Ira Henry and Annabelle Baxter are leading the volunteer effort to transform plots near the Coast Collective gallery into a working community garden.

It takes a community to grow a garden

Coast Collective garden in Colwood seeks volunteers

The weeds are still winning, but patches of arugula and spinach poke through the soil, fighting to overcome what has been a cold spring.

It’s been a few years since vegetables have sprouted on the picturesque Havenwood property in Colwood, but two avid green-thumbs are aiming to sow the seeds of a thriving community garden.

“I think it’s a beautiful space to help provide food security,” says Annabelle Baxter,  a 20-year gardening veteran. “Most of the infrastructure is here. People get dirt, tools, a greenhouse and knowledge. All we need is participation.”

Baxter, 38, and her partner Ira Henry, 30, have spent the last few months reviving the garden from hibernation, volunteering up to 20 hours per week weeding and tending to plants and veggies.

Part of the colourful greenhouse building is rough and unfinished, and piping for the irrigation system remains a mystery, but much of the existing soil rich and dark. With enough sweat and toil, the pair think the garden would dovetail nicely with the Coast Collective art studios in the Pendray House.

“It’s a great space for people to get involved, and the garden here for the taking. People can participate in any way they can,” Baxter says. “But this will have to be a grassroots effort. There’s not a lot of funding around.”

The pair came across the idle plot after transplanting themselves from Fernwood to a rural home in Metchosin, “built on a rock, surrounded by Douglas firs with nowhere to grow,” Baxter says laughing. The artists who run the Coast Collective gave them free rein – they just need to pay the water bill.

Living in Victoria, Baxter co-ordinated a popular community garden in Fernwood for five years. Henry works as a sustainable agriculture instructor at the Boys and Girls Club property in Metchosin.

Community plots and teaching garden exist in Colwood at the WestShore Teaching Garden on Sooke Road, but Baxter suspects there is room for more. A desire to live sustainably and expand small-scale agriculture is an ever-growing trend across urban areas, Henry says.

To help pay the water bill and to raise the profile of the garden, Baxter and Henry are leading courses in composting, beginner gardening and for students at the Coast Collective over the summer. Ultimately they’d like to draw in lower income people to grow food, although they acknowledge Havenwood, while scenic, is a touch isolated.

“We need people interested in creating a steering committee to take this to the next level,” Baxter says. “There’s not enough of us to do this.”

To get involved in the Coast Collective garden, email Baxter at For more on the Coast Collective and gardening courses, see


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