Community gardeners grow spirit and values along with  herbs, flowers and veg

Bob Whitelaw

There are five community gardens in Sandy Hill providing avid and novice gardeners an opportunity to exchange information and hone their green thumb skills. Their efforts this summer and fall provided fresh vegetables, lettuce, and herbs to their friends and neighbours, as well as to Ottawa food banks and St. Joe’s Supper Table on Laurier Avenue East.

An enthusiastic group of gardeners responded to eight questions from IMAGE. Each garden is different except that all focus on ensuring that food banks and community needs, are supported.

All gardeners enjoy the opportunity to talk about their successes and new types of plants. Andrew Hall of uOttawa’s King Edward Community Garden, for example, proudly shows a London Rocket (Sisymbrium irio) plant. He explains that the plant grew in abundance after the Great London Fire in 1666. The plant’s leaves and seeds are used to treat coughs, chest congestion, relieve rheumatism and reduce swelling, and clean wounds.

The garden coordinators all indicated that there is always work around a garden and they welcome additional community participation. Benefits include plenty of fresh air, great conversation with other gardeners and, if so inclined, you may talk to the plants without embarrassment.

Sandy Hill Community Garden, 154 Mann Avenue

Robinson Field south west of the field house, beside the Dutchy’s Hole wading pool.

Opening year: 2008-2009.

Number of plots: 20 ground level plots, 10×20 feet each.

Fran Slingerman
Photo Bob Whitelaw

In 2020, there are 38 registered members, including five registered volunteers. This year there was an increase in membership, applications for plots, and volunteers hoping to dig around and help out. COVID-19 has inspired such a desire to connect with the earth and with community out-doors that the waiting list is already full for next year.

Volunteer committees: board, membership, maintenance. A two-person infrastructure team recruits others as needed. A permaculture specialist who is a Green Structures Designer and about eight gardeners meet from time to time in person or by Zoom to keep on top of things.

One member, Wendolyn Nicholds, is a day lily specialist so they grow many interesting varieties including “A Woman’s Scorn,” “Raspberry Suede” and “Daughter of the King.”

Every year a new gardener introduces new produce plants.

The members grow specialty vegetables not found in markets, such as heritage tomatoes or red amaranth (called Lalshak in Bangla), a delicious and delicate green grown from seed by a Bangladeshi-heritage gardener. Many herbs are grown that can’t be bought in the market easily: chervil, fresh tarragon, lemon thyme, lemon basil, arugula, and of course rosemary, basil, sage, dill, borage.

One feature of the garden is a 200-foot long raspberry hedge that marks the garden off from Robinson Field. They have worked hard in recent years installing guide wires; taking out invasive artemisia, mother-wort and other opportunistic weeds / plants, and feeding the soil with some marvellous mushroom compost donated by Greely’s Sand and Gravel.

While that new compost sat on the field grass this summer, several turtles (snappers and painted turtles) lumbered up from the river and planted their eggs in the heaps (warm and toasty for the little embryos!), and had to be moved to a raspberry hedge area for safety, where it was hoped they would hatch.

When the garden was founded, for several years there was a food bank plot. This year’s renewal of the tradition was inspired by the increased need for food on the part of people who’ve lost jobs due to COVID-19 and others in our community and in Vanier. Run by Lan Nguyen and sometimes Fran Slingerland this year (with support from others), the plot has 25 tomato plants, squash and beans destined for the Ottawa Food Bank— deliveries to the Michael Street depot started in September.

More community support is welcome. Sun Shan, Coordinator of the Community Gardening Network ( and Morgan Garahan at Just Food help with any connections we might need with the City and other services.

— Notes from Fran Slingerland,

uOttawa King Edward Community Garden, 647-657 King Edward Avenue

There are several community gardens at the University of Ottawa with the largest community oriented garden located at 649 King Edward.

Andrew Hall, with a sprig of London Rocket.
Photo Bob Whitelaw

The garden opened in 2011 after one further down King Edward that had started in 2005 was closed for the construction of the Advanced Research Complex (ARC building).

Now, there are 38 plots dedicated to growing food, 31 at ground level and seven raised beds, as well as four plots dedicated to pollinators and communal herbs.

The garden has 31 members including university staff, students of biology and other disciplines, and neighbourhood residents.

Volunteer committees: board, membership, and maintenance workgroups as required.

Specialties include vegetables and herbs, including the “London Rocket” noted in the introduction.

Surplus vegetables are donated to the Food Bank or community lunch programs. At least four deliveries were made this year to St. Joe’s Supper Table, mainly of tomatoes and salad greens such as bok choy and romaine.

For a while, in past years, they had a garden for refugees, another for an organization that protects battered women, and a space at the back for two homeless people to use and it went very well.

The community garden is supported by the University of Ottawa and Just Food.

— Notes from Andrew Hall and Sue McKee,

Strathcona Heights Community Garden, 430 Wiggins Private

Behind 430 Wiggins Priv. or via 3 Hurdman Rd, near Lees Avenue and Chapel Street.

First opened in 1993 with 30 plots. In 1996 the land was sold to the City of Ottawa and the garden was expanded to 40 plots.

Hildegarde Henderson took IMAGE on a walk through the 30 verdant plots in Strathcona Heights.
Photo Bob Whitelaw

There are 41 plots including five growing food for general distribution, an Eco-plot and a sitting/community area (see below). All plots are ground-level plots, but work has started on some raised beds as a full ground level plot is too much for some people.

This is an organic garden, growing vegetables, herbs, raspberries, currants, rhubarb and flowers. As well, many kinds of birds and insects come to forage and to use the small bird bath kept on top of the composter.

There are currently 36 members. A few plots have been abandoned.

During the pandemic, a member comes regularly to sanitize all public spots such as the locks on the gate and the shed, taps, and hoses. Another member takes care of the composting, the Eco-plot, and food plots. There are work parties when needed, for instance to help unload straw bales when they arrive.

Egyptian walking onions, Asian long beans and African beans are among the garden speciality produce.

In 2020, the number of food-donation plots rose to six.

Most members come from Coop Voisins and Strathcona Heights. The latter is Ottawa Community Housing territory. This year, when markets have been reduced or closed, the community garden’s produce has been especially welcome in the neighbourhood.

—      Notes from Hildegarde Henderson,

St. Joe’s Supper Table Community Garden, 151 Laurier Avenue East

Brad Gilmour, Henri Van Zandvoort and Patricia Malikail at the St. Joe’s Supper Table Community Garden.  A sign says: Continuing to help feed our community. Social distancing prevails.
Photo Bob Whitelaw

A faithful group cares for vegetables and herbs, and some companionable flowers, at the corner of Cumberland and Laurier E. They also tend the gardens around the church and a pollinator garden on the east side of the church entrance. The pollinator garden was established in 2019 and is supported by Faith and the Common Good. Katherine Forster oversees the Pollinator Project.

Eleven raised beds were built in 2015, the garden’s first year. Four more were added in 2017.

In addition to the 15 raised beds, two small raised boxes are used for herbs.

The core garden group is five people. They work with the manager of the Supper Table to provide fresh vegetables for meal preparation. At various times others help with planting and watering. A group of budding science teachers and their professor have helped close the garden for the past two years.

On August 11, Ryan Mitchell, Manager of Operations at St. Joe’s Supper Table on Laurier Ave. E. received a delivery of fresh salad greens grown in the uOttawa Community Garden.
Photo Andrew Hall

Volunteer committees: Board, membership committee and maintenance. There is an annual call for volunteers.

The gardeners choose varieties for yield and taste. In 2020, looking for nutrient rich greens through the hot summer months, they tried New Zealand Spinach. Each year they experiment with a new vegetable but have found that beans, tomatoes and mixed greens grow well and are most useful.

This garden usually does not have surplus vegetables. Indeed, they face challenges as plants have been stolen, vandalized or individuals have helped themselves to produce.

The gardeners welcome neighbourhood support but have not advertised widely for assistance. They will need to recruit new volunteers for 2021 as some members of the team will be retiring.

— Notes from Patricia Malikail,

Gathering Garden, 430 Wiggins Private

Stephen Quinlan has been gardening at the Strathcona Heights Community Garden for the past 20 years.
Photo Bob Whitelaw

This is an Ottawa Community Housing garden adjoining the Strathcona Heights Community Garden. It is designed to supply fresh vegetables, lettuce, and carrots to community residents.

Stephen Quinlan has co-ordinated the work of this garden for the past 20 years and has provided produce from the garden to St. Joe’s Supper Table.

Special wooden frame and wire cages were built to protect the produce from the neighbourhood wildlife including rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels and groundhogs.

— Notes from Stephen Quinlan



The Sandy Hill community gardens are among more than 100 located throughout the Ottawa area. For additional information about any of the gardens, and to volunteer or become a member of one of the Sandy Hill gardens, send a note to the contact email addresses.