Simcoe community garden's popularity is growing

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Wind and cold temperatures on Saturday afternoon prompted Vicky Burton to delay planting in her plot at the John Race Memorial Community Garden.

But the Simcoe resident could be seen lugging wheelbarrow loads of mulch to place on the footpaths between the 21-foot by 21-foot plots.

“I love planting stuff and watching it grow,” said Barton, who used to run a ten-acre farm but has been active at the community garden for the past four years.

“I grow tomatoes, onions, cabbage, assorted beans, gladiolas and zinnias,” Barton noted. “If I have extra I give it away. I hate to see anything go to waste.”

Dave Zeldon and John McGregor are co-chairs of the community garden, begun in 2009 by the late John Race.

“We are blessed to carry on his legacy for opportunities for people to grow their own vegetables,” Zeldon said. “He was a really big proponent of that.”

The community garden, located near the corner of Davis Street East and Gilbertson Drive features 30 plots that are all spoken for. Four raised bed gardens are in place for assisted gardeners who require more accessible plots.

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“We’ve had donations of soil from Eising Garden Centre to fill those boxes,” said Zeldon. “Timeberjack Tree Service gives us all the mulch we need for the walkways so you don’t get muddy.”

He noted that participating gardeners pay $30 for the season that helps to offset some expenses, such as the reconstruction this year of the raised beds.

“There’s water on the site, and a shed with all kinds of tools,” Zeldon explained, noting that a series of compost bins are used to collect garden refuse. “We have a nice little system for composting, and it’s needed.”

He said co-chair McGregor works in a big load of manure in the fall with a roto-tiller, and most gardeners have installed three-foot fences to keep the rabbits out.

Zeldon, a former horticulture teacher at Simcoe Composite School who retired thirteen years ago, said everyone shares ideas with novice gardeners.

“It’s more of a social thing, a community of different ages, skill sets and expertise,” he said, adding that a lot of former students participate in the community garden. “And they all still call me Mister.”

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