Dave Smith, president of Maples Discovery Gardens Co-op, is preparing for major changes as a result of a combination of housing construction and tighter creek protection regulations that will shrink the size of the garden from six to less than two acres. Dan Ferguson Langley Times

HOMEGROWN: Changes coming to Maples Discovery Gardens Co-operative

‘We’re going to lose all our perennials,’ says Maples president Dave Smith

Some time in the not-too-distant future, the non-profit Maples Discovery Gardens Co-operative will lose its access road from 200 Street.

The road will have to be moved to 80 Avenue. And the garden will shrink in size, from six acres to 1.5.

“We’re going to lose all our perennials (on the north side of the road),” Maples president Dave Smith said.

On the plus side, Dave said the change will probably reduce the continuing problem of petty thefts from the garden by eliminating a lot of the bushes thieves use for cover.

Two factors are forcing the changes – the impending development of a portion of the green space leased by the co-operative, and tougher fishery regulations that require a greater setback from nearby Latimer Creek, an active salmon spawning stream that runs less than 30 metres away from the road.

“That’s just the standard now (for fish conservation),” Maples garden director Amanda Smith said. “Unfortunately, we have not been grandfathered.”

There’s no exact date for the changes, but they are expected within a year.

As a result, the garden is preparing to reinvent itself by rearranging its garden plots to better use the remaining space and becoming a showcase of techniques to reduce waste and water consumption.

What appears to be a new gazebo turns out to be terrain water collection system that collects rain from the peaked roof in a giant plastic barrel.

“This is step one,” Amanda said.

The next step is an composting and recycling program that will eliminate garbage pickups.

“Eventually, our dumpster is going to go,” Amanda said.

It’s a big change of direction for the Gardens, which was incorporated as a non-profit cooperative in May of 2009.

The Maples mission statement is “to enable community members of all ages and abilities to learn about the connection between food, nutrition, gardening, and environmental sustainability in a welcoming and natural setting.”

Among other things, the garden rents small plots to member-gardeners. This year, despite the wet and cold spring weather, all the plots have been sold and activity is underway.

During a recent visit by the Times, there were signs of activity everywhere.

The recent arrival of warm, sunny weather had brought trees and bushes flowering to life with bright white flowers blossoming on apple trees and vegetables beginning to poke through the earth in raised garden beds. Chantal Wheeler was patiently sorting through a load of soil in her plot, picking out roots and rocks before she started planting. It is the first year at Maples for the Langley resident, who said she developed her love of gardening from her grandparents.

“I’m going to grow squash” she said. Members with plots must agree to use environmentally friendly methods without “harmful herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or any other type of harmful pesticide at any time.”

They also agree they will only use nongenetically modified seeds, and only handwater their plots with a hose in order to conserve water.

The garden also operates a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that generates 10 weeks of fresh, local, naturally grown vegetables and fruits produced at the garden without pesticides or herbicides of any kind, using only organic methods of mulching, fertilizing and planting.

There is enough produced at the garden for only a few customers, and this year’s program is fully subscribed. With two months to go, several CSA plots were showing signs of life, with small shoots of lettuce poking through raised garden beds and tomatoes flowering inside a miniature greenhouse next to a row of thyme. The Maples also offers education program for school children, who tour the facility and acquire some hands-on experience in smallscale, environmentally friendly gardening methods. It is also home to a growing colony of bees tended on-site by members.

The garden is always looking for volunteers to help with pruning, composting and more. Anyone interested should contact info@ maplesliving.ca.