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Landscaping Work in Full Bloom

September 29, 2015, 12:54pm

Quebecers always seem to keep busy in summer, and the same is true for the Outremont Site where the University of Montréal is building the future Science and Engineering Complex. Over the past few months, various community projects were organized to connect citizens with the 239,000 m2 site, as we await the official inauguration of the Complex.

The Outremont Site is not just for academics. The University wants to create a space that will serve the interests of the university population as well as the residents of neighbouring areas. With this goal in mind, Alexandre Beaudoin, a biologist and biodiversity advisor at UdeM, piloted a few community projects this summer on the Outremont Site. In fact, a portion of the site was reserved for temporary seasonal initiatives—like gardening and beekeeping—and related community education activities.

Sweet fields of nectar for hungry bees

How do you feed two hives of bees? By growing a field full of nectar- and pollen-rich plants. In addition to producing honey all summer long, the bees and other insects that live on the site helped pollinate the gardens on the UdeM site and throughout the entire neighbourhood.

Community gardens

Volunteers made the most of a 302 m2 garden to grow a wide range of organic produce using the soil and water available on site. The gardens will also be used for educational workshops all the way through to the end of October.

Plants to attract butterflies—and scientists

Asclepia L., more commonly known as milkweed, was planted to attract and feed Monarch butterflies. This species is endangered due to the increasing rarity of its food source. Introducing this plant helped contribute to the Monarch butterfly’s survival in our region and it also allowed people to observe some pretty neat—and rare—specimens. Interestingly, these plants produce a lipophilic and hydrophobic fibre that can be used to absorb accidental oil spills or to fill winter jackets and sleeping bags. Researchers are very interested in the applications of this natural fibre.

Tree nursery

As part of the Semences d’avenir pour le mont Royal, a project run jointly with Amis de la montagne, elementary school students were invited to collect seeds and care for plantlets. Young plants are then placed in nurseries to grow. About 20% of the temporary gardens at the Outremont Site are covered with a plant canopy and serve as nurseries for nearly 10,000 trees and shrubs that will eventually be transplanted in public spaces or around institutions.

Very local organic lettuce and gardening workshops

Some areas were used to grow sprouts and leafy greens using the spin farming technique. With quick crop rotations (permaculture), this technique makes effective use of soil and is valued for its environmental benefits. Thousands of heads of lettuce were harvested every week and sold to local markets and restaurants, encouraging very local food production.  Community members also had the chance to attend green gardening and composting workshops all summer long.

Given the success of this summer’s community projects, the University of Montréal is already planning to bring some of them back to the Outremont Site for the next few years. New initiatives will also be added to support our unchanging goal: to serve our neighbouring communities and bring them together on this very exciting site that promises to benefit us all.

Special thanks to the partners who made this summer’s community projects possible: Soverdi, Vrac Environnement, Héritage Laurentien, Miel Montréal and Coopérative Bioma.

Photo caption: On the Outremont Site, lettuce plants and bees muffle the noise from busy trucks.

Photo credit: Amélie Philibert

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