It was a grey cold day in April, and it came with a surprise snowfall. Even so, when they met a Master Gardener to map out the Beach Community Edible Garden, Joyce McLean and Adele Gendron could see good things growing at Ashbridges Bay Park.
Both volunteer with Friends of the Beach Parks, a three-year-old group that has organized pumpkin walks, a fire pit at Kew Gardens, and warm welcomes for people visiting the Winter Stations art projects this year.
Now, after months of planning, the group is looking forward to planting a new community garden just west of the Ashbridges Bay Park washrooms at the end of May.
Using raised cedar beds, round planters, a three-bin compost and a tool shed, the garden would grow fresh produce for a youth cooking camp run by the Beaches Rec Centre, and for the food bank at Glen Rhodes United Church.
Veggies aren’t the only things on the menu – the garden also calls for plants and flowers that attract pollinating bees and butterflies.
“This is a tiny example, but hopefully the garden will inspire more people to use their own space and to use more public space for this kind of thing,” said Joyce McLean. “Even if we’re not feeding the world, I think it’s important to reconnect with the fact we can do this.”
Adele Gendron agrees.
“It’s an art that we forgot,” she said, noting how her Italian parents have always grown grapes, fruit trees, and a “giant” vegetable garden in their yard.
Fellow volunteer Alex Rochon-Terry said parks staff suggested the Ashbridges site, which is not so busy as Kew Gardens. It also gets more than six hours of direct sunlight a day, and has water taps close by.
Solomon Boyé, community gardens coordinator for the City of Toronto, said in an email that water, sun, and easy access are all key to starting a new garden, and they should be placed where they don’t interfere with other park uses.
Since 1997, Boyé said the parks department has overseen the creation of 62 community gardens, each run by local volunteers. The Ashbridges ECO Community Garden east of the 55 Division police station on Dundas Street is the only other such garden in the Beach, though the Woodfield Community Rail Garden opened south of Monarch Park last year.
Getting a new garden in the ground takes about nine months, said Boyé, and includes meetings with parks staff and the public.
Rochon-Terry looks forward to planting seeds from his grandfather’s garden, and to working with the young cooks from the Beaches Rec Centre.
“It’s the idea of kids taking ownership, and just seeing that a carrot comes from the ground, rather than a grocery store,” he said.
Friends of Beach Parks will host a public meeting about the community garden at 7 p.m. on May 19 at the Balmy Beach Club. Volunteers are welcome to help build and plant the garden on May 30 and 31. To donate tools, plants, time, or money, find the Beach Community Edible Garden at indiegogo.com.