Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Elmbank End of Year Post 2015

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What an amazing and inspiring year for PACT Grow to Learn! Across the city, all gardens underwent amazing expansion projects and saw the addition of fruit trees, bushes, native perennial pollinator plants and herbs, and added large scale infrastructure pieces. Thanks to the increased support of the TDSB sustainability office and the help of some great arborist groups, all of our gardens are looking better than ever! Here are some of the highlights this year from Elmbank JMA:

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Garden Bucks! After a spring of chaotic and fun recess sessions in the garden, gardener Natalie decided we needed a different method for facilitating the large and excited group of students eager to help out at recess, so in consultation with her fellow PACT staff, she started the "Garden Bucks" system this fall. Students who volunteer throughout the week will receive "Garden Bucks" which they can then trade in on Fridays at a miniature market. This system has worked great and gives students a real sense of pride and responsibility, and associates the fruits and vegetables in the garden as something to earn and get excited about receiving! We're looking forward to having this method be a PACT Grow to Learn standard in the coming years.

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Picnic tables! Elmbank was in sore need of some communal seating in the garden, so gardener Natalie, with the help of a band of rad girls, put together 2 picnic benches from scratch this spring. 2016 will see the addition of an overhead shade structurer, but for now, these benches made a huge difference in what programming could be facilitated at the garden this year.
Fruit trees and bushes! Elmbank received 6 fruit trees and 16 fruit bushes of various types, and students and teachers alike were able to try some rare fruits for the first time! Currants, Elderberries, Gooseberries, Haskap berries and more were such a delight, and our everbearing strawberry and raspberries are still being enjoyed even in late fall!

Seed Saving & Garden Shut down! Elmbank students enthusiastically helped save over 15 different types of seeds for next year, from calendula flowers to radish seeds to sugar snap peas, kids of all ages and abilities really loved discovering how plants preserve their own seeds and how we harvest seeds for winter and for the coming year. Our students also learned about how to prepare the garden for winter, helping to add compost and mulch to help the garden go to "sleep" for wintertime in order to make sure we have great soil for the spring! 

Sadly, it's Gardener Natalie's last year with PACT grow to learn, after 5 great years, she'll be moving on to a new city, Guelph. Natalie has had an amazing run with PACT Grow to Learn and is excited to pass on the opportunity to other talented and passionate urban farmers that abound in Toronto these days.

Thanks for a great 5 years PACT Grow to Learn! xoxo


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