Three Truths of Community Gardening in Ottawa

Green (sometimes) Thumb-Year Two

A former colleague used an interesting phrase when trying to make a point and wanting to convince you of the veracity of his comment.  “There is a truth”, he would say and then he’d go on to tell you that “truth”.  I always thought it odd, that phrase, and a bit of a push to have you believe something or make it true by prefacing it with that phrase.  

Yesterday at the “farm” (community garden plot), in addition to several weeds, I unearthed the following three “truths”.

1. There is no such thing as making a “quick visit to the garden”  

If you are a gardener, do tell me if it’s possible to have a quick visit to your garden.  There’s no such thing in my experience.  Oh, I’ll just go quickly and see how the tomatoes are doing.  I’ll pinch them back and bit and then I’ll leave.  Well, the tomato pinching is one thing, then you see potato beetles and off you go down those rows, and hey what about those squash that need watering and well look at how the weeds are taking over in that corner.  And so the planned 20 minute visit ends 2.5 hours later.  It is a truth there is no such thing as making a quick visit to your garden-whether it be flower or vegetable.  

2. Gardeners are generous in spirit and advice

Gardeners are a friendly sort.  It’s not a competition and they give freely of their advice.  “Cover up your cabbages until they are stronger or the moths will eat them”.    They commiserate in your sorrow.  They say, “Yes,  those cucumber beetles are terrible and no I don’t know what to do to combat them.  It really is too bad after all the effort you’ve put in but it’s a bad year for them this year. ”  If they have too many plants, they will ask you if you want some for your garden.  Here, take these.  I thought they were romaine lettuce plants and turns out they are swiss chard and now I’m drowning in swiss chard.  Or, have some peas and some beans, they are very good and here’s how I cook the beans.    It is a truth gardeners are generous in spirit and full of advice.

3. Gardening in Ottawa is an opportunity or observe the interaction of many cultures and to joyfully watch the mingling and richness of the interaction.  

Ottawa, Ontario is a very multicultural city.  This city has the 5th largest immigrant population in Canada.  Our neighbours in the allotment garden are a shining example of Canada’s rich multicultural citizenry.  Here’s an example of interactions yesterday in our little corner of the garden:

  • Lebanon: Lebanese born neighbour (Lebanese-first language, English-second language) brings over some sort of beans.  He doesn’t know their English name but explains how to cook and serve them and hands over a goodly amount to this unilingual anglophone.  He grows Lebanese beans.
  • Burundi: Burundi born neighbour who speaks either Rundi or Swahili along with French and English.  He grows African corn. He is a neighbour to the man originally from Lebanon.    They don’t seem to understand much of what each are saying but they stand around and point at different plants.
  • Francophone: the man who does roto-tilling with his garden tractor speaks French as a first language, English as a second.  The Lebanese neighbour tries to explain some sort of request to the francophone who does not understand.  When he’s not understood the Lebanese man starts to speak louder, as if that would help.

Quite a thing to be part of and to observe.  Makes you happy to be Canadian…even if you aren’t much of a gardener compared to many of those around you.  

If we stay at it long enough perhaps we will be able to make short visits to the garden (because we are on top of everything), we will have bounty to give away to others.  We already are part of the culture, although learning some new languages like Lebanese and Burundi would be a nice touch.

Do you have any garden observations to share?  Or multicultural experiences?

6 thoughts on “Three Truths of Community Gardening in Ottawa

  1. After several years of community gardening in Vancouver, I’ve now got a backyard garden in Ottawa. So now I find it IS possible to spend just 20 minutes in the garden, but I do miss the multicultural interactions… I was given a lot of Chinese greens (the giver didn’t know the English name for them) and I gave away a lot of rhubarb (but could never explain what to use it for other than pie).

    1. You give me hope that quick visits are possible. Perhaps some of it the backyard is accessible while a community garden might be some distance away so you feel the need to make use of the time and reduce the number of trips. We are going to grow rhubarb next year. Perhaps we will start to be a neighbourly supplier not long after that. Thanks for the comment. It’s nice to hear from you.

  2. I do not have any ‘truths’ about gardening except the truth that there are always way more plants growing in it than were seeds in the package. Just where do ‘they’ come from?

    1. Well, I think some might be donations from neighbours if you in a community garden..they make their way over in the dead of night. We haven’t really had the experience…we’re just joyous if they germinate. Nice to hear from you.

  3. Miss rhubarb pie. The land where it originated doesn’t grow it. I see some growing wild but it doesn’t look edible.
    My brother says in small town Saskatchewan you have to lock your car if you park on main street in the summer because if you don’t, it will be full of zucchini when you return.

    1. Rhubarb pie…that would be good right about now. We have a rhubarb plant in our back yard but it hasn’t decided if it wants to be bountiful or not. Our sum total of rhubarb was stewed and ended up being about 3/4 of cup in total. We won’t be feeding any villages in the near future. A car full of zucchini sounds good when you have a hard time growing it.

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