News  Campus Crops forced to start from square one

Reservoir flood destroys years of work

McGill’s urban gardening initiative Campus Crops is forced to go back to the drawing board after the McTavish reservoir flood on January 28. The group had been working on the garden located behind the McGill School of Environment (MSE) since 2007. A container garden managed by the group is located in the courtyard behind the James building.

The flood badly damaged the James Administration, Wong, and Birks building. The administration reported on Wednesday that the Wong Buildings and the basement of Birks are still closed due to damage, leading to class re-allocations.

As a result of water from the reservoir flooding the group’s main garden behind the MSE, considerable damage has been incurred.

According to the group’s website, the water flow carried bricks from a path connecting campus to University. The bricks were swept in to the garden along with rocks and other materials.

Campus Crops said that it had success with their garden this past year and that they had been working to improve their soil.

“The area had poor quality soil, lots of clay,” explained Carl Dion Laplante, a member of Campus Crops. “Over the years we have been improving the soil; we add compost twice a year, for example. When we closed in November, we added a lot of mulch. We have supplied the soil with a lot of organic matter.”

The damage from the flood, however, destroyed much of these efforts, washing away the group’s work put in to nourishing the topsoil.
“A lot of time and money was lost in one night,” Laplante explained.

The prospects of Campus Crops opening the garden for summer 2013 are uncertain. In the past, the group normally start working on their garden in the spring.

“Normally we have another garden behind the James building, but we were told there is going to be construction on Dr. Penfield this summer and the dust and cement from the construction complicates things. We are not left with very much growing space. ”
The group had been working on removing a patch of Japanese knotweed – an invasive species – which has been growing adjacent to their plot for many years.

The flood washed away a tarp covering the patch of knotweed, and Laplante fears that the invasive plant may now spread to the garden, according to the group’s website.

The group is still in the process of organizing discussions on how to move forward.

“We need to discuss what we can do this summer. We usually have time to develop the soil but because of the flood, our long-term amendments can’t be put through,” said Laplante. “We might have to take the summer to restore the soil. We might try a temporary container garden, but there are bureaucratic obstacles to this that delay the process. Ultimately we still need to discuss with horticulturalists, McGill ground services, and the MSE director to see what our options are.”