Sowing the seeds of friendship at the Thorncliffe Park Garden Club

Former Garden Club president Mohammad Azeem (centre) and vice-president Mohammed Alam (to his right, now current president) and other garden members cook up a storm at last year’s annual potluck.
Former Garden Club president Mohammad Azeem (centre) and vice-president Mohammed Alam (to his right, now current president) and other garden members cook up a storm at last year’s annual potluck.

After a chilly start to spring, the time has come for all the ‘green thumbs’ at the Thorncliffe Park Garden Club to get their hands dirty.

The club holds the distinction of being the first community garden in the city. There are about 129 plots located under the hydro line corridor on both sides of Beth Nealson Dr. north of the Swiss Chalet on Overlea Blvd.

Club members relish the start of a new growing season and the renewed contact with other club members.

One of the long-term club members is Ian Kinross. “I got my start at the club about 15 years ago,” he says. “I had been inspired by a book by John Jeavons about growing healthy food in tiny spaces.”

He also appreciates the way club members help each other. “The best thing about community gardening is learning from your new gardening friends,” he says.

“When I first got my 12 x 20-ft. plot, my garden neighbour Andy would drop by with tips about timing and spacing of some of the go-to vegetables like beans, tomatoes and onions.

“My garden neighbours were generous with their knowledge, and we also exchange produce throughout the growing season. The annual summer potluck is an amazing event where many cultures and delicacies intersect.

“This year I will grow leeks, onions, peas, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, kale, gooseberries, red currants as well as some nice perennial flowers to add beauty to the garden — peony for example. There are many gardening opportunities in the city. You can get on the waiting list at a community garden like I did.”

Debi Rudolph, secretary of the club, cautions that currently there is a three to five-year wait for garden plots, since very few become available year to year.

Thorncliffe Park Garden Club member.
Thorncliffe Park Garden Club member.

It’s no wonder these plots are so desirable. There are important differences between the Thorncliffe Park Garden Club and other, city-run garden allotments.

“The TPGC is a community garden with an elected executive and a nominal annual membership fee where members are required to actively participate in the management and maintenance of the gardens,” the club secretary says.

The management of public garden allotments is very different. “City allotment gardens are managed and maintained by the City of Toronto and members are not required to participate in the running of the gardens. Plus the fee is more than triple the cost of ours,” she adds. “Our gardens are open to members 365 days of the year, unlike the City allotments, which open in May and close in October.”

A garden plot.
A garden plot.

The basic concept using small parcels of rented land in rural and urban locations to grow fruits and vegetables for personal use dates back centuries, but the Thorncliffe Park club has some additional benefits.

Thorncliffe Park is considered an “arrival city” for people from all over the world, and their ideas and diversity are shared through the community garden.

As long-time member Ian Kinross says, “It always feels good to pay it forward and share the harvest.”

Editor’s note: Ian Kinross writes a blog called “Your Garden Grows” at Kinrosscordless.

About Ken Mallett 34 Articles
Ken Mallett has spent his entire working career of 30 + years as a newspaper reporter and television news writer/producer. He worked for ten years as a foreign correspondent in London England for the Sydney (Australia) Morning herald and Toronto Star before moving into television news as a writer/producer for the CBC and later Director of News and Current Affairs for Global Television. He is a regular contributor to Leaside Life.