Every gardener I know, started this growing season with a lot more hope than last year but with the same questions in mind. Will we have access to supplies? Could we get another heatwave and drought? Did I learn enough from last year to do better this year?
As I write this report, I can’t help but think back to early spring when I first saw the inspirational forsythia planter at entrance of St. Cuthbert’s Church. It contained a large message of HOPE along with a little yellow watering can. I now wonder, was there a deeper message in that lovely display?
St. Cuthbert’s Community Garden
The St. Cuthbert’s Community Garden gets bigger and better every year and so this year, they created an expansive pollinator garden on the south-west corner. With help from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Scotts Canada and the efforts of Donna Lang of Faith & the Common Good, they were able to purchase seeds, plants and manure to create a fresh fertile base for their new pollinator friendly plants.
Kathi Davies is one of the many volunteer gardeners there and this is what she had to say about the growing season of 2021.
“Slow spring equaled slow growth, but once the weather turned, everything took off. In 2020, we had tomato blight and did some research. This year, we staked them well (the stakes were donated from local Leasiders) and pruned them significantly so that no leaves touched the ground. This allowed for more air flow and in spite of the heat, we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes. But the relentless heat and drought have been significant issues. Many days were just too hot to work so all we could do was harvest for the Flemingdon food bank and WATER, WATER, WATER! Even our cisterns had to be refilled from the hose due to the lack of rain.
Our success was due to both what we learned last year and to the many helping hands. Community and parish participants of all ages and abilities contributed to establish and maintain our vital gardens. This was a true community effort! – Kathi Davies
71 Thorncliffe Park Drive Community Garden
As the lead gardener of the Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers, Michelle Delaney had her hands full last spring when she set out to create a new community garden at 71 Thorncliffe Park Drive. Starting at the very beginning of the pandemic, during a lockdown and with supply shortages, they somehow managed to produce over 1,000 pounds of quality vegetables for the Thorncliffe Park community.
I’ve been following their progress on Facebook ever since and was blown away by the abundance of their harvest this year. Here is what Michelle had to say about their success.
“It’s truly a collective effort maintaining the gardens. We water regularly, try to win the war on weeds and fertilize often. But I think our success was mostly due to our gardeners becoming more knowledgeable this year. We learned some important lessons and grew with that understanding in mind. For example, last year our corn didn’t grow well and was full of bugs, so this year we made mounds at the base of the plant and fertilized more often. As a result, our corn harvest has been much better.
Our biggest challenge was keeping up with weeds and watering which used up a lot of our time. But my best advice is to take care of the soil because healthy soil equals healthy plants!” – Michelle Delaney
Tim Davies backyard harvest
Last year, Tim made the cover of Leaside Life with his amazing backyard harvest and for good reason – it was spectacular! Could he repeat that success this year?
“The weather was similar to last year with crazy heat and drought but this year, it seemed like my plants just didn’t want to grow. Many of my peppers and tomatoes were like dwarf plants. Zucchini and summer squash were doing great until the heat arrived which quickly killed them. Other crops were hit and miss producing early and then just shutting down. It was very disappointing in terms of how little I could harvest.
Last year, when I was furloughed, I spent every day in the garden. But this year (now back at work) there was only time to water and pick with very little time left for treatment like pruning and natural fertilizing. There’s so much work that goes into a garden and so little time with so much love and WATER needed. But I’m grateful to Mother Nature for providing what she does!” – Tim Davies
The challenges and disappointments that Tim expressed were echoed by so many of our local backyard and balcony gardeners this year. And that includes my own report.
Like Tim, I had less time to devote to my gardens this year and so I focused on growing only the most essential herbs for my culinary needs, some strawberries and my cherished French filet bush beans. That should have been easy and doable for me –or so I thought. Unfortunately, most of my herbs were stunted in growth with yellowing leaves, my strawberries were unproductive and my bush beans got rust fungus.
But it wasn’t all bad news. Some of my herbs began to fill out and green up in August and I did manage to enjoy at least a few fantastic strawberries. So I’m truly thankful for what I did manage to grow.
In conclusion, this was another difficult growing season and for a variety of reasons, though it seems mostly due to the extreme heat and drought. But it seems clear to me that by learning from the past (and each other) success is more possible when we can give Hope a helping hand.