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TORONTO–The University of Toronto Sky Garden has entered its second summer of growing, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team of volunteers who are beginning the summer harvest. The fruits of the harvest are being donated to a local food bank and a community kitchen, as well as being used by the volunteers in their own kitchens.
With help from a Live Green Toronto grant, the rooftop garden – started by three graduate students in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering – has tripled in size in its second year and now features a variety of plants including tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, beans, basil, parsley, rosemary and lettuce. Using unique semi-hydroponic containers made by the Canadian company Biotop, the garden’s organizers are projecting a yield this summer of 200 kilos, which will make Sky Garden one of the most productive rooftop gardens in Toronto. Seeds and seedlings are heirloom, organic and locally sourced.
“Our goal is to show how rooftop spaces can be used for urban agriculture and to reconnect people to where their food comes from,” says garden co-founder Heather Wray, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering whose research focus is drinking water. “We supply fresh, organic and locally-grown vegetables to the U of T community and to our volunteers.”
The Sky Garden team comprises a dozen or so volunteers who ensure the plants receive the right amount of water and fertilizer, as well as weeding, harvesting and other maintenance. Harvested vegetables are also given to the student-run vegan café Hot Yam!, which serves lunch on Thursdays in the International Student Centre.
“This is a perfect example of how civil engineers can expand the use of urban infrastructure to improve our communities,” says Brenda McCabe, Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at U of T. “What a wonderful idea for urban sustainability!”