Sunday was Mother’s Day, the sun shining, the trees turning green and the spring flowers in bloom. As is typical in Toronto, what was winter is now summer, with scarcely any spring in between. We are not complaining.
Nothing gets the juices flowing faster than getting out into the garden at this time of the year. And today was “compost day” in our area, the day when the City of Toronto through our councillor Mike Layton delivers fresh compost to the local park for residents to take home to spread on their own gardens. This dark, rich compost is the fruit of our recycling garden waste program. By the scheduled drop-off time at 11:30, we were lined up on the sidewalk with our wheelbarrows, garbage boxes, recycling containers, grocery buggies, rice bags, soup pails, shovels and rakes, waiting as patiently as possible for the arrival of the delivery truck. When it came, it deposited a huge pile of rich, brown compost onto the verge of the neighbourhood park, the sidewalk and overflowing into the street.
Within minutes, the kids were on top of the pile and people had materialized out of nowhere to dig into the huge pile of compost. Where did everyone come from? Are all these our neighbours? Why do we never see each other? Are all these people gardeners? I wonder what gardens they produce? If they are anything like the vegetable and flower garden of my neighbours, they may well be tiny patches of very rich soil and well-tended gardens which produce an incredible array of vegetables and flowers throughout the summer. Or maybe, like my own garden, they primarily adorn cherished outdoor space with greenery and colour. We have so few months to spend outdoors, and our private outdoor spaces in the inner city are so small that every inch matters and every plant counts. If the compost makes our plants happy, what better use could we make of the bounty of our recycling efforts?
I love inner city gardens. My aunt, who used to live on Rupert Street in east Vancouver, had a sparkling white single-story stucco bungalow on a small lot with well-tended lawns, geraniums, roses and petunias at the front and side yard of the property. These gardens she tended herself. The back was a twenty-by-thirty-foot plot of land which she gave over to her Italian neighbours to plant. They had their own similar plot two houses over. Hers was their second garden. Filled with stakes, and intertwined with string and wires, this plot was intensely cultivated. Taking advantage of the long growing season in Vancouver, they nurtured all possible produce: enough peas and beans, peppers and tomatoes, corn and zucchini, lettuce and basil to keep their family and my aunt in produce all summer, and to freeze or can for the winter. It struck me that this was an excellent use of my aunt’s land. She had neither the energy nor the expertise to cultivate such a garden; her neighbours were more than happy to do so, and to share what they produced.
I understand that a group in the Toronto west end called Neighbourhood Farm is looking for backyards they could cultivate. Apparently, you contribute the land, they will plant and tend the garden, and everyone will share the produce. What they are proposing may be interesting to explore.