St. James Town Balcony Gardening Workshops are online sessions that teach community residents how to grow and harvest plants and food from their backyard or balcony. As the majority of St. James Town residents live in high-rise apartments, these classes have been particularly useful. Making the most of the outside space through gardening can not only contribute to a sustainable and green way of life, but getting closer to nature has proven benefits for mental wellbeing. The program focuses on the where, when and how of balcony gardening – for example, where to get materials, when to plant different seeds, or how to look after plants. It also lets residents ask gardening experts their questions, so it is beneficial for both new and veteran gardeners.
These classes started in person in March and were hosted at the St. James Town 240 Hub. There were two high-turnout sessions which received a very positive response from the community. Residents were interested in continuing this program after the quarantine began. To accommodate this interest, the balcony gardening sessions went online using Zoom as its platform. Interested residents were instructed on how to use Zoom so they could attend these classes. The first session of this workshop included three classes hosted on May 1st, 8th and 15th. Just like the in-person classes, turnout was high with 24 residents in attendance.
Lara, the program instructor, is very pleased with how the sessions are going. Lara started hosting balcony gardening workshops in other communities in February and March of this year. As word of these workshops got out, there was a huge demand for them in the St. James Town Community. After the quarantine began, Lara worked with The Corner to get the classes online.
Lara’s gardening experience actually began in St. James Town and she has been gardening for 15 years. She enjoys teaching this program because it allows her to pursue one of her passions while also passing on her gardening knowledge to others. She admits that initially, the transition to online classes was somewhat of a learning curve, but she has gotten the hang of it recently and is able to use online features like sharing photos and documents.
Lara believes that the gardening workshop is very important for residents of St. James Town during the COVID-19 pandemic for a variety of reasons. She says that when people are isolated, as they are now, practicing gardening can relieve stress and even be therapeutic. The program itself also provides residents with a platform to socialize and converse with others, giving them a degree of social interaction that might not otherwise have been possible during this pandemic. As food security is a major concern for many during this time and as food procurement can be a long process, the balcony gardening workshop can alleviate some of these issues. The workshop teaches residents how to plant certain crops that can grow relatively fast, providing a useful and reliable food source that residents can have on hand and which can offset certain costs. These include, but are not limited to, mint, onions, chilies and tomatoes.
The Balcony Gardening Workshop has been a wonderful asset to the community during this time and grows more popular and successful with every session. We look forward to your continued enthusiastic participation and hope you will share pictures of your gardening prowess with us!