Greening of Roncy Part 2

What’s involved in urban street gardening along Roncy

Plant bed on Roncesvalles Avenue with water hydrant

Photo Credit: Heidi Eisenhauer

Designing and maintaining the plant beds along an urban main street, is not the same as gardening in your own yard, says RoncyWorks Green Team co-lead, Heidi Eisenhauer. “The street gardens face conditions and adversity that private gardens don’t have to.” For two years now, Heidi has been ordering the plants that are delivered to the High Park Library, which keeps them in safety until they can be picked up. The co-leads monitor the beds and coordinate the ongoing and one-off volunteer efforts. Although at the moment we average one volunteer per bed, it’s a lot of work for one person, so we’re always looking for other gardeners who are prepared to commit some time each week or a few hours per month to looking after a bed. For those who can’t commit to weekly or monthly tending, there are one-off tasks, around planting and mulching time that could use extra hands.

Planting starts in June, and continues through the summer. The trick is to get the plants in as soon as possible after they are delivered. Mulching takes place in July.

Watering is key after the plants go in. We have a water service that comes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, (but not on holiday Mondays). Luckily we have water hydrants, but they are not in each bed. The trick is to get the crew to use nozzles and not just pour water on the soil from open hoses.

Roncy garden @ 225 Roncesvalles in late June 2014

Photo Credit: Jackie Taschereau

“I find there are periods when I need to give my bed extra water, especially when I first plant something or when the weather is very hot without much rain, explains Carol Holland, a devoted volunteer who lives in Bloor West, but makes the trip to Roncy because she enjoys being part of this community effort.

Maintenance involves weeding and digging out shrubs, trimming, deadheading, replanting, and observing how all the plants are doing and affecting each other, and other problems that arise, like litter, theft, vandalism and damage from pedestrians and dogs. “It can be disheartening sometimes. We spend so much time and energy to beautify our street. But, all in all, these are just minor setbacks; if you consider the whole street, I think the beds look pretty good and there is not too much litter most of the time,” says one of our more recent volunteer, Catherine Gautry.

Welcoming other gardeners

We’re always on the lookout for local gardeners who would be willing to lend a hand, as it not only makes less work for everyone, but it’s wonderful to be part of this group effort. We get a lot of praise and encouragement from passersby and from each other. If you would like to join in, please contact greenteam@roncyworks.org.

Read how the Green Team got started and our approach.

Advertisements

Greening of Roncy Part 1

Plant bed on Roncesvalles Ave.

Photo Credit: Jackie Taschereau

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

Photo Credit: Jackie Taschereau

Plant bed on Roncesvalles Ave.

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.

Learn what’s involved in urban street gardening along Roncy.