The next time you pass a vacant piece of fenced-up land littered with broken concrete and other surprises, be sure to remember what it looks like, because the next time you see it, it may have changed substantially.
The dead rats may have been replaced by planter boxes, the scrap metal by daisies and the fences by happy locals sustaining one of the city’s mini marvels.
Helping fight against Toronto’s barren blocks is the volunteer group Guerrilla Gardeners. The group of rogue gardeners was formed as an offshoot of the Toronto Public Space Committee (TPSC), an organization brought about to advocate sustaining the city’s streets, sidewalks, parks and alleyways.
According to Dave Meslin, the creator of the TPSC, Guerrilla Gardeners was one of the first projects to come out of the committee in its founding year, 2001.
Due to the success of the Guerrilla Gardeners group, the committee ceased to meet in 2009 and was retired earlier this year.
Meeting roughly four times each year to plant, the Guerrilla Gardeners get together and target spaces in the city that have been left abandoned and unloved.
This summer, the group has planted in Leslieville, Roncesvalles, Rosedale and just east of Kensington Market.
According to Katherine Toms, who manages communications for the group, communities often like to take control of the gardens once they’ve been planted.
“One time, the group had built a garden and went back a couple of years later, and one of the members of the community had told them to leave, as it was their garden,” Toms says.
“That’s what we like to see. Generally we get really good feedback.”
The most recent guerrilla planting took place just east of Kensington Market, at Spadina Avenue and D’Arcy Street, in mid- June and is described by Toms as “probably the most successful one of the season.”
Over 1,000 plants now decorate the area, resulting in a colourful landscape that forces passersby to look twice.