- What is Grow Up! ?
Many municipalities attempt to induce garden conformity by setting overly restrictive height limitations on vegetation. Some restrictions may be valid for safety reasons, for example, maintaining a clear view of roadways, especially at intersections. Others are set merely to maintain a personal aesthetic preference…which is an unconstitutional infringement over freedom of expression in both Canada and the United States. Grow Up! is intended to support gardeners who wish to express their right to grow, especially on their front yards or boulevards, and to encourage others to follow their example. In Ontario, traffic guidelines set the drivers height at 1.05-1.08 m, so the Ontario Superior Court has found @1m to be a reasonable height limit for municipalities to impose on vegetation adjacent to roadways.
- Isn’t planting on the boulevard illegal?
Not at all. People have been gardening there since boulevards came into existence. In the rapid suburban housing expansion following WWII, grass was popularized by a fertilizer market driven by a sudden surplus of bomb-making chemicals. Doug Counter’s landmark 2003 case against the City of Etobicoke (now part of Toronto, Ontario) confirmed that residents have the right to garden on City-owned land adjacent to their properties as long as they have been given care of that area. Just be sure to stay within reasonable health and safety guidelines. Try to avoid planting poisonous, or prickly plants near public walkways and stay under traffic sight line limits (eg. A Toronto report lists the driver’s sight line as 1.05m). Most municipalities seem to have settled on 1m as a reasonable height limit, although that is generally lowered near intersections.
- Why should I garden on the boulevard?
- Front yard gardening, particularly on the boulevard, increases neighbourhood interactions. Not only will you be drawn out front more often, but you’ll find passer by pausing more often to enjoy your garden rather than rushing along the path. Once one household takes the plunge, other gardens soon appear.
- By gardening up front we can develop a continuous green corridor, uninterrupted by fences, providing stepping stones between natural areas. Toronto has over 11,000 km (@7,000 miles) of boulevards much of which is currently little more than a wasted opportunity.
- Biodiversity is incredibly important to our well being as well as to the environment. It has been shown to improve our mental and physical health, lower crime rates, and even calm traffic. Just being around nature can lower blood pressure and bring a smile to your face.
- Layers of vegetation absorb excess precipitation far better than plain turf. If you select drought tolerant, preferably native, plants you can also reduce or eliminate the use of treated water. Apart from the more obvious benefits of saving water, treating and transporting all that liquid can be amongst the largest uses of electricity by a city.
- Taller vegetation, particularly alongside pavement, helps to reduce the heat island effect in cities. While we normally think of trees as providing shade and cooling, evapotranspiration (a plant’s version of air conditioning) takes place in shrubs and other plants too.
- What will the neighbours think?
That’s really up to them. You can’t control other people’s thoughts, but you can influence them by demonstrating that there are other ways of doing things. In some areas, planting on the boulevard is perfectly normal, and therefore, perfectly acceptable. In other areas, it may be the first time people have seen anything on the “hell strip” other than grass. The more people who garden there, the more normalized it will become and the more accepted.
- Can I plant edibles?
It all depends on your soil. Many urban properties are so small that there really isn’t much difference between soil contamination in the front yard and the back yard. We have largely lost a generational connection to our property’s so it’s difficult to know what happened to our soil before it came under our care. Testing soil with an unknown history is recommended before using it for growing food in either your back or front yards. Some people advocate using raised beds with fresh soil. Growing vegetables in your yard is the ultimate 100 mile diet and one sure way to know exactly from where your food comes. Don’t forget the variety of edible native species too, ranging from berry bushes, to roots, to salad greens. Native plants, edible or floral (and often both), have the added benefit of improving the diet and health of our native pollinators.
- What’s the difference between Grow Up! and Green Evolution Site signs?
Green Evolutions Site signs offer more information about your specific project by allowing you to create an information link to present your evolving garden or restoration site and indicate registration dates. G.E.S. signs are made of aluminum and will withstand outdoor conditions longer. The corrugated plastic Grow Up! signs offer an economical way to declare your support for a wide variety of green initiatives in your community but only offer a general link to this website.
- How big are the signs?
Grow Up! signs are 6×8″ to allow an easy reference to the 8″ (20cm) height limit that Toronto imposes on grass (and mis-imposes on all other vegetation if they so choose). Since many Ontario municipalities mimic Toronto bylaws in the mistaken belief that they are well researched, we felt that the 8″ size was appropriate. This size makes the message visible without being too obtrusive in most gardens. Green Evolution Site signs are 7×8″, again reflecting the 8″ height restriction.
- Why should I get a Grow Up! sign?
- Some people may wonder why you’re planting there, if it’s legal, and if it’s normal; some may even be angry that you’re upsetting the status quo. A Grow Up! sign gives them a contact point to direct their questions and to let them know that you are not alone. Grow Up! signs also send a message to City officials who sometimes creatively interpret City bylaws to encourage conformity.
- By displaying a sign, you’re encouraging others to join you and supporting those who are already linking landscapes together.
- We’re keeping track. At the end of each year, the street with the most Grow Up! participants will be awarded special recognition. Don’t worry though, we’ll keep your location confidential…although once the majority of residents on a street Grow Up!, your growings on will seem quite natural.