When plans for the reconstruction of Roncesvalles Avenue were in formation, trees and plant beds were one of the top features that residents and businesses wanted to see along our main street. So, when the sidewalks were reconstructed in 2011, the City installed 21 plant beds and several hydrants with the agreement that they be maintained by the Roncesvalles Village BIA.
After local residents began compulsively weeding and watering some of the beds, RoncyWorks formed a Green Team to coordinate the efforts of these local volunteers. For over two years, the RoncyWorks Green team has tended these 21 “gardens” along Roncy.
Leading the efforts of our now 21 Green Team volunteers, are Heidi Eisenhauer, a native plant specialist and co-lead Barbara Japp, member of the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto. Supporting the team are the Roncy Sweeps who clear litter out of the beds including the infestation of cigarette butts. Fortunately, we’re seeing a decrease in the volume of cigarette butt litter this summer, since the installation of ashcans along the street.
Our approach to urban street gardens
In planning the gardens, plant choices are based on xeriscaping, a water-efficient approach to gardening. Although the BIA has hired a company to water the plants three times per week, without a good rainfall and adequate watering the beds can go dry. To keep the aphids in check, ladybugs are added.
The volunteers assigned to each garden are encouraged to design the space based on what’s already thriving in their plant beds, the soil composition, available light, empty spaces, and input from nearby shopkeepers who are particularly interested. Heidi encourages a selection of perennials, particularly native plants. After putting together the list of new plants desired, Heidi orders the plants over time as needed, starting in June. This gives the team a chance to observe what has survived over the winter, how the plant beds are faring against local foot traffic including dogs, and other design criteria for urban street gardens.