by Ty Fischer, Riparian Health Restoration Intern

Community gardens can vary widely in their purpose and design, but all of them share one common goal: to bring people together in creating and maintaining a thriving greenspace that benefits both humans and native wildlife.

That’s why building a community garden is one of the greening projects offered by the Ottawa Faith Community Capacity Building Program, a joint effort between Greening Sacred Spaces Ottawa and Watersheds Canada. This two-year program provides education, tools, and resources to community leaders in faith communities in the Ottawa and surrounding area so they can lead a greening project through a microgrant program opportunity. The groups are provided with ongoing support as they collaborate with members of their community to achieve an environmental goal – like building a community garden – that will provide lasting benefits for years to come.

There are three main types of community gardens that could be developed as part of this project. Firstly, there are edible gardens. These are essentially small organic farms that are found within urban areas and for which all aspects of the planting, watering, and harvesting are shared equally among members – as are the fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables that are gathered. In addition to the nutritious greens, members also benefit from gaining a knowledge of, and appreciation for, exactly what goes into growing the food on their tables – and this is important to know, especially for those living in urban areas that might otherwise be disconnected from the food production process (Food Share, n.d.).

The second option is a wildflower pollinator garden. Pollinators, such as butterflies, moths, bees, flies, and hummingbirds, provide a host of important functions for both our ecosystems and our farms – in fact, they are essential for an estimated 15-30% of the production of the foods we eat every day (Kremen et al., 2002). Community wildflower gardens directly support pollinator populations, sporting a rich diversity of flowers that provide the nectar that these busy insects need. They also have the benefit of providing a spectacular pop of colour and texture that will refresh the look of any neighbourhood!

Finally, there are rain gardens. When rainwater flows over impermeable surfaces such as roads, it can pick up fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, and road salt before eventually making its way into our waterways and potentially causing ecological harm. Rain gardens are strategically constructed landscape features that help mitigate this risk by absorbing and naturally filtering the runoff, thereby storing these harmful compounds underground (TRCA, 2018). Rain gardens also help restore and recharge groundwater stocks, attract a variety of wildlife, reduce the risk of flooding and erosion, and are beautiful additions to any property!

No matter what type of garden you build, the benefits will manifest every step of the way. Besides the positive impacts of physical exercise and stress relief, creating this greenspace will deepen the ties between co-gardeners and foster a connection between them and the natural world. In that way, accomplishing this single environmental goal will provide countless benefits that will help to create a better world for all parties involved, from pollinators to humans.

This blog is part of a series generously funded by the Ottawa Community Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, and the Living Cities Canada Fund of Green Communities Canada. The two-year Ottawa Faith Community Capacity Building Program is led by Watersheds Canada and Greening Sacred Spaces.

Foodshare (n.d.) Community gardening 101 – foodshare.
Kremen, C., Williams, N. M., & Thorp, R. W. (2002). Crop pollination from native bees at risk from agricultural intensification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences99(26), 16812–16816.
Todd, D. (2021, July 6). A complete guide to building and maintaining a rain garden: TRCA. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).