PACT URBAN PEACE PROGRAM, TORONTO

Garden students

Summer in our Elmbank School Garden

by Kaila Clarke-Mendes
Elmbank Garden Manager

Hi all! Wow, this summer just flew by. I’m Kaila, the full-time garden manager at Elmbank Junior Middle Academy. I want to come right out and say I am an amateur gardener, this year will be my first full grow season. I’ve learned A LOT in the last four months from Elmbank co-manager Clara, and Liane from TCI, as well as all others from the Grow-to-Learn program.

Kaila at Elmbank

Kaila, Elmbank garden manager at the garden market

Clara Liane

Liane and Clara (Thistletown garden)

When I first walked into Elmbank garden in May, I was overwhelmed by the size (though Elmbank is smallest garden within the program) of the garden, and the idea that I had to weed all 29 beds in preparation for summer. But, with Clara’s guidance and support, as well as the help of some keen students at Elmbank, we got through it.

Figuring out the garden set up for the grow season was a bit of a puzzle for me at the beginning, but lucky I had the set up from the previous year to assist in effectively rotating the crops. I had many the suggestion from the junior students on what to plant (mainly watermelon), though they took great interest in the cherry tree and apple tree. Unfortunately, though, as all six of our fruit tree are very young, there wasn’t much fruit and the fruit that did ripen got eaten by birds before we got to them (much to my students’ disappointment). That didn’t stop their continued interest in running into the garden, wide eyed and ready to dig up worms. They loved to gaze at caterpillars which ate my dill, fascinated by the idea that they would turn into butterflies.

Elmbank garden

Elmbank students in the garden

Though markets here at Elmbank do not draw in the crowds like TCI and Polanyi, we have our regulars who come every week for our tomatoes, kale, beets, carrots, among so much more. The garden harvest weight is quickly approaching 400lbs as of last week. While all of it doesn’t get sold, the local food bank is always happy to see me walk in with fresh veggies from the garden. It’s very rewarding to see such big smiles from the community when they see me come to donate.

Read more about what’s growing in our organic, school gardens on the PACT Grow-to-Learn blog >>

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