Thursday, 4 July 2013

School's Out at Elmbank and West Humber

It's hard to believe that June is already over, the month flew by so quickly, and the gardens at Elmbank and West Humber have completely transformed, each in their own special ways.

Every time I walk through the beds at West Humber new things have happened, seemingly overnight!- cabbage heads are forming, the vines of the bean plants have started climbing up the fences, a few beautiful red strawberries are waiting to be picked and eaten, milkweed has bloomed and attracted little butterflies, and of course, the weeds and grass keep returning with a vengeance. Apparently we also have a resident garden snake.

An afternoon strawberry break at WestHumber

We have continued mulching the pathways at West Humber but there is always weeding to be done in the beds as well, although I recently learned that callaloo, which looks like a weed but is actually a variety of amaranth (in Ontario at least, but sometimes the word callaloo refers more generally to a Caribbean dish made from any number of different leafy greens) can be harvested. Another edible weed that grows in the garden, and which I've now learned to recognize in my garden at home, is lamb's quarters or pigweed. I've gotten into the habit of mindlessly munching on the soft little shoots while weeding.

But we have also been doing some more substantial harvesting at West Humber, and I am particularly thrilled that the pea plants are now covered in peas! We had a first little harvest of shelling peas and sugarsnap peas this past week and I look forward to many more.

At Elmbank, this was sadly our last week of gardening with students and teachers during class time and recess because school is now over for the year. Students from kindergarten to grade eight, and their extremely helpful teachers, braved the unbelievable heat to help us water, tend to the more fragile plants, shovel mulch, and weed their beds. I have been so overwhelmed with surprise and joy at the curiosity, energy, and enthusiasm of these little gardeners. A group of grade eight students also helped us dig a large bed for Elmbank's (soon to be) pollinator garden. The Elmbank garden is quickly changing and coming together, we now have most of the fence up around the garden perimeter, and we cannot wait for students and teachers to return in September! Happy summer vacation everyone.

Beds being planted and one of the new "entrances" to the garden at Elmbank 
Digging the pollinator bed

Not everyone is on vacation though- this week we met our two summer students, who will be working with us through the Focus on Youth Toronto program over the next six weeks! Nawin has just completed grade 12 at Emery Collegiate Institute and Nautica has just completed grade 10 at West Humber Collegiate Institute.

Welcome to the garden Nawin and Nautica!

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