Berry With Us

Berry With Us

Above: One of the proposed sites for a James Bay berry patch. Use your imaginaton.

By Kathryn Pankowski

If you’ve dipped into this column from time to time, you may recall various rather vague mentions of someday, maybe, making a James Bay berry patch, where those so inclined could go pick fresh fruit. It’s just moved a step closer to becoming a real place, so it seems like time for an update.

First, there’s now a team of volunteers working away to make this happen: six James Bay adults and two five-year-olds. Over the fall, we put together a list of goals and functional requirements, took a first whack at a concept design, held an open house for immediate neighbours, and presented at the December JBNA meeting.

Now, the particulars: we’re proposing to make the berry patch on two traffic-calming features. These aren’t parks, just patches of grass that the City has added at intersections to alter traffic flow. One is at the corner of Pendray and Quebec, between Harbour Tower and Nourish; the other is at the corner of Montreal and Kingston. At the moment they seem to be used only for occasional pedestrian short cuts, a bit of dog walking, and, in the summer, a lemonade stand run by local kids.

The main goal is, of course, to provide free fresh fruit snacks to the ‘hood. But we have other goals for these spaces. One is just to make them more attractive, so that even people with no interest in eating a fresh berry (do such people exist?) might enjoy them as mini-parks or gardens, as a pleasant place to stroll by or to sit for a few minutes. We also want to make and garden them in an environmentally-friendly way, including lots of habitat and food for pollinators, both because it’s a good thing to do and because, if you don’t have the right pollinators in residence, you don’t get berries.

We also developed a list of things we think the berry patches need to have done to keep the neighbours and the neighbourhood happy. These include making sure the existing trees are nurtured; keeping open all the sight lines necessary for safe flow of cars, bicycles, pedestrians, horses, pedicabs, and whatever else may wander by; keeping garden waste in a closed, rodent-proof compost bin; and making sure that there are no plants with seriously poisonous parts on the site. There are a lot more: if you’d like to see the full list or suggest additions, contact me at the email below.

What happens next? Two things. The volunteers will be doing lots of research this spring, with the goal of getting a full proposal ready. This will include measured drawings, a list of plants, and the details of the design. Meanwhile, probably sometime in February, you will see a big official-looking City sign go up at each site, asking for comments.

After that, and if the neighbours and community like the proposal, it will be submitted to the City, reviewed by various Departments, and then, if all goes well, eventually go to City Council for approval.

It’s all berry exciting. At least, we think so.

Neighbourhood Gardening News

Don’t miss Victoria Seedy Saturday, a project of the James Bay Market Society, on February 16, 10-4, at the Victoria Conference Centre behind the Empress. If you only go to one garden event a year, make it this one. Your $8 admission gets you access to the seed exchange where you can trade or buy (cheaply!) seeds from other local gardeners, to the exhibit hall with 60+ exhibitors including most local seed producers and nurseries, to your choice of 18 talks and workshops, to the gardening book exchange and lots more. It really is worth going for the whole day. [Full disclosure: I’m a long-time Seedy volunteer.]

Kathryn Pankowski is the James Bay Neighbourhood Association Neighbourhood Gardening Advocate: she can be reached at The JBNA would like to acknowledge the financial support of the City of Victoria for this initiative.

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