Finding space to garden can be tough. Boulevard gardening can change that. “Boulevards” are the grassy strips of city-owned land that you can find between a property and the street. Many streets in Victoria have them. While in the past the city has cared for these strips of grass, or expected adjacent property owners to do so, right now there is a growing trend of using the space for gardening.
“These days, the City’s Boulevard Gardening Guidelines offer more degrees of freedom when it comes to planting on the boulevard. This brings people out of their homes for street-side gardening, where they can interact more frequently with neighbours and passers-by. That’s one way community-building can begin,” says Mike Large. Mike is a local lawyer, boulevard gardener, and lead author of the City of Victoria’s Boulevard Gardening Guidelines. He’s also a blogger at www.streetgreens.com—a great resource for potential boulevard gardeners.
“I bumped into two strong advocates of boulevard gardening one day, while they were working in their garden, and they took me under their wing. I was drawn to the project as a way to create social and ecological change from the bottom-up,” says Large. “Once I had learned enough to garden on my own, I helped create the ‘Fair Field’ (near the north-west corner of Fairfield and Cook), and expand the ‘Haultain Annex’ (in Fernwood), with the informed consent of the adjacent property owners.”
Large created Streetgreens as a way to share information with aspiring and existing boulevard gardeners. “The idea was to spread the word about the existence of streetgreens.com, and let people find out about the gardens and the plants from there,” he says. “I do like to invite input from others though. I collaborated with my gardening mentors about the harvesting principles posted on the ‘Home’ page.” Large also loves photo submissions of other boulevard gardens.
Large advocates for the many benefits of these types of gardens. “Restoring native plants to neighbourhoods; providing bird, butterfly and pollinator habitats; beautiful, interesting and diverse streets; fresh, local, and sustainable food sources,” he lists. “Unlike grassy space, you don’t need to mow or whack or blow a boulevard garden. That should mean burning a little less gas, and a little less CO2 blanketing the Earth.”
He also advocates for following the rules. “The Guidelines were written to be helpful. You can turn to them to find out how to avoid underground utilities, how to find maintenance help, and how to cope with soil contamination, for example,” he says. The city of Victoria also urges you to review and follow the Guidelines, as well as to call BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 before starting your project to find out if it’s safe to dig at your site.
There are also other ways to learn about boulevard gardening. Coming up on Saturday August 18, The city of Victoria is hosting a boulevard garden walking tour. Mike will be leading the tour with Lora Morandin of Pollinator Partnership Canada and Virginie Lavallee-Picard, Food Systems Coordinator at the City of Victoria. “Participants will learn what they need to know to start a boulevard garden and they will take part in a tour of different types of boulevard gardens (food, pollinator, native plants, ornamental, mix of) at the peak of the growing season,” says Lavallee-Picard.