It all started for “Brian” in May 2015 when he was returning from his swim and met Ashrafi and Bruce in CRC’s Regent Park Community Gardens.
He was curious what the gardens were all about and when Ashrafi told him we were growing vegetables with the community so people could eat healthier and that we needed gardening volunteers, Brian was hooked. He began helping out by weeding, a task he quite enjoys.
But Brian wanted to offer more. Being semi-retired after working as an accountant, retailer, art publisher, travel agent, author, and gardener, Brian also had a lot of gardening expertise to offer.
He soon noticed that the vegetable and herbs were really struggling due to poor soil quality, high in carbon from wood chips and low in nitrogen, which is essential for strong plant growth. With the spreading of leaf compost and worm farm casts the soil quality improved.
He also made sure there was regular watering. Brian was able – through a lot of persistence – to help get the City to finally connect a water line to the 40 Oak Street community garden. This made keeping the plants and roots moist that much easier.
Last November, Brian taught other volunteers how to make compost using fall leaves they collected along with horse manure he picked up from the Toronto Police horse stables at the CNE. This May the compost was spread on all the gardens along with donated alfalfa pellets (high in essential nitrogen) and the worm farm compost produced by 40 Oaks residents over the winter.
As Brian is quick to point out, “Compost increases moisture retention through a mulching effect and dramatically increased the worm population which helped irrigate and aerate soil. It also provides many essential nutrients to produce strong plants.”
The CRC kitchen also pitched in with vegetable peelings, which when mixed with leaves, and horse manure produces fantastic compost very fast.
Brian has found that the explosive array of vegetable growth this summer has been most gratifying. And he is pleased that already produce from the gardens is being used by the CRC kitchen to provide tasty lunches to participants who come for a nutritious meal.
When Brian reflects on his time at CRC, he remarks that, “It has been gratifying teaching other volunteers from varying ethnicities how to compost, plant, water, tend, and the ultimate pleasure and satisfaction of harvesting. It makes me feel useful!”
“Volunteering at CRC has given me the opportunity to use my gardening knowledge and experience to the benefit of the mosaic of the Regent Park community and to meet interesting people from other cultures I would otherwise have never met. This is very satisfying stuff and recharges my batteries!”
By Ashrafi Ahmed, Community Gardens Coordinator