Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Vacant Lot Cultivation: Expectations and Plans of the Cities of Canada for the Present Year

April 1918, Agriculture Gazette (Canada) Volume 5, #4

Although, in the majority of cases, plans for the present year regarding vacant lot gardening were still under consideration when the replies were written that have been received in answer to a series of questions addressed to the different cities that were known to have had systems in operation in 1917, as recorded in THE AGRICULTURAL GAZETTE of December, they indicate that the success the achieved, and in previous years, has proved most encouraging, and that the experience gained will be put to good practical use this year. In fact the methods adopted produced such excellent results that, in the majority of cases, there will be no change in organized operation for the approaching season. It is evidently felt that, pressing as the necessity was in 1917 for not alone every farmer, but every citizen, to aid in greater production, the necessity for such work and such effort is far more pressing in 1918. All the cities in the country, and many towns, have awakened to the occasion and are bestirring themselves in the task of making productive what has previously been considered waste land, and, as such, has been allowed to lie idle.

When it is considered that in Montreal alone, vegetables to the value of $100,000 were grown last year, it is not difficult to believe that in all the cities and towns together, the productive worth of the efforts put forth amounted to a number of million dollars, which means that food stuffs of that value that would otherwise have been consumed in Canada were released for shipment abroad.

During the past few months many meetings have been held, at each of which emphasis has been placed upon the needs of the allied powers, caused mainly by the awful waste to be attributed to the wanton use of the submarine, but also due to the ravages of active warfare, and to the ever-increasing demands of the fighting forces. Lurid and past bounds of imagination that the statements that have been made appear to be, there is too good reason to believe that they fall short of the actual truth. Hence the reports of redoubled vigour in vacant lot cultivation that have been received by THE GAZETTE, and which are briefly summarized in the following, will be read with satisfaction.

While the need of the moment is overwhelming, the experience that is being gained from the movement, and the lessons that are being learnt, cannot fail in their far-reaching beneficiality to be ever profitable. Nor is it only from the actual task that knowledge is forthcoming, for in every city instructive lectures and practical demonstrations are being given for both old and young, and for men and for women. In Vancouver an experimental garden and open-air college have been established, and in other places arrangements have been made so that instruction shall not be limited to the preparatory season, but shall extend all through the growing, even to the harvesting and the succeeding preservation and conservation.

By the following summaries of the reports made to THE GAZETTE, it will be noticed that in every instance, greater achievements are expected in 1918 than in 1917, gratifying as were the results last year:


The success achieved last year was so great that the same plan will be followed this year. The Montreal Cultivation Committee has the matter in hand and will organize a number of subcommittees known as vacant lots committee, farm areas committee, home gardens' committee, planting committee, finance committee, municipal committee, publicity committee and ladies' committee. These sub-committees in turn will interest other people who undertake the supervision of certain districts. All the work is entirely voluntary, the expenses being met by private subscriptions. It is anticipated that the number of lots applied for last year, namely 2,000, will be greatly exceeded this year. The City Council has been asked for the same grant as last year, viz., $2,500. The securing of seed is left to the individual cultivator. Last year the committee paid for ploughing, but this year former plot-holders will dig their own lots. New land, however, will be ploughed by the committee and the actual cost charged to the cultivator. The interests of returned soldiers and their relatives or connections will -be taken charge of by the Khaki League. The chief departure will be the encouragement of the group system as an addition to the individual system of 1917. It is hoped to interest groups to take up and operate co-operatively from one to five acres.

St. Lambert
The Horticultural Society will again have charge of the vacant lot campaign. The town council will assist by ploughing and harrowing the land for cultivators, each of whom will be allowed to get his own seed. It is anticipated that more lots will be cultivated than last year, when the number totaled about 150. No charge will be made for lots and a supply of stable manure will be available for those willing to pay cartage. A course of instructive lectures is being given by expert horticulturists from Macdonald College, and the Horticultural Society will give prizes for the best cultivated new gardens and for canned vegetables.

The same plan will be pursued as last year, the city taking charge of the work aided by the Montreal Horticultural Society and the Montreal Florists' Club. The city of Montreal has consented to the use of part of Baldwin Park and will plough the ground free. The city of Westmount will plough lots in its municipality for soldiers or soldiers' families free. Donations of seed are made and the gardeners start the same in their green house, the plants being distributed about Empire Day. Last year over 20,000 plants were given out in this way. It is anticipated that 300 lots will be cultivated of 2,500 square feet each. Soldiers and their families cultivating lots will not be asked for any fee, but seeds and plants will be given them and the ground ploughed and in some cases fertilized.


The Brantford Thrift League, composed of representatives of the Trades and Labour Council, Social Service League, Rotary Club, Travellers Club, Board of Trade, Board of Works and a committee of the City Council, will have charge of the work. The Council will subscribe $100 to the fund to cover the cost of advertising and ploughing for soldiers' wives or returned soldiers. Arrangements will be made with seed merchants for a special rate to be charged to plotholders for seed. It is expected that at least 1,000 lots will be under cultivation. The land will be free, but ploughing and preparing will be charged for at absolute cost, excepting as regards soldiers an dependent relatives. Each of the schools will have community lots.

The Vacant Land Production Association of Galt will conduct affairs on the same plan as last year. They expect from 300 to 400 lots to be taken up, covering an area of 100 acres or more. The work is supported by voluntary subscription and anything undertaken for the lot-holders will be charged back to them at actual cost. Soldiers, either returned or otherwise, and their relatives will have the preference in the choice of lots.

The Guelph Horticultural Society, the Board of Trade, Trades and Labour Council, the Consolidated Separate and Public Schools, Sunday Schools, Y.M.C.A.,. - Ontario Agricultural College staff, and a number of land owners, cooperate in the work, the Horticultural Society taking the lead. The city grants $500 towards expenses. Vegetable seeds will be supplied at cost, and the distribution will be largely undertaken by members of the Horticultural Society. Last year there were 2000 members and 1700-or 1800 gardens were cultivated. This year it is anticipated that there will be more. Under the heading, "Soldiers of the Soil," cards pledging service are widely distributed and freely signed. Every boy and girl under 18 is invited to enlist in the garden service corps, members of which who cultivate a home, school or vacant lot garden raising a crop of vegetables valued at not less than $5, for boys or girls from 10 to .14 years of age, and $10 from 14 to 18 years of age, at current market prices, will each receive a bronze button recognizing national service. Instructive talks and illustrated lectures will be given and press notices made. Literature will also be circulated. Gardens will be judged twice during the season and three cash prizes will be given in each ward.

The work is done through the Board of Trade, Board of Education, and a school garden committee. No change is to be made in the management this year. except, as the secretary says, as regards the putting forth of increased energy. A grant will be made by the city for ploughing. harrowing, and discing the same as last year. The school garden committee is giving a grant for the purpose of buying seeds for distribution to school children. It is expected that about 200 acres will be under cultivation. Patriotic citizens will, provide funds to meet any expense incurred. No charge will be made to lot holders. Ploughing and fertilizing will also be done, as far as possible, entirely free from cost. Soldiers and their relatives will be treated no differently to ordinary citizens except that they will be given the first consideration in everything.

The McClary Welfare League and the Street Railway Potato Syndicate will carry on this year the same as last. The McClary League have bought a car of seed potatoes and contracted for vegetable seeds which will be distributed to the holders of 125 lots, comprising about 15 acres. No charge is made to lot holders and their lots will be ploughed free. Instructive lectures will be given every two weeks and supervision be taken of the gardens.

North Bay
The Vacant Lot work here is entrusted to an organization composed of a committee of councillors assisted by interested citizens. In order that he may give more of his time to the vacant lot gardening work, a chairman will be appointed from the city council who will be relieved as far as possible of other duties. Railway property will be leased, divided into plots and given to any citizen promising cultivation. Private owners of vacant lots will also be requested to surrender them for the same purpose. About 1,000 lots covering 150 acres will be operated. The undertaking will be financed through the municipal council. No charge will be made to lot-holders and no assistance rendered further than the purchasing of seed and re-selling at cost. The children will be encouraged by the offering of prizes for the best results.

The only change in the managerial operation of the Ottawa Vacant Lot Association will be that plot-holders will be charged a fee of one dollar, which will make them members of the Association. The societies associated with the work, besides the Ottawa Horticultural Society, are the Rotary Club, Women's Canadian Club, Soldiers' Wives League, Journal Printing Company, E. B. Eddy Company, Citizen Horticultural Society, and Boy Scouts. Last year the city granted $500 It is anticipated that more than 1,200 plots, and exceeding 100 acres in extent, will be under the supervision of the association. Voluntary donations will help the financing along with the city grant. Lot-holders, so far as possible, will be helped to secure seed potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, etc., at a low price. Manure will also be supplied as far as possible. The Soldiers' Wives' League are allotted an area and are given the same treatment as other lot-holders. Last year this particular organization did exceptionally well.

Port Arthur
The Garden Club assisted by the City Council and Board of Trade will manage the situation on the same plan as last year. The Parks Superintendent will be general overseer and the city will be divided into districts, each in charge of a volunteer assistant. The City Council will do the ploughing and harrowing and charge one dollar for a 33-foot lot. The City Clerk's office staff will secure the lots and register members. The Parks Board will grow plants in a nursery for lot holders. Orders for seed have been placed with the dealers and will be sold to cultivators for the same price as given for them. Currant and berry bushes will also be supplied. Lots for the wives of soldiers, or widows of soldiers, will he ploughed free and any other assistance that can be given will be forthcoming. Extra exertions are being made to encourage boys and girls in gardening. Advertisements on an extensive scale are being inserted in the local papers with a view to general encouragement.

St. Thomas
Last year's representative organization having been found unwieldy the Horticultural Society will have full charge this year of the vacant-lot-garden idea. The city will assist to the extent of $300 and will give a grant of park land. A quantity of seed has already been ordered and will be disposed of at wholesale prices. A car-lot of Irish Cobbler potatoes from New Brunswick has been placed at the disposal of the Society. No charge will be made for lots, but ploughing and harrowing will be charged for, except in the case of the families of soldiers, on duty or returned. Lots have been specially donated for cultivation by school children.

The Vacant Lots Association and the Rotary Club, represented by twenty executive members, will have charge of the work this year, the same as last. An effort is being made to double the number of gardens. The city will make the same grant towards the work as last year, and will give the use of all vacant city property, besides ground enough for about 40 gardens in several of the parks. Orders for fourteen varieties of seed have already been given and $2 will be charged for seeds sufficient for a lot of 5,000 square feet. Lot-holders will procure their own seed potatoes. The seeds that the association has secured will be distributed, as follows:

¾ oz. Carrot, Nantes.

¾ oz. Carrot Oxheart.

¼ oz. Lettuce, Nonpareil.

¼ Cucumber, White Spine.

½ oz. Squash, Green Hubbard.

½ oz. Parsnip, Hollow Crown.

1 oz. Beet, Detroit Red.

1 oz. Beet, Egyptian.

1 oz. Onion, Yellow Globe Danvers.

1 oz. Turnips, Table, Swede.

1 oz. Radish, Turnip, White and Red.

2 oz. Nasturtium, Dwarf Mixed.

1 lb. Beans, Wardell's Wax.

1 lb. Corn, Golden Bantam.

It is possible that the gardens will reach a total of 1,500, covering possibly 250 acres, against 826 gardens and 150 acres last year. The association will do the ploughing and harrowing and even the manuring, where possible, free. The free use of spraying machines will also be given and poison supplied for insects. Lectures are being delivered in different parts of the city and a demonstration plot will be maintained to show cultivators how to sow, plant and encourage growth. Returned soldiers, or their relatives, or connections, will be supplied with everything absolutely free, including seeds and help during the season. When necessary, the gardens will also be planted. The association has a number of plots that will be cultivated by school children, by boy scouts, and by girl guides. Any school principal or teacher can have a plot for the benefit of the scholars. Mr. George H. Baldwin, F.R.H.S., is the moving spirit in the association.

The same plan will be followed this year as last. The representatives of the City Council, the Horticultural Society, the Park Board, Public School Board, and the Principal of the Normal School and Public Schools of the city, forming the controlling organization. The City Council grants a sum of $200 to defray the cost of ploughing the gardens and lots of the soldiers' dependents, advertising, etc. The application for lots last year numbered 156 and this year will exceed 300. The lots average 25x100 feet to half an acre in extent. Private subscriptions are relied on for financing the campaign. Lot holders will pay the exact cost of ploughing and harrowing. Returned soldiers and the families of returned soldiers will have their gardens and lots put in planting condition free of charge. Literature and advertising matter will be distributed among the children and students of the different schools to take home to their parents. Prizes will be given for plot-holders at a vegetable show to be held in the fall for which no entry fees will be charged, and at which all amateur growers within the city limits will be invited to compete.


The Weston Agricultural Society is the principal mover in the vacant lot gardening work. Prizes of $5, $3 and $2 will be given for the best care, cultivation, and results, besides those offered at a special exhibition. In addition to the work done by adults, it is expected that over 1,500 children will be occupied in the work this year and will compete for a prize shield given by ex-Mayor Waugh for the best work of children under 16 years of age. The city will be divided into districts and the district having the ten best gardens making the highest score will win the shield. The points given in judging will be for quality of plots and effort 40, freedom from weeds 30, layout 20, variety 10. The society will give prizes ranging from $2 to 25 cents for the ten best gardens in each district, also prizes at the school fairs for the individual exhibit of vegetables and flowers. This year encouragement will also be given to poultry and' bee-keeping. The city will make a cash grant and plough lots not exceeding one-quarter of an acre for $1 each. Each individual will have to secure his own seed. The society will have under its supervision about 300 lots covering an area of 20 acres, which is double that of last year. A dollar per lot will be charged for ploughing and 50 cents per lot for discing and $1 for membership. Lectures will be given by Professors from the Agricultural College and expert gardeners. Gardens will be visited and notes made of results. The School Masters' Club is an organization authorized by the Board of Education that has an enrolment of 2,000 juvenile applicants for garden lots. Committees have been appointed to make the allotment, to circulate literature, and to help in gardening. The women teachers are taking much interest in the work. Domestic Science teachers will give instruction in preservation. The Winnipeg Gardens Society, the Elmwood Cottage Garden Society and the Winnipeg Horticultural Society are co-operating.


Committee Vacant Lot Garden Committee -has been transformed into the Regina Food Production Association, which includes representatives of the city council, board of trade, army and navy veterans, the golf club, collegiate institute, horticultural society, ministerial association, rotary club, public schools, Y.M.C.A., civic economics committee, St. Andrew's society, Co-operative Consumers' league, vacant lot gardening association, boy scouts, Regina College, the Bureau of Public Welfare and other organizations. The fee for a lot has been raised from $1 to $2, which includes membership of the association and pays for ploughing. It is proposed to turn 50 acres of city property into a large vegetable garden. Land around the city that has been subdivided for speculative purposes is also to be placed under cultivation. The entire population is lending a hand.

The Parks Board last year dealt with the matter of vacant lot cultivation with the result that 1,259 lots were cultivated and 750 bushels potatoes and 250 bushels of mixed vegetables raised. This year the city gardener has received close upon 600 applications or vacant lots. Many of these lots were ploughed last fall in order that the congestion which marked last spring should be avoided. The various city parks are put to practical use, a fee of $1.25 for each single 25-foot lot and $2 for each 50-foot lot being charged, to cover the cost of ploughing, etc. A special assistant has been employed to obtain permission from owners of vacant lots for their cultivation. The Parks Board has the whole matter in hand. It is anticipated that the lots under cultivation will approximately cover 31 acres.


A big publicity campaign has been planned for the end of March and the early part of April. The Vacant Lots club is working with redoubled vigour. A complete card system has been installed for the handling of the work. The board of trade, Rotary club, city council and horticultural society, trades and labour council and Consumers' league, and pretty well all the civic and social organizations, are represented in the club. The city council gives office quarters in the City Hall, a cash grant of $850, and supplies the assistance of teams. The seed situation will be taken care of by local seedsmen. In 1917 over 2,000 twenty-five foot city lots were cultivated and this year it is expected that number will be increased. A dollar is charged for one 25-foot city lot and 50 cents for each additional lot. On request the ploughing is done at cost. Lots are ploughed free for the families of soldiers. Lectures are given with a view to stimulating the interests of both children and adults.

The Vacant Lots Garden club this year has been definitely amalgamated with the horticultural society, the name of the new organization being the Edmonton Horticultural and Vacant Lots Garden Association. The vacant lot cultivation end is in the hands of a committee called the Vacant Lots Garden committee. Attractive prizes will be offered for competition. The board of trade and the Rotary club are co-operating. The city council will give office space and free telephone and a guarantee against loss to the amount of $200.00. Upwards of 2,000 lots will be cultivated. The project is financed by a membership fee of $1.00 per member. The provincial Government gives the Horticultural Society a grant of $300 and citizens have donated between four and five hundred dollars in goods and cash for prizes. No special privileges are granted to returned soldiers, excepting that special classes are made for them in the prize list. Contracts for ploughing have been made and any work of the kind will be done for lot-holders at the contract price. About 25 schools will cultivate gardens. A first, second and third prize will be awarded to the three best gardens from the standpoint of crops of economic value and general appearance.


Mr. George D. Ireland, Employment and Relief Officer, writes:

"Through the initiative of my Department we had about twenty acres of vacant lots under cultivation last year, which produced a crop of about forty tons of potatoes. and ten tons of mixed vegetables. We hope to increase our efforts greatly during 918. We will supply seed at first cost, and do ploughing at a minimum charge. We intend having a course of six lectures by experts from the Experimental Farm and the University of British Columbia. There will, I expect, be at least, eight hundred citizens interested in the project in attendance." A course of free lectures to be given in the evening on garden farming is announced by the University of British Columbia. The addresses will embrace talks on soil, garden crops fertilizers, insect pests ungous diseases, potatoes and the general principles of garden farming. The city will purchase seed potatoes and fertilizers and re-sell them at cost.

The increased production committee having charge of the vacant lot work have agreed to do the ploughing for $1.75, discing for 75 cents, harrowing for 50 cents, for lots 60 x 100 feet. Upwards of 60 acres have already been ploughed and a ploughing match for prizes of $15, $10, and $7.50 has been held on quarter-acre lots.

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October 21, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture