Free veggies? Charlottetown wants residents to help themselves

The City of Charlottetown is encouraging residents to help themselves to free vegetables at 21 large planters around the city.

'If you're walking by and think, "I need a salad for supper"... there they are'

The planters at the Desbrisay community garden could be used more, says gardener Brenda Whiteway. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

The City of Charlottetown is encouraging residents to help themselves to free vegetables at 21 large planters around the city.

There are 11 planters near the ball fields in Victoria Park and there are others in Orlebar Park, Desbrisay Park, J. Frank MacAulay Park, and Joe Ghiz Park. 

Come on down and share the wealth.— Coun. Terry MacLeod


"The idea is to tie the community in and promote local food and how to harvest it," said Ward 2 Coun.Terry MacLeod, who chairs the city's environment and sustainability committee.

The city spends about $500 per year on the planters, which are cared for by city horticulture staff.

MacLeod said there are also groups or volunteers who help with the planting, helping to keep the annual costs minimal. 

'Bit of lettuce for supper'

The response from residents has been overwhelming, MacLeod said.

This planter in Victoria Park has been harvested. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"There's a lineup now, everyone wants these vegetable planters," he said. "We're just getting it out now that this is really good."

MacLeod said he enjoys watching residents help themselves to food from the planters.

People coming to the ballpark to watch their children play ball notice the planters and have begun enjoying them, he said. 

One of the planters at Frank MacAulay Park in Parkdale has beet greens available for local residents. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"While they're doing that, they're heading up to the planters and picking out a bit of lettuce for supper."

'Great community involvement project'

MacLeod said there was initially some vandalism, with plants being pulled out and garbage left in planters.

There are 11 planters in Victoria Park, near the ball fields. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

But city staff just kept replanting them and now most of the boxes are well cared for. 

"The city does a lovely job of watering and helping to educate the folks, but at the end of the day someone's got to take some ownership of it, so I think it's a great community involvement project."

There are three planters at Frank MacAulay Park in MacLeod's ward, built with the help of the Lions Club.

The City of Charlottetown planted a foraging wall in Orlebar Park in 2018. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

The green space in the area has lots of apartment buildings surrounding it. 

"We're providing places for people that aren't fortunate enough to be able to have the space or knowledge to grow this stuff," MacLeod said.

Free harvest

Brenda Whiteway rents a plot for a small annual fee in the Debrisay community garden, where the city has added planters of free vegetables. Right now there are carrots and radishes to harvest, with eggplant and turnips that will mature later. 

Brenda Whiteway harvests some peas from her plot at the Desbrisay Community Garden. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"We're not encouraging people to come and harvest our plots — we've put a lot of work into them," Whiteway said. "But the community plots down at the very end are available and they're accessible and available to the public."

Whiteway is pleased the city offers the public planters.

"I think it's wonderful because the city will come, they water them, they plant them," Whiteway said. 

"If you're walking by and you think, 'Oh my goodness, I need a salad for supper, I need some greens in my diet,' well there they are."

Spread the word

Whiteway added the variety of vegetables in the planters is "incredible" but would like to see more people using them.

There are Montmorency cherries and rhubarb free for the taking at Desbrisay Park. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

 "I've seen a few people harvesting — I think that they could be used more," Whiteway said.

"I think if people were perhaps more aware of them, there'd be more of a harvesting happening but there are a few people that are aware of them." 

Fruit and nuts

The city also now offers fruits and nuts for the public to gather seasonally. 

The city has just posted a series of recipes that use the free ingredients from local parks. (City of Charlottetown)

The city planted edible orchards in Windsor Park, Desbrisay Park, and Orlebar Park through funding from Tree Canada's Edible Tree program.

The city has just posted a series of recipes online that use the free ingredients from local parks.

Three more veggie planters are planned for Windsor Park in 2020. 

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Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.


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