Residents’ desire to grow outpaces places

Waitlist for Oak Bay allotments longer than plots available

Rick Lee digs in at his area of the Oak Bay Allotment Garden. With a lengthy waitlist for a space

Beyond the crack of the bat and the burble of Bowker Creek lie a series of green, growing plots – behind deer fences, naturally.

In the Oak Bay Allotment Gardens, Rick Lee’s raspberries and various varieties of beans grow. He’s planted cauliflower, shallots, potatoes and more,  enough to keep his two-person household well-fed with fresh, organic produce, plus a yearlong supply of homemade jam.

“We grow enough food here. We get a substantial amount of our fresh vegetables from fall into January,” said Lee. Granted his plot of land is larger than most, as he’s been there longer. “We had to wait six years to get in,” he said.

Linda Thomson waited a full decade for her plot.

“I like seeing things grow. It’s nice to be outside and it certainly provides food,” Thomson said. “It’s relaxing. I like to share it with my grandchildren. I show them in particular (produce) doesn’t come from the grocery store and how much work it is.”

A tiny greenhouse (not permanent) and a couple of apple trees (quite permanent) dot the lot divvied up with a variety of deer-deterrent fencing. Sticks woven into the black mesh take on an artistic appearance here and keep the ungulates to the “deer trail,” Lee said of tracks along the side of the allotment garden toward the waterway.

On the other side of the creek, smaller plots are delineated with raised beds, and small awkward spaces portioned out amongst the plotters.

“The whole place is organic. We’re not allowed to use pesticides,” Lee said. Aside from the deer-deterrent investments, the gardeners pay roughly $40 to $60 a year to lease the spaces.

“A lot of people have condos and wouldn’t otherwise grow,” said Thomson, who serves as liaison to the Oak Bay Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission that oversees the gardens.

Oak Bay has 28 plots and a waitlist of 37 residents looking to get their hands dirty.

“I imagine, because there is a waitlist, we as a municipality would be looking to add more,” said Coun. Hazel Braithwaite.

“There’s a real health benefit to community gardens. It’s a wonderful thing for us to offer the community.”

She’s looking into where in the community there might be opportunities to add garden plots, saying it would be nice to see them spread throughout Oak Bay.

“It brings people together who might not otherwise get together,” Braithwaite said.

Much like Thomson sharing the work and joy with her grandchildren, three generations of a family routinely work on one plot.

One day Thomson recalls a group of students from Glenlyon Norfolk School coming by for an outdoor lesson plan that included both the allotments and the adjacent nature garden. “It’s a bit of added interest when people do their walks,” Thomson said.

There’s an ongoing exchange of information within the fencing as well, as gardeners swap and share tips. Right now, for example, Thomson is working with GardenWorks on a weevil cure as young pea shoots are continuously nibbled away in ongoing attacks.

Call 250-592-7275 to add your name to the growing wait list.