Urban Food Forest and Water Harvesting Park

About the Project

Services: planning and design, construction, horticulture, water harvesting, timber framing, masonry

When OnGrowing Works bought the office space at 125 River Avenue in 2001, it was deep in Cochrane’s industrial area and surrounded by asphalt with very few green spaces. Skip ahead to 2002, and the team was already hard at work transforming their office’s outdoor space into a sustainable urban food forest and water harvesting park. Why did OnGrowing Works want to create a green space in an industrial area? There were three main goals behind the project:

  1. Restore part of the industrial area back to its natural environment.
  2. Increase employee enjoyment, engagement and office productivity.
  3. Create a real-life urban food forest and water harvesting project that the OnGrowing Works team could showcase to clients.

What is an urban food forest?

Urban food forests are a growing sustainability trend where people incorporate low maintenance outdoor designs and natural food sources, like vegetables, fruit, herbs, etc., in urban areas. They allow people to harvest their own food and decrease reliance on traditional supermarkets.

OnGrowing Works office and garden

Water harvesting techniques and prairie hardy plants were incorporated in the park.


After living with their space for a few years, OnGrowing Works created a plan to develop a low maintenance green oasis in a busy industrial area that modelled their commitment to water conservation, soil development and food production, all while reducing seasonal maintenance demands. Following the development of a thorough landscape plan, the team started by removing all heavy clay soils from the yard. To decrease waste, the clay was used on other projects, and the organic material was composted for future use. Next, they excavated the future permeable pathways to a depth of three feet and back filled them with 8 – 12″ round river rock; this was the beginning of a sock away pit for permeable pavers. All of the future growing beds were also excavated to a depth of two feet, and a blend of loam and compost was added to prepare for the plants. 

Once this initial work was done, OnGrowing Works incorporated active and passive water harvesting and conservation techniques. Active water collection was designed to occur through the office roof, eaves troughs, pipes and storage tanks to capture rainwater and hold it for future use. Water is also collected passively – once it hits the ground, water is stored in underground crates and also settles through the permeable paving stone where it recharges soil moisture levels.

With water harvesting in place, the team incorporated high nutrient soils to act as a base for the garden and food forest. The soil draws moisture from the water collected under the paving stones, and combined with xeriscaping and xerogardening (landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water irrigation), OnGrowing Works doesn’t need to worry about watering their outdoor space.

Finally, the team crafted a timber frame gazebo for people to sit and enjoy the park, while also demonstrating OnGrowing Works’ exceptional craftskills. Using fir timbers, they built a horseshoe-shaped bench with an intricate roof system crafted out of spirit arbor. The benches were strategically positioned so people can sit facing the north and look at the beautiful space. The plants included in the space are all native selections that are found locally and proven to survive Alberta’s chinook weather. They also use minimal water compared to non-native plants. In addition, native food species were added to create the food forest. Today you can find saskatoon berries, sour cherries, prairie hardy cherries, strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries growing in the space for the OnGrowing Works team and their clients to enjoy.

OnGrowing Works office and garden

OnGrowing Works’ outdoor space is a sustainable oasis in an industrial area.

The Result

If you visit OnGrowing Works’ office, their beautiful outdoor oasis will be the first thing you notice. In an industrial area where there is minimal green space, OnGrowing Works created a sustainable park for all to enjoy that showcases their outstanding craftship, commitment to sustainability and love for fresh, naturally-sourced food. Want to take a tour of our food forest and park? Contact us now.

Let's Go!

Ready to begin your project? Contact us now to get started.

Let's Go!

Ready to begin your project? Contact us now to get started.

OnGrowing Works Ltd.

125 River Avenue
Cochrane, AB T4C 2C2

: (403) 932 3766

: (403) 932 5338

: info@ongrowing.com

Monday - Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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