The sidewalks of Austin Heights are looking a little more alive these days.
Volunteers have added colourful plants — mainly pansies and other edible flowers — to about 40 planters in the neighbourhood as part of an initiative called Coquitlam Munch.
The idea began in 2016 as part of the Coquitlam Blooms project. At the time, about 40 planters were stocked with edible plants. The project became part of Coquitlam’s submission to the annual Communities in Bloom competition.
In 2019, master gardener Laura Thomas took over operations and remains the garden co-ordinator for the Coquitlam Munch.
“We’re trying to bring life back to the street for spring,” she says of this month’s operations.
While Coquitlam Munch is a year-round initiative, they are essentially starting from scratch this spring with new planters. The old ones were donated to School District #43 to be used as school-based gardens and to the local farmers market society, Grow Local Society, which also manages a few community gardens in the Tri-Cities.
Coquitlam Munch is run by the Austin Heights Business Improvement Association in partnership with the City of Coquitlam and Grow Local Society.
Spring and summer tend to be the busiest months for Thomas and her volunteers. They are planting and maintaining, and providing lots of water to the thirsty plants.
As the seasons change, so too will what’s in the garden boxes. Thomas compares the gardens to a symphony. There’s always something rising and something falling.
When Thomas took over running Coquitlam Munch, she introduced the idea of themed gardens. So among the boxes, you’ll find a pizza garden complete with tomatoes, basil and other herbs that would suit a pie well. There’s also a cocktail garden with garnish for beverages, such as rosehips. Thomas says they tend to stay away from mint. “It’s a little bossy,” she says, explaining mint’s tendency to overtake other plants.
The garden boxes are not a look, but don’t touch scenario. Residents are encouraged to pick small portions to take home with you. Garnish anyone?
This year, you can also expect to see a lot of sunflowers.
The bulk of the planters are located on a one-block stretch of Ridgeway Avenue behind Safeway, with others along Austin Avenue between Nelson and Marmont Streets. There’s also a few boxes on Austin Avenue just east of Marmont Street and on Ridgeway Avenue, just west of Nelson Street.
Thomas says in the summer, Coquitlam Munch offers prime people-watching opportunities.
She’s always on the lookout for more volunteers and encourages those interested to volunteer with Grow Local Society first. She often recruits from their pool of volunteers.