A year at the Sunshine Garden

2018 was an exciting transitional year for the Sunshine Garden. After 16 years of operation with a part time manager, we welcomed Natalie Boustead as full-time garden manager. Here’s what happened:

A new greenhouse

Years in the works, this spring we were finally able to launch our state-of-the-art, custom designed greenhouse! Equipped with a heating system, this greenhouse can be used for year round programming, extending our programming opportunities for clients by 20%. The greenhouse was used for seedling starting, plant propagation, vermicomposting, and also hosting workshops for CAMH Clients and staff throughout the year. This greenhouse also goes towards supporting Parkdale Green Thumbs, a streetscape landscaping company that employs former CAMH employees.

Seedlings grow in a greenhouse

Market stand upkeep

This year we retired the old market stand banner sign and had a new one made! We also created some new chalkboard signs to display our offerings each week. This year, we ran weekly markets on site at CAMH from end of May to end of October with the help of 3-6 clients/week, and also ran two plant and seedling sales, raising $1642 in total this year.

This year’s harvest

As a result of having a full-time garden manager on site, we were able to increase our organic food production, planting three rounds of produce instead of the usual one, for a total of 400LB of produce harvested this year! Additionally, after consulting with CAMH client volunteers, it became clear that many wanted more fruit production on site. With the support of Toronto’s Tree-for-Me initiative, we were able to plant 4 new serviceberry trees onsite, and purchased an additional 4 elderberry bushes, 3 blueberry bushes, 2 haskap berry bushes and 35 strawberry plugs. These are now in addition to our existing gooseberry, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry bushes and plants already in production.

Beautifying the garden

We also improved the look of the garden, creating new retaining walls on our sloped garden beds, adjusting and straightening beds and rows, installing educational signage, adding wood chip mulch to define the paths, and giving the garden an overall sense of looking cared for and loved! We also added more flowers to the garden, especially in underused/neglected spaces. Many staff and clients commented on these upgrades more than any other addition to the garden this year.

Increasing pollinator friendly and native species

This year saw the addition of two new native pollinator and/or medicinal garden beds in the garden. Yarrow, Mullen, Echinacea, Foxglove, Primrose, Lavender, Milkweed and many other species are a welcome addition to the garden. Their presence have increased our sightings of pollinators such as monarchs, making for more great learning opportunities and deeper connection to the natural world.

New compost system and cafeteria partnership

This year saw the installation of a new 6-bin compost system, and with it, a partnership between the garden and the on-site cafeteria, who were only too happy to offer up their kitchen scraps for our compost system. This partnership not only increase our ability to produce compost tenfold, but also connects the kitchen staff (many of them former clients) to the garden, who will routinely now bring out the bags of compost directly to us in the garden, and have shown pride and appreciation for being involved in this new aspect of the garden. FoodShare also shot a short educational composting video this year onsite with “Red” the red wiggler!

Community Partnerships

Workman Arts: One major goal of this year was to increase the potential of the garden space beyond just gardening. This year, we reached out to Workman Arts, the arts partner of CAMH, to see if any artists were interested in using the garden for their programming. Throughout the months of July and August, a small dedicated group of painters came to the garden each week to sketch, paint and enjoy the surroundings. We look forward to partnering with other CAMH programming in the future to engage as many community members as possible and encourage them to enjoy what the garden has to offer!

Toronto Flower Market: For the past several years, CAMH has hosted the very successful Toronto Flower Market. Organizers and vendors of the Toronto Flower Market have always wanted give back to CAMH in some meaningful way. Sunshine Garden Manager Natalie reached out to see if anyone from the flower market would be interested in creating a new cut flower garden in the newly created green space around the greenhouse. This fall, using their flower expertise, volunteers donated money and time to source and plant over 600 bulbs and will return in the spring to help plant a variety of cut flowers from seed, as well as lead free monthly workshops for clients and staff on flower arrangement and flower care.

We can’t wait to share what we’ve got planned for 2019 with you!