I’ve been receiving requests for information on starting a community garden since posting about my experience working with the H.O.P.E Community Garden Group here in Toronto. Starting a community garden is an awesome experience but it is also quite an undertaking. Starting a garden is as much about the physical labor involved in building the garden space as it is about building community and working co-operatively with a sense of commitment and purpose. My experiences with The H.O.P.E Garden have been so positive because of the efforts of project organizer Shannon Thompson of Greenest City, a Toronto based non-profit that has gone above and beyond in organizing one of the most well-functioning teams I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside.
Of course most of us don’t have the benefit of a team experienced in community building and the practical ins-and-outs of community garden organizating. In that case I would recommend that anyone looking to start a community garden in their area pick up a copy of “How Does Our Garden Grow?: A Guide to Community Garden Success” published by FoodShare and written by Laura Berman. This is an excellent and comprehensive resource that outlines many of the issues that you will face when starting a garden from leadership, site design and selection, to raising money and establishing gardener expectations. There is even a practical gardening section for beginners covering topics such as companion planting and composting.
TerraCycle Inc — a company started by a college student that sells liquid worm poo fertilizer in recycled pop bottles — is being sued by Scotts makers of Miracle-Gro claiming that the product package designs are too similar and confuse customers “…because some TerraCycle plant foods have a green and yellow label with a circle and a picture of flowers and vegetables on it.” Cause you know how novel and original these style choices are in the garden industry. They have started a blog called “Sued By Scotts” chronicling the lawsuit.
Scotts is also taking issue with the TerraCycle claim that their product is better than “a leading synthetic plant food” while refusing to hand over their test results to Scotts.
I love me some worm poo but have never tried the TerraCycle product since I can get liquid vermicompost produced locally or make it myself. I don’t think I need to tell you that I think Miracle-Gro is a terrible, environmentally unsound product but I gotta say that while I didn’t think it was possible this kind of bullying tactic only further places Scotts front and centre on my shitlist.
Terracycle’s answer to Scotts claim is due today.
Parkdale, the neighborhood where I have made my home for most of my adult life houses approximately 75% of its residents in apartments with 38% residing in high-rise towers without access to outdoor space. This neighbourhood is incredibly diverse with people hailing from literally all over the world. It’s an excellent example why Toronto is lauded as the most multicultural city in the world and why I love it here so much. But with so many people living on low incomes and without outdoor space, we desperately need food-growing gardens that serve the needs of this community.
Over the last month or so I’ve been involved with an exciting innitiative in my neighborhood to build a community garden in an underused park next to the local community centre. It’s not a huge garden and demand for space is high, but the hope is that the success of one such garden will open up the possibility for many more in this area.
This past weekend marked the official groundbreaking of the garden. The City gave us two options to get the garden started: they would remove the sod with a cutting machine or rototill the entire area. From the start the group has established a mandate to be as ecologically sound as possible, our goal being to create an environment that cultivates the health of the neighborhood. As a result we opted for the less invasive sod removal method. We would have loved to have simply composted the grass in place (sometimes called sod conversion) however time is not on our side this time around. Rolling up the sod means we can control how much the soil is cultivated, preserving the health of the soil and keeping as much nutritional matter intact as possible. We were also concerned that rototilling would result in grass popping up in plots within a few weeks.
We saved some of the sod to form rows between plots and gave the rest away to locals who needed it.
I am really excited to be a part of such a great project and can’t wait to see how it evolves and grows in the coming weeks and most especially once the gardens are planted and on their way to making food and building relationships within the community.
This is one of the smartest rain barrel contraptions I have seen, spotted at the Alex Wilson Community Garden here in Toronto. They don’t have access to a downspout but turned that around by setting up some kind of pipe system that funnels rainwater into this massive tub that also probably collect some amount of rain due to the large surface area. The multi-tiered system allows a great deal of water to be stored long-term.
Unfortunately, the following story about this particular rain barrel might turn some off the idea of contructing one in the first place. I think it just adds to the charming surprise of city gardening. Apparently when the system was first constructed, and before it had a protective mesh top, a friend of a friend arrived at his plot one day to find a nude man emersed in the “tub” taking a bath!
I’m proud to be included in the recent issue of Shameless Magazine, an independent magazine for strong, smart, and sassy teen girls that breaks the mold of the typical diet tips and beauty trends magazine.
I interviewed with writer Caroline Pelletier on growing food which can be found on pages 18-19.
Here’s what I said in response to her question, “Why is gardening fun and fulfilling?”
Gardening just IS fun. I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t fun. Because it can also be hard work and challenging. It’s problem-solving, and learning patience. It’s learning to accept failure as a part of learning. It’s becoming an observer. That part can be really exciting, especially as you make discoveries or come to understand and appreciate things in a new way. It’s creating space for wonder in your life and finding that part of your child brain that may have been lost or crushed in the challenges of adult life.