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Dufferin Grove Park gardens in the time of Covid

Dufferin Grove Park Garden Club Cooperative

From Skylar Hill-Jackson: The garden club co-op has now been 'opened' by the City of Toronto. Garden volunteers clean up and prepare the vegetable, flower and herb beds, and also do weeding, planting, and watering.

The city requires some paperwork. Once you have signed up to be a member of the Dufferin Grove Park Garden Club Cooperative (in person b/c you need to sign a form), all garden sessions are 'drop-in'.

The first Garden Club session was Wed. May 27. During August, gardening is on Tuesdays 6-8pm, Wednesdays 9-11am and Fridays 9-11am. On hot days we will be working in shaded areas only.

All City of Toronto social distancing guidelines will be in place.

If you are interested in joining the Garden Club Cooperative please contact: Skylar at

Garden diary

June 22, 2020

There have been a lot of new plants planted, some plants stolen, new gardeners, not enough water (bad), lots of wood chips (good) from a branch that came down in the playground, and way too much burdock. Today, the premier said Toronto will be declared at "stage two" of the covid response, as of June 24. An email went to the Ward 9 park and recreation supervisors:

Dear Donna and Lennox,

Now that the city is in Stage 2, I hope you can get the water turned on at the south end of the park -- at the sandpit, cob sinks and hose connection, and the in-ground water outlets that will allow tree watering as is the practice at Dufferin Grove.

Three good reasons to ask the plumbers to do it now:

The stain on the wall is excrement

1. the cob courtyard shows signs of being used for people to relieve themselves while the washrooms have been closed. Now that the field house washrooms are open, that will get better. But the habits are still there and places like this (that get kids around them) need to be hosed down regularly:

2. the sandpit has more and more children playing there. Sand has not been proposed as a good viral medium, but having the water on there will still make it cleaner. (If the cob sinks are on as well, that would benefit all the picnickers who now eat their dinners at the park as the weather gets hotter, and who can then wash their hands.) 3. There are three community gardens near the cob courtyard, including an edible fruits section. They are having trouble with the dryness, as will the smaller trees, soon. They need water.

The park is lucky in having so much plumbing. I understand that getting the wading pool and the drinking fountains on will be later, or never, but the water for the three reasons above is available now, and I hope you can help make it happen in the next day or two.

Rebecca's idea for more shade at Dan's Table

"I was just talking to Michael and he suggested wooden trellis on the top, where the frame is loose. My Dad is visiting on the 11th of July. I thought it would be good to get them to do it. We can cover the cost of the trellis. In any case we can talk about what works best."

loose frame joint

the diagonal roof-trellis could go here
June 12,2020

Quite a few people are coming to help in the garden, or even just to visit. Toni came back to say hi and also to take some photos. Arie Kemp, who dug and planted flower beds all over the park from 1997 until a few years ago, came by. There were a few kids with their parents. They filled their watering cans from the rain barrel, and an older boy dug a whole lot of weeds out of the grass.

Skylar and Toni (photo: Michael Monastryrskyj)

Ari and Jutta (pnoto: MM)

Peter digging out the Fire circle, Skylar looking on

mother and daughter (photo: Toni Corrado)

little Maya inside the kale garden (photo: TC)

two young water-carriers
Trash incident

This morning the community gardeners arrived to find a blizzard of paper -- mostly old lottery tickets -- strewn along the rink house walk and in the gardens. A bench was overturned, some damage had been done to a garden -- a mess! And discouraging. But the gardeners fell to work cleaning up the mess, joined soon by a crew of 4 park staff who had been called by a staff mowing grass nearby. In half an hour the mess was just a memory and the gardeners were able to go back to planting.

Rumour has it that the mess was made by a young woman who hangs out with other park youth but is sometimes chased away by them because she likes to vandalize. She spends some of the time in a shelter. Perhaps the gardeners will get know her a bit.

June 8, 2020

the cob courtyard is good, but too much burdock

gardening with covid mask

From Rebecca: Michael and I moved some plants around and keep the little pathway. Planted day lilies and hostas and some perennial geraniums.

There is a nice clearing in the middle which would be cool to put some benches at some point, make it a little enclosed type of space. Anyway just an idea.


Fruit bushes by the cob gardens:

raspberries have set more fruit than formerly

June 4, 2020: garden co-op session

cutting back the Virginia creeper (photo: M.Monastyrskyj)

From Peter Thillaye: Arie Kemp, the old man who started some of the park gardens more than 20 years ago (when he was already over 70) is still alive, to my amazement, walking around the gardens with a cane and good advice.

A little boy 6 years old is very impatient -- he likes all the vegetables being discussed for the garden, but cannot understand why he has to wait for them to grow. Another boy, 8 years old, is completely in charge of the family garden. He recognized 7 out of 10 herbs. He is more understanding of when he can come in and start eating the corn that's just being planted.

Dan's table is a real magnet for solitary thinking and social discussion. The basketball court is also used for rollerskating duo practice dance routines.

I've found out that when you pick up garbage around people, you become invisible.

On Friday I poked at the long grasses intermingled in the pollinator bed, did a small section of clearing that. A lot more to do.

June 3, 2020

From Rebecca Catching: Drowning in plants! I am picking up two deliveries of perennials today with many more offers of plants on the way.

Here’s a list of what we have so far: day lilies, lily of the valley, solomon's seal, wild anemone, perennial geranium, hostas, snakeroot, bamboo, sweet woodruff, red bergamot, periwinkle, evening primrose, tiger lilies.

From Jutta: There's a bunch of cardboard laid out by rough sleepers in the more southerly little forest patch by Dufferin (plus probably feces and toilet paper, worse since the washrooms are locked, hopefully they will open now). The fence is rotting around the wetland patch -- we asked for it to be removed two years ago, but no action was taken (yet 😝).

The cob area has some fruit bushes but it was too shady before, so they didn't bear much. However last fall the city took down a tree near there. So maybe there will be enough light that there will be fruit for the kids to pick this year (although gooseberries are not fun to eat raw).

As for weeds -- those darn burdock roots go down all the way to China. We didn't have burdock at DG until about 10 years ago. Probably the dogs carried them in their fur.

June 2, 2020, from Rebecca Catching to the dufferingrovefriends listserv

The Dufferin Grove gardening club is looking for perennials, preferably shade-loving ones or those which like partial sun for some of the gardens at Dufferin Grove.

This is not for the big garden near the oven but the smaller ones you see scattered around the park. If you have anything you want to thin out let us know. We can dig or you can put it in a box for us.

We have no budget this year, so have to beg and borrow. Extra flower seeds, and extra hands are also welcome as the weeds are having a real party this year. We will work in small groups and keep a safe distance.

May 31, 2020:

From Skylar: Joel and I are working in to the gardens several times a week. Two volunteers came on Friday am before the rain. We got a lot of weeding done. Eager to begin planting beans where Joel constructed the teepees. Got donated basil reject plants from Urban Harvest on Bloor. Going to pick up 20 tomato plants from Richard Male on Gladstone on Tues. late afternoon. Heidrun is in the rink house on Tuesdays and she is keen to garden too.

May 27, 2020, announcement on the dufferingrovefriends listserv

covid sign (photo: M.Monastyrskyj)

Here's something for people whose green thumb is itching to grow things (or people who want to learn how): Skylar Hill-Jackson has now had the go-ahead from city management to start up the park garden club again. You can get in touch with Skylar here:

All gardening will be done with 6-foot distancing (a cinch, there's so much space). The city has connected the water and has even set up a hand sanitizing station just for the gardeners.

The garlic has shot up already in the vegetable area, the cherries and berry bushes are setting fruit, the roses are budding -- a wonderful time to be out in the park.

May 26, 2020: John Ota's Japanese cherry trees (photos by M. Monastyrskyj)

Japanese cherry blossoms

John Ota donated them to the park in 2016
May 19, 2020: from recreation supervisor Donna Densmore to Skylar Hill-Jackson

Dear Community Garden Coordinator,

As you are aware, the Province of Ontario has amended their emergency declaration in order to allow community gardens to operate.

Toronto Public Health has developed directions for safe operations for community gardens to help reduce the risk of COVID-19. All gardeners must use the gardens in accordance with these directions.

Attached you will find the following documents:

  • Community Garden Permit for the 2020 Season
  • Toronto Public Health directions for community gardens
  • A declaration that you have read and understood the directions and will adhere to these guidelines while using the gardens
  • Appendix 1: Community Garden Regulations

It is important that you review the Toronto Public Health directions carefully. You must sign and return the Toronto Public Health Declaration and the Community Garden Permit for the 2020 season via email to prior to using the garden. If you require assistance completing the documents our Community Recreation staff are available and will make every effort to assist.

Once you sign and return the permit and your declaration, and have completed the documentation requirements with your group we will be in touch to confirm access to your community garden location.

Please note: other park amenities remain closed. More information on the City's COVID-19 response is available at

We are pleased to be able to reopen the gardens and look forward to the gardening season along with you.

May 4, 2020: more trees in bloom

the old cherry tree still has some life in it

the younger cherry tree

the first wild plum
April 28, 2020: first trees in bloom

Sakura cherry, planted in 2006, beside the cob cafe

neighbours and park friends near the Sakura

Toni Correido, back to visit the park

There are seven cherry trees in the park. The first one to open is always the Sakura cherry, planted in 2006 by the Frankford family in memory of Emily Frankford -- just the year after the cob cafe was built. Then there's a new pink-blossom cherry tree, still very young, near the reflexology footpath that was built in memory of Jenna Morrison. There are two more pink cherry trees to the south of the rink fence (the Japanese kind that you see in pictures of Japanese having picnics to celebrate the trees). Those were donated by John Ota, who grew up on Gladstone Avenue and loved the park as a kid. Finally, there are two Bing cherry trees that were planted when the food gardens were dug in the 1990's, plus a sour cherry tree. The bigger Bing cherry has been dying back for a few years, but it's still a favorite place for tree-climber kids.

This year, High Park is closed to the public when the cherry trees bloom, and the cherry blossom promenade at Trinity-Bellwoods Park will be fenced off -- to discourage crowds that would make it hard for people to keep six feet apart because of covid regulations. But the cherry trees at Dufferin Grove are spaced far enough apart that people can have a walk through the park without getting jammed up together.

April 17, 2020

From long-time community gardener Skylar Hill-Jackson: "my friend, Barbara and her 12-year-old daughter, Zoe, (live in a condo at Yonge and Davisville) and I picked up rubbish in the park on Friday for an hour and a half. We did the north/west corner on the west side of the rink house, all around the outside of the veg and herb gardens (not allowed to go inside as the gardens are considered closed 'park facilities'), and then picked up more rubbish on the grassy area between the gardens and the basketball court. Then Zoe wanted to climb a tree. It was cold and windy. However, we were out of our forced isolation, breathing fresh air, getting some exercising and cleaning up and connecting with nature. Making Dufferin Grove Park beautiful for everyone! More park clean-up days ahead."

fresh air, some exercise, cleaning up and connecting with nature" all with social distancing

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