Putting the “Community” in Community Garden
As part of our look towards the next 25 years at Thyme & Again, we wanted to give back to the community that has given so much to us! Our belief that there is no better unifier than fresh, local food made the creation of a community garden the perfect gift!
With the seeds of inspiration planted, Sheila and Clayton moved to grow the idea to fruition, soon discovering the first step in building a community garden requires just what the name would suggest – a community! Specifically a group of dedicated and passionate individuals who were ready to nurture the project to success. Enter the whole Thyme & Again team who committed to this project to ensure that the garden was properly cared for throughout the season. The building of the garden itself, spearheaded by Clayton, included building the garden boxes out of local Lanark oak and filling the beds with organic soil. The garden boxes themselves boasted irrigation systems that allowed them to be self-watering. When it came down to deciding what to plant, Thyme & Again crewmember Rachel, with her background in horticultural studies, was able to provide some expertise. Opting to go with seedlings rather than seeds, and focusing on crops that could be harvested throughout the summer’s entirety were top priority for the first seasonal trial. These crops included kale, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and nasturtiums as well as a selection of herbs including basil, thyme, lemongrass and rosemary.
Over the remainder of the summer, certain plants grew better than others. The superstar was definitely the kale, producing beautifully right up until the end of the season. Rachel summed up the spirit of the garden saying it was “a really nice project for all the staff to take part in over the summer” and for her a great “transitional activity” as she prepared for school. Once the crops began to ripen locals were out in abundance to check out what the garden had to offer, harvesting what was ripe and inquiring how to create their own community gardens at home. Several neighbors were even repeat users, stopping by every couple days to stock up on cucumbers or tomatoes.
The rest of the garden’s crops were harvested for Parkdale Food Centre, as part of a multiphase commitment to support the PFC in their ongoing efforts to collaborate with local initiatives that provide sustainable and healthy food. The first phase included the donation of a community fridge, a program where hungry neighbors are encouraged to access food in a welcoming setting. Karen Secord, manager at Parkdale Food Centre, was quick to point out the superlatives of instituting a community garden program. “I like the proactive approach. By encouraging other organizations to get involved, we empower each other and can all share and participate in further fostering the spirit of community giving”. Sheila emphasized that the garden not only be about sharing between neighbors but used to further inspire other local businesses to take on similar initiatives because “wouldn’t it be amazing if you had gardens all over the city helping to support our neighbors?’
With the rousing success of this year’s crop we are already looking forward to next season. What’s on the list for next year? Expanding the garden to include even more products, including trellises for beans, edible flowers and microgreens as well as increased signage to encourage even more local foragers to get involved!