Mark Salter stands at the edge of Anderson Park Community Garden and gazes proudly at a bumper crop of vegetable plants.
“The artichokes off that bed were supposed to be fabulous,” the treasurer of the Esquimalt Community Gardens Society says pointing to a nearby wood-framed garden plot.
A year after he helped establish the garden, Salter is still a regular fixture there.
“The theory is you build it and they will come,” Salter says. All 16 plots in the garden are being used and six of eight newly constructed beds are available.
Plans to create a community garden simmered on the backburner for years until Salter championed the cause, says Marlene Lagoa, Esquimalt’s sustainability co-ordinator. For his leadership efforts Salter was recently awarded an EcoStar environmental award by the Capital Regional District.
“I question whether it would have happened without Mark,” Lagoa says. “He doesn’t even have a plot in the garden.
“Doesn’t that make him quite the leader? He just thought it was important and he wanted to share that.”
The plots are available for use by Esquimalt High and Ecole Victor-Brodeur students as well as Esquimalt residents, such as apartment dwellers, who can’t have backyard gardens.
At a cost of $60 a year, Esquimalt community gardeners have access to water, plants and workshops. Salter can also be found at the garden every Tuesday night throughout the summer from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. to answer questions and provide free gardening tips.
Despite the garden’s growing popularity, Salter says there’s room for improvement.
He hopes the gardens can be expanded, and plans to turn one section into what he calls a community shared garden where users can grow perennial herbs.
“It’s not a green paradise yet,” Salter says of the potential he sees in the garden. “It’s the gardener in me going, ‘It’s not a success yet.’”