The Grand Forks Learning Garden was on full display over the weekend as fall fair attendees were invited for a tour of the rapidly developing garden right behind the aquatics centre and currently filled with recycled tires.
The learning garden has been a project of many years, first getting off the ground about three years ago. A project of the Grand Forks and Boundary Region Agricultural Society, the group came together to envision a garden use space for the area behind the aquatic centre, said team member Graham Watt.
“The idea emerged as a different kind of community garden, one that was not plots [for people] but more of a garden for the community to learn about alternative agriculture,” he said.
The project currently receives support from a variety of sources, including the City of Grand Forks, the Grand Forks Credit Union and the RDKB. Support has been incredible, Watt said, with groups and volunteers offering a tremendous amount in financial and in-kind support.
Peter Matheson, another member of the team responsible largely for the design components of the garden, said a lot of planning has gone into the space to make what was formerly an eyesore into a beautiful space.
The garden will have several components, including raised gardens made out of recycled freezers, xeriscaped gardens and a tool shed made out of old tires and insulation.
Watt said traditional gardening can be environmentally unfriendly, which is a little counter intuitive—but the learning garden will be able to help people garden better, including ways to minimize carbon output and water more efficiently.
“Really it’s for anyone in the community to learn about grafting trees and propagation and seed selection and different, alternative agriculture ideas,” he said. “It is a chance to demonstrate, test and share ideas about how to grow a little differently.”
There is no formal estimated date of completion for the garden, as it’s evolving all the time. However, Watt said the garden will be open periodically throughout its construction. Tree planting on the site begins in the fall.
Watt said while the group is still working on envisioning the long-term business model of the garden, it will be open to visitors and have hours. There will also be an on-site classroom for Selkirk students to learn from, Matheson added.
The idea of the garden is to tap into what knowledge already exists in Grand Forks, and start to share it.
“Grand Forks really prides itself on self-reliance in growing food and there has been a good history of orchards and tree knowledge,” Watt said. “This is really just tapping into that. I see it as a really neat opportunity to build on the knowledge that is already in the community.”
Volunteers interested in working on the garden are welcome to join the work parties at the garden every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7 p.m. Watt said the work will slow down coming into the winter, but volunteers can always find information on their Facebook page, the Grand Forks Learning Garden.