Urban Gardener - Vertical Gardening

Community gardening was the focus of my last blog post as a way to get involved in your community and put your green thumbs to work.  A great outlet for anyone living in a densely populated city like Toronto with an abundance of "condo villages".

Being a member of a community garden may not be for everyone though 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!  

Co-founder & Director of Operations Randall Coleman creating a Growing Pillar.  Official CYL pic

Co-founder & Director of Operations Randall Coleman creating a Growing Pillar.  Official CYL pic

If you're short on green space, want to grow your own veggies and love giving back, then a vertical garden may be perfect for you.

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 5 square feet of ground space.  These simple but brilliant growing structures are for gardeners of all levels of experience and according to non-profit organization, CanYALove (CYL), they are beneficial in so many ways and available right here in Toronto.

Best of all, says CYL’s co-founder and Director of Operations, Randy Coleman, there's NO WEEDING!

official CYL logo

official CYL logo

CanYALove has a list of reasons, other than weeds, why you should consider a vertical garden (growing pillar) if you have limited gardening space...

  • Space efficient!  Perfect for urban and densely populated places
  • Independent of the ground.  Separate from the ground, means separate from contaminated soil.
  • Eliminates food deserts, increases food security
  • Requires less maintenance than conventional gardens
  • Accessible for the disabled and elderly
  • Water efficient!  Uses little water and can be built to capture water too
  • Improves bio-diversity and nutrition in a small area

CYL is a non-profit organization whose mission is to create inexpensive, sustainable food sources in a variety of declining landscapes giving those most in need the opportunity to “grow more food with less space while promoting nutritious life-giving soil through composting.”

official CYL photo - Kenya

official CYL photo - Kenya

I was able to chat with Randy Coleman recently about the cost of setting up a vertical garden and how a garden in Toronto can benefit a community across the globe.

 Randy’s Bio

“As Director of Operations, Randy is responsible for gardening projects and organizational operations including governance, finances, and legal requirements. Being a native New Yorker, Randy has always had an interest in the intersection between urban living and the natural environment. Randy studied political science at the University of Maryland and obtained a Master of Public Policy, with a concentration in environmental policy from American University. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife.”  CanYALove.org

DTM:  Randy, how much does it cost to set up a Growing Pillar?                                            

Randy Coleman:  “The setup cost for a vertical garden, specifically the Growing Pillar, is around $540 but this includes the cost of soil.  If soil is being sourced on its own then the price is $400.  Having very good soil is important to the garden's success and very good soil is hard to come by or costs $$$.  It's important to note that the money CYL raises in a place like Toronto, in donations and services, is directly used in projects we have started or will start in the developing world. 

DTM:  Do you charge for the initial consultation?

Randy Coleman:  The initial consultation is part of the overall price.

DTM:  How does setting up a vertical garden here in Toronto benefit your charity?

Randy Coleman:  In several ways. One, is that the groups and people we work with can't afford to implement vertical gardens on a large scale in a short period of time. The money we raise in the industrialized part of the world can help subsidize and/or pay for the urban agriculture projects, partners want to start with us. Two, along with the gardens themselves, we provide crucial education on ecological agriculture practices as well as soil and composting to the partners and clients we work with. These funds help us deliver this important information. Third, the concept of our vertical gardens originally came from a slum in Nairobi called Kibera. Letting people here in Toronto know about the ingenuity and resilience of people far less wealthy than they, will connect Torontonians to those struggling to survive around the world. And this raised awareness will lead to transformative action. 

DTM:  What about maintenance visits?

Randy Coleman:  CYL provides education on garden maintenance so that maintenance services aren't needed. But if maintenance visits are needed, it can be negotiated with each particular household.  

DTM:  Does CanYALove offer tax receipts?

Randy Coleman:  All payments to CYL are tax deductible, so we do offer tax receipts.

DTM:  Since this might be a new concept for most of us, do you have a growing pillar that potential gardeners can see in person? 

Randy Coleman:   If people want to see what the gardens look like in person there is one setup in Forest Hill where people can come and visit and I can explain how it works in more detail.

The push to eat locally has become even more of a focus for consumers and probably won't be a trend that loses steam any time soon.  Consumers have become more aware of the need to question what's in their food, it's source and what effect the production of that food has on our environment.  Seems to me that your own backyard is as local as it gets and like Ron Finley says, “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”  

CanYALove can help you nurture your desire to eat home grown food and make a change in the world all with one growing pillar.  Grow your own veggies, donate to CYL's life changing projects or do both.  Either way, you'll experience growth!

Head to CanYALove's official site for more information about how you can get involved.             CYL can be contacted via social media or you can reach out to Randy Coleman directly at r.coleman@canyalove.org.

Happy gardening Toronto!