If you call Toronto home, we don’t need to tell you that creating a bustling garden to call your own is out of the realm of possibility for many of us. According to a 2017 census, more Toronto residents live in apartment buildings than in single-detached houses, most of which offer balconies but little greenspace. On the other side of the white-picket-fence, the situation isn’t much different, either; many of those who live in single-detached homes within the city might not even have the footage necessary to support a flourishing garden.
Unless you’re looking to escape to the literal greener pastures of outside-the-GTA, you’re going to have to get a little unconventional to satisfy your green-thumb. Luckily for those of us in densely populated areas, there’s a simple, community-focused solution: community gardens.
What is a community garden?
Community gardens are spaces allocated to communities where they can come together to grow different foods, plants, herbs and flowers within the city. The city provides plots of land from within Toronto’s parks system and other City-owned grounds.
Depending on the garden, people are free to have individual plots, communal growing areas or a mix of both. Most community gardens are run by a community group; decisions for specific gardens are typically arranged through a set of both formal and informal committees.
How to join a community garden
There are already many garden spaces scattered throughout the city, so the first course of action for those interested would be to see if one exists in or near your neighbourhood. You can find a list of current community gardens through Toronto’s official website, and from there, contact the Supervisor of the Community Gardens Program. Some gardens may have a waiting list, so the sooner you reach out to them, the better!
How to start a community garden in your neighbourhood
If a garden in your neighbourhood is yet to exist, good news: you have the power to set up a new one! But before you go to the nearest park and start ploughing the earth, there are first a few requirements that need to be met.
To start a community garden, there needs to be at least five community members interested and accountable for the plot’s upkeep. Each group requires an elected coordinator, who will oversee the project and work with the City of Toronto to gain support. After that has been decided, the group should identify a location or locations appropriate for the garden with the city’s aid.
After this, the Supervisor of Community Gardens Program will review the eligibility for the proposed land plot. If the location is approved, there is a design process and an installation process, which the City may assist with.
For an in-depth guide on the entire process, how to submit a proposal and what to do if you require funding, visit the Toronto website.
Not only is gardening an enjoyable leisurely pastime for many, but there are also plenty of personal benefits for your well-being. Studies show that gardening can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, give older adults a boost in vitamin D, and can make you happier overall. We know that this past year has been extremely tough on many, and we hope that gardening can be used as a tool to get through these difficult times.
Happy gardening, and enjoy the fruits of your labour!