Erin Rivard (left) and Dave Weatherill (right) standing in the community gardens at Blair Apartments. (Jennifer Blake - Morning Star)

Gardens plant hope for Okanagan residents who were once homeless

Turning Points, in collaberation with Briteland, bring square foot gardening to Blair Apartments

From perennials to potatoes, the new square foot gardens at Vernon’s Blair Apartments will allow residents to grow and care for their own plants.

Briteland President Dave Weatherill, said that square foot gardening was invented in 1972 by an efficiency expert, designed to make gardening simplistic and underwhelming.

Erin Rivard from Turning Points said that Blair Apartments had a garden before, but it wasn’t structured and ultimately didn’t end up working out.

“It gives them something to take care of,” said Rivard. “Lots of these folks have come over from the homeless shelter so they haven’t had the opportunity to have their own garden.”

A compost system has been set up at Blair Apartments for the new garden.

Weatherill said that plants don’t like cold water, so they’ve also set up a sustainable water system at Blair Apartments where the rainwater is harvested off the roof and then warmed in a tank.

All 18 square foot gardens have flowers in them.

“It’s good for the soul,” said Weatherill. “Flowers are beautiful, so let’s keep beauty in our lives.”

Sprinklers have a tendency to waste water, so Blair Apartment residents hand water their plants.

“Every drop is precious, so you learn the value of water, as well as you are right in there with your plants,” said Weatherill. “You will find that people talk to their plants, they’ll actually sing to their plants. It’s very good for the soul.”

Weatherill said that they thought there was no point in planting a whole package of seeds at once, as they would all be ready at the same time but couldn’t all be eaten at the same time.

“With the the square foot garden concept, every square is a different crop,” said Weatherill. “So when that crop is harvested, you will replace it with a new crop.”

Rivard said that they want to foster a sense of community between the residents at Blair Apartments.

“We cook probably once a week together,” said Rivard. “But this year, we can pull from our own garden, and they can reap the success of what they’ve worked hard to do.”

The new garden is a collaboration with Turning Points and Briteland.

Vernon Home Hardware helped supply materials like a shed, Kindale helped build the garden squares with kits provided by Briteland, and Hill Landscaping (Olympic snowboarder Kevin Hill and his brother Matt Hill) helped with construction.

Related: Garden Tour fundraiser running out of Vernon gardens

Related: A Gardener’s Diary: Seed sales spark gardening excitement

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