Community gardens | Meetings in the vegetable garden

Enjoying sunny weather, The Press went to meet urban gardeners. Beginners or experienced, often passionate, these lovers of greenery stretch out the beautiful season in a community vegetable garden in the heart of the metropolis. They have a relationship with their little piece of nature in the city that extends far beyond an interest in plants…

Geek gardening

Christine is keen on gardening. “Ask me a question and I could talk to you about it for hours,” she warns. Last year she inherited a 100 sq.2 in a community garden close to her home. There grow a variety of vegetables and flowers in what could be interpreted by the amateur as a pleasant chaos. It is not so, because each specimen is there for a reason.

Leftover sprouted onions and shallot heads from the market found their home in Christine’s vegetable garden. Last fall, the test of a heating blanket placed on the soil yielded astonishing results in the spring. “I sowed in April and it took off like crazy! she tells us enthusiastically. Even some specimens have survived the winter and are now in bloom. This gigantic carrot, for example. “It’s a tough one. I let it grow to collect its seeds. Becoming her own seed company is also part of her plans.

“Last season, I ate my vegetable garden! And I filled my freezer. At the end of the summer, I gave away my crops because nothing came in anymore. Now that I think about it, it may have been cooking that ended up leading me to gardening: the search for freshness and the desire to explore other flavors…” Because seeking to profit from one’s harvests necessarily invites to reinvent their dishes.

“There may also be a bit of laziness in there,” she adds, laughing. In winter, it’s easier to open my freezer than to walk to the grocery store at -30°C to get broccoli! ” Lazy Girl ? We don’t believe a word of it. “It’s an active laziness, we get along! »

Back to basics

Initiated into gardening in the countryside, where she grew up, Christine put this interest on the back burner for a few decades by moving to the city for work in molecular genetics and becoming a mother. “I didn’t have time to garden until I lost my job at 50. »

When it happened, I asked myself the question: what do I want to do with the rest of my life?

Christine, passionate gardener

She enrolled in the DEP in horticulture at the Botanical Garden school. With a degree in hand and a researcher at heart, she explored different horticultural professions to save time and accumulate knowledge as efficiently as possible. And now ? At 57, she wants to be better only for her pleasure. “Gardening stimulates me intellectually,” she explains. It’s endless! You can never rely on your knowledge. That’s the beauty of it: gardening is always creating surprises! »

Horticultural favorite

Calendula has many qualities, says Christine: it attracts pollinators, makes beautiful bouquets of flowers and herbal teas. “And when it’s too big, I pull it out to make fertilizer. »

Rediscover the wonder of childhood

Khalida Ammi has just returned from a trip abroad: three weeks during which her courgettes have become huge and numerous. “I missed my garden during my holidays. See her ! I see a bumblebee pollinating my peas! It’s’fun… “, she declares with affection, pointing to the delicacy of the show. Seeing beautiful gardens made me want to garden. But I didn’t know I would love it so much! »

This plot of land, she waited seven years to get it. Last year, she got a space in a semi-shaded corner of her community garden. There grow mulberries, raspberries and perennial flowers. Last winter, knowing that she would have a space in full sun this summer, she transformed her office into a greenhouse and preferred to work from her kitchen to reserve the sunniest place in her apartment for her seedlings.

“I don’t know… It’s just a pleasure! You get up in the morning and look at your plants to find that some have grown two inches! she describes before pausing. We are good in Montreal. We have so many green spaces and parks all around the neighborhoods. It’s a contact with nature that is great. We compare and we say to ourselves that we are lucky to be here. »

Khalida grew up in Algiers. 15 years ago, she immigrated to Quebec.

We weren’t gardeners back home, but in the Kabylia region, where my parents come from, the culture of gardening was strong.

Khalida Ammi

Her sister Malika, an immigrant for a year, agrees. When they were children, summer vacations in their native town were accompanied by picking figs in the field.

“We took containers with fresh water and rinsed them so we could eat them right away, the two sisters remember with sweet nostalgia. As we grew up in the city, these images marked us. »

Unfortunately, figs do not grow in Quebec. In Khalida’s garden, on the other hand, there are tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, peppers, eggplant, beets… And then a lot of herbs — thyme and mint, which she particularly likes — and fava beans. She visits this little corner of greenery assiduously. “When the weather is nice, it’s day to visit the vegetable garden. If it’s raining, it’s holiday time. It’s a completely different relationship to the weather and nature, she notes before getting back to work. Getting my hands in the dirt, I missed it! »

Horticultural favorites

Her courgettes are champions, according to her. Last year, they even grew in the shade. Her beans constantly surprise her: they are generous, which is not the case with her aubergines. “I learn from my mistakes! »

Gardening in symbiosis

It was through the band that Bruno Lamoureux was able to interfere in the community garden where he came to spend his Saturday morning. His friend, gone for the summer in Italy, entrusted him with this corner of greenery in which he happily gets his supplies these days. His harvest of the day is composed of zucchini, eggplant, beans, lettuce and sorrel, a greenery he discovered during his visits.

” You know that ? It is surprising. A little sour. And then there’s this plant whose name escapes him, which adds a slightly gelatinous, slightly sour and very interesting “je ne sais quoi” to salads: stonecrop, he observes. one among other wild plants.

His friend, he says, knows a thing or two about gardening. In his vegetable garden, flowers of all kinds – marigold, calendula and lavender – rub shoulders with vegetables and herbs: everything is optimized. The flowers attract pollinating insects, which visit the vegetable plants, which therefore produce more vegetables, he explains. A virtuous circle, it is true.

Bruno has been on the waiting list for years to have a vegetable garden worthy of his ambitions, but the turnover is low, he laments. In the meantime, he is gardening in his square in the yard where the conditions are not ideal.

We are in Montreal. You have to be moderate, but if I were in the country, I would have a big garden where I could put 20 eggplant plants and where it wouldn’t matter if I had too many!

Bruno Lamoureux

There would be a few fewer flowers than here, he imagines, more vegetables: several kinds of hot peppers, cabbage, kale… “Eatable stuff. At home, I have two eggplants in a season. It becomes valuable! If his children have the misfortune of wasting food, the response is immediate: “You don’t know how much work there is in there! “, he jokes while reconstructing the scene.

Bruno Lamoureux is an artistic director in a publishing house and an occasional musician. “In publishing, you work on a project for four months and you have the impression that nothing is happening. Gardening comes with an immediate result. It brings me back to basics. As a good epicurean, he likes to cook and finds satisfaction in saving.

“It’s hard to imagine that at one time they made aisles of 80 cabbage that they kept all winter. One day, he might be able to do the same and start canework… “Of course, when you count on that to feed yourself, it becomes a job,” he thinks. The fact remains that the city, we like it, too… The ideal, finally, is perhaps to have a pied-à-terre in the countryside and here! »

Favorite in the vegetable garden

Lovage has a powerful taste of celery. “I inherited it at home last year. In June, it was big the same! I made a pesto of it by substituting it for the basil. It’s so good ! Even the children ate it,” he says, highlighting this small victory. Stonecrop is another surprising discovery.

Glean small moments of happiness

It was while passing day after day in front of the community garden in her neighborhood that interest in gardening began to make its way into Lise Couillard’s projects. “It’s not like I’ve ever had the ambition to have a vegetable garden before, but it was inspiring. »

“I thought it could give me a little haven of peace in the city,” explains Lise Couillard, listing the benefits: gardening is a time spent in an island of freshness – a nice break in the life of an urban neighborhood like the Plateau-Mont-Royal.

“Besides, I have access to fresh products! We agree, it’s not as if I was aiming for food autonomy. I’m far from being an experienced gardener,” she says, observing her well-ordered vegetable garden. “Oh, do you think so? Me, I have the impression that he is rather a mess! »

Last year, Lise still harvested so many tomatoes that she had to be creative to prepare them. “I made tomato pies, sauces, tians, candied tomatoes…” And reserves? There is not enough space to store surpluses, she replies. On the other hand, many friends were able to rejoice and benefit from its harvests.

This summer, the translator decided to get involved in the compost committee of her community garden, a contribution that is accompanied by friendly encounters. “Often, these are people for whom the environment is important and who are socially engaged. »

“When I garden, I am not in front of my computer. It freaks me out, that’s for sure! Sometimes I come for quick little laps, just to see. I was happy earlier because my nasturtium flowers came out and my tomatoes are starting to ripen! Gardening means surprises at each visit, she says with a smile. These are small moments of happiness! »

Favorites in the vegetable garden

A large part of Lise Couillard’s vegetable garden is devoted to tomatoes, which she loves. Last fall, she also planted garlic, the fruits of which she now harvests: “It has nothing to do with Chinese garlic, I tell you! »

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