Today’s headline is the punchline to the joke: Why will Toronto gardeners never go hungry?
The gas-main excavations in many Toronto neighbourhoods have been revealing. What they’ve revealed on our east-end, upper-upper-upper-upper-upper Beach street is sand, lots of deep, inert, yellow sand.
This was the beach of prehistoric Lake Iroquois, making our street, which runs east and west at the top of the hill, former waterfront property.
Real estate prices were probably a lot lower 10,000 years ago.
When I took these shots, the excavator was curious. You wanna take a picture of a hole? When I explained my gardening interest, he said, Oh, yeah. It’s sand all over this area. But it makes it easier to dig. For him, maybe. We won’t mention the other thing I whinge about, but its initials are Norway maples.
I call sand “inert” above because, though it is mineral, it is very low in usable plant nutrients. Full of tiny hunks of rock, it’s almost a sterile medium, with nothing much for plants to eat. Plus, the large grains leave big gaps between them, supporting sieve-like drainage.
Some sandy areas of the city are luckier than others. They enjoy a sandy loam, which contains more organic matter and, therefore, more food for your flowers. Our area is sand on top of sand.
This is why we who garden on sand must be ever-vigilant about feeding the soil. I don’t mean feeding it liquid snacks of fertilizer, which is like drinking pop; a quick spike and then gone. With this underneath, you can see how quickly the watery stuff will drain away.
Clay areas in the city have the opposite problem: clay soil is high in nutrients, but has poor drainage.
If you’re curious about what lies beneath your garden, you can download a Toronto soil map from this link. Some of the data was collected when the subway lines were constructed. It’s illuminating.
However, it might make you hungry for a sandwich.