During our stay in Montreal, we’ve had a couple of opportunities to chat with the folks at Alternatives, a highly-admirable organization that is coordinating much of the rooftop gardening in the city. Alternatives is unique because its another one of those international solidarity organizations – with projects promoting justice and equality in 35 countries around the globe – but instead of exporting green technology to the Global South from Canada, they are exchanging ideas with international partners, and bringing urban agriculture techniques used in Cuba, Senegal, Mexico and Morocco to the crammed city scape of Montreal.
They specialize in soil-less growing, using simple hydroponics in containers made from recycled materials. The rooftop gardens which utilize this method of container growing, use a lot less water than conventional gardens. The Rooftop Garden Project‘s methods “combine hydroponics with organic gardening and permaculture principles to create simple to use and affordable gardens which rely solely on human energy”.
The garden which we volunteered at is on the grounds of McGill University, and the vegetables harvested there go straight into the meals of Santropol Roulant, another community organization that we know and love. Alternatives and Santropol Roulant have teamed up on several gardens, including one at the Design School of UQAM and another at a senior citizens’ home.
Alternatives’ Rooftop Garden Program is like an informal extension service for rooftop growers. They support residential growers to take advantage of their space – with innovative designs like planters for the city’s famous spiral staircases. Alternatives recently had a Balconies in Bloom contest, and supports all sorts of street-side gardens with workshops and outreach.
efficiency at work on Montreal’s famous sprial staircases
self-watering planter at McGill
planter from recycled materials at McGill