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Seed exchange in Grand Forks brings out the gardeners

Learning Garden opens gates for event and tour
Tables were set up in the Learning Garden on Saturday for a seed exchange, where gardeners could leave and take seeds to add to their garden supply. It was also a chance for people to tour the Learning Garden. Photo: Karen McKinley

With the first signs of spring starting to sprout, gardeners in Grand Forks got an early chance to add to their seed supplies and check out improvements to the city’s Learning Garden.

A steady crowd gathered at the garden behind the Aquatic Centre on Saturday for a seed exchange. People were invited to leave seeds, take seeds, socialize and take a walk around the garden’s grounds. Seeds for flowers, vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices were up for grabs, with donors and gardeners helping people make selections.

Seed exchanges are common among avid gardeners, explained Learning Garden volunteer Andrea Yalits. The idea is to help local gardeners keep a steady seed supply and foster a gardening community.

“It’s really the community to come together to share their seeds, take home seeds and really encourage gardening,” she said. “A lot of people save their own seeds here. This is about sharing with the community.”

In the spirit of sharing, plants grown in the garden were also being given away, she explained, including irises and mint.

Gardening has been a tradition in the city and region for more than a century, which Yalits said started with the Russians and Doukhobors cultivating gardens and running large-scale farming and orchard operations. Saving and exchanging seeds was part of that culture, with elements of it becoming part of the fabric of the gardening culture of the area.

During and since the pandemic, more people have taken up gardening, whether it’s for a hobby, or to grow more of their own food to help cut down on rising grocery costs.

There is already a culture of self-sufficiency here, Yaltis said, so gardening naturally is a part of that.

There are improvements coming to the Learning Garden, including new beds and more outreach, Yalits said. Describing it as a permaculture design, she pointed out mushrooms are going to be included in the garden, along with raised beds and the Medicine Wheel section is also being planted.

Yalits explained not a lot of people realize the garden is open to the public for viewing, but more advertising will be coming to encourage people to come in and view the plots and growth progress.

“We haven’t had the garden open for a while and it seems a shame, since it’s for the community,” she said. “We have this community garden and people can’t come in to enjoy it.”

She added the garden will be growing a lot more food and it will be shared with the community.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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