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Jun 15, 2023

8 min. read

In her children’s novel Anne of Ingleside, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote: “Nothing ever seems impossible in spring.” And for community gardeners from coast to coast, the allure of getting one’s hands dirty and planning the seasonal bounty of flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables renders an experience that’s even better when shared. Community gardening is also a way for local residents to increase food security, share culture and traditions, and pledge their commitment to sustainability and biodiversity.

Here are six community gardens that showcase how green spaces are vital to healthy cities and towns.

1. The Toronto Urban Growers (TUG) network

The Toronto Urban Growers (TUG) network, which began in 2008, is a pairing of community gardens and urban farms committed to sharing knowledge and finding ways to make the most of city policies focused on growing food. TUG is made up of approximately 400 gardens across Toronto, and has a broad definition of community gardening that extends beyond just planting and harvesting. One example is the collaboration between non-profits to host weekly events geared to Indigenous communities at the Dunn Parkette Indigenous Garden.

2. Seneca College’s (60.5k) Odeyto Indigenous Centre, North York, Ont.

Learning is the focus at Seneca College’s Odeyto Indigenous Centre, with its urban-farmer-in-training program at the Newnham campus community garden. Plantings on raised beds fuel an applied research project for Seneca’s Urban Agriculture Enterprise Support Program. Researchers use the data they collect in the garden to develop new ideas for sustainable business practices in food production.

3. Centre for Immigrant & Community Services, Scarborough, Ont.

In Scarborough, at the Centre for Immigrant & Community Services, gardening has evolved to become part of a local year-round food program, thanks to the addition of a greenhouse, which means seedlings can be grown for community gardens across the city. Merging hydroponics with aquaculture, Scadding Court Community Centre’s aquaponics initiative in downtown Toronto has taken its community garden into a new direction by growing plants and raising fish, all for sale to local residents at affordable prices.

Two women standing next to a solar panel on a rooftop.

4. Sault Ste. Marie Clean North Community Gardens

Clean North promotes environmental awareness in Sault Ste. Marie through community gardening at six locations. These include on-campus projects, such as the People’s Garden at Algoma University, and at St. Mary’s College, where 13 raised beds were planted with vegetables and herbs, including sun-chokes and dill. Everything grown at Clean North gardens benefits local programs, including Harvest Algoma, a food resource hub, and Grocer 4 Good, which provides jobs for people with autism or intellectual disabilities.

5. Windsor/Essex County Community Garden Collective

This cooperative has more than 30 gardens across southern Ontario—at seniors’ community centres, environmentally remediated sites and places of worship, as well as universities and youth centres. An active participant of this collective is the non-profit Together We Flourish, led by youth in Windsor who launched a garden composting program using food scraps from local businesses. At the organic, sustainable Campus Community Garden of the University of Windsor, emphasis is on urban agriculture, garden-based education and biodiversity.

6. Kingston Community Gardens Network

Loving Spoonful/Kingston Community Gardens Network has partnered with the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative and Rideau 1000 Islands Master Gardeners. Their campaign—Garden for Good—promotes food cultivation, whether on plots of land, balconies, windowsills or in containers. Another Loving Spoonful project is Grow-A-Row, which urges gardeners to donate their surplus vegetables to those in need.

How to Start a Community Garden

Contact your neighbourhood association for information on existing gardens in your area. Some religious groups also have gardens and would welcome volunteers. Many community gardens use Facebook rather than stand-alone websites. If you wish to volunteer, a quick search there may lead to fruitful results.

Ready to get gardening?

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