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
Once again I am trying to catch up on the garden visits I have made over the last three months. La Plaza Cultural is a community garden in New York City’s Alphabet City neighborhood (9th and Avenue C) that I have visited twice but only from the outside. But what a fantastic outside it is. The garden spans a large corner block and the fence along both sides is covered along the top with beautiful junk flowers artfully fashioned from tin cans, detergent bottles, beer caps, and just about any indestructable junk imaginable. Like other gardens in the area it was built up from the rubble and debris of abandoned tenements and trash and nurtured into a community space that has thrived since the late 70s.
This is the entrance on 9th Ave. The text on the wall reads, “The Struggle Continues” in spanish and english.
Someone in the area has been making and installing homemade birdhouses utilizing more junk materials. I found a few scattered around the neighbourhood. Surprising little discoveries like these are one of the aspects of city-living that I cherish most.
Someone altered the text on this sign. It’s too bad that there are class issues arising around the garden although I would bet most of those problems are tied to the swiftly changing face of the neighborhood rather than the garden itself.
This is a little of what I saw only a week ago in Portland. I’ve got to get on developing my film so I can coast on images of actual living things through these last foul weeks/months of winter. Click on the images to see them larger.
Lush, green carpets of fresh moss covering every static surface. The moss shown here is on the side of a tree trunk. I touched and rubbed a lot of trees. I’m guessing the locals are used to that.
I fell in love with these gorgeous pathways at the Chinese Garden. The garden features several, completely unique pathways meticulously crafted from tiny river rocks. Let’s face it, I am never going to have the money or time and patience to devote to something like this but it’s inspirational none-the-less.
Plum trees were blooming at the garden. I devoted a lot of time and film to soaking these beauties in knowing it would be months before I’d see such colours again in the outside world.