Archive for the ‘programs’ Category

Call for Division! Native Plant Divisions for our Biodiversity Corner

This fall, Green Thumbs is setting roots in Regent Park. In October, we will run our BiodiverCity Program in a new greenhouse and a new green space. With the help of Grade 6 students, we want to improve the biodiversity in the park by creating the Biodiversity Corner. We also need your help to transform the turf into a native plant garden. If you have native plants in your garden and feel like sharing, bring us some of your divisions! We are looking for seven specific species:

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

monardaWild Bergamot has violet flowers, dented leaves, and square stems.

New England Aster (Symphyotricum novae-angliae)

AsterNew England Aster has small bright purple petals, skinny pointy leaves, and a dark stem.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

butterfly weed Butterfly Milkweed has multiple bright orange flowers, hairy large leaves, and a long hairy stem.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

echinacea Purple Coneflower has big pink petals, large pointy leaves, and sturdy stems.

Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)

mountain mint Virginia Mountain Mint has small light purple flowers, long narrow leaves, and wiry green square stems.

Black –eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)


Black-eyed Susan has yellow petals, large coarse leaves, and sturdy stems.

Orange Daylily (Hemerocalis fulva)

daylily Orange Daylily has six orange petals, long narrow leaves, and a long stem.

If you have divisions of any of these species to donate, please label them, and bring them to Winchester School-Community Garden at the corner of Winchester St. and Rose Ave., Cabbagetown, or contact us at programs (at) kidsgrowing.ca. Please do not donate other varieties without contacting us first!

Thank you very much for your generosity and your contribution to our Biodiversity Corner!


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Reflecting on yield, by Chimu Titi, Urban Roots Youth Program Leader

Gardeners think a lot about yield, what is it?  Quantity?  The quality? What we learned? What we shared?  As summer retreats and fall approaches we recall what went right and what went pear shaped.  We have numbers.  Over 20 lbs of fresh organic produce harvested per week and enjoyed in Urban Roots Culinary programs as well as sold at the Green Thumbs Growing Kids table by youth volunteers.  This does not include the produce harvested daily by community members.  We sold over 70 lbs of fresh organic produce at the weekly Regent Park Farmers Market.  Produce was also harvested by families during our Family Drop Ins.


But wait, there is more!!  Yes, our gardens were fruitful, we sowed, watered, tended and harvested.  Who are we?  The youth in our Urban Roots Youth Program began with, as we often find, the gregarious with the quiet, the boisterous with the contemplative and we grew together.  One of our youth never spoke. He was always present never speaking but could always be relied upon to dig in and get to work.  Our goal in the garden was never to push him to speak more and be loud as some of us naturally are.  Rather, appreciating that his consistent participation spoke volumes.  On the hottest day of the summer when his fellow youth packed it in due to the heat, he remained, silently planting rows upon rows of Lal Shak.   Later in the season community members harvested all the Lal Shak and I am certain it was enjoyed, just maybe not silently.

The garden is a space for everyone and our youth are discovering that everyone can grow in their talent in the garden.  Artists can be artists, and science-oriented youth grow in their discipline learning how to directly apply their knowledge to challenges of soil quality, nutrient cycling and water management.  Our builders use their talents to construct new beds while introducing those who have never held a drill before to the world of power tools, all in the name of building a new bed to grow organic produce with high yields.  Yield, yes, we are back to that – or we never left it  – what we learned, shared, ate, sold – all “yield”.  In a garden, the land greets the season not barren, but full of possibility.  What we put of ourselves into the land is where the yield begins.



Youth with intern, building new bed at Sprucecourt PS garden

Youth with intern, building new bed at Sprucecourt PS garden

Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and eggplants growing in the bed they built

Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and eggplants growing in the bed they built

As our growing season moves into autumn, garden needs change and allow us to reflect on what the summer yielded for each of us.  What we sowed, what we nourished, what we tended and harvested and what in turn nourished us.  The fresh air, the exercise, the social interactions and of course the delicious food.

Youth learning about hanging gardens at Rose Ave. school-community garden

Youth learning about hanging gardens at Rose Ave. school-community garden


                            Youth Culinary activity, stuffed raw peppers.

Youth Culinary activity, stuffed raw peppers.


Our stall at the Regent Park Farmers Market sold out almost every week and by the end of the season we had repeat customers coming to us for their favourite item grown by the youth actually selling it.

Some of what we had on offer this summer.

Some of what we had on offer this summer.


Young people, many of whom live in apartments and have limited space to grow have found that their ‘limitations’ in terms of space are actually opportunities.  Along the way they learned to grow and love the food that builds them.  Our Peer Mentors, having been in the program previously, help their fellow youth understand garden practices and cycles.

The cycles we observe in the garden continue in our social relationships, together learning about food, nutrition and growing while encouraging each other to offer their own knowledge, whether it is marigold flowers for wounds, or the chocolate scent of a Jerusalem artichoke flower.  The outstanding flavor of Mizuna in stir-frys.  The garden does not allow for one-way flows of information or nutrients.  We share, cycle, build and grow together. This does not stop in the garden; the youth take these lessons home, to school and to their community.

Chimu Titi, Urban Roots Youth Program Leader

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GTGG promo flyerOur new social enterprise – check out the amazing skills and knowledge now available for your home garden! visit http://www.kidsgrowing.ca/what-we-do/garden-care for more details. Email gardencare@kidsgrowing.ca to book a consultation.

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We are very pleased to announce that the funding received by us on behalf of gardens at Sprucecourt PS and Rose Ave. PS was well spent this year. Over 800 people were directly served by this grant, in meaningful ways that promote urban agriculture, healthy eating, and learning about our environment.

Rose Ave. PS

At Rose Ave. PS, a new garden bed was built that is now in process of becoming a Hugelkultur bed. A Huge Wha-a-a-t? you ask? Hugelkultur uses wood, massive amounts, in a garden bed. What happens is that the wood fibers break down into cellulose, a porous mass that holds enormous amounts of water, and releases it to plant roots as they need it, watering from below. Water conservation methods like this are going to be more and more important as climate change causes unpredictability in supply of rainwater and even municipal water systems. In the first photo below, a Grade 6 team is filling the bed with topsoil, following a layer of fresh manure on top of the logs. In the next photo you can see the logs, and the lovely decorating done with kindergarteners, with the help of the Branksome Hall Service Learning team.

Sprucecourt PS

At Sprucecourt PS, a whole Grade 7 class is engaged with the school composting project, learning all about the science and art of well-planned rot. They’ve even taken responsibility for training the younger students! And thanks to teachers David Cunningham and Liz Bristoll, students are blogging about their experiences in the garden and weaving literacy and numeracy projects into their food focus. Students also mapped and drew the garden, to support all of the classes to use the garden with a map and calendar of activities.

Throughout the summer, Green Thumbs held weekly drop-ins at both schools that nourished whole families with garden produce and recipe-sharing, and ran day camp programs in the gardens. Over four hundred people joined in the summer garden drop ins and daytime programs in the two schools. In September and October, 400 students between Kindergarten and Grade 7 visited their school gardens at Rose Ave. PS and Sprucecourt PS, and carried out harvesting, fall planting, composting and building activities. The garden programs were supervised by Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ Garden Educator Extraordinaire Kryslyn Mohan, with the able support of many volunteers. Ten secondary school youth came for a four-day service learning project and worked with teachers and students in the gardens, supervised by Green Thumbs.

Thanks to Whole Kids Foundation for this enabling grant!

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Kicking off the summer with creativity, kids at our Sprucecourt morning program are having so much fun!  This ‘plant face’ activity kept everyone alert during the tasty garden tour as they collected materials along the way.

  Being a “hands on learning”, I always enjoyed arts and crafts in school. Creating an example prior to our kids program, I loved choosing different textures and colours for my plant buddy. It reminded me a lot of my own journal and my entries that incorporate random items stuck in such as leaves or bracelets. Maybe I even had more fun than the kids especially being fascinated by the handy double sided tape.

 Not only were kids educated in plant identification for the leaves they chose, but they expressed their creativity with the arrangement of their precious plant parts and adding to it with crayons or pipe cleaners.  Everyone had fun exploring Sprucecourt garden and touching the different textures of plants.

 It’s never too late to make your own plant face, or plant buddy at home…so hop off your computer, and get creative!!!

Although it looks like I photo-bombed the picture, I really didn’t!!!

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Job Posting – Urban Gardening Program Leader, Urban Roots Youth Program
Part-time contract, March 19 to June 29: 20 hours/week; July 3-Aug. 24: 24 hours/week
Wage: Hourly $18.50, contract position.
Reports to Program Director/Volunteer Co-ordinator, Green Thumbs Growing Kids
Green Thumbs Growing Kids works with children, youth and their families to learn about, grow and prepare fresh foods, cultivated in an environmentally sustainable manner, in hands-on programs. We are excited to offer our Urban Roots Youth training and employment program for the second year. The programs take place after school from March through June and during the day in July and August. The successful candidate will have experience working with youth and a working knowledge of greenhouse and garden tasks related to food production.
Schedule: Hours of work will vary, but generally the expectation will be that the Program Leader works one eight-hour day and two six-hour days in spring, and three eight-hour days in summer.
Description of Duties:
 Manage greenhouse and garden-based programs with 12 youth aged 15-29
 Supervise and train volunteers to help run programs
 Promote the Urban Roots Youth program in the community
 Develop, test and refine curriculum relating to food systems, horticulture, urban agriculture, food justice, culturally relevant foods, and food security
 Work with partners to ensure program spaces are full
 Evaluate program with youth participants
 Evaluate and help to hire youth for summer job positions
 Supervise 4 youth during summer

Skills and qualifications:
 Must have a proven track record in supervising and engaging youth
 Must have working knowledge of composting, vermicomposting, greenhouse management, garden or farm experience
 Must have good written and verbal communication skills and a positive attitude
 Must have experience running youth programs
 Must be willing to submit to a criminal reference check for working with vulnerable persons
 Must be able to work with minimal supervision
 Knowledge of current issues in food security, food justice, urban agriculture, nutrition and environmental/sustainability education an asset
 Curriculum development experience an asset
 French language an asset
Green Thumbs Growing Kids is an equal opportunity employer and members of equity-seeking groups are especially encouraged to apply. Only candidates who are short-listed for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls please. Deadline for application: Friday, March 2, 5 pm. Send cover letter and resume to jobs (at) kidsgrowing.ca.

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seed saving of the kakai

What to do before the weather dips below zero degrees and damages the still-green tomatoes dangling from your plants?

What to do when you want to help farmers and gardeners grow beautiful heirloom pumpkins next year?

kakai pumpkin intro

Well let me tell you!

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting volunteers from ING Direct Canada  for the day. And boy, did we need them with a full-day of harvest activities at both Winchester and Sprucecourt!

ing team fantastic!

Tasha, Alycia, Jen and Dwayne were wonderful volunteers and I know the children really appreciated their company.

comparing pumpkin seeds

In the morning we brought these beautiful Kakai Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) that we procured from our pals at Chocosol to a grade 3 & 4 class at Winchester P.S.. Kakai pumpkins are a Japanese or Austrian variety (depending on who you ask) with gorgeous green and orange stripes, easy to carve skin that are perfect for children’s little hands, and hull-less dark green seeds that are coveted for pumpkin oil production and very tasty to eat!

sorting seeds and making pumpkin mush

The students got their hands dirty removing the pulp and sorting the seeds out in order to engage in the age old activity of seed saving. These seeds are going to be dried and given to Chocosol farmers and gardeners so that that they may grow these pumpkins out on a grander scale. Apparently these seeds go quite well with cocoa. Mmmmmmm.

kakai carving

It was fun to also design the carvings.

designing carving


One of the students even found a kakai pumpkin sprout growing inside!
kakai pumpkin seed sprout!

Scar face kakai pumpkin!
scar face pumpkin

At the end of the pumpkin session I got the students to estimate how many more pumpkins we could potentially grow. If you start out with 5 pumpkins, and end up with approximately, oh let’s say, 1500 seeds, how many pumpkin plants will you end up with? And if each plant produced 5 pumpkins each, how many pumpkins will you end up with in total?!!?!? I like to incorporate mathematics when I can. (GO MULTIPLICATION!)

kakai seeds & maths!

In the afternoon, the ING team and I were able to work in the Sprucecourt staff kitchen with a group of grade 1 & 2 ESL students making tomato apple chutney, using green tomatoes from the school’s garden.  We also planted some plum trees of the Prunus domestica variety, a gorgeous dark purple or yellow specimen. So fun! Even when the onions’ fumes made a bunch of us cry, we still toughened up and kept going.

cutting onions and crying about it!

How to use knives 101.

tomato apple chutney making

Prepping the tomatoes, apples, onions and garlic!

making chutney

Green tomatoes from the Sprucecourt school garden!
green tomatoes from the sprucecourt garden!

Adding onions and garlic!
adding onions & garlic to pot!

Adding brown sugar!
adding brown sugar!

Mixing some spices in!

Ready to cook down!
ready to cook!

A good day’s work I say and all around good times!
Shout out to: Tasha, Dwayne, Alycia and Jenn from ING Direct Canada; Ivan and Michael from Chocosol; and Lauren, Mable, David, Cassie, and Liz.


The children at Sprucecourt ate the chutney on crackers the next day! Yum!

And we got this lovely e-mail from one of the Sprucecourt teachers that I have to share:

Hey Sunday,

I just wanted to thank you and Xuan-Yen for the “Chutney” workshop with the kids on Wednesday at Sprucecourt.  They had a wonderful time with the experience and we got some great writing (and tasting) opportunities out it.  My students loved it and were talking about it for the next two days.  Xuan-Yen, it was wonderful working with you.  I would love copies of those pictures when you get a chance to put up on our bulletin board.  I took some more of them writing the steps and ingredients out and tasting it.  If you are interested I can send them your way. 

Also, we would be open to any other workshops before the big freeze ends the season.  If not, definitely in the spring.

All the best,

                   David Cunningham

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