Running a Sustainable and Educational Garden

Running a Sustainable and Educational Garden

A Community Garden is a city-approved area run by the neighbouring community as a group. Gardening has slowly become a popular recreational activity in Toronto, with more people having a growing understanding of its importance due to its environmental and social benefits. Furthermore, the educational opportunity visiting a garden provides is valuable especially to younger children, who can benefit from an engaging, hands-on learning environment.

The Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee (TPWC), helped establish the Thorncliffe Family Garden located at R.V Burgess Park in the year 2011. The purpose of the garden was to provide an opportunity to people in the Thorncliffe Park community, which consists mostly of newcomers and immigrants, to grow plants in their local community. Throughout the following years, TPWC has been able to grow and expand the garden allowing for greater involvement from the community.

Every year since 2011, the Thorncliffe Family Garden has hosted educational programs for elementary and kindergarten classes as part of their learning, as well as a drop-in program every Tuesday during the summer vacation which is led by the Garden Coordinators. Tours during the programs cover what plants are being grown and their significance. TPWC utilizes some of the plots to grow organic fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, raspberries, peppers, corn and much more, all of which is used in the Park Cafe in food preparation. Some of the produce is also shared with the participants of the programs. Aside from food plants, a portion of the Family Garden is dedicated to the Thorncliffe Pollinator Garden, wherein native plants to Ontario, such as Blazing Stars, Blacked-Eyed Susans, Coneflowers and much more are grown. The purpose of the Pollinator Garden is to provide a suitable habitat for pollinators, helping to support the local ecosystem and food web through reproduction of important plants.

In addition to the tours, each session delves into environmental issues as well as establishes the importance of nature to humanity through discussions and interactive activities.

This past summer, topics and activities included:

  • Biodiversity – drawing relationships between animals and plants in the garden
  • Invasive Species – how they reproduce and why removal is important, finger painting
  • Pollution – different kinds of pollution, what we can do about it and clean-up of garden
  • Nutrient Cycles – how plants are important to various nutrient cycles (carbon, nitrogen) and what nutrients they need to grow, basic care for gardening

These sessions enable children to become more conscientious of their surroundings and understand nature better which enriches a new generation of ecologically-aware individuals.
Ultimately, a garden contributes to a community in various ways. An outdoor classroom, a home to pollinators and a place for growing food sustainably is an invaluable resource, one that continues to bring the Thorncliffe Community members together.