Kelowna’s edible garden nipped in the bud

Plans to plant edible gardens in an unkempt strip around Kelowna’s city hall were nipped in the bud this week.

“I don’t know what kind of appetite council has for this,” said Coun. Graeme James, during a lengthy debate on the gardens Monday afternoon.

“But I find this expenditure just extravagant, and I can’t begin to express my disdain for it.”

All but Couns. Kevin Craig and Angela Reid agreed it was best to kibosh the proposal to turn space once home to an overgrown hedge into a veggie garden for city employees.

While most landscaping issues don’t come before elected officials, Coun. Michele Rule saw edible gardens used effectively in Portland, Oregon, so she brought the idea to replicate that city’s work to council. In response, councillors resolved to get staff to investigate the ins and outs.

Turned out, however, prompting city staffers to garden their own plot wasn’t a cost effective way to use the space.

Dealing with everything from building planters to changing irrigation patterns gave the project a price tag of around $4,200, causing elected officials to balk.

Even Coun. Robert Hobson was displeased with idea, although he wasn’t opposed to the practice altogether.

“I don’t think that little strip of land is worth the effort. If you did it on a trial basis you’d put in beds, and would have to pull them out,” he said, pointing out that the city’s community garden group wasn’t even interested in the land.

He also didn’t think that spending hours of time debating what to do with a small portion of land on city hall was the appropriate work for elected officials.

“It’s micromanaging…let staff do what they’d normally do,” he said. “I don’t want council to spend the day discussing what to do with a strip of land on the side of city hall.”

Conversely, Coun. Angela Reid said it was an issue that warranted discussion, claiming abandoning it was a missed opportunity.

“I think it’s a little sad that we’re not willing to support this,” said Reid, adding that produce not used by the gardeners would be donated to the food bank, and the value of that shouldn’t be overlooked.

“It’s a way for staff to landscape in a unique way.”

To that, Hobson pointed out that there are better ways to support the food bank.

“If we wanted to create an effort to make food for the food bank, let’s do something more significant,” he said.

“We’re not starving homeless people by not planting this thing, let’s let it go and develop better planning.”