Harvey Sohm, a director and volunteer with the Magnetawan Horticultural Society, demonstrates how the improved irrigation system using large-capacity water tanks is a major improvement over watering the vegetable plots with watering cans last year. Rocco Frangione PhotoRocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 22, 2022 at 07:33

By Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The community garden the Magnetawan Horticultural Society opened last spring is now four times larger.
The group of volunteers created the garden, which is on municipal land on Albert Street across from the fire department, as a means to provide fresh vegetables to community members who might be in need.

 “A lot of people could use what we produced and we thought why not expand,” said Harvey Sohm, a director and volunteer of the Magnetawan Horticultural Society.
Barbara Stewart, president of the society, said the local group felt the original space was too small, which restricted how many veggies could be grown.
As a result, Sohm drew up some plans and expanded the growing area.
“We first started with four plots of three by 10 feet,” Sohm said.
“We also had two smaller plots at four by three feet plus a flower bed with some tomatoes in it and another bed with rhubarb, garlic and onions.”
Council donated $2,500 last year to kickstart the community garden. The Magnetawan Agricultural Society embraced the idea and added $1,000 to the 2021 project.
Stewart said the horticultural society undertook a major fundraising drive for the 2022 expansion.
“One of our directors called local businesses to ask for donations and everyone she called donated,” Stewart said.
“We raised more than $5,000.”
The money was enough to add six three by 10 beds and four smaller beds.
Outside the fence there are three more beds.
Sohm says on top of that, watering capabilities have also improved thanks to people donating two 200 gallon tanks and one 150 gallon tank.
Sohm says pipes from the tanks are fitted to perforated soaker hoses and gravity does the rest.
All he has to do is turn a tap, which allows the water in the holding tanks to travel along the pipes and into hoses to irrigate the plants.
Sohm said it sure beat last year’s method where water was stored in barrels and watering cans were used to water the veggies.
Fire department volunteers keep the tanks filled with water as needed.
Stewart says the society had great success with last year’s plots in terms of growing vegetables.
“We had a lot of vegetables because the soil we used was phenomenal,” she said.
“Everything grew.  It was like a jungle there.”
With the expansion, the society is able to grow more varieties.
Sohm said this year the horticultural volunteers planted beets, carrots, turnips, peppers, cabbage, peas, beans, squash, pumpkins as well as repeating the tomatoes and rhubarb.
Last year the society sent out flyers making people aware that if they needed fresh vegetables to contact the organization.
It also promoted the community garden on social media.
But Sohm said word of mouth also got the message out.
“When I delivered food last year sometimes the recipient would tell me their neighbour down the road could also use some vegetables,” Sohm said.
“People were very happy to get the fresh vegetables and some were also surprised by our visits and that we are doing this. It makes you feel good.”
Although the society is largely responsible for planting the vegetables, it also gets seeds and some plants donated to the group.
“Also some people will grow the plants from seeds in March and April and then give them to us,” Stewart said.
When the community garden opened last year it wasn’t known if the garden would be subject to any vandalism.
“But there wasn’t a single case of vandalism,” Stewart said.
She adds it also helps  there is a surveillance camera system at the fire hall that is aimed at the garden.
The garden officially had a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 18. Among the dignitaries were Mayor Sam Dunnett, Coun. Wayne Smith and several horticultural volunteers including Stewart and Sohm.
Stewart says the community garden would not be possible if not for the volunteers and the generosity of people who donate to the various fundraising drives.
The society always welcomes donations and people can email Stewart at maghortsociety@gmail.com on how to donate.

This item reprinted with permission from The Nugget, North Bay, Ontario