When the pandemic hit BC in March, many people turned to the garden as a way to focus on being productive and keep busy during a time when people were asked to stay home. In Port Moody, one of those people was 105-year-old, Mary Anne Cooper. Knowing that her large yard was being under-utilized and that she wasn’t able to garden like she used to, she invited her neighbours to turn her back and front yard into a garden so that people could be productive, grow food, and share what could be grown.

This started the Growing Together Garden Project and it’s been a wonderful community building and learning project that has brought many people together while having to stay physically distanced. While there was a core team (Tracy Green, Jeff McLellan, Ruth Foster) that would take turns visiting the garden each day and checking in with Mary Anne, at least a dozen other people were involved in helping with various aspects of the project and volunteered to come out and help to yard maintenance, weed, plant, and care for the garden over the summer. Over 400 plants were planted, including corn, potatoes, sweet peas, green and pole beans, tomatoes, kale, spinach, broccoli, several types of squash, and a pumpkin patch.

We were able to use the funds from the Neighbourhood Small Grant to purchase straw, a wheelbarrow and other tools, and soil amenders. This helped us get through the summer and prepare the garden for the fall. We’ve since planted garlic for next year and are already busy reviewing what went right and what we need to fix for next season! The converted swimming pool to greenhouse has been cleared out and used for over-winter crops like kale and spinach and will be used to start seeds early next season. We’ve learned so much from each other and it’s been wonderful connecting with our neighbour and senior Mary Anne Cooper, who’s full of ideas, advice, and humour. When things get tough, and this pandemic has been hard on many people, it’s projects like this that remind you to come together, check-in on your neighbours and try something new.

We have all learned so much from this project and while many of us weren’t experienced gardeners when we started, we’ve learned so much from those who volunteered and those who stopped by to visit across the lane throughout the summer.
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