Vegetable Garden at Church Site
A Pilot Project
(Jun 2023-Sep 2023)
The Community Vegetable Garden initiative at STIOC was taken to bring the active participation of the church members in the gardening activities and thereby improve the well-being of the congregation. It is an excellent platform to build relationships, learn and grow together.
Prior to Setup
The garden was set up in the church land at Dunrobin. We gathered the basic information to set up the garden from the Community Gardening Network named Just Food. The CGN coordinator was very helpful by answering our queries and guiding us with website links to various resources Garden Guide - Just Food. They regularly conduct free seminars about community vegetable gardening. These resources helped us to confidently kick start our project.
The potential presence of contaminants in the soil can be identified by checking the website for the Historical Land Use Inventory through the City of Ottawa. We had already completed the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Test and based on the results of the Phase I ESA test, nothing was identified that is likely to result in potential subsurface impacts at the Site.
A part of the vacant land was cleared for the garden. We rented tools like grass trimmer from Home Depot and cleared the bush for the garden. To control the growth of weeds and prevent soil erosion weed sheets were spread out and covered with gravel. Two raised beds were set up and some inground cultivation was also done.
Malwood Aggregate at Dunrobin, a Construction Materials, Construction Machinery & Equipment company supported our project by donating us free soil and gravel. They generously supported us during the initial setup of the garden.
Currently there is no source of water at the site and to overcome this, we installed two water barrels. Barrels were regularly filled with water by the volunteers.
We organized a seedling group activity on 18th June 2023 and our Vicar, Rev Fr. Sam Thankachan graced the occasion and planted the seedlings with prayers. Children were excited to plant the different kinds of seedlings and participate in the activity. We planted cabbages, beans, tomatoes, chilli, onion, pumpkin and corn. Net barriers were mounted around the raised beds to prevent animals from destroying and eating the plants.
Now comes the most difficult part of the project, watering! A WhatsApp group was created to coordinate the activities of the volunteers like watering, weed plucking, fertilizing etc. To add to the fun, a contest was introduced to track the person who does the most number of watering for the season.
Next difficult part is controlling the weeds that grow along with the plants. Group activities were organized to pluck the weeds. It was a delight to see children participating in the activity and a great experience for them. A bird feeder was kept to make the birds happy when they visited the garden!
Plant fertilizers were used to provide required nutrients N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) to the plants.
Neem oil spray was used for preventing the worms from eating the cabbage leaves. We immensely enjoyed the growing phase of the plants.
Harvest and Donation
We harvested cabbages and other vegetables in stages. Some were donated as fresh produce to the Kanata Food Cupboard and rest were auctioned at church.
What difference did our Vegetable Garden make?
This project was complete, and the true reward for efforts was received when we heard back from the Executive Director of Kanata Food Cupboard, who stated "We are very grateful that you thought of us. We have seen a huge increase in the number of families accessing our services and appreciate donations of fresh food very much. These types of donations mean a great deal to the families we serve."
Key take away from this project
Gardening is a great tool to connect with nature, and foster relationships with like-minded individuals. We encourage more firms and groups to create community gardens and donate fresh produce to the indigent. It was a rewarding experience for us, filled with satisfaction and pride.