What does a diverse garden look like? Not surprisingly, it looks pretty different to different people! Culture, favourite flavours, soil type, weather, climate of the area, and the seeds people have access to all play a role in the diversity that will eventually spring from the ground.
With diversity in mind, we have asked a small cohort of gardeners to plant, grow and save diverse, organic, local seeds in their gardens. From wildly varying locations and gardens across the country, these volunteer growers will take us with them on their journey of finding, planting, tending and saving seeds - and the joys (and challenges!) that result.
Meet Our Diversity Garden Growers
Jen Rashleigh and Sarah Wenman
Farmers on 57th: George Pearson Long-Term Care Centre Garden Club
Vancouver, British Columbia
Farmers on 57th is a community integrated urban farm on the former lawn of the George Pearson Centre, a long term care facility in Vancouver. The weekly Garden Club program empowers Pearson residents with disabilities to plan, plant and harvest their own vegetables and flower bouquets. The team consists of 30 resident gardeners and up to 12 volunteers. The organic harvest goes into "living smoothies" each week, gets given as gifts for families and staff, and becomes monthly community dinners. Seed saving is a vital component of the program!
Volunteers Jen and Sarah are very pleased to be participating in USC Canada's Diversity Garden Project and will be taking the lead on this project.
Northwest coastal garden
Port Edward, British Columbia
Nadia has spent years fascinated with food, on a quest to learn about as many different aspects of it as possible. From gardening and growing food to wild foraging of local greens, fiddleheads and mushrooms, it is important to her to know where her food comes from and to participate in the process of getting it to the table. Nadia is a red seal chef and has spent the past 11 years working her way through kitchens in Canada and abroad. In France, she gardened and helped with the cheese making operation on a cooperative. She has taken courses on nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and has in turn taught others on the subject at the Chopra Centre in Squamish, B.C. Nadia loves to garden and is trying to figure out what will grow best in the rainy and wet climate she calls home in Port Edward in northern B.C.
Front yard garden
Gail MacKay is a novice gardener in Saskatoon. Her garden is in the southwest corner of the yard. There, she and her 10 year-old son Samson will be planting tomatoes, beans and sweet sugar peas.
Her 15 year-old son has cultivated raspberries and strawberries in the garden so there will be a continuous source of good snacks throughout the summer. They are pleased to be among the group who are saving seeds for biodiversity.
High-rise apartment balcony garden
Simone is a recent graduate from Toronto's Ryerson University and fascinated by community-based environmental initiatives. Last spring, Simone decided to start her first gardening experiment with the planting of two tomato seedlings she received as gifts. When the growing season came to an end, and with some basic knowledge of seed saving principles she learned from a Seedy Saturday event, Simone saved her first seeds from those very same tomato seedlings.
Now, relocated to more than 20 floors up a high-rise building, Simone is excited to expand her gardening experiments and knowledge. She hopes that her novice garden experiments will lead to acquiring and in-depth knowledge of plant relationships and how to practice agroecology in urban landscapes.
Why is this important?
A diverse seed supply is important for us all no matter where we live. Having seeds that are suited to growing in lots of differing climates, soils and conditions - and having them available and accessible to all - is especially critical as climate change throws new, erratic weather at farmers and gardeners around the world.
USC Canada's Seeds of Survival (SoS) program works with farmers in 12 different countries to address the issue of declining global seed biodiversity and support farmers' efforts to grow healthy, local food and save their own seeds. Even here in Canada we import most of our seeds from abroad. In B.C. alone, a vegetable crop industry worth almost $3-billion is grown nearly entirely from imported seed. Our Canadian SoS program, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, aims to strengthen the Canadian seed supply by increasing the quality and quantity of regional-adapted, ecologically grown seed.
So, what does diversity mean to you? What does it look like in your gardens, your farm or on your plate? We hope that these diverse garden and seed saving experiments by folks across Canada will inspire others to take part!
Want to start your own diversity garden? Find seeds: