A garden oasis
in the heart of Montreal
Urban agriculture is alive and well in Les Jardins Gamelin
The urban agriculture revolution is underway in the heart of Montreal and it’s happening at Les Jardins Gamelin (Gamelin Gardens) in Place Émilie-Gamelin, part of the Quartier des Spectacles. Now in their third year, the gardens continue to attract large numbers of Montrealers and visitors who enjoy their unique design as well as the daily program of cultural and citizen-oriented activities. The coordinated effort of a number of partners, including Sentier Urbain, a social ecology organization, has led this successful urban agriculture initiative.
Urban agriculture for the greater good
Urban agriculture is an important part of the Jardins Gamelin concept. Sentier Urbain was first approached by La Pépinière, an organization that aims to revitalize under-used urban sites and an original partner in the Jardins Gamelin initiative. Working with the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, Sentier Urbain has developed an urban agriculture program that also addresses challenges related to citizen participation and peaceful coexistence with marginalized groups.
That’s how Sentier Urbain came to design a large participatory garden in the heart of the city. The organization developed an original approach in making urban agriculture accessible to all by creating a unifying and inclusive social activity.
The educational component is a key part of the greening program for the gardens. In 2016, Sentier Urbain attracted nearly 500 participants with more than 20 guided tours of the garden plots, various presentations, and more than 15 urban agriculture workshops, all free of charge.
Sentier Urbain wishes to make urban agriculture more accessible and welcomes residents who want to help in the gardens, including harvesting the ripe produce. The garden’s harvest is then featured on the menu at the weekly coffee gatherings organized by Présence Compassion, a social assistance organization working with homeless people to help them reintegrate into society and improve their living conditions.
Sentier Urbain also teamed with Présence Compassion on a pre-employment project for homeless people. Launched two years ago, the program allows participants to work in the gardens and help beautify the surroundings. They are renumerated for their work and earn a certificate recognizing their participation in the summer-long program.
“Through our work on greening the gardens, raising awareness, educating the public, and social mobilization and belonging, we are transmitting skills that participants then pass on to their community. Our work has ripple effects far beyond Les Jardins Gamelin, contributing to the quality of life and well-being of the public,” says Sentier Urbain’s Guillaume Moreau, project manager for the gardens in Les Jardins Gamelin.
“Les Jardins Gamelin are more than a downtown green space. They also include a social and community element that sparks people’s curiosity, encourages participation and inspires civic pride. Les Jardins Gamelin have become, for everyone regardless of social standing, a living space in the heart of the neighbourhood where people enjoy spending time,” says Pascale Daigle, director of programming for the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership.
“I enjoy human contact, and the people I meet here accept me as I am. Participating in the project reduces my isolation and helps me develop discipline that I can apply to other aspects of my life,” says a participant in the pre-employment project.
Sentier Urbain recently won the Novae award for community relations and living spaces, for the management and design of the dedicated garden and urban agriculture spaces in Les Jardins Gamelin.
This year there are seven theme gardens to discover in Les Jardins Gamelin, along with nearly 60 planters surrounding the patio and on the perimeter of Place Émilie-Gamelin.
The production garden: common vegetables and edible plants like chard, sunflower, nasturtiums, mint and more.
The pollinators’ garden: plants that produce nectar and pollen for pollinators – giant hyssop, borage, goldenrod, willowherbs and more.
The nurturing forest: edible forest plants and berries like seaberries, ferns and raspberries.
The greenhouse: a range of edible plants and an aquaponics system with fish and plants in symbiosis, plus a black soldier fly-based compost system.
The urban challenges garden, with four themes: urban wildlife garden, medicinal plants, fruit garden and shaded kitchen garden.
The balcony garden: systems enabling the cultivation of fruits and vegetables on a city balcony.
The hanging garden: techniques for growing members of the gourd family (cucumbers, zucchini, melons) in hanging containers to control the fungal infections that often afflict these species.
In addition, mushrooms are being grown in several of the gardens. And the planters next to the patio and on the Place Émilie-Gamelin perimeter contain many types of edible and aromatic plants, including both herbs and vegetables.
Sentier Urbain activities at Les Jardins Gamelin
Every Tuesday from 5 to 7 pm (in French)
Participants learn methods for growing various plants, as well as their medicinal and culinary properties. The activity includes a tour of the gardens with a Sentier Urbain facilitator, followed by a presentation on several topics related to urban agriculture.
Workshops on various practical topics
Every Sunday from 11 am to noon (in French)
August 6: Fruit trees in the city
August 30: Urban beekeeping
Les Jardins Gamelin are open daily until 11 pm.
All activities are free.
Feature image: Martine Doyon
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