An allotment garden in Britain. Other countries provide citizens with much more land either free, or at nominal prices, on which to grow their own food. (submitted)

An allotment garden in Britain. Other countries provide citizens with much more land either free, or at nominal prices, on which to grow their own food. (submitted)

Column: Communities should look at more gardening space for public

My garden feels like paradise too: a place where I can grow delicious food fit for a king

By Mary Lowther

David spent a lot of time studying Central Asian history and can get long winded during the winter months when he is trapped indoors, whiling away the hours with endless anecdotes about Omar Khayyam, Timur the Lame and the amazing ancient Persian bureaucracy.

I find these digressions wonderfully soporific during the months other local omnivores are hibernating as well, but occasionally a useful item slips through the background noise. For example:

Evidently the ancient Persian Shahs didn’t want to share their hunting grounds with the riff raff so they had a section of land enclosed to keep the wild game for themselves. David would point out that later kings in England and France did the same thing, but he tends to get lost in detail. This particular enclosure was Persian, referred to in the native Farsi as “pairidaeza.” When the Greeks adopted the practice the word became “paradeisos” and the meaning to include any kingly or sumptuous park.

My garden feels like paradise too: a place where I can grow delicious food fit for a king or whatever he calls himself. I can grow crops that are more nutritious and tastier than almost anything I can buy and have a lot of fun doing it. Some folks think gardening costs too much money with seeds, hay, fertilizer et al, but it doesn’t have to be so.

When my dad was in the air force we lived in townhouses abutting 5,000 square foot allotment gardens and anyone who wanted could have one. They were well used and we grew up thinking it was normal to eat our own delicious fresh food, so when I flew the coop and moved away I was mightily dismayed to find this wasn’t true in Civvy Street (our term for the poor sods not in the military).

I finally discovered that Saanich offered 1,500 square foot allotment gardens on Kent Road for $50 a year and I found it quite cheap to grow good food for my kids there. We were never hungry and my children were healthy and fit. I’m convinced that eating fresh food from our own gardens keeps our immune systems resilient and helps us avoid diseases. Today those allotments have a two-year wait list.

During the Second World War, the British government dug up public lands and allotted plots to everyone, calling them “Victory Gardens”. Despite the lack of imported goods, or perhaps because of the lack, people in Britain became healthier while living off their gardens. In Vitebsk, Belarus, my son-in-law’s former home, every family has an allotment garden just outside of town on which they grow most of their food. They can build summer shelters and some have chickens, as do many allotment holders in Britain.

Remember when people in Sarajevo endured fighting in the streets back in the ’90s? One photo depicted a woman carrying two buckets of water out of her apartment building, heedless of the crossfire, heading out to water her allotment garden. Because food was scarce, citizens were encouraged to grow food on bare land and this has continued without government help. So far.

I don’t understand why our governments haven’t earmarked more plots of land for those prepared to grow their own food. Surely we have as much public land as Britain or Belarus, and certainly a fresh tomato tastes as good to a Canadian as a Serb. The Community Garden in Lake Cowichan is a terrific start, and I hope this program will expand so that people can grow more than just a few plants.

David remembers watching the Lillehammer Olympics some years ago, and particularly enjoyed the man on the street interviews on an American news network known for its political bias. His favourite had the newsman asking passing Norwegians leading questions about how they felt about the high food prices and the tax on imported produce. They asked pensioners, proletarians, teenaged goths and even a passing cab driver, and each one replied that they supported the import duties because it was vital to protect domestic agriculture.

“Someday,” an old geezer told them, “it may be all we can get.”

The sports guy was mystified. The anchorman shook his head. David claims he laughed until his coffee came out his nose. The Norwegians know that if the delivery system has even a temporary shutdown every scrap of arable land will be precious. As for the reporter, you’d think someone from Fox would understand the value of a chicken coop.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abby Dyer of Shawnigan Lake School. (Submitted)
Shawnigan Lake School poet wins to prize

Abby Dyer has won first place in the Senior Poem category in the Legion’s Youth Remembrance Contest

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has applied for a $199,000 grant to upgrade its emergency communication systems that are used during such events as the major windstorm that hit the Valley in 2018 (pictured).
CVRD looks to upgrade emergency communications with grant

Staff say communications issues plague emergency response efforts in area

A police car at the scene of a child’s death Friday, April 9, at the Falcon Nest Motel in Duncan. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
RCMP investigating child’s death at Duncan’s Falcon Nest Motel

First responders attended to a call about an unresponsive child at the… Continue reading

Brent Clancy, president of the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce, takes down the signs at the Lake Cowichan Visitor Centre, which closed its doors for good on Jan. 31. Mayor Bob Day says the possible creation of a Town tourism committee is not a response to the closure. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Town of Lake Cowichan looking to form tourism and housing committees

Decision not related to the Lake Cowichan Visitor Information Centre closure

“Representing the school district, legion, and Kaatza Station Museum left to right are Georgie Clark of the museum, Wilma Rowbottom of School District #66 and Ernie Spencer, representing the Legion. The museum and Legion, along with the Village will each take a piece of the old wood shop.” (The Lake News)
Lake Flashback: Soapboxes, woodshop split, taxes down

Remember these stories from Lake Cowichan?

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read