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2022 declared the Year of the Garden

“Gardens contribute so much. Sometimes we say they are the lungs of our communities.”

The Canadian Garden Council has declared 2022 as the Year of the Garden.

The Garden Council, a non-profit corporation founded in 2014, made the proclamation with the intent to celebrate gardens and gardening across the country. Canada's House of Commons extended its support to the Garden Council by also designating 2022 as the Year of the Garden on March 23. 

“It’s all about promoting all the good things that are happening out there; all the [horticulture] societies, the garden clubs, the master gardeners, the public gardens, and all the members of the garden family," Michel Gauthier, executive director of the Garden Council, said in an interview.

“Gardens contribute so much. Sometimes we say they are the lungs of our communities.”

Gauthier said there are many ways to get involved and celebrate the Year of the Garden. One of the Garden Council's calls to action is to "plant red" to honour front-line workers and express "Canadian garden pride." Gardeners can also sign up their own gardens as "celebration gardens" on the Garden Council's website and receive a Year of the Garden display sign.

Another goal for the Garden Council that goes beyond this year's celebration their "vision that every school should have a garden," Gauthier said.

"I’m not talking about the garden in front of the school that the landscapers [work on], but something the children can put their hands in, and they can take care of so they can understand.” 

Local gardener inspired, excited

In September of last year, Aida Mustapic, founder of the St. Albert Backyard Gardening group, heard about the Garden Council's plans for 2022 and called to find out more. Mustapic said that after she spoke to an organizer with the Garden Council she was invited to become an ambassador for the Year of the Garden, and the St. Albert Backyard Gardening group was welcomed to the Garden Council's garden family.

When she formed the club just before the pandemic began there were 35 members. "In a fairly short time it grew [to] over 300 people," she said. As of May 5, the group's Facebook page boasted around 1,200 members.

“I think it’s just an amazing thing," Mustapic said. "It’s turning into something I’m absolutely loving, and I see that it's something with a lot of value for the community and people love it.” 

Neighbours helping neighbours

The St. Albert Backyard Gardening group has multiple events planned for the summer. On May 15, Mustapic's club is having a plant swap where people can show off their plants and trade amongst each other. 

"It’s kind of like a central event where people get together and there’s a lot of plants and seeds to choose from and it’s also an opportunity for this online community to actually get together," she said. "There’s a huge component of community building.

"People come out, they talk to each other, and I’m starting to include also coffee and tea, pastries, just to give it that feel of [an] afternoon for people to get together.”

Lengthy list of benefits 

Mustapic said one of the many things she loves about gardening is that "it takes your mind off of things like your work and whatever’s happening in your life."

"We sometimes get lost in our garden for a couple of hours after the end of the work day, and all of sudden you turn around and it’s getting dark and you spent the entire evening in your backyard."

Gardening is more than just a way to relax for Mustapic. 

"Over the years I’ve realized not only the potential but the power of small backyard gardens having an accumulative effect on everything: on the environment, on building the community, on people’s mental health, and people feeling a part of something.

“I think there’s a lot of concern right now about food security," Mustapic said. "People are expanding their gardens like never before.”

This year Mustapic and her family are planning on growing cucumbers, multiple types of tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, a variety of herbs, peppers, squash, watermelons, and more. She said she "wants to show people that you can grow a lot of food on a small space.”

"Organic food is extremely expensive and many people can’t afford it, but people need to know that they can grow it themselves.”

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell is working with the St. Albert Gazette as an intern reporter for May and June, 2022. He will graduate from MacEwan University in the fall of 2022 with a journalism degree.
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