The real dirt: City squashes front yard veggie plot
Sylvie Oliveira with kids and a letter from the City of Toronto forbidding her vegetable garden in front of her house on city property.
A terse missive demanding that they remove all the vegetable plants
By Sonia Day
October 22, 2010
What constitutes a “natural” garden to the City of Toronto?
Grass, apparently. Just grass. Plus, perhaps a few flowers. But certainly not vegetables.
That’s what Sylvie and Vic Oliveira discovered this summer after they turned their Bloor West Village front yard into a vegetable garden.
The Oliveiras live at 26 Deforest Rd., on the corner of Runnymede Ave. It’s a big renovated house, which virtually fills their backyard. So last spring, they thought it would be fun for the family (they have four young kids) to grow some veggies and herbs in the L-shaped space that adjoins the sidewalk out front.
The kids were enthusiastic. The Oliveiras got busy. They planted a cornucopia of crops — tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, cabbage, corn and herbs. And everything grew so well (the past long hot season was great for veggies) that their little corner-of-the-street experiment became a bit of a novelty in the neighbourhood.
“The neighbours seemed to like it,” says Sophie Oliveira. “No one complained to us. One lady even admitted snitching a ripe tomato and I told her I had absolutely no problem with that. The garden was here for all the community to enjoy.”
Their efforts looked so striking and different, I dropped by one night in August to compliment the family. That’s when I heard about The Letter. The Oliveiras had just received it from the City’s transportation services department — a terse missive demanding that they remove all the vegetable plants immediately and replace them with — you’ve guessed it — sod.