On a warm fall morning, Shannon Abbott surveys the bevy of planters brimming with vegetables around her and smiles.
Carrots, beans, beets, chard and zucchini fill the garden. She shares some peas with her two young children.
"I grew up on a dairy farm and we always had a huge garden," says Abbott, 35.
"There's nothing like pulling a carrot out of the dirt, wiping it on your pants and eating it. That, to me, is what summer tastes like."
But it's not just the delicious bounty that has her beaming. A year ago, she would have been standing in a grass field.
Today, surrounded by friends and fellow green thumbs, Abbott is enjoying Tuscany's first community garden.
After many months of work - securing a spot, raising funds and building the garden - volunteers have transformed the small plot in northwest Calgary into a gathering place.
It's part of a blossoming trend. In 2008, there were 11 public and private community gardens in the city.
By last May, there were more than 100 - a surge driven by residents at the grassroots. Now, gardens can be found throughout Calgary, in the core, inner city or the 'burbs.
"Traditionally, people do move to the suburbs because they've got families, they want a yard, but then I think they're also craving that sense of community," says Harpreet Sandhu, vicepresident of the Tuscany Community Association.
In some ways, Calgary is rediscovering its gardening roots. The city has a long history of community gardens, with the oldest located in Bridgeland.
Annie Gale, a community activist who became the first female alderman in the British Empire, helped lead the charge to establish the Vacant Lots Garden Club in 1914.
Calgarians could rent a plot in an empty lot for $1 a year. The program provided food and beautified the city by ridding vacant lots of weeds, dust and garbage.
Nearly a century later, other factors have resurrected interest.
"It's been quite the ride in the last few years," says Gael Blackhall of the Community Garden Resource Network. "When the interest started to surge in Calgary, it just was enormous."
Blackhall has heard a number of reasons for the resurgence: people wanting to connect with nature, learn new skills, eat fresh produce or teach their children about food.
But one common desire she often hears about is an appetite to connect with neighbours.
"So many times we go into a neighbourhood and people are trying to start a garden because they say, 'Nobody here talks to each other, we don't know each other's faces,' " Blackhall says.
Many gardens have become destinations for people to relax, play chess or just "enjoy the space."
The Community Garden Resource Network - a project of the Calgary Horticultural Society - provides expertise to those looking to start a community garden or need help with an established one.
Interest has the organization assembling a searchable database that will include photos and information about each one.
They're also crafting an online handbook to help people navigate the process of adding a community garden in their neighbourhood.
In Tuscany, volunteers invested hundreds of hours to see the project to fruition. They worked with the city and public school board to secure space for the garden. They also sought funding grants and organized construction.
It took a little more than a year to go from their initial meeting to spades in the ground.
But community gardens aren't universally accepted.
Some people worry about what the gardens will look like and how they might impact the neighbourhood, Blackhall says.
But it's healthy to have those conversations, she adds, explaining gardens strive for beauty.
"It just creates a different tone in a neighbourhood," Blackhall adds.
In the southwest community of Glenbrook, the garden is helping bring people together of all ages.
The sign welcoming visitors says it all: Growing Together.
"We grow as a community, but we grow our vegetables," says Dirkjan Kiewiet, a professional landscaper and a member of the community garden committee.
"Community is a common denominator," he adds.
The garden has flourished in its two years of existence. By this summer's end, there was already a waiting list for next year.
And what was once a small grass field now has more than 40 garden plots, wood benches and a gazebo.
The local Emmanuel Christian Reformed Church provided the land and the committee that operates the garden includes both church and community members. Even in late September, the garden's bright palate includes corn, tomatoes and bright sunflowers.
But what brings smiles to the faces of Kiewiet and Pastor Ed Jager is the people who stop by, from seniors to schoolchildren.
"It's about meeting, connecting, reconnecting, reinvesting . . . and building relationships," Jager says.