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Stephenville community garden offers prescription for mental wellbeing

Carla Sharpe of Stephenville displays some of the carrots she harvested from one of her plots at the community garden in Stephenville.
Carla Sharpe of Stephenville displays some of the carrots she harvested from one of her plots at the community garden in Stephenville. - Frank Gale

While many people think of gardening as a physical activity, spending hours in her community garden plots provides Carla Sharpe with self-help for her mental health.
As a mental health councillor with Western Health, she is quite aware of the importance of keeping the mind in good shape.
For her, getting out in the garden is the remedy.
“After a day on the job, you can go to the garden and get away from the stress of work and concentrate on what you’re doing — whether it is planting, weeding, watering or this time of the year harvesting,” she said last week while taking up carrots, one of the last crops she had left to reap.
Community gardening is something she has been doing in Stephenville for five years, but her gardening experience goes back further.
Growing up in St. Anthony, her dad, Jack Rowe, kept a garden on the side of the highway and she’d be out there with him.
She heard about the Stephenville Community Garden from Erle Barrett, gardening committee co-chair, and thought it would be a perfect opportunity for her.
“It’s quite affordable here as the plots are a really good price and all the gardening tools you need are right here for the gardeners,” she said. “It’s the perfect setup.”
She has two kids, aged 12 and nine, who sometimes helped in the garden when they were younger.
This year, she planted carrots, potatoes, beets, snow peas and zucchini. She bottled the beets and made relish and jam zucchini.
“It’s great because I usually have vegetables up to Christmas and both my kids and husband Jason really like them from the garden," she said.
Known among the gardeners for her attention to detail in the way she plants her rows in hilled sequence, she said her father taught her the practice. 
She’s passing that knowledge on to others. This year, she got two friends, Leah Whittle and James Parsons, involved and both planted their plots the same way.
Sharpe also shares a plot of potatoes with Angela Leroy, which they’ve been doing for several years.
While she found last year was a better year for growing, she did say her zucchinis grew huge this year.
She said her carrots also grow well. Her father, who visits on occasion, jokes he should get a plot in Stephenville as he can’t get any size out of his carrots on the Northern Peninsula but has great success with potatoes.

Some of the crops grown at the Stephenville Community Garden:

•    Potatoes
•    Turnips
•    Carrots
•    Beets
•    Cabbage
•    Varieties of peas
•    Beans
•    Onions
•    Garlic
•    Rhubarb
•    Varieties of herbs
•    Bok Choy
•    Lettuce
•    Kale
•    Swiss Chard
•    Strawberries
•    Raspberries
•    Zucchini
•    Cucumber
•    Pumpkins

Source: Dave Rex, gardening committee co-chair

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