Community garden prepares for summer growing season

North York and Toronto are densely populated metropolitan areas where many residents have little or no access to a yard or garden –  especially the kind that produces things you can eat. York University’s communal garden, Maloca Garden, offers a solution and provides members of the York community with a space to get outdoors and get gardening this summer.

Right: The Maloca Garden during the 2005 growing season

“Community gardens are important because they provide food. Some members even supplement their groceries with crops from the garden. They also allow people to share knowledge about organic gardening and food production,” says Jen Johnson, former coordinator of the Maloca Garden.

Maloca Garden was established by students in the Faculty of Environmental Studies in 1999 and was re-established in 2001 at its current site west of the graduate Assiniboine Apartments on York’s Keele campus. The garden currently has over a dozen individual plots and one large communal plot on 600 square metres of land. Maloca is maintained by members of the York community including students, staff, faculty and alumni as well as friends and family members.

Maloca gardeners regularly grow vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, lettuces, beans, corn, radishes and cucumbers — and herbs such as garlic, green onions, lavender, mint, dill, basil and parsley. Some gardeners also experiment with perennial, annual and wild flowers, as well as plants that are native to the region for personal research, seed harvesting or ornamental purposes.

Left: Maloca gardeners grow a variety of organic produce

Members of the Maloca Garden begin their work in April and May, digging plots, turning over soil, weeding, shaping the garden’s design and planting seeds. June, July and August are spent watering, weeding and controlling pests,using only natural fertilizers and pest control solutions.

During the summer months, Maloca also organizes community events such as potlucks, open houses and educational workshops. Late August through September is harvest time. If the harvest is bountiful, Maloca donates their surplus to a local food bank at the University or others in the North York or Toronto regions.

“We live in the middle of the city, so it’s wonderful to be outside in a green space, and Maloca Garden offers that experience,” says Johnson.

Any member of the York community with a passion for gardening can join Maloca. As they prepare for a new season of gardening, the Maloca gardeners will hold an information meeting today at 5pm in room 136C, Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies (HNES) Building to plan their next growing season and welcome new members.

This story was written by Bethany Hansraj, a student assistant in the Publications unit of York’s Marketing & Communications Division.