On Monday May 13th, dozens of volunteers gathered together to give the Blake-Boutlbee Community Garden a restoration makeover.
Located near the grounds of the 11-floor high-rise at 10 Boultbee Avenue, the build day event focused on creating 30 raised beds for all the existing garden plots, along with building a wooden compost and setting up the foundation for an upcoming native plant pollinator garden.
Volunteers gather together to discuss the design of the garden build
�Community gardens provide food access and allows neighbours a chance to get to know each other,� said Clare Giovannetti, Family Nutrition and Support Worker, Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre. �The gardens are community driven and community led. Every year we hold skill-building workshops on different themes, like preserving your harvest, or how to make natural and chemical-free pest repellent.
The gardens have existed for about 10 years, but they needed a facelift. So today, we are building raised beds which provide better access for seniors, and better quality soil. Composters will also be able to provide tenants with the ability to dispose of their food and garden trimmings which reduces waste, and allows the soil to become very rich in the process. Later this year, we will also plant a pollinator garden designed to attract butterflies. When you see a beautiful garden, beautiful things come out of it.�
Residents and staff prepare to get their hands dirty building a great new green space
The work completed at the build resulted in a more accessible garden and improved the space, allowing for more activities, better socializing, and improved beds to grow food.
�We live and work in the city. Giving back is how we show that we care,� said Aaron Richardson, Business Representative, Carpenters Union (Local 27). �Today is important for us as carpenters. We were asked if we wanted to volunteer, so 12 of us have come out to help bring people together. Everyone wants to have access to plant fresh vegetables, and have their own gardens. It tightens the community in a way that you can�t put a dollar sign on. People can compost, which is the green thing to do. Taking advantage of the green space is a great idea and something we give 100 percent support to.�
Staff, residents and volunteers stand next to their community�s nearly-completed garden
In partnership with the Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre, The Home Depot Canada Foundation was approached for support. Residents voted for what they wanted most from their garden and a grant was requested. With assistance from engaged residents, neighbours, experts and other volunteers, the garden build day was a success.
�Today�s event is a good idea because we have many disabled tenants that go into the gardens and having raised bed allows for a lot easier access to them,� said Betty-Anne Wise, Tenant Rep, 80 Blake Street. �With the gardens, many people are on subsidized living, so despite having small or large families, growing their own foods and sharing it with other residents in the communities helps in their homes and neighbourhoods.�
Volunteers load up buckets and wheelbarrows to bring fresh soil to the improved garden beds
Throughout the day, children worked hand-in-hand with family members helping to carry soil to the newly built gardening beds.
�Gardening is a great way to bring all generations together. It�s a positive reclaiming of space, and we are strategically putting it in places where we�ve seen a little bit of anti-social behaviour,� said Arsema Berhane, Manager, Resident Engagement and Community Development. �The people have healthy food growing and it needs to be continued. Plus, also having more eyes in the community has a lot of impact on the community�s safety and overall well-being.�
To learn more about gardening programs in Toronto Community Housing communities visit http://www.torontohousing.ca/gardens