Flower farmer's business blooms using other people's yards

Business is blooming for flower farmer Sarah Nixon, thanks to her innovative way of acquiring growing plots in downtown Toronto. Nixon uses other people's yards to grown and harvest her flowers.

Running out of space in her own yard didn't stop Sarah Nixon's flower farming

Sarah Nixon is an urban flower farmer who grows her crops in other people's yards (Kristin Sjaarda)

Business is blooming for flower farmer Sarah Nixon, thanks to her innovative way of acquiring plots to grow her colourful crops in downtown Toronto.

For more than a decade Nixon has been harvesting and selling more than 100 varieties of flowers in and around the city.

When she started her business, Nixon grew the flowers in her own yard, selling them at local farmers markets.

But demand for her flowers took off and Nixon was quickly in need of what may be Toronto's most precious resource: space.

Toronto flower farmer Sarah Nixon will plant a garden at no cost to the homeowner, then harvest the flowers when they're ready to sell. (Kristin Sjaarda)

"I wanted to grow flowers on a larger scale, while at the same time living in downtown Toronto," Nixon said.

Her solution was to use other people's yards. She asked around, advertised on Craigslist, and found volunteers.

It's not hard to see why. Nixon shows up with bulbs, seeds and tubers, starts the garden and keeps it going throughout the season. All you have to do is supply the water.

"It's a win win," Nixon said. "They get to have a flower garden without doing any work or investing any money and I get the growing space I need."

Nixon says her gardens stand out and get plenty of compliments. Most of her partners ask that she plant in their front yards.

When it comes time to harvest flowers to sell, Nixon says the gardens still look great because she plants so many varieties and there's always something blooming.

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"Often I'll harvest what's ready to be picked and later that day another flower will be blooming."

Nixon has weekly subscribers who buy her flowers. She also sells to florists and designs wedding arrangements.

"There's a lot of demand for the unique types of flowers I grow. People are becoming more aware of supporting local agriculture, not just with food but flowers, as well."

And Nixon is, once again, looking for more space. If you have a piece of your yard you'd like converted into one of her flower gardens–and you live in Parkdale, Roncesvalles or South Etobicoke–you can contact Sarah Nixon here.