mentioning a few great County projects, but I hope to feature more in future editions of The Participaper, so don’t hesitate to contact me about something special growing in your community.

The gardening team at Mill Road Social Enterprises Community Garden show off their efforts.

Like the planting of a tree, the best time to start a community garden is twenty years ago, and the second best time is today. It doesn’t take much to make it happen. Fall or early spring are the best times of year to get started.

Place a good layer of mulch (mulch is any plant material that will break down, like grass clippings, leaves, seaweed or cardboard) on a piece of ground in the fall or very early spring. If done before the grass starts to grow, it will kill off the grass so that the soil can just be planted later on in the spring. The soil will still be full of weed seeds, but that weeding is far easier than turning sod and tilling.

Once the work has started, the winter is left for spreading the word, deciding which things to grow, how many rows, how many packets of seeds are needed, and plan for tomato cages and supports for viney plants like peas. In the spring you’ll need to dig out any rooty weeds, plant, and water as needed.

Then make a plan to meet weekly with a thermos of tea to weed, harvest and share the love of gardening.

Happy gardening!

Caroline Cameron lives in Strathlorne, and offers gardening and guiding services around Cape Breton Island. Please submit any gardening tips, questions, and news to and visit Facebook at Nature/Nurture Gardening & Hiking.