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Got a green thumb? Edmonton’s offering vacant lots for urban gardening

Volunteers in an urban garden in Moncton, NB.
Volunteers in an urban garden in Moncton, NB. Shelley Steeves/Global News

As a late March snowfall blankets much of Alberta, you would be forgiven for forgetting it is actually spring and time to plan for the summer growing season.

However, the City of Edmonton is looking ahead to warmer days and is launching a pilot project, offering up municipal land for gardeners to grow flowers and food.

This is part of a seven-month vacant lot cultivation pilot project to test out the vacant lot cultivation licence between April 1 and Oct. 31.

READ MORE: Edmonton city council gives green thumbs up to more urban agriculture

There are hundreds of pieces of land around the city up for grabs, which until now had mainly been used to ensure access to utilities.

The map below shows the sites: Green means it’s available, blue means it’s already been claimed.

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The sites are offered in “as is” condition. The city said participants may either import clean soil or test and remediate existing soil as needed, at your own cost. The city said it cannot guarantee the quality or condition of the soil and strongly recommends the use of raised gardening beds.

READ MORE: Urban farming a growing trend in Edmonton

Participants must use their own own materials, including raised beds, soil and water, and assume all costs. The city has free planters that gardeners can borrow on a first-come, first-served basis.

Urban gardeners are free to grow flowers or food plants for non-profit use, and for personal, household or community benefit.

The lots range in size from 45 to 400 square metres averaging around 200 square metres — the same size of land Canadians will be able to use for their own mini marijuana farms, cleverly illustrated using a hockey rink for scale.

However, cannabis is not allowed to be grown on the city of Edmonton lots, even after legalization. The city said growers also cannot sell produce from the lots, raise livestock like hens and bees, or do any permanent landscaping.

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READ MORE: Edmonton Urban Hen enthusiasts can now apply for licences

Growers will also be responsible for cleanup and removal of all materials at the end of the season, which ends Oct. 22.

The city can’t yet guarantee the project will continue in 2019. If it does, growers who respectfully complied with the terms and conditions of the licence this year will have the first opportunity to renew their licence next year.

READ MORE: Urban garden in Edmonton to help with youth mental health

The city said the gardening is a temporary activity, as the public utility lots are required for other uses and there’s no guarantee the same site will be available in future years, or that the pilot will continue. The land could also be sold or developed in the future.

The cost to participate is $100, and those applying can pick up to three preferred lots they want to garden on. Details on how to apply can be found on the city of Edmonton’s website.