SUBMITTED BY ROBYN GILLAM
Behind the city-owned building, at on the south east corner at Burlington and Wellington, lies the Paradise Garden. Bounded by a chain-link fence, it nestles between a railroad track and an embankment. On a damp October day, the garden, with is colourful tool shed, is still filled with the last of the summer vegetable harvest and made bright by the fall trees that overhang it.
In the garden there are still plenty of tomatoes, the odd squash and some broad beans. There are also the gardeners, who are happy to talk about their plants and the challenges of local climate and environment in growing them. Patricia (“call me P”) describes how to cultivate plants she grew up with back in Jamaica, like sweet potatoes, in a colder climate, and she draws attention to new items like “Swiss spinach” introduced by other gardeners. Unfamiliar ornamental plants such as “elephants’ ears” can also be found here. The gardeners I spoke to
were eager to try out new food crops from elsewhere, as many are retired, living on a fixed income or have major dietary issues. The garden looks like a paradise of biodiversity.
According to Andrew Sweetnam, who runs community gardens for the North Hamilton Community Health Centre (NHCHC), they are specifically designed to encourage biodiversity as well the sharing of information, and sociability among gardeners. Most importantly they address issues of food security and good nutrition among the elderly and unwaged and tie in with the Welcome Inn Good Food Box Programme and the Seniors’ Kitchen, which runs recipes in the Breezes. Food education is an important part of the gardens and a wider health programme that emphasizes non-meat sources of protein, like corn, beans and squash, which can be stored over the winter. Although most community gardeners are retired, the NHCHC, with Bennetto School, also runs the Grub Club, a gardening programme for children aged 6 to 12. Two other community gardens are located in the Keith neighbourhood around Wentworth. Membership of a garden is $15 per year for adults and includes tools and compost. As working people don’t have much time to garden, NHCHC is hoping to spread information about food and nutrition through outreach.
Paradise Garden is tucked away on the block between Wellington and Victoria that was once joined to the North End by the Ferrie Street Bridge. It is crisscrossed by railway lines to the industrial lands that are now little used. Emergency services south on Victoria Street are now
surrounded by scrub and a meadow, where there were once factory buildings visible in old photographs. Old North Enders remember a children’s camp in this area.
The North End is a changing landscape of natural and human-made features. Everything that once existed leaves its mark and is adapted to the changing needs of the community and the natural world around it. We welcome hearing your own stories about these places and your
experience of them.
The author would like to thank Heather South for the opportunity to visit Paradise Garden.