Monday, 28 August 2017

Reflections at Thistletown

Our Focus on Youth summer students working hard
to weed the strawberry bed.
We're coming to the end of August now and there's more talk about back-to-school and things in the garden are more focused on the end of the season. The past couple of weeks there has been more monarchs fluttering around and the produce available has been changing - we really won't be planting much more than greens and maybe some radish now at this point. Our final crop of carrots and beets were planted at the end of the July with an anticipated harvest beginning in mid September. Tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, string beans and sweet peppers are all happily producing lots of delicious veggies now and contributing to the 1500+ pounds of produce that have come out of the garden so far. Still, there are some new things that we're expecting before the garden season ends: apples, potatoes, corn, leek, turnips, squash, rapini, kohlrabi, red meat/rainbow radish, and okra. My timing could have been a bit better as these will only be coming in September - oh well, something to remember for next year! Other things, like our peas, strawberries, currants, and cabbage are all done for the season now. Although, our cabbage will be coming out again in the form of delicious sauerkraut! I still haven't managed to successfully grow spinach this year and am hopeful that I will have some before the end of the year.

Our first cabbage harvest!


One of the bigger projects we worked on this summer: creating an area to act as our perennial herb garden.

Beautiful colours at our market table!
Hard to believe that at this point, the focus in the garden really has switched from actively planting and managing for harvest to planning for the end of the year. In the past couple of weeks, the cabbage beds were weeded, compost added, and now we have a cover crop of buckwheat and clover growing there with the intention that they will help fix the nutrients in the soil for next year's crops. As crops come to the end of their life in the garden, the next task will be preparing everything for the winter - weeding, laying down compost, cover crops where needed and if time allows, and mulching the beds with straw to protect them through the winter. This is also when we will begin working our compost piles - we're moving our compost bins (slightly) and will be flipping the compost piles and removing the nutrient-dense soil that has formed throughout the season and adding this to our veggie beds.

I also find this to be a good time for reflection - what worked, what did not, what did I do right, and what could I do better/differently are just some of the questions I start asking myself. This is all made easier because it's so quiet now that our summer students are gone! I can't express how grateful I am for all of their help and everything they taught me throughout their six weeks in the garden. One the side of things we did right: we have had a lot more people participating in our community compost exchange, where community member exchange their food scraps in exchange for market bucks to use at our Friday markets. And on the side of where we can improve: We've got to grow more carrots next year and plant our okra sooner!

On that note, the below are reflections on the season from three of our four Focus on Youth students:


Yared working hard to weed 
After working for more than 4 weeks, the TCI Garden has been an outstanding experience! I really like how there are certain unique vegetables, even I am not familiar with, until now. Examples include, Arugula, Mustard Green, etc. I also like certain tasks in the garden, mostly stuff like weeding, specifically in the shade, painting signs, changing the main sign for market days, and staying in the market, in general. There are also types of fruits I enjoy at the garden. Mostly it's the strawberries, but due to spring being over, I already miss eating the organic flavour. Although, currants are pretty cool as well, despite it's sour taste. Overall, the TCI garden has been really fun and I am going to miss working there. Thank you to the PACT TCI Garden Managers Liane & Clara, and a HUGE thank you to the FOYT for the job!  - Yared 







Sakariye showing off our first bean harvest
Working at the garden was an exciting new experience for me, especially as my first job. I learned how to weed, take care of plants, and harvest a variety of fruits and vegetables.  All while understanding the hard work and effort that farmers do to bring food to stores. Nevertheless, my first task at the garden was weeding. Although disliked by most people, weeding was pretty easy as soon as I learned how to get past the thorns and grab straight to the roots, which cause weeding to be a fast and easy job. Nonetheless, the feeling of completion always created enough content for me to continue to my next task with vigour. In regard to my working preferences, the job I always liked to do when working was selling produce during our weekly market. This was because the market provided a means for me to interact with members of our community and allowed me to see all the produce I worked hard to bear get sold. Due to this and the friendly environment I have while working, I can say, without a doubt, that the garden will continue to be a great place to work for the rest of my time. -Sakariye


This summer has been unlike any. Working at the TCI garden almost doesn’t feel like work. It’s something very special and intimate. I have always yearned to spend more time in nature. The TCI garden has fulfilled that need of mine. I always find it fascinating when I spot a beautiful butterfly or a cool beetle. Learning where the food we eat comes from and how it grows is a must know! Grocery stores have created this disconnect that does not allow us to truly connect with our food and appreciate it. Planting, maintaining, and harvesting vegetables has made me less wasteful and made me appreciate food even more. 
Our carrot harvesting expert! 
I have learned so much during my time at the garden. I learned about the very crucial process of weeding, tomato pruning, constructing a vegetable bed, marketing, crucial social skills, and much more! I learned how to better connect with people thanks to market days. During market days, I would wave at passing cars or people walking by as I was eager to start a conversation with them. Working at the garden also brought out my inner artist! I worked on a few sign posts and some signs. In my opinion, my art was somewhat beautiful. 
I am so thankful to be working at the TCI garden, with such great colleagues. I have learned so much from the garden managers and my fellow co-workers. I have shared many great conversations. I have encountered many beautiful moments. I would like to thank PACT, my co-workers, and the TDSB for making my summer such a memorable one!   - Vedarth

Some of this year's garlic. We are selling most heads at our Friday market
and the biggest/best heads of garlic will separated into their cloves
 be planted to produce more garlic heads for next year. 
These students worked so hard this summer and they have my deepest thanks for all their amazing effort to help manage the garden. I will leave things on that note for now! I have to get back to planning on how things will progress over the next few weeks as things wind down although there is one thing I am really looking forward to: planting the garlic for next year!

Next month, I will try to provide an update in photos of how the season progressed from start to finish.









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