by Sophie Mihevc
It’s been another year of growth on our rooftop farm - growth of space, growth of veggies, and growth of experience! In the spring, we expanded to 1600 sq ft in cultivated space, including 4 veggie beds, two native flower patches, one sunflower patch, a 3 sisters patch, plus a medicine garden. We learned new bed-creation techniques from TMU’s rooftop farm, and experimented with lasagna gardening for our 3 sisters and sunflower patch. We layered cardboard over the green roof sedum, covered it with compost and worm castings, and then planted directly into the beds.
Our lasagna gardening experiment was a success, and we learned that there really isn't much you can’t grow on a green roof - even when you accidentally plant a 12-ft variety of sunflowers! It was so exciting to watch these sunflowers grow, and grow, and grow… They also attracted lots of amazement from building tenants and visitors - not many people expect to see such tall sunflowers growing on 6 inches of soil, 3 storeys above Dundas St!
Of course, we also have to mention our glass gem corn from our 3 sisters patch. It was truly amazing to unwrap each ear to find the dazzling display of colours, each one different from the rest. We also discovered a new use for our glass gem corn - corn mosaics! Head over to our blog on our Urban Roots Youth program for more on that.
Another highlight crop was our tomatoes - we grew 7 different beautiful heirloom varieties, that pretty much sold out every week at the Cabbagetown market! Other notable crops include garlic, peppers, eggplant, beans, pumpkins, kale, salad mix, and mini-bouquets. We had some failures too, of course - slugs got the best of our cabbage, and we learned a lot about crop spacing and soil amendments on a green roof. Each season has brought new challenges and new learning opportunities.
In total, we grew over 400 lbs of produce, or over 1200 units of produce brought to market and donation. Our rooftop produce was either sold at market, with all profit returning to our programming, or donated to Mothers of Peace, a local organization that enhances and supports the safety and well-being of the Regent Park community.
Each Tuesday, we would head out onto the roof to harvest, weigh and package, and then we biked/walked it all up to Riverdale Park to the Cabbagetown Farmer's Market. We loved connecting with our market customers, and sharing our produce that was grown only 1km away! Thank you to everyone who came out to the market to buy our rooftop-grown veggies and chat about local food and environmental education.
We can't wait to be able to share this wonderful green space with the community. We are currently working on gaining structural approval for expansion, and raising capital to install a perimeter fence, allowing for visitors. Our vision for this space is a vibrant urban farm that provides fresh food, environmental engagement, and green space enjoyment, while supporting Green Thumbs’ mission of cultivating environmental stewardship for children and youth in our community.