City of Toronto to expedite opening of community gardens and allotment gardens

To help gardeners get a head start on spring preparation work, the City of Toronto will be opening its community and allotment gardens six weeks earlier this year. The City's 81 community gardens and 12 allotment gardens provide Torontonians with a source of fresh produce and another option for essential fresh air and exercise.

Today, Mayor John Tory announced that community gardens will begin opening this week, on a location by location basis, until mid-May. Allotment gardens will open on March 17. Community and allotment gardens are permitted to open in the Grey Zone of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. The gardens typically open in early May.

By facilitating urban agriculture in Toronto, the City is helping to increase the resiliency of and food security for Toronto’s residents during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Each year, the City’s community gardens and their volunteers support more than 25 community agencies and provide them with 1,133 to 2,267 kilograms (2,000 to 5,000 pounds) of fresh, Toronto-grown produce. Annually, more than 1,300 people use the City’s allotment gardens to grow their own food and plants.

Water service will not be available at the City’s community and allotment gardens until May, when there is no risk of colder temperatures that may damage service pipes. However, gardeners may begin to prepare their plots for the upcoming season. Portable toilets will also be installed at allotment gardens in May.

Toronto Public Health provided guidance on the opening and use of these amenities, including information about infection prevention and control measures, physical distancing, as well as the cleaning and disinfection of commonly used equipment and surfaces. All participants will be required to sign a Toronto Public Health Community and Allotment Gardens Declaration and must return this form to the City prior to attending a garden. Allotment garden permit holders must also keep a log of all garden visits for contact tracing, if needed. The guidelines are available at: https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/8d67-COVID-19-Directions-Community-and-Allotment-Gardens.pdf

The City’s community gardens are initiated through proposals from local volunteer groups and utilize unused green space allowing them to take root in Toronto’s many neighbourhoods. They are operated and organized solely by community group volunteers. Allotment gardens are accessed through a fee-based permit for individual use. In an average year, the City issues about 1,200 permits during the allotment garden season.

City staff are reaching out to permit holders and community groups to provide information and the guidelines for use.

More information about the City’s community and allotment gardens is available at: https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/parks-gardens-beaches/gardens-and-horticulture/urban-agriculture/.

As Toronto awaits the rollout of mass immunization, to reduce and eliminate the transmission of COVID-19, protect the healthcare system and save lives, the City continues to urge all residents to stay home as much as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please review the City’s simple “Dos” and “Don’ts” guide for recommended and mandatory public health measures. The guide communicates some of what is and what is not permitted under provincial regulations and City bylaws. The guide can be found at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-reopening-recovery-rebuild/covid-19-guide-for-toronto-residents-grey/.

Quotes

"I’m pleased that we will be able to open these amenities early for the 2021 season to provide Torontonians with an essential source of fresh food and another avenue for safe outdoor recreation and fresh air." - Mayor John Tory

“I’m glad we will be able to offer early garden access to community and allotment garden volunteers and permit holders this year. Not only is gardening rewarding for individuals and the community but it benefits the environment and helps to increase food security in Toronto."

- Councillor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park), Chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee

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