The spring gardening season is upon us with even more speed than it usually arrives, because regardless of what winter does, that’s the way time works: every year accelerates. So it is time that the Ville’s annual “embellissement” campaign (“embellishment,” or rather “beautification”) is coming again to many boroughs in just a few weekends.

Pepper plant from the garden giveaway
A pepper plant I received from the garden giveaway as a seedling, once it matured and produced two peppers!

This annual event gives residents of Montreal a number of floral, vegetable, and herb seedlings for their gardens and balconies. Past entrants have been impatiens and begonias, echinacea (cone flowers), sage, rosemary, basil, and mint, and peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Always included: as much compost and wood chips as you want to take. Bring your own bags, baskets, buckets, and a wagon to cart it all away! Oh, and don’t forget your ID. You have to prove residency in the borough in which the plants are being given.

When? Well, you’ll have to check the website and consult the calendar or the page for your borough, or other community listings, to find out when the “distribution” of plants is (that’s the search word to look for), but it typically happens on the long weekend in May, and for some, the weekend after that, and lastly, the first weekend in June.

I know it seems late for gettting them in the ground (last-frost date seems to be happening in April, if you’re in the city), but frankly, it takes time for the seedlings to grow up and “harden off” (acclimate to the outdoors) before they can be distributed for public planting. Though outdoor plants that are well-established are now as lush as can be, the seedlings I’ve planted are hardly ready for planting; the ones the Ville distributes have been started in greenhouses.

Read on to find out more about Montreal’s giveaways and garden resources:

In the past (and not always!) it’s been the case, but you may also be able to pick up compost at other times of the year if you can go to the Eco-Centre where they produce it (for example, Complexe environnemental de St. Michel) —but only on select days, or by appointment only. It’s really at the discretion of the Ville. Call 311 to find out more.

For those who are anxious to start planting already—or at any time of year—the city now has seed libraries called “Grainothèques.” You may have one in your borough, but if you have a library card, you can certainly come to these two locations in le Sud-Ouest:

  • Grainothèque Petite-Bourgogne Bibliothèque Réjean-Ducharme (formerly Georges-Vanier), at 2450 rue Workman.
  • Grainothèque Pointe-Saint-Charles Bibliothèque Saint-Charles, 2333 rue Mullins. 
These are the clever “Plant info” cards that the Sud Ouest created to advertise the Grainothèques. I think I’ll participate, in that I have several years of milkweed and other wildflower seeds to contribute.

In the early, early spring (around February), the Jardin Botanique (Botanic Garden) at Espace pour la vie (a complex of various science museums: the Biodôme, the Biosphère, the Insectarium, the Planétarium, and the aforementioned Jardin) holds an event they call Seedy Weekend, where nurseries and gardening organizations come and sell seeds of all different varieties—just in time for you to start them indoors.

And then, in late May (chances are the same weekend the borough distributes plants!), the Botanic Garden hosts the Great Gardening Weekend, with exhibitors and plants for sale, and programming for gardening how-to and inspiration.

Here are some how-to articles (written by those folks, not me) that’ll help you:

Montreal is a very garden-friendly city, and the Ville’s Horticulture department has always taken pride in making our street plantings beautiful, especially after they installed the pedestrian-friendly traffic bulges. Please enjoy and take advantage of what we have to offer here, because it’s not the quite the same anywhere else.

BCLH’s Rewilding service is available during the April – June migration and planting season.

If you’re considering turning your driveway into a green driveway, converting a portion of your yard and garden to no-mow or low-mow or native plants, or you’d like to take practical action to save the birds, contact me.

This blog post first published in May 2016, and I’ve updated it many times since then.