Sunday, 12 July 2015

June Here and Gone

June Here and Gone

Thank you so much everyone for all of your support throughout June! We are immensely proud of the many outstanding successes we’ve experienced this month!  We could never have achieved so much without your tremendous efforts.

We’ve now completed our efforts installing a fruit orchard at the TCI schoolyard garden, with permaculture guild plantings of a wide range of fruits including apples, pears, plums, cherries, mulberries, black raspberries, red raspberries, blackberries, red currants, black currants, strawberries, Saskatoon berries, gooseberries, haskap berries, and elder berries.  

Permaculture Guild Planting with Cherry Tree with blackberry, wormwood, horseradish, chive, chamomile, dandelion, borage

Plantings this spring and over the past several years rewarded us with a bountiful harvest of berries, unbeatable in flavour, throughout the month of June.  Check out photos below of some of the great harvests!
Red currants



The warmer weather of June has also ushered in increased yields of fresh, healthy, organically grown vegetables from the garden and boosted distributions to local food banks and to the TCI culinary arts program.  Peas, asparagus, radish, lettuce, kale, collards, onions, chard, and herbs filled out the deliveries donated this month.  We’re looking forward to rich harvests of carrots, beets, cabbages, garlic, and turnips to expand our deliveries in July.  Be sure to visit our blog again soon for more updates about what’s in season at TCI!

Asparagus perfect for snacks!

One of three new asparagus crowns added this month to our little patch.

Radish, kale, cilantro, chives
Lettuce salad mix

Cabbages companion planted with chamomile for improved flavour and chives, dill, and cilantro for pest deterrent qualities
Cabbage companion planted with beans for increased nitrogen availability and lettuce for space efficiency/weed suppression

Summer temperatures were also followed by a determined effort by a team of dedicated student and community volunteers to install a diverse group of crops in the newly established garden beds.  We’re very excited to have now concluded the major expansion at the TCI garden space, roughly doubling our growing space compared to years past, extending the garden perimeter to incorporate the entire space between the school parking area and the sidewalk on Fordwich Avenue.  As always we continued in our efforts to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from certified organic seed, as well as many heirloom cultivars unavailable in all but select local farmer’s markets.  New plantings this month included a variety of eggplants, chile peppers, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squashes, and corn, chosen explicitly for their familiarity to the multi-cultural community in which we are rooted. 

Companion planting tomato, pepper, basil, and leek
Companion planting winter squash, corn, and beans
We participated in the first annual Jour Vert this June 11th as well. Facilitated by the Rexdale Community Garden Network (RCGN), this one-day event aims to achieve no less than turning all of Rexdale into a garden!  Envisioned as a play on the event Nuit Blanche - the day focused on planting activities all across Rexdale, and included sites such as local schools, private businesses, service agencies, libraries and a local police station.  Volunteers and supporters at the TCI schoolyard garden engaged passersby’s in impromptu gardening sessions, achieving further progress converting unused green space at TCI into beautiful and bountiful flower and vegetable beds.  Many thanks to the RCGN for all the resources, support, and encouragement in making this event such a fantastic success!

Super volunteers!!! 


We have also been busy throughout June establishing and tweaking our new outdoor classroom in order to improve the functionality of the garden space. We’ve now created a teaching and learning circle within the garden using donated tree stumps for seating, an oasis ideal for quiet reflection, appreciation of the inherent abundance and beauty of the garden, rest and relaxation, and group discussions and meetings.  This secret new refuge, tucked into the coolness and deep shade of an established planting of mature trees, has also captured the attention of the entire neighborhood, and now serves as the focal point for connections and collaborations between the school and local community.  

We have lots of exciting new projects planned for July!!! Check back in early July to read our blog post detailing our progress! Here’s a sampling of some of the activities we will be working on…

We will be working with several summer youth programs hosted at TCI throughout July to continue improving the outdoor classroom by adding in additional seating and incorporating a raised garden bed herb spiral as the foundation of the space. 

We are also going to be working on addressing the considerable drainage issues we experienced during the heavy rainy periods of June by establishing a rain garden.  Unfortunately flooding events presented some significant challenges throughout the month, causing the loss of many crops. 

So much rain!
So much water!

The rain garden at the TCI schoolyard garden will not only prevent flooding problems, but will also clean water naturally, using native plants such as blue vervain, Joe Pye weed, boneset, and swamp milkweed as a biological filter system.  Rain gardens are innovative systems that collect urban runoff and filter pollutants so cleaner water flows into our drinking water.  The rain garden at TCI will help support improved local water quality and environmentally sensitive urban storm water management, and serve as a teaching resource to discuss issues related to stormwater pollution and sewer system overflow discharges.

The TCI schoolyard garden will also be carrying out a fundraising campaign to support green transportation solutions by hosting an onsite farmer’s market stall every Friday afternoon from 12 noon until 4pm throughout July and August.  Everyone is invited to come out to the garden market stall to purchase some of the incredible fruits and vegetables produced in the garden.  Our goal is to further improve the environmental footprint of the garden project and strengthen our position as local environmentalist leaders by switching from a fossil fuel consuming automobile to a pedal-powered bicycle and trailer for distributing our produce.  Your purchases at our farm market stand will help us fund the purchase of a bike and bike trailer, and help us spread the word about green, healthy, alternative transportation system possibilities for our community!

If you haven’t had a chance yet, but would like to get involved, make volunteering in July your goal! All are welcome to visit and/or help out in the garden.  Volunteering with PACT Grow to Learn provides a great opportunity to be part of a team of dedicated and passionate people. Youth are encouraged to earn community service hours by helping out in the garden throughout the summer holidays in July and August. Support a great cause, have fun, meet new people, and gain new skills and knowledge! The Thistletown Collegiate schoolyard garden program operates for drop-in volunteering every weekday. No prior experience needed!  Contact Ben, Project Coordinator, PACT Grow to Learn Schoolyard Garden Program, at We’d love to hear from you!

We love our volunteers and supporters!!! Each year, we take on teacher candidate students from the University of Toronto Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) to help them complete their community placement hours and the final component of the Bachelor of Education training. The TCI schoolyard garden community was lucky to benefit from the assistance of one enthusiastic and inspired teacher candidate this year. As always, we invite OISE students to contribute to our blog by sharing their experiences and perspectives about their time at Thistletown Collegiate.  OISE student Pam shares her reflections on her time this June at TCI schoolyard garden below.

As a student teacher I need to learn from teaching and, in turn, teach from learning. The TCI garden offered me a networking/professional area opportunity to discuss my views, perceptions and educational resources with teacher mentors and other professionals. The horticulture initiatives such as planting fruit trees, vegetables and herbs using eco-sustainability practices such as composting, water buckets, and farmscaping represents an excellent medium to educate and engage the community –students, teachers, and locals.
The garden makes academic concepts such as business, scientific, and geological relevant to everyday life. Academic literacy whether mathematic, scientific or historical requires a student to understand and internalize academic concepts in order to relate to the external environment.
As you walk through the garden you experience the landscape and its vegetation. The educational site creates a resource and opportunity for novel teachers to design relevant curriculum activities that enable students to make connections with the environment and their academic subject. 
The garden transforms the school and its curriculum to facilitate border crossing for students and their families. For example, students enrolled in the culinary courses at the high school use the produce, herbs and fruits to hone their skills by preparing breakfast and lunch dishes for students and staff. Veteran TCI teachers use the garden to promote a collaborative and inquiry based learning for their students by presenting multiple discourses (eco-sustainability practices, academic concepts), artifacts (i.e. produce, equipment) and learning activities. 
As a student teacher I am working towards creating more equitable and differentially instructions for students. The community garden represents a practical hands-on approach for students to attain unforgettable knowledge that transforms the classroom and the school. The eco-sustainable garden is a high quality education medium for developing societal responsible individuals committed to economic prosperity and sustainability. Good citizenship endeavours requires practices and situations incorporating academic concepts to achieve a humanity endeavour. For me, the garden stakeholders created a teacher learning community that served as a channel for supporting my professional growth and transformation.

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