Riverdale Meadow Community Garden

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How gardens connect people, communities, neighbourhoods, and more

Easter Monday, 9 April 2007
Making a contribution

Neighbours from a local apartment building, having no other earth-friendly location for managing kitchen scraps and related biodegradable materials, have been bringing their compostables to Riverdale Meadow Community Garden for years.

While Norah and Firmo, among other neighbourhood compost contributors, don't garden with us, we're proud of the connections beyond food production that are possible here on the school's grounds.
photo by Kyla Dixon-Muir

 

Garden Benefits: for City Adult Learning Centre - on whose property this garden resides - for other local schools, and for the Toronto District School Board


> Displaying to passers-by (students, neighbourhood, tourists) Toronto’s greening and local-foods and food-security initiatives; especially appropriate here for Ontario Native Species, given the geographical nature of the meadow, and its proximity to the Don Valley – all in keeping with the 2000 pledge by Toronto City Council to have community gardens in every ward. This garden host tours for garden leaders and groups from across southwestern Ontario, representing TDSB and CALC as a landlord positively involved with community initiatives and greening, though the school's quadmestered students do not particpate in gardening here.

> Enlivenment of publicly-used meadow (as connected to the City of Toronto's Discovery Walks system)

> Community Gardens are proven to provide security on open spaces, simply by being present as eyes and ears – especially valuable here during school holidays (summer, New Year's, holiday long-weekends, and between classroom quads)

> Exchanges with other gardens, especially informally, allows for sharing of plants and ideas, thus reducing costs for all. In the case of RMCG at CALC: Toronto Urban Studies Centre (TUSC) and Jackman Public School (among others) have received local press coverage at no charge; Frankland Community School and Jackman receive perennials; Jackman received artistically-produced presentation materials, and locally-produced texts (on both poetry and gardening), as well as instruction and setup assistance on ColdFrames, pots of potato plants, and more (see bottom of page); similar exchanges have begun with Withrow’s Spider Web Garden

> As other local schools (Earl Gray, Pape, & more) continue to develop their own community gardens, Riverdale Meadow Community Garden (RMCG) is dedicated to sharing edible perennials suited to each school's safety concerns (so, for elementary schools maybe not prickly raspberry cane...) and enrollment season (lovage, chives, strawberry plants and asparagus seed for spring, and potatoes for fall) – plants that can be harvested during the formal school year. This reduces both costs in plants, transporation, and administration for TDSB

> Opportunities exist for the teen and adult students, most of whom are from other wards, to connect with City Adult Learning Centre (CALC) through more than just the classrooms. To Wit: art students requesting access have been allowed in for photography; students interested in horticulture have received personal tours; and ongoing opportunities exist for students to get Volunteer Hours Credits (and invest themselves in care of a special part of the grounds). Volunteer Hour Credits, totalling 40 hours outside of school curriculum times, are required for all students to graduate

> Discarded CALC materials, destined for trucking to landfill, have been diverted for second uses – good for the planet, and for the school’s disposal budgets

> A trading relationship with TUSC staff has, among many other mutual benefits, beautified the school grounds alongside the greenhouse

12 April 2007
Great Exchanges: Toronto Urban Studies Centre, on the grounds of CALC
Here, some perennial flowers remaining after last spring's fundraising sales were planted
to beautify the school's property as it connects to the Discovery Walks system,
en route to the community garden.

Both the greenhouse and community garden benefit
from their casual, neighbourly connections and informal exchanges of plants, ideas, resources.

photo by Kyla Dixon-Muir

 

> As CALC falls outside the formal Danforth By The Valley BIA, RMCG, through its connections with local businesses provides casual representation of TDSB's local hosting of greening initiatives and community involvement beyond student enrolment

> RMCG also presents CALC as caring to the neighbourhood, by offering composting for local citizens who live in apartment buidings. Our composting is accomplished in line with school policies for both safe containment and rodent reduction

> RMCG’s solar-based initiatives into Season Extension Techniques draw focus to CALC’s lands, from broadly spread communities, demonstrating the viability of both sustainable growing practices and efficient land use through all four Canadian seasons. New initiatives into Solar Ovens will also demonstrate opportunities to harness the sun’s power to cook or dry foods grown at the garden without producing any emissions

> The garden’s new website (granted and hosted through Dufferin Grove Park) recognizes the groundbreaking work at RMCG that the TDSB hosts on CALC’s land, as represented to ecologists, foodies, and community organizations worldwide

> Seeds of Diversity Canada (SoDC), a national program teaching and preserving heritage and heirloom seeds, has involvement with RMCG through the Toronto Community Garden Network. RMCG follows organic practices, and uses seed-saving techniques as outlined in SoDC's How To Save Your Own Seeds handbook

> RMCG is developing Ontario Native Species gardens, medicinal and herb gardens, and its members are dedicated to a re-invigoration of the original purposes for this space, in accordance with Land Reclamation Project criteria (See this website's Donations page for more details: green menu, upper left)

> Plant A Row ~ Grow A Row, a national food-sharing program, has inspired RMCG to donate house plants and perennial edibles to crisis centres, as well as donating hundreds of pounds of fresh organic produce to these shelters' kitchens each year

> Community Gardening is in line with TDSB’s greening initiatives: (eco-involvement, waste reduction, composting,) and while CALC’s enrolment does not attend formal programs at RMCG, the students’ exposure and potential for involvement is in line with the Board’s related greening programs

> All of the above is being done without any funding, staff, or formal garden programs. The garden receives infrequent donations, mostly of recycled materials and occasionally small cash offerings (between $50 to $300; once a $500 grant); other than this all funding is accomplished by collaboration with neighbours for plant sales. Here again, the garden’s activities represent to the general public and community partners the generosity of CALC and TDSB. We are very grateful for the tap for water CALC continues to provide.

> A fair estimate of the volunteer hours of the gardeners themselves would count into the thousands each year. This not only provides food, exercise, human connections and learning opportunities, but also fosters such programs as that when Toronto East General Hospital’s diabetes program’s promised garden location was deferred. RMCG hosted their pilot program that year. As some of the garden’s members, over the years, have had challenging physical and mental health issues to face, the garden has provided something formally recognized as horticultural therapy – what we consider literal grounding. TDSB’s hosting of RMCG at CALC provides untold well-being to the gardeners and their individual communities, the local neighbourhood and other city-related initiatives, at probably less cost to the Board or school than any other such garden.

> Volunteer Hours for students enrolled at CALC could easily tally in the hundreds each year. Either on a drop-in, or by-appointment basis on lunch hours, or after school on weekdays -- whenever the garden’s coordinators are present, or at our formally organized twice-monthly evening-and-weekend Work Bees (see our Membership Information / Work Bees page via the green menu, upper left) to participate with the broader membership and community volunteers, CALC students have the opportunity to engage with a diverse community and with the land itself, focussed on sustainability issues, greening and food production practices, and innovations into eco-sensitive developments. Gardening, broadly speaking connects to all aspects of formal learning, be it maths, sciences, (local) history, arts, or nutrition as well as connecting people intimately to the soil, the flora and fauna. We welcome support from CALC in more formally advising the students of this opportunity to contact the garden coordinators to make arrangements; no administration other than posting a flyer or making a public-address announcement would be required to benefit the garden, the students, and the image of CALC and the TDSB.

 

 

Fall2006
Making Wire Cage Covers for ColdFraming

At Jackman Public School: stitching plastic to wire cages to create the simplest of ColdFrames for growing leafy greens through the winter.

The leaf-strewn then snowy ground around the ColdFrames will never look as enticing as Jackman's hallway mural - the back drop here - but it gives us all hope for the coming warmer seasons, both for growing so many more local foods and for connecting with all the bounties of nature.

photo by Zora Ignatovic

 

Fall2006
Wire Cage Covers amid the Harvest Festival pumpkins

Jackman
Public School
Learning Garden:
Wire Cage Covers, the simplest of ColdFrames, shelter seeds just planted in October for growing leafy greens right through the winter.

Strawberry plants donated by Riverdale Meadow Community Garden are the green patch, centre background.

Jackman received Kyla Dixon-Muir's text Growing to Eat through all four seasons (Cloches, ColdFrames, Hot Beds, Raised Rows, and more) as a gift, to continue developing more Season Extension Techniques.

photo by Zora Ignatovic

 

12 April 2007
Wire Cage Covers
opened to display unseasonal bounty

Jackman Public School's Learning Garden:

This is just one of many innovative and imaginative gardens on the school's property.

Foreground: Wire Cage Covers, are opened to show growth that took place through the winter in these, the simplest of ColdFrames.

Background: School children frolic in the playground after classes, growing themselves, enjoying the outdoors in lighter clothing.

Jackman School boasts the city's first retrofit Green Roof, another innovative practice involving and teaching the schools children and the neighbourhood about greening initiatives and Ontario Native Species plants.

Gardens tie into the classroom curriculums in all the ways listed in the points above, as benefits to schools, communities, neighbourhoods.

photo by Kyla Dixon-Muir

 

12 April 2007
Berries and ColdFrames

At Jackman Public School's Learning Garden, Spring 2007:

Exchanges between gardens benefit the whole community. Here, bountifully successful strawberry plants received from Riverdale Meadow Community Garden will bear fruit before the school year is over.

See this website's Donations page (click on the green menu upper left) for photos of children enjoying strawberries last summer.

Without any formal programs or official meetings neighbours with common interests chat by email, telephone, on city sidewalks while doing errands, and through casual introductions to other like-minded contacts city-wide, creating a web of contacts that benefit all.

Truly, this is community, in all senses of the word.

photo by Kyla Dixon-Muir

 

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Content last modified on February 21, 2009, at 04:35 PM EST