Of Teens and Gardens

SS_planting_posterby Donna Lang, Toronto Animator

What do teens and plants have in common?  They both need diversity in order to grow and be part of a thriving community. In Canada, one of our core values is respect for cultural and religious differences. With plants, it is biodiversity that creates a healthy ecosystem.

“Putting Down Roots” was the theme of a recent youth planting workshop I helped organize, thanks to an Ontario 150 grant awarded to Faith & the Common Good (FCG), a national, interfaith environmental organization. Held on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017 at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, Toronto, the workshop was part of activities for Lag B’omer, a Jewish celebration.

As the Toronto FCG Animator, I was responsible for recruiting the faith sites and the youth, and facilitating the overall planning of the gardens. Harold Smith, from North American Native Plant Society (NANPS), and Marsha Gettas, a master gardener, helped with the design, selection, and procurement of the plants.

About 30 teenage youth and 2 youth leaders participated in the gardening workshop. The teens took total charge of planting the garden. They were very keen to learn and they worked well together. They had lively music playing in the background and they sang songs.

“This project was so much fun to do. It didn’t feel like work at all,” said one member of the youth group.

Together, they planted over 100 plants in just 3 hours.

An avid vegetable gardener myself, I thought I knew a lot about gardening, but was surprised about how much I learned concerning native plants, and how they are good for the environment.

Firstly, they are drought resistant, which is becoming increasingly important with the impacts of climate change. Native plants encourage pollination by bees and butterflies, and they are responsible for 70% of the fruits and vegetables we eat. They also provide habitat for birds, insects and wildlife.

Ontario 150 gardens are also being planted by FCG at two other faith sites in Toronto — IMO of Toronto (International Muslim Organization) and Manor Road United Church — as well as 2 sites in Halton Region and 3 sites in Ottawa.

SS_before SS_working
The before photo; first we had to clear the stones, put down topsoil, and then put lots of fresh compost on top of the soil. Ezra and Josh were the 2 teen youth leaders. Josh took charge of giving everyone their task and Ezra was responsible for the video.
The youth team at Shaarei Shomayim, feeling a sense of joy and accomplishment, thanks to their brand new native plant garden.

This blog is part of a series of posts for the Ontario 150 Youth Garden “Growing Community” projects that are part of Ontario150 Partnership Program which provides youth with opportunities to actively participate in their communities in ways that reflect their creativity, cultural expression, diversity, inclusion, environmental stewardship, entrepreneurship, healthy living, and civic engagement.