Embracing Community Gardening at Alex Decoteau Park

I’ve never had much of a green thumb. I barely remember to water my house plants, and the container gardens I’ve had in the summer on our balcony have never thrived.

However, when the chance to sign up for a plot in our new Downtown Community Garden came up in the spring, Mack and I did so. Located in Alex Decoteau Park that opened last fall at 102 Avenue and 105 Street, the garden is among several amenities that have been welcomed by residents, including a dog park, spray park, and green space.

Alex Decoteau Park

Alex Decoteau Park

The desire for plots ended up being so high that the Downtown Edmonton Community League (which coordinates the garden) had to resort to a lottery system to pick from the applicants. When we found out we were selected in the first round, we had to decide whether to accept.

Emily was the primary reason we had initially put our names forward. Knowing where our food comes from is important to us, and we were attracted to the idea that she could learn first hand how vegetables are grown. Still, with a new baby in the house, I thought the last thing I’d want to do this year is tend to a plot, especially since we are such novice gardeners.

But giving up our chance this year might have meant being waitlisted for an unknown period, so we took the plunge. It helped too that the garden has a number of great features – most of the beds are raised, the garden itself is fenced in and locked (with a code shared only with gardeners), and there is water provided on site!

We consulted with my Mum, gardener extraordinaire, for her recommendations on the most low maintenance vegetables to grow that wouldn’t require too much attention, and could stand being neglected now and then. She advised that we look to root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, garlic, and kale. Friends of ours who have more experience with gardening also snagged a plot, and started some plants from seed which they transplanted for us, adding tomatoes and ground cherries to our roster.

Alex Decoteau Park Garden


Though we didn’t know if anything would grow, soon enough, promising green shoots appeared. The kale in particular blossomed with the constant exposure to the sun, and our garlic thrived. The tomatoes, which we thought couldn’t be saved after being ravaged by a wicked wind storm, bounced back. We learned though, a little too late, that we shouldn’t have planted the carrots quite so close to the kale, as the leaves quickly overshadowed the later-blooming carrot tops.

Alex Decoteau Park Garden


Early on, I thought the last thing I’d want to do after putting Emily down for the night was go water some plants, but it’s become a calming, almost meditative way to end the day. And though we’ve only been able to harvest kale so far, it’s been pretty neat to be able to walk over and cut down some fresh vegetables for a quick salad or to add to our meal.

Alex Decoteau Park Garden

Growing like weeds!

So although we started off as reluctant gardeners this year, it’s safe to say we’re looking forward to learning from our missteps this year and being more thoughtful with our plant selections for next spring!

Alex Decoteau Park Garden

First time gardeners

If you’re interested in learning more about the Alex Decoteau Garden, consider coming to the open house, scheduled for Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 10am-3pm. There will be kids garden crafts, and you can help yourself to some of the vegetables being grown in the community plot!

CommuniTEA Infusion Launch

One of the ideas that really resonated with me from Jim Diers’ talk back in November was the concept of “bumping places” – locations in the neighbourhood where residents could casually meet others – cafes, grocery stores, parks and the like. Some areas are undoubtedly more populated with such communal spaces than others, and Central McDougall, my adopted neighbourhood during the day, is not one of them.

So when Diers gave the example that night of a mobile meeting place, an ingenious van-turned-portable teahouse (complete with lawn chairs and fold-out overhead shade), I thought that was the perfect bridge to a more permanent solution. Even better, Diers shared that such a van was coming to the streets of Edmonton, courtesy of the Edmonton Learning Community.

A non-profit that works with people with developmental disabilities, the ELC had spearheaded the initiative with the support of the City, who helped purchase the vehicle. With some repairs and a colourful wrapped exterior, the CommuniTEA Infusion van was born (this slideshow provides more background on the project, from shots of the van pre-transformation to other shortlisted designs).

CommuniTea Infusion

The CommuniTEA Infusion van will be working closely with the Office of Great Neighbourhoods this summer in order to set up in communities targeted for revitalization – including Central McDougall.

Mack and I met up at Churchill Square this afternoon to attend the launch.

Councillor Sohi addresses the crowd

Serving up tea

Yes, that’s an iPod dock in the tea bar!

Mack enjoying his tea

Steeps Urban Teahouse sponsored the tea for this event, but the ELC is looking for more donations to support continued operations of the van.

Bravo to the Edmonton Learning Community and the City for this wonderful initiative. I’m already looking forward to the day the van stops by my neighbourhood!