No space to plant a garden where you live? There’s a solution in the form of Toronto’s community gardens, plots of land you develop and plant with or alongside a likeminded group of growers. There are community gardens of all sizes all over Toronto and not only d o they allow people to grow flowers, plants, and food but to come together to foster a stronger sense of community. Not to be confused with allotment gardens, which are rented out on an individual basis from the City of Toronto and for which you don’t need to be a part of the community.
There is often a long waiting list for community garden plots, but many of them can be visited and toured, and/or they may offer gardening workshops or other events for people in the neighborhood. Want to learn more about community gardens around the city? Here’s what you need to know and some of Toronto’s community gardens to check out.
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Why Community Gardens
Not everyone has access to outdoor space in Toronto. In fact, many people don’t, especially downtown. This is where community gardens come in and can be a way for individuals, families, and groups to access outdoor space to plant and tend to flowers, herbs, and vegetables. But it’s not just about having a place to do some planting – community gardens are a way to bring neighborhoods together and transform otherwise unused space into something that a whole network of like-minded people can come together and utilize. Community gardens also often mean making decisions about those plots or larger garden areas as a community, which in turn brings people closer. This could come down to what you plant, how you plant it and what the garden’s focus will be on (i.e.: all organic practices or planting only native species).
In addition, community gardens also have a way of giving a positive boost and breathing some fresh life into areas in need of revitalization. A community garden can also help... beautify otherwise overlooked spaces, which in turn can improve neighborhoods immensely.
02 of 07
Milky Way ESL Garden
I had the pleasure of seeing this garden and hearing more about it during a Jane’s Walk through Parkdale highlighting the area’s Tibetan community. Milky Way ESL Garden is located behind Parkdale Public Library on privately owned land and is part of Greenest City, a non-profit charity that works to increase urban agriculture in Toronto among other initiatives. They currently have four community gardens in Parkdale, including Milky Way. Milky Way is planted and maintained by a group of adult ESL students from the Parkdale Library, so not only are they learning English, but also how to grow and care for plants together, which brings them closer as a community.
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HOPE Community Garden
Also part of Greenest City is HOPE Community Garden, with HOPE standing for Healthy, Organic Parkdale Edibles. The garden was dug in 2006 and is located next to the Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre. HOPE Community Garden is 4000 square feet with 50 plots and consists mostly of vegetables with the exception of some flowers to add color and keep the pollinators around. Around 100 gardeners tend to plots, including individuals, families and community groups. In addition to getting their gardens to grow, HOPE gardeners also have access to various workshops, talks, and social events.
Greenest City’s other community garden includes Dunn Parkette Learning Garden, where all the food grown is donated to food banks and community programs.
04 of 07
Oakvale Green Community Garden
This one-acre community garden in Toronto’s east end is located within walking distance of both Donlands and Greenwood subway stations. Here you’ll find 40 personal garden plots for growing food, two personal flower gardens and four community areas for perennials. The focus here is on organic gardening as well as the cultivation of native plants. In addition to flowers, plants and vegetables, Oakvale Green Community Gardens also have a series of fruit trees on property, which were planted in 2010.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
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Dufferin Grove Community Gardens
Dufferin Grove Park has a lot going for it in terms amenities and activities. And if playgrounds, a farmers’ market, skating rink and an outdoor brick oven for community baking weren’t enough, Dufferin Grove park also boasts a series of community gardens. Started in 1993, the park’s gardens consist of several native species gardens, flower beds and communal vegetable gardens. A drop-in garden club helps maintain the gardens and is open to everyone, making it a great opportunity to either share your gardening skills with others or pick up some new skills.
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Eglinton Park Heritage Community Garden
Established in 1995, Eglinton Park Heritage Community Garden is located at North Toronto Memorial Community Centre and home to a whole host of plants, many of which are edible. The focus is on growing food without the use of chemicals or pesticides. There’s a variety of fruit trees and shrubs and even shiitake mushroom logs, as well as some unique container gardening methods being used like upside-down tomatoes. Gardeners meet every Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. starting in late spring and going into early fall. If you’re curious and want to learn more, they welcome anyone who has an interest in gardening to visit and participate. Garden tours and garden workshops take place throughout the summer.
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Fort York Community Garden
The Fort York Community Garden was established in April 2008 and is located on the grounds of historic Fort York. In the gardens, you’ll find more than 70 different types of flowers, herbs, and veggies in 21 raised beds covering 1200 square feet. These beds are divided to create 38 gardening spaces of varying sizes for individuals and some community groups. Other plots are communal wherein what’s grown there is shared among all of the gardeners. In addition, a 512 square foot Historical Kitchen Garden was built in 2010. The community garden is accessible during Fort York’s operating hours, but keep in mind you’ll need to pay admission to Fort York to visit them.