What Is the Most Valuable Part of Being a Garden Steward?

What is the most valuable part of being a volunteer Garden Steward? We posed this question to the dedicated volunteers that care for our Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens located outside of five TTC subway stations. For 10 years these green spaces have added a little bit of nature to the lives of local residents and commuters. None of this would have been possible without this passionate community of volunteers steadily working behind the scenes!


Our Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens turned 10 years old this year! To celebrate this milestone we compiled responses from our volunteer Garden Stewards through an anonymous feedback survey. Here, we share their experiences along with a series of photographs of the gardens captured this summer by our talented volunteer photographer, Kanchan Maharaj. We hope that these photos and our volunteers’ words inspire you to enhance the urban forest in your own community!


“The benefits of urban forests are many, and well-documented. I come away from caring for our forested environment feeling invigorated and renewed.”


“Working together with the rest of our dedicated group [garden team] gives me great pleasure.”


“I feel proud and triumphant that we can create a small patch of native garden paradise in the midst of a concrete jungle.”


“[Our] garden gets a lot of pedestrian traffic so we often get opportunities to engage the public about the garden. They are always grateful for our efforts to beautify this small patch of land.”


“As the city grows and density increases, green spaces are more crucial than ever to the physical and mental health of urban dwellers. A robust tree canopy and native gardens make a positive impact on the quality of life of Torontonians.”


“My favourite part is engaging with the public and sharing knowledge about native plants, pollinators and the importance of nurturing the soil and our connection to nature. However, I would say that seeing the garden evolve over time and how other members of the team connect to the garden and its plants is also a favourite aspect.”


“[There are] so many benefits to the urban forest but I've got to admit it's the aesthetic that inspires me. Just look at our garden before and after pictures - these gardens make a huge contribution to neighbourhood beautification.”


“The fact that being in the presence of trees and plants and nature in general is good for our health and well-being, something that is particularly important in an increasingly urbanized society, inspires me. By protecting and enhancing the urban forest, we help repair the disconnection between humanity and nature, build community resilience and help address climate change by enhancing local carbon sinks.”

“I feel more connected to the earth and to the wider community when I'm gardening. It has a calming effect that's especially therapeutic in these uncertain times. I am also discovering the longer I do this that when you devote the right amount of attention and care on restoring a piece of earth, it responds in surprising but enlivening ways! It is a relationship of reciprocity.”


“I feel like in some small part I am contributing to a better world.”


To see more photos of our gardens, view our entire photo series

Would you like to help maintain our gardens? Learn more about becoming a LEAF volunteer


Brian Millward is the Stewardship Coordinator at LEAF.


The LEAF Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens are supported by Ontario Power Generation and the Toronto Transit Commission.