Brandon community garden program co-ordinator Blake Hamilton takes a peek at some eggplants growing in the New Era garden. With the season quickly drawing to a close, many of the fruits and vegetables are ready to be picked. (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)
A pair of bees land on a sunflower at the New Era community garden. (Photos by Graeme Bruce/Brandon Sun) (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)
Blake Hamilton holds up a very small cob of Mandan red clay heirloom corn found in the New Era community garden. (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)
Blake Hamilton holds up a small cantaloupe growing at the New Era community garden. (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)
A hand-written sign stands in a bed at the New Era community garden in an attempt to fend off vandalism and theft. (GRAEME BRUCE/BRANDON SUN)
Brandon community gardeners are ready to pluck the fruits and vegetables of their labour.
Throughout the 11 community gardens, an estimated 1,000 people got their green thumbs dirty this year, a number that has roughly doubled in five years, according to program co-ordinator Blake Hamilton.
Attributing to that number is the well-documented influx of overseas immigrants. Many have brought with them the tradition of small-scale gardening.
"With the immigrant community, there’s a lot that are moving to Brandon that are from cultural backgrounds where small-scale food production is more prominent and something they’re used to," Hamilton said.
"There is a lot more interest in gardening at a younger generation as well as the price of food and a resurgence in the health and well-being aspect of gardening."
Included throughout the gardens are Salvadoran rojo beans; chayote from Central American cuisine; goji berries, long beans and garlic chives from China; giant Mauritian cucumbers; and malabar spinach from Sri Lanka, among several others. Gardeners also have many imported seeds from overseas to plant in their little pocket of soil within the city.
"There’s definitely some pretty neat stuff," Hamilton said. "Some of the growing techniques are pretty interesting."
One woman, for example, simply purchased green onions at the grocery store, ate the green portion and planted the white bulbs at the ends. After a summer of great growing weather, rows of green onions sprouted at the New Era community garden.
"When you walk around, you can see the distinct patterns and how parts of the world garden and what they’re growing," Hamilton said.
He pointed out gardens maintained by members of the Chinese community. They show a high level of care with nearly perfect rows, dense and well-hydrated soil and defined trenches, all making the gardens pleasing to the eye.
Some gardeners are pushing the limits of what can be grown in Brandon.
Hamilton successfully planted green grapes along the edge of the greenhouse at the New Era garden in hopes the vines will grow tall enough to shield the house from unforgiving sun during the summer, as some of the greenhouse vegetation gets too hot in July and August.
Another gardener had less success with sweet potatoes because they need a long, hot season that the Prairies don’t offer.
Hamilton said gardeners are just planting things to see if they will grow.
"The weather was pretty incredible," he said. "There was enough moisture for cucumbers, peas, spinach, lettuce and that kind of thing."
It was also hot enough for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
"I haven’t seen so many eggplants as I did this year," Hamilton said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 7, 2013