Ann Smith: Community Herb Garden


When driving through James Bay or visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, you may have noticed a garden edged with lavender at the Erie and St. Lawrence corner of Fisherman’s Wharf Park. This community herb garden was part of the original design for the park 15 years ago, with symmetrical paths, and trees, shrubs and herbs.

During the pandemic, the day-to-day responsibility for the garden moved from the City Parks Department to the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA). Since then, a group of volunteers meets once a week to weed, prune, plant, water, pick up garbage and check for pests, all under the skilled guidance of the JBNA Gardening Coordinator. The change in the garden over three years is wonderful to see as more kinds of herbs and edible flowers are introduced, the soil improves, and more birds and other pollinators discover the garden.

I am one of those volunteers and the time I spend in the herb garden is gratifying in so many ways. I get to meet other volunteers, chat with neighbours and tourists, and learn more about gardening. I see the garden grow and change through the seasons and years. I love gardening. It is such a peaceful and productive activity–and it’s time spent outdoors. Being able to volunteer in a garden brings together my love of gardening and my desire to contribute to my community—plus it’s fun and rewarding. A perfect fit!

As food security becomes a more serious concern, it makes sense to have community gardens within easy distance of where we live and work. At the Fisherman’s Wharf Park Community Herb Garden, visitors are encouraged to try berries and herbs. Light grazing ensures that there will be enough for all, although sometimes it seems we can never have enough chives! It’s always a delight to see someone picking what is needed for dinner—perhaps a sprig of rosemary or some mint.

There are 32 community gardens in James Bay and in other City of Victoria neighbourhoods. Our volunteers contribute in different ways, from weekly gardening, helping with events like plant swaps and the Get Growing days, collecting and sorting seeds, and looking after neighbourhood fruit trees planted by the City. The same volunteers don’t necessarily come every week and if wet or cold weather is a deterrent, that’s no problem. Tasks can be low- or high-energy, and there are always a variety of things to do whether the volunteer is a beginner or experienced gardener. The shared feeling of accomplishment when a new plant takes off or a pruning job has been done is always satisfying.

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