The opportunity to be part of a community garden provides more than just a chance to get outdoors, and East York has an abundance of gardens to explore.
A community garden is best defined as a piece of land where local residents can grow flowers, fruits, or vegetables for free, that is cultivated and maintained by a group of people collectively or individually.
It can also be a series of plots dedicated to “urban agriculture” where the produce is grown for a market, according to the American Community Garden Association (the ACGA).
There are many benefits of community gardens, according to Greenleaf Communities, including increasing biodiversity in plants and animals, reducing neighbourhood waste, improving food security, and increasing physical activity through a variety of garden maintenance activities.
For Observer readers with green thumbs, here’s a look at some of East York‘s popular community gardens, as well as tips to help start your community-garden journey.
East York Community Centre Children’s Garden (1081 1/2 Pape Ave.)
The children’s garden at the East York Community Centre will celebrate it’s eighth-year running on May 29.
With students from the neighbouring school of William Burgess Elementary School responsible for cultivating the garden throughout the school year, volunteers are needed to take over during the summer.
Executive Director of GreekTown BIA and former city councillor Mary Fragedakis, who cut the ribbon to unveil the garden in 2014, and horticulture and greenhouse operations manager Michelle Reid, commended the establishment of the garden.
“It has been a great collaboration with the city’s Parks and Recreation, Toronto District School Board and the community,” said Reid. “I’m happy it opened. It was such an under-utilized space.”
Located between Todmorden and Pape villages, those interested in volunteer information or about the different community centre’s programs are encouraged to call (416) 396-2880.
Maple Cottage Community Garden (62 Laing St.)
This garden is the only one on this list that is not an official community garden under the city of Toronto program.
Maple Cottage, the former home of Alexander Muir, Canadian songwriter, poet, and school headmaster, and the property (including the cottage)— now owned by the City of Toronto— were designated a historical landmark in 1992. Since then, volunteers have worked to save and transform it into a public space in 2005.
The garden is an ornamental garden filled with mostly pollinator-friendly perennials. Last year volunteers dedicated one bed to native plants, though native plants can be found throughout the garden.
Maple Cottage Garden volunteer, Amrutha, has seen an increase in people spending time in the garden and encourages even more people to get involved.
“The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone’s mental health and many have found a refuge in the garden,” she said. “It provides them the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature in the city.”
“We have lots of flowers and wildlife throughout the year, so there’s a lot of enjoyment in sitting on a bench and watching nature around you.
“Some people want to volunteer their time in the garden while others prefer to make donations.”
East York Community Garden – Stan Wadlow Park (9 Haldon Ave.)
For outdoor-sport-loving green thumbs, Stan Wadlow park has plenty on offer.
This 8.5 hectare park off Cedarvale Avenue features six ball diamonds, with one diamond having lights for night play and a clubhouse. The park also has a multipurpose sports field, a dog off-leash area, a splash pad and a children’s playground.
While the main entrance to the park is on Cedarvale Avenue, the community garden, featuring fruits, vegetables and the varying floral displays, is on the opposite end of the park, off Haldon Avenue.
Stan Wadlow Clubhouse (373 Cedarvale Ave.) is also the meeting place for the East York Garden Club. Their meetings are typically every third Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:30 pm. EYGC’s next meeting is on Thursday, April 21.
The Rail Garden (450 Woodfield Rd.)
Also known as the Woodfield Community Rail Garden, this publicly tended garden by neighbourhood residents, this is a great spot for families to learn and enjoy a variety of plants and flowers.
Across from Monarch Park, The Rail Garden is a three-minute walk from Woodfield Grocery, a popular local convenience store.
Featuring artwork throughout the garden, Woodfield Community Rail Garden welcomes all gardeners; first-timers to veterans, children and adults.
There are currently 72 community gardens registered in Toronto, which equals roughly one garden per 39,000 for the roughly 2.8 million people in and around the Greater Toronto Area — and while not everyone uses them, some gardens have a waiting list.
A complete list of Toronto’s community gardens can be found on the city’s website.