In the May 11 edition, the Oak Bay News thoughtfully carried an article entitled “Residents’ desire to grow outpaces places.” That article went to some effort to extol the virtues of allotment gardening in Oak Bay: locally grown food; a relaxing endeavour, organic gardens, a place for people in condos who otherwise wouldn’t be able to garden, a real health benefit as pointed out by Coun. Hazel Braithwaite, a place to introduce and share gardening with our coming generations and school children.
This doesn’t come without effort and all allotment holders, like all gardeners, have worked hard and take pride in their accomplishments. We enjoy sharing with one another and the public who come by and who delight in and admire our collective and individual endeavours.
Of course, effort is accompanied by our own expense to fence our respective allotments. The municipality leases land to us and provides water. My fence, for example, is seven feet high, comprised of steel and wooden posts with plastic mesh. It is not flimsy by any measure.
For five years I’ve kept it in good repair and until the last few days it has kept the ungulates to the central path. The deer are unimpeded and free to forage around the allotments, in Bowker Creek and Firemen’s Park as well as in unfenced neighbours’ yards. We have co-existed until now.
All the benefits of gardening enumerated above are now at risk thanks to increasingly aggressive deer. These deer, which are not accompanied by fawns, are now deliberately pushing under and through the fences. Personally, I have shooed grown deer from my neighbour’s allotment only to discover that they had raided my patch too. My neighbours have sent me emails to say that they shooed deer out of my patch while I was out of town. These deer are not discouraged easily.
Our recent crops of beetroots, broad beans, pole and runner beans, and chard have been decimated. Our neighbours have even had their rhubarb consumed. There are at least three allotments which have been affected and it is only a matter of time before others are too. Now, in addition to losing our crops for the year, we will have to go to the expense and considerable effort to fortify our allotment.
If one considers the number of gardens throughout Oak Bay that have been damaged and whose owners have had the expense of installing fencing and replacing lost plants, the total cost must be substantial. Residential gardens and allotments are as much part of the fabric of Oak Bay as the Urban Forest. They contribute to Oak Bay’s character and make it unique. It’s good for the tourism business. It’s time our political leaders recognized this and actually did something….anything but nothing.
Gardeners throughout Oak Bay have taken it on the chin so to speak, without recourse. This is a healthy, quiet and productive community activity which needs to be encouraged to keep our community attractive and enjoyable.
This cannot be a one-sided effort. Our political leaders cannot ask residents to watch out for, take precautions to accommodate and to avoid deer and their offspring while ignoring residents’ legitimate gardening activities. Gardeners need protection too.