I've pretty much been a city dweller most of my life. Although there have been a few occasions when I've had the benefit of an outdoor space, for the most part, I've lived without a garden or even a balcony.
I love living in the city so I've been willing to sacrifice a little green in my living space so I could have everything I love about Toronto on my doorstep. Luckily, most Toronto neighbourhoods have beautiful green spaces but I discovered that I really enjoy gardening and love the idea of being able to walk into my own garden to pick fresh herbs and vegetables. In no way does this mean that I'm gonna up and move to the suburbs. Not happening - but it got me thinking...
What can a city girl do if she doesn't have a garden but wants to put her green thumbs to work?
After doing a little digging (pun intended!) I came across some interesting ways to enjoy the thrill of city living and reap the benefits of growing your own lettuce!
Through one of the sites I was reading I found Ron Finley. He's from South Central LA and believes that “Growing your own food is like printing your own money!” This self-styled “guerrilla gardener” got tired of having to travel 45 minutes round trip to get fresh produce for his family that wasn’t full of pesticides, so he decided that a change was necessary.
Ron and his group, LA Green Grounds, planted a “food forest” on the city-owned strip of green on the curb outside his house. This lead to issues with the city and a movement was born. He has since gone on to establish the Ron Finley Project to promote healthier living through cleaner eating and community involvement. The Ted Talk he gave about his experiences isn't just inspiring but eye opening and well worth watching.
"Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where "the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys." TED TALKS
My favourite Ron Finley quotes...
“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”
“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”
“We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is – if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”
Ok, so how do we get to be "gangsta gardeners" if we don’t have gardens and don’t like the idea of tackling the city over curb-side farms?
Community gardening and vertical gardens are great options for city dwellers and both are within reach and neither have to be an expensive endeavour.
Toronto Community Gardens is an organization I came across while researching community gardens. Who are they and what do they do?
"The Toronto Community Garden Network (TCGN) is made up of interested and energetic individuals and organizations from across the GTA. They are committed to greening and organic gardening practices across the City of Toronto and to make community gardening an integral part of city life. The community gardens in Toronto are situated on a range of properties, including city parks, rooftops, senior citizens' residences, school properties, churches, community & health centres, and many more places." www.tcgn.ca
What a great way to reach out and be a part of your community, meet your neighbours and get those green thumbs working! This organization's website provides information on starting a community garden, where to find an established garden, how you can donate your time or money to a garden as well as a listing of upcoming community gardening workshops and events throughout the city. You can even find listings for jobs that are environmentally friendly on this community website.
Greenest City is a community based environmental charity that was started in 1996 and whose projects include the H.O.P.E. Community Garden, the Milky Way ESL Garden, the Dunn Parkette Learning Garden and the Urban Rooftop Farm Project. All designed to improve the environment and teach communities the benefits of creating sustainable local food sources.
"We educate, empower and inspire residents of all ages and backgrounds to achieve local solutions to improve the state of the environment and food security through our array of year-round and award-winning programs." greenestcity.ca
Community gardening may not be for everyone given the commitment needed to participate, the waiting lists for some gardens or you may want something more personal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your garden and eat it too!
Vertical gardens are a cost effective, sustainable and an easy to maintain alternative to conventional gardens that can be installed with as little as just over 9 square feet of ground space. These brilliant but simple growing structures are for gardeners of all levels of experience...
Make sure to visit downtownmom.ca regularly, there'll be more to come on Vertical Gardens.
We'd love to hear from you. Let us know about your gardening experiences in the city.