This children's garden is in the Malvern neighborhood of Toronto, Canada. It was initiated by Auriel Haynes, a local and avid gardener who approached Alex Dow of Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC) for help in converting a piece of land behind her apartment complex into a community vegetable garden. Auriel envisioned a learning garden where local children would plant, harvest and share their produce with their family and neighbors.
Raised bed and traditional in-ground vegetable gardens like this project are springing up all over North America. Involving children in vegetable gardening is a great way to teach them about growing plants and healthy food choices. That said, there is always room for improvement. Leave it to the young to point the way.
“I didn’t know I had a green thumb,” said Varshiga, 7, who is in Grade 2. The best part of gardening, she said, was picking the fruits of her labor. “The hardest part is that you have to water the garden every day. I use a bucket.”
While Varshiga delights in her green thumb, she laments the labor involved in watering. This is where the introduction of sub-irrigated raised beds (SIPs) would ease "the hardest part" of her gardening experience. Converting Malvern's existing raised beds would take full advantage of sub-irrigation while adding to the fun of gardening.
It is well known that sub-irrigated (SIPs) raised beds produce healthier vegetables with a higher yield in the range of 50% more vegetables per square foot. SIPs also save water with water conservation in the range of 90% less water with no nutrient run-off. Urban land is not farmland and it is often contaminated with toxins so growing in raised beds protects all gardeners from exposure to often-contaminated urban soil.
Top watered vegetable gardens like Malvern's traditional raised beds would benefit from the significant advantages of sub-irrigated raised beds. The ultimate in raised bed gardening would be to combine sub-irrigation with square foot gardening invented by Mel Bartholomew
It would also be a good idea if the sponsors of this garden noted Johanne Daoust's (Toronto) success in converting her entire rooftop vegetable garden (including six raised beds) from top watering to SIPs. She now conducts workshops for those who would like to extend their knowledge of growing food in raised bed and container SIPs.
Johanne was a speaker at the recent Canadian Organic Growers Conference. Read about the conference speakers (PDF). You can see her excellent work on Flickr. Her email address is jdaoust [AT] sympatico.ca
Read more about the children's garden via www.thestar.com