Tuesday, 28 June 2016

New Eyes on a New Season at Thistletown CI Garden

Barren beds and emerging garlic in April
The start of this season at Thistletown was definitely a chilly one. As the new garden manager of this incredible space, I spent the first couple weeks of April getting a sense of the garden, and writing garden plans while waiting out the snow (remember that wild snowfall back in April?!). It's hard for me to believe that barren garden is the same one that is now, towards the end of June, burgeoning with life and colour!

Growing garlic and staked tomatoes in early June!
The second half of April was spent preparing the garden beds, doing first plantings and beginning to meet the welcoming staff and students at TCI. On sunny and milder days, community members began to stop by, either to welcome me to the garden, tell me about their connection to it, or simply have a garden chat.

By the beginning of May, the garden was beginning to take shape and I had made my first plantings of a variety of mustard greens, leaf lettuce and spinach. There were some solitary days but I soon began to get help from a dedicated community volunteer, as well as a number of TCI students who were taking an interest in getting their community hours in the garden. I was also seeing more and more of Chef Keith Hoare and the Culinary Program's staff and students, who were coming out to the garden in search of early spring perennials like chives, garden sorrel and lovage.

Oh-so-beautiful asparagus!

Garden beds, now prepped with compost

Being new to the garden, I was frequently discovering plants that were making themselves known as the spring progressed. I began to feel more and more excited about what this garden has to offer and appreciative of all the work that has gone into the Thistletown Garden in years' past. The number of perennials at this garden is amazing! -- including the great variety of fruit trees and berry bushes that were recently added to the space.

Apple blossoms
Perennials near the TCI 'riverbed'

"Three Sisters" sign, newly painted
Throughout May, I began to host classes in the garden, for work periods, and workshops including Carbon Cycles for grade 9 Science, Creative Writing in the Garden for grade 10 English, and Sign Painting with grade 9 Visual Arts. Mr. Simnor's grade 9 Science class began to make a weekly appearance in the garden to help with a variety of activities like planting tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, amending garden beds with compost, and of course... weeding! Thanks team!

Growing lettuce and rapini
I was soon making near-daily deliveries of salad and mustard greens to the TCI kitchen, and planning my first donation to the Rexdale Alliance Church foodbank. With the support of Dan, friend of the garden and faculty at the Humber College School of Construction Technology, we will have a bicycle trailer in order to make regular donations to Braeburn Neighbourhood Centre, another garden alley and foodbank in the community.

It been great to see the close connection with the Culinary Program continue throughout the spring. TCI Culinary Arts students participated in Toronto's Mac and Cheese Festival this year, using fresh chives from the garden in their award-winning dish.

The garden has really begun to flourish and show more and more beauty throughout June. We've been having great harvests of  tatsoi, mizuna and tokyo bekana (Asian greens), lettuce greens, southern giant mustard, rapini, radish, kale, chard, spinach, and strawberries, strawberries and more strawberries! On Friday, June 17th, we held our first market stand at the garden. It was amazing to share our work in the garden so far, and make some money which will go towards a new market tent -- helping to keep our produce even fresher on hot summer days!
Oooo check out that shiny spinach! 

The Southern Giant Mustard is spicy and delicious!

The cabbages are growing... watch out

First strawberry harvest!!! With awesome strawberry sign

It's been three months already but it feels like there's so much more to come! Our summer students with the Focus on Youth Toronto (FOYT) program will be starting the first week of July, our weekly market stands are ramping up as harvests increase, and we are starting our 'market bucks' program so community members can get produce in exchange for volunteering in the garden or bringing their home food waste to our compost system. With the garden now established and growing, there's (I hope?!?) time to think about more garden projects like establishing our permanent herb garden, continuing to expand and improve the compost system, and maintaining and strengthening connections to the local community. Here's to summer at Thistletown CI Garden!  

Garden Markets will run from the third Friday in June until the first Friday in October from 12 - 4pm (20 Fordwich Crescent)
*with exceptions of the following weeks, when it will be held on Thursday:
Thursday, June 30
Thursday, July 21
Thursday, August 25

The captivating borage flower :)

1 comment:

  1. it seems like the garden has all the basic vegetables:) thanks for sharing the beautiful field pictures. i am also planning to plant some garlic and tomatoes in my little garden. Will share my experiences soon.:)