Community gardens have gone from being the rare curiosity to a relatively common sight in Calgary over the last 15 years. There are now more than 200 community growing spots in the city, as compared to just 11 back in 2008. Found on both public and private land, community gardens not only provide food, they benefit the environment as well as advance the health and well-being of community members.
Simply learning to how to grow and care for plants ensures the continuation of this knowledge from generation to generation. When people participate in the growing of their own food, a greater appreciation for the food itself is developed. Gardening also encourages healthier consumption (have to eat those yummy veggies!), as well as a greater variety in diets and menus. There is the opportunity to get to know your neighbours better, which helps strengthen community ties, and community gardens teach about the importance of working well with others. They encourage time spent outside engaged in healthy activities, plus offer something for someone of every skill level to do. Tasks range from simply keeping the place tidy of weeds and debris to the construction of planters and irrigations systems and the testing of soil for ideal pH levels.
Starting a community garden requires some buy-in from other community members who have expressed both interest and ability, as well as a dedicated space to get set up. Alberta Health Services’ comprehensive “Community Gardens Handbook” extensively outlines the steps for starting a community garden, and there is plenty of information available on the City of Calgary and the Calgary Horticultural Society websites.
Checklist for location approval from City of Calgary Parks
First, the community association must be consulted and the proper steps followed. All new community gardens must be under Community Association Licence of Occupations. Then, a location will have to be decided upon. Other than school yards, where community gardens are most often administrated through the school itself, often the most convenient and best choices are in city parks.
To request the use of a city park for a community garden, call 311 to put in an application for approval. Contact information for the community garden group will need to be provided, certain requirements have to be met and documentation provided. The City processes application on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it’s a good idea to get a head start to ensure approval by the time it’s growing season.
Once the location has been approved, this City of Calgary checklist goes through the following necessary steps, which include:
- Submitting a detailed garden plan
- Contact information for your gardening group (at least 10 people are recommended)
- Letters of support from community members and the ward councillor plus a letter or board motion from the community association
- The financial plan or budget for materials, maintenance and upkeep, such as the installation of an underground irrigation system and the building of beds
- Proof of group insurance with a minimum of $5 million liability coverage
How to receive funding for your community garden
New community gardens are eligible for up to $5,000 of in-kind support from the City of Calgary. Funding only applies to newly established community gardens and the amount will vary based on the site location and availability of resources. A list of granting agencies can be found on the Calgary Horticultural Society website, which also accepts donates to help encourage the growth of community gardens in Calgary. A tax receipt will be issued for gifts of $20 or more.
Free compost available
Community garden groups can access 10 cubic yards of free compost from the City of Calgary to help keep soil as nutrient-rich as possible. To put in an application, fill out this form and send to the contacts noted. Applications can also be made at 311. The compost is loose, so shovels as well as large bags, tarps, or a truck (or all of those), will be needed. Pick-up locations are at the East Calgary Waste Management Facility at 3030 68 Street S.E. or Spyhill Waste Management Facility at 11808 69 Street S.E.
Food gardening in your own back yard
Sustainable landscaping practices are something we at Mirage Landscaping have been keeping our eyes on for more than 20 years now. Including a planting for food component is our landscape designs is far more common and more and more Calgarians are finding it surprisingly easy, and satisfactory, to grow a large variety of foodstuffs. There are a lot of different types of vegetables – and herbs – that grow well in the city and add variety to your diet. Some vegetables we suggest trying out are beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, squash and tomatoes.
Mirage Landscaping provides affordable and professional commercial and residential lawn and garden landscaping services as well as landscape design and construction services that add value to any home or property. To get started, check out our portfolio and contact us for a free project estimate.