Canadians are digging into victory gardens for 2020

Canadians are digging into victory gardens for 2020

TORONTO -- The Victoria Day long weekend marks the beginning of the planting season for many Canadians and this year of self-isolation and worry has many turning to soil, seeds and plants for perhaps both therapy and security this spring and

summer.

The concept of a victory garden is a recurring theme – perhaps because virus garden doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it.

But can gardening in 2020 be a modern victory for our environment and ourselves?

Victory gardens have their roots in patriotic war gardening efforts during the First World War, but didn’t really sprout into the national consciousness until the Second World War, when governments around the world urged citizens, especially in urban areas, to plant vegetables to supplement their food rations, contribute to the war effort, and boost morale.

In this year of coronavirus, surging interest in gardening is about concerns over food security and rising prices, along with a strong desire to get outside after a couple of months of being in the house, says Sheila Colla, an assistant professor in environmental studies at York University in Toronto.

As a conservation biologist, Colla sees an opportunity to shift from the idea of a victory garden to a resiliency garden. Growing food in our yards and on balconies and patios, and Colla hopes in public spaces such as schools and street boulevards, will bring more plant pollinators to urban places where only lawns have existed before.

“We can use this time to change the landscape to bring more biodiversity. Increased biodiversity means more resilience for the ecosystem.”

That is not only a boon for the environment, but it brings communities together as neighbours share their yields, and brings enormous mental health benefits, she says. Plenty of people have been forced to slow down during this time, allowing them the luxury of growing their own food.

“And with children not being in school, there are a lot of skills that go along with gardening, like counting of seeds, and learning what plants need in terms of sun, soil and when to plant, how to prune and harvest,” said Colla, who is planting in her Toronto front yard with kids who are three and six.

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