Guerrilla Gardeners Unite!

By Bev Yaworski

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Enthusiastic gardeners are preparing their gardens for a new growing season. In 2006, Vancouver City Councillors challenged the Greater Vancouver Regional community to create more food-producing gardens by asking them to establish 2010 new garden plots in the city by January 2010, as an Olympic legacy.

How are the 2010 targets being met? Vancouver Council and their Greener City Action Team decided to dig up part of the lawn at City Hall for a community garden. Community gardens are sprouting all over the Lower Mainland, but not quickly enough for some urban dwellers. Waiting lists are long - some are two years old. The demand for community gardens has never been greater, but land is scarce. More people are searching than there is land available.

Some gardeners are so desperate, they set up an online Guerrilla Gardening Group to advocate for more community gardens - like an online matching service for frustrated gardeners! One of their goals is to "to playfully vandalize the city with nature!" According to their website, "guerrilla gardeners sometimes, late at night, geared up with gardening gloves, watering cans, compost, plants and seeds will sow a new vegetable patch or flowering garden in vacant lots, boulevards or derelict sites."

To date, Vancouver has about 27 "official" community gardens, with approximately 1,300 individual garden plots. These gardens are usually located on public parkland, but organized through neighbourhood volunteer groups. Ironically, in Richmond, a large community garden and waterwise compost demonstration garden was lost when the new Olympic Richmond Skating Oval took over the site. It was eventually relocated to a less central location. Currently, there are only three community gardens in Richmond, with 172 individual plots that are all reserved for 2009, according to Richmond city staff.

Delta also had community garden plots that were lost adjacent to a seniors' centre, but never replaced at that convenient central location for seniors. A few spots were placed at the Tsawwassen Kinsmen Retirement Centre. Community groups, like Delta Earthwise Society, have taken up the challenge and partnered with a private Tsawwassen landowner to offer garden plots. 

City Farmer, a non-profit society, has also helps people set up food gardens through programs such as "Sharing Backyards in Greater Vancouver." If a person has a garden and wants to share it with someone, or if vice versa, visit, where a map of both those looking for space to garden, and those offering space is available.
Gardening brings people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences together to create green places in their neighborhoods. Growing veggies, herbs, flowers and fruit provides healthy organic food along with exercise, relaxation and sunshine. New friendships are formed while sharing the latest "green" gardening techniques. For maturing baby boomers, creating accessible gardens with raised beds, vertical gardens, modified tools and wheelchair accessible pathways can easily accommodate changing physical abilities. Garden plot fees average $15 to $40 per year. Many offer open house events, including plant sales, workshops, seed exchanges and potluck dinners. 

Local enthusiasm is overwhelming, but land supply does not meet demand.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson: "No occupation is as delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener."
For more information on community gardens contact
For great seniors' gardening tips, visit


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