Whomever says tomatoes can not and should not be grown in pots has not witnessed some of the surprising discoveries I have made over the years. While out biking yesterday afternoon, I happened upon this fully mature, volunteer cherry tomato growing up from the dusty earth beneath a pile of discarded parking lot blocks. I was on the ball enough to stop and snap a few photos but realize in hindsight that I have got to go back and collect a few fruits for seed-saving. Because a tomato plant that can make it there, especially in the middle of what some are calling “the worst drought in Toronto in 50 years” can surely make it in a pot of soil. Never mind if that pot of soil is tended and watered now and again. A pot would be like moving into a full-service luxury spa complete with Swedish seaweed serum treatments, warm sage-infused towels, and full-body herbal body wraps after that kind of hard-living, right?
I love a lush, abundant garden as much as the next but I think the plants that best capture my respect and inspire the greatest sense of awe are those that are resilient and remarkably determined.
- Broad Ripple Yellow Currant – One of my favourite heirloom varieties because of their delicate, golden translucency and their dramatic risen-from-a-sidewalk-crack back-story. Who can resist a plant with a history of triumph over adversity? Not me, sappy sucker that I am.
- Secret Gardens – An alley tomato farm discovery that has become a perennial favourite and a great source of inspiration.
The grafted cactus is a bewildering but charming touch for Southern Ontario. Zone 5b. Or 6. Or whatever they’re saying our zone is this week.
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 often dream of hens clucking around in a small garden pecking at bugs and laying fresh, organic eggs but alas that is not going to happen living in the cold, white north with no backyard or shelter against raccoons and minus will-it-never-end winters. And seriously, that was an actual question. Will winter never end? I see photos online of people working outside in tank tops and flip flops. Dangling their springy, warm weather like an evil, tortuous carrot. We’re still wearing layers and big jackets over here people! Local weather reports keep reminding me that it is unseasonably cold. Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I like to hear. That and the words “possible flurries.” But I digress (a lot). I found the book “Keep Chickens!” by Barbara Kilarski at Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon and while I can not provide a full review it looked like a very thorough introduction and resource to urban chicken-keeping.
The ultra modern, ultra stylish, and ultra expensive Eglu is not helping to curb the fantasy one bit. It’s like an imac for chickens!
Over the long weekend we happened upon an open garage door while walking through a Toronto alley. Two large bird coops lined the side walls. So strong is my chicken-keeping itch that it took me half a minute to clue in that those were not chickens cooing back at me but fancy pigeons. After five years, I think I’ve finally solved the mystery of turkey pigeon!
Urban Chicken Keeping Resources