Edmonton pop-up community gardens to return this year

·3 min read
This photo from last year's pilot shows the Westwood Community League's garden. (Kim Ellis/Westwood Community League - image credit)
This photo from last year's pilot shows the Westwood Community League's garden. (Kim Ellis/Westwood Community League - image credit)

After a highly successful pilot last year, city-funded pop-up community gardens are returning to Edmonton.

Last year, the city delivered 350 pop-up plots to 29 sites in a variety of locations, from fields to parking lots to existing community gardens. Up to 30 gardens will be funded this year, with the city providing containers, soil, and in some cases, water. Applicants are to provide tools and seeds.

The city started the project as a way to mitigate COVID-19's impact on food security. Applications for the project are open until April 4.

The eligibility has changed slightly from last year, with the city wanting to target communities that have the greatest need.

"Considerations to social vulnerability in the proposed garden location" and "higher priority to those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19" will be considered this year, according to the city's website.

"As a COVID-19 response, we do look to a number of municipal, provincial and federal sources around the individuals who are experiencing the most significant impacts from the pandemic," Erin Isaac, community greening coordinator with the city, said. She will also be on the application review panel.

Isaac said there won't be special consideration for people or organizations that applied last year and didn't get in.

The Queen Alexandra Community League is one of those organizations. The league's vice-president, Monique Scheelar, said they might try again this round.

"Honestly just for the city to be that forward-thinking, I think it was a very positive experience," she said.

"The garden was really just a thought of really trying to take that opportunity that the city was providing to community leagues and community members as a chance to just increase mental wellbeing and provide activity for the community."

Scheelar said they have a committee who would be in charge of taking care of the garden, should they get approved this year.

In place of the pop-up garden, Scheelar said the community planted some edible bushes in a lane that had previously just been full of weeds. That was something people were really excited about, she said.

Alex Decoteau community garden hoping to get in again

Cheryl Probert, director of the Alex Decoteau community garden, said the pop-up was a huge success in her community and they will be applying again this year.

The additional plots from the pop-up garden were placed within the garden's existing permanent plots. Probert said it was great to have a little expansion, as the permanent plots fill up so fast.

"We actually have a waitlist, so we'll be able to welcome some of those people into the garden by using the pop-up plots," she said.

Probert has been an avid gardener for a long time. She and her husband moved from a house in the suburbs of Toronto to a downtown Edmonton apartment.

"[I like] having the ability to still get outside, get my hands dirty, connect with greenery and the outdoors. I also like to cook and so being able to produce my own produce is appealing," she said.

The garden at Alex Decoteau Park serves so many different people, all with their own reason for wanting in on the gardening action, she said.

"We have a plot that is assigned to an urban kids play group that's run through the downtown community league, and so that gives families the opportunity to teach their children about growing things," Probert said.