London's Community GardensLondon's Community Gardens

Operated by the London Community Resource Centre, the London Community Gardens project is funded by the City of London and receives many donations an in-kind contributions from other levels of government, organizations and individuals. In the summer of 2005, seventeen gardens were in operation. Community gardens have proved to be very popular in London, for a variety of reasons. Not only do they provide increased access to fresh, nutritious, low-cost food, but they also provide opportunities for increased skill development, community building, recreation, physical activity, fresh air, social interaction and cross-cultural participation.

Participating gardeners come from diverse backgrounds and range in age from 21 to 92. Sixty-seven percent of the gardeners have household incomes of less than$24,000. Forty percent have languages other than English as their first language. Many live in apartments without access to a garden, and participate to better their health through both nutrition and exercise, and some simply enjoy gardening. Some gardeners are new Canadians who want to grow food that they are accustomed to from their countries of origin. Several agencies participate in the Community Gardens Program by organizing plots for their clients, members or constituents to use, in some cases as a form of therapy.
The land for the gardens is provided by the City of London, churches and local businesses. In 2005 there were 432 plots and 230 registered gardeners. It was calculated that approximately 1,800 people benefited from food produced in the gardens. This number does not include those who benefited through produce donated to the London and Area Food Bank and other service agencies. The plot rental fee is based on a sliding scale from $15 to $40 per year, geared to income. Fifty-one percent of gardeners pay the lowest rate. These fees only cover the supplies required by the gardens; i.e. water, hoses, soil tests, tools etc. The gardeners also contribute many hours of volunteer labour to assist with preparation and maintenance of the garden sites.

All the gardens are grown organically; i.e, no chemical pesticides or herbicides are used. Compost, mulching, crop rotation and companion planting are employed to obtain maximum yield.

One of the newer initiatives of the project has been to create raised garden beds at one of the garden sites to make them accessible to people with physical disabilities. Another initiative is the "Dig It" project, in which 20 youth were hired to learn about composting, build composters, teach the community gardeners about it and facilitate composting at each of the gardens.

For more information about the London Community Gardens Project visit the London Community Resource Centre website at: www.lcrc.on.ca

Posted March 13, 2007

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