Gardener turns urban space to her advantage

When there’s a will there’s a way. That’s the attitude Gayla Trail carries with her when she tries finding new ways of gardening in the concrete jungle.

Trail, 36, is an avid gardener, and on Thursday she shared her knowledge with the East York Garden Club at the Stan Wadlow Community Centre, at 373 Cedarvale Ave.

She explained that gardening in an urban environment is challenging, but still doable.

“If you have a little bit of knowledge and help, it can be a great place to grow food,” Trail said.

Her rooftop is filled with edible plants. She said that when she started gardening there, it wasn’t a very welcoming place to grow plants.

“When I first started gardening there it was a completely inhospitable place,” she said. “It wasn’t somewhere you would want to sit, because it was so hot and the sun was so direct.”

Trail doesn’t have the luxury of a yard, so she tries housing her plants in just about anything. Shallow-rooted plants such as lettuce, radishes and strawberries get grown in wooden drawers, and deeper-rooted plants such as chives, in metal garbage bins.

“Amazingly, I can get away with metal,” she said. “One of the tricks I use is surrounding plants with other plants and that cools them down, and keeps the metal from getting too much heat on them.”

She said that one challenge to urban gardening is a lack of green space.

“A lot of people live in apartment buildings and they don’t have traditional outdoor spaces,” she explained. “But more and more people are trying to use whatever space they have available to grow something.”

Most devoted gardeners are much older than Trail, but she said more young people are becoming interested in gardening; they just need a little help.

“They’re learning more about food and where food comes from, because they want to help create more green space in the city,” Trail added.

Established in 1926, the East York Garden Club encourages residents to exchange ideas about gardening.

June Murdoch, who’s in her seventies, has been an avid gardener for over 25 years, and is a long-time member of the East York Garden Club. She said gardening is more accessible than people think.

“You’re no longer limited to gardening in a yard,” she explained. “You can do it in your balcony if you’re an apartment or condo owner. So you can always garden in small places as well as large spaces.”

Murdoch said that gardening is a great way for people to familiarize themselves with the environment.

“It’s a great way to feel the earth, see what you can grow and beautify your property,” she added.