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The Garden Party Report for 2018 

I am pleased to submit the final annual report from The Garden Party relating to the grant we received in 2018 for our giving garden project.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto for the generous grant we received this year. It allowed us to purchase seeds, plants and significant soil amendments at the end of the season which we hope will continue to improve our harvest next year. The financial report was previously submitted to your treasurer and we received our reimbursement of expenses with thanks.

As you know, The Garden Party is a giving garden. Over the past twelve years, The Garden Party has been growing and donating herbs and vegetables to the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) and St. Francis Table, both located on Queen Street West in the Parkdale neighbourhood and we also made several donations to the Westminster Chapel Food Bank which is open on Saturday morning and serves local community members in need. Between 2010 and 2018, we have made 293 deliveries and donated 2,726.7 Kg (6,011.7 lb.) of fresh produce and hundreds of herb bouquets.

Something new which was initiated this year was working in partnership with Romero House, which is in our neighbourhood and supports refugee families. We had several refugee families come to our garden and harvest vegetables and herbs for their personal use. They greatly appreciated the opportunity, and this is something we look forward to continuing next year.

This year, we started our season by hosting our “Spring Dig”, a welcome event for new volunteers and the start of our gardening season on May 5. With the later spring this year, we had to delay our start by several weeks. Nevertheless, we had several new volunteers and with our returning core group, we were able to make a good start in cleaning up from the winter and topping up the raised beds with rich compost from our bins.

That was the start of our planting season and a dedicated group of volunteers were there every Saturday since our opening day until November 3. This year, we welcomed nine new volunteers throughout the season and had five come out on a regular basis, so we usually had 10 to 14 volunteers who showed up on Saturdays.

May was very busy months with planting and transplanting. We also were given some seedlings from the Green Barn, operated by the Stop Community Food Centre. They grow many plants in their greenhouse over the winter and make the seedlings available to community gardens. We received a small selection of herbs, tomatoes, squash and peppers.

The Garden Party made its first harvest on May 30, 2018 with some arugula and herbs. We made a total of 26 deliveries to PARC, the Westminster Chapel food bank on Roncesvalles at Hewitt and St. Francis Table. In 2018, we donated 343.7 Kg (758 lb.) of fresh produce (including squash, bok choy, New Zealand spinach, cucumber, tomatoes, beans, kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, zucchini and peas). More than 250 herb bouquets (basil, parsley, Jamaican thyme, dill, oregano, chives, thyme, mint, sage, rosemary, and cilantro) were also harvested and donated to enhance the flavour of the meals served to the patrons.

We continued to incorporate harvesting into the first part of our Saturday mornings so that all volunteers could participate in this aspect and sometimes there were additional harvests made during the week. PARC is open on Saturdays for lunch and they welcomed our deliveries as was the Westminster Chapel Food Bank and volunteers were able to see firsthand where our efforts help support people with a healthy meal or fresh produce for people to take home from the food bank.

In July, we hosted a group of children ages 6 to 11 from the City of Toronto’s Islington Day Camp and they spent the morning with two Garden Party volunteers. They assisted us with harvesting the rest of our pea crop and learned about the places where we take our food and the vegetables we grow and got to sample some of the fresh produce. They enjoyed their outing to the garden.

One of the new volunteers runs the day care out of the Redeemer Lutheran Church and she brought the children to enjoy the garden as part of their day-time activities.

We had a successful Garden Party in August – a potluck dinner when we enjoyed the garden in a social way without the work although the weather was not very cooperative this year, but we had over 20 people attend.

We will be wrapping up our 2018 season in December with a holiday dinner at a local restaurant.

Overall, 2018 was a successful year for The Garden Party and our donations increased over the previous year. A highlight of the year was receiving third prize in the City of Toronto Garden Awards on October 24 in the Community Garden category. The award went to the gardens and green spaces of the Redeemer Lutheran Church, including The Garden Party. We had not known about the nomination, so it was a pleasant surprise when we received our invitation addressed to “The Gardeners of the House”.

The Garden Party would like to thank the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto for selecting us as one of the recipients of your Community Garden Projects for 2018. We very much value your support and continue to recognize you as one of our funding partners on the home page of our website (www.thegardenparty.ca).

- Christine Hughes