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'Trowel and error': Tips for starting your own garden

The Collingwood Garden Club is running its annual plant sale on June 3 at Trinity United Church from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. or until they sell out

How green is your thumb?

In an era of industrial farming and reliance on mass-produced food, people are rediscovering the joys and benefits of growing their own. 

Whether it's a small herb garden on a windowsill or a full-fledged backyard vegetable patch, gardening not only brings satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment but also promotes sustainability and self-sufficiency, said Barb Collinson, past club president and Arboretum director of the Collingwood Garden Club. 

“It’s a life skill,” she said. “Too many people are disconnected from their food sources and the land.” 

David Collinson, current president of the Collingwood Garden Club, recalls when the club first started working with My Friend’s House in Collingwood. One of the first things the club did was put in a vegetable garden, and he said so many kids found out for the first time they can go to a plant, pick a tomato and eat it. 

“That lesson… we get a great deal of satisfaction when kids make that connection,” he said.

However, there are a lot of people who are interested in getting their hands dirty, but don’t know where to start. 

If you are a beginner, Barb recommends starting small and gradually expanding as you gain confidence and experience. First and foremost, she said the soil you work with is key. Container gardening is a great option for those with limited space, as it allows you to grow a variety of plants in pots, hanging baskets, or even repurposed containers.

Next, Barb recommends choosing vegetables well-suited to your climate and soil conditions. Pick vegetables that you enjoy eating yourself and be patient if they don’t turn out perfectly the first time. 

If you're short on room, you can also join a community garden and bond with fellow green thumbs while cultivating your own food.

“Gradually, you learn,” she said. “And your thumb gets greener and greener as you go along.” 

David grew up on a fruit farm, and he and Barb have always had a shared passion for gardening. But even they know it’s not easy, and there are so many factors that contribute to the quality of your crop. 

“You can buy food at any grocery store and it’s very good. You can go to a place like Curries Farm Market and get something slightly different. But if you are really interested in getting something different, go buy seeds,” David said. 

At the end of the day, you just have to start, she said.

“Gardening is trowel and error. Just start.”

She also recommends utilizing the community, such as attending the educational sessions the Collingwood Garden Club hosts monthly or speaking to one of the club’s two master gardeners. 

“Talk to other gardeners, tap into the community,” she said. 

The Collingwood Horticultural Society has been in existence in some capacity since the 1880s. Its current iteration started in the early 1970s and now consists of about 120 members.

The club is in charge of the Collingwood Arboretum in collaboration with the Town of Collingwood, maintaining memorial tree and shrub donations in the five-acre area. The club also collaborates with Pollinate Collingwood and the Simcoe County Master Gardeners as well as maintaining the gardens at Breaking Down Barriers, Barbara Weider House and My Friend’s House in Collingwood. 

Yearly membership fees are $20 for an individual or $30 per household. Members meet monthly (with some exceptions) and have the opportunity to participate in various events and activities throughout the year.

“There is a certain spiritual aspect of gardening, whether it’s flowers or vegetables, and it speaks to something deep within us,” said Barb. 

On Saturday, June 3, the club will host its annual plant sale at Trinity United Church on Maple Street. 

The plants this year are mostly homegrown perennials, but also include tomato plants and some herbs. Prices range from $2 to $20.

The sale will take place from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., or until they sell out. Cash only.

For more information on the Collingwood Garden Club, click here.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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