Can You Dig It

Urban Secret Gardens explores spaces, ideas, tips and inspirations.

Our resident Allotment Garden Guru

Marija Main - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Leslie St. Community Gardens is comprised of 200 individual plots and the gardeners who tend them range from novice beginners to seasoned experts. As soon as I started working my plot, I became aware that we were blessed with our very own allotment "Guru Gardener" - Michael Bradt. He has gardened at the allotments for 20+ years and has learned every trick, tip and recommendation regarding organic allotment gardening.

Just the other day at the gardens, a group of about 10 gardeners standing around the watering tap discussing whether it's the right time to dig up our garlic. As everyone was not sure, we all unanimously agreed that no one should start pulling garlic out of the ground until we consult with Michael. Everyone agreed that "Michael knows" and with that acknowledgement, we all went back to our plots. 

Last week, I ran into Michael and asked him about whether it's okay to go ahead and dig up my garlic - he agreed that now is good but also proceeded to teach me about the meticulous craft of removing miniature garlic cloves from a garlic flower to encourage the seed production. I was enthralled with his technique, using dull tiny sewing scissors to extract the little cloves.

Michael is an expert tomato grower whose tomatoes are the envy of all of the Leslie St. gardeners. He harvest seeds and starts his plants indoors. Many of his favourite varieties have been passed on to him by fellow gardeners up to 20 years ago. It is wonderful to talk tomatoes with Michael - I never realized how interesting, nostalgic and inspiring a good tomato lineage story can be!

Equally impressive is Michael's love for flowers. He grows a combination of perennials, annuals and edibles. 
I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from Michael, and have enjoyed swapping seeds and sampling many amazing veggies from the garden. Last week my husband and I grilled one of his awesome zucchini's and made a salad from his first crop of beans. I have to admit that I'm secretly waiting to sample one of his heirloom tomatoes that should be ready in a couple of weeks!

If you are perplexed with a garden dilemma, feel free to send me your question via: or click on "comments" below this post and I will run your question by our Allotment Garden Guru :)

In the meantime, I invite you to tour Michael's amazing allotment garden featured on our website:


Welcome to Urban Secret Garden's Blog "Can You Dig It"

Marija Main - Thursday, June 09, 2016

My name is Marija Bacic Main (pronounced Maria) welcoming you to Urban Secret Gardens' blog. The objective is simple: to share stories, information and tips about urban gardens. However, my personal goal is to get you hooked on gardening, experience its pleasure, gratification and help you overcome the frustrations that plague every urban gardener.        

The fact that I am the only "devoted" gardener in our family hasn't stopped me from engaging my two teenage daughters and husband in helping me with various gardening chores at home or at our allotment plot at the Leslie Street Community Garden in Toronto.

Over the years, a genuine interest in growing flowers and edibles has emerged amongst our family. Every winter, my daughters become more inquisitive about what I plan on planting in the upcoming season. Jackie attacks a weeding session with great determination, Fiona ensures the garden looks visually pleasing and my husband fenced my entire plot at the end of last season.

While at our garden last June, a photographer from The Star came by and asked to take photos of our family working our plot. Fiona's photo was chosen as one of the lead photos for an article by Mark Cullen about Urban Gardening:

I was pleased about being part of an article that promoted urban gardening and proud that Fiona and my salmon poppies were featured. The article captures why I love gardening in a community setting:

"The exchange of cultural information as it relates to the plants that you are growing is just as important as the exchange of greetings early in the morning. We connect with each other on a very special level when we share our interests with like minded individuals".

This time last year, as we were preparing our girls to head to camp for a month, Jackie surprised me with her request to go to the allotment garden the night before she was to leave for camp. Jackie wanted to see the "before and after" changes that were going to happen while she was away. Though it was already getting dark, we rushed to our plot to take note of how our tomatoes, beans and dahlias were coming along. I was thrilled that Jackie made a personal connection with gardening as she chose to spend time at the garden over hanging out with her friends or watching Netflix the night before leaving for camp.

This is the ultimate goal of Urban Secret Gardens and of this blog – to inspire urban dwellers to make a connection with gardening and feel compelled to dig in and plant a garden!