Nestled away in a quiet neighbourhood sits a garden on the corner of Chambers Street and Gladstone Avenue in Fernwood.
It’s lush with fruit trees, herb and vegetable gardens and bushes. There are handcrafted wooden benches scattered around the garden and a carefully constructed leaf mulch and wood chip pathway winding through the greenery.
The Spring Ridge Commons is where Linda Chan and Sean Newton spend much of their time volunteering.
Spring Ridge is Canada’s oldest public food forest and Victoria’s largest public permaculture garden, tucked away on a half-acre lot surrounded by residential homes.
Over the last 15 years, it has become a centre piece for the community, with more than 20,000 people visiting it since it was created in 1999.
“I think the space is of great value to people. If people are in nature, they appreciate nature and they will actually fight for nature,” said Chan, who has been volunteering for the last six years.
“If children are aware of being in a public space, in community, nature provides stress releases. It brings community together, people talk to each other, and they’re more willing to help each other. Something like a garden fosters that.”
Local visitors will come to the commons with a book, and students and teachers from elementary school up to post-secondary education will visit the garden as an educational tool. They also grow a variety of produce such as mushrooms, figs, buckwheat, herbs and fruit that visitors can pick at their leisure.
Chan said she’s met people from as far away as Europe visiting the garden.
“The interesting thing is it’s a small space but as you put more energy into it, the space expands,” said Newton, who has been volunteer at the garden since 2012. “This is a way to get to know where you live, connect yourself to the soil, connect yourself with the hummingbirds, squirrels.”
But the project hasn’t been without challenges.
The commons is run solely on donations and volunteers, with many using money out of their own pockets to help pay for supplies.
On Chan’s birthday, instead of receiving presents, she decided to set up an online fundraising campaign to encourage people to donate to the garden.
So far, they’ve raised more than $500, which will go towards paying workers who helped in the garden in the fall, cleaning up the area by the cistern, cutting down and clearing the Oregon grape and replanting the area with kale and other winter vegetables, among other things.
For more information visit springridge.rd123.ca