An open letter to our community gardeners from Lucas Tingle

Hello community gardeners,

I hope everyone is doing well and is still excited about the growing season. I’m sure the long, hard, and isolated winter has made many of you eager to get out into the garden and grow. The importance of getting involved in a program offered by The Local has never been greater. Learning to grow, sharing your special knowledge, nurturing plants, and getting outside, all have significant positive impacts for mental and physical health. 

Grow with us

The Grow department of The Local has spaces available in multiple programs right now. If you are eager to get outside, get your hands dirty, and meet some really neat people along the way, we have the answer for you.  

The Green Team is a group of dedicated volunteers that will be managing the gardens around The Local itself, as well as a large market style vegetable garden at Dufferin Park. 

The Edible Forest Team is composed of passionate folks that love to plant trees and fruit bearing bushes. Currently they are in charge of maintaining a small orchard at Dufferin Park and are in the midst of planning a large edible forest. 

The Urban Farmers program is brand new to The Local. This group is learning to grow a commercial style market garden using regenerative agricultural practices. There is special emphasis on soil science, no till gardening, and environmentally sustainable farming practices. Plus you get to eat what you harvest!  

If one of these teams or programs is of interest to you, please contact me: 

Greenhouse update

Originally the plan was to have everyone from the Urban Farmers Program and The Green Team into the greenhouse by now, but the “shutdown” order has made that an impossibility. Don’t get discouraged though. I have spent the last month filling the greenhouse with hundreds, if not thousands of plants for us to grow into food this season.

I’m making a video with Derek Barnes, our Community Outreach Manager, that will introduce some of the concepts we were going to cover in the early season. In broad strokes, I’m going to talk about “soil blocking.” Soil blocking is a plastic free way to begin seedlings in a greenhouse.

Above is a flat of basil pants (lemon, sweet, mammoth). This is an example of soil blocking as we execute it in the greenhouse. As you can also see we are experiencing a nearly 100% germination rate.  

Every one of the plants that were started in the greenhouse are grown using this method. There are multiple benefits to soil blocking beyond the sustainability issue. Those particulars will be covered in the video as well as the recipe and tools needed to make them yourself.


Just to give you a brief plant inventory. It has been a one man show over here, but I’ve been having good results. 

Tomato Plants: 400 (perhaps more)

Cauliflower: 80

Broccoli: 120

Cabbage (green): 100 

Peppers (bell, jalapeno, habanero): 200 – 250 

Onions (from seed): 100

Basil: 100

Brussel sprouts: 100

We also have roughly 50lbs of seed potato secured thanks to the efforts of Bob Downham. Thank you Bob! 

Greenhouse layout and management

Growing hundreds of plants inside a greenhouse can be a tricky thing to do. While the conditions for germination and vegetative growth can be optimal, pests, timing, watering, and maintaining plant health throughout a seedlings development is more than a full time job at this scale.

A lot of the plants you’ll see below are earmarked for the allotment gardeners, the green team, and the urban farmers. Having said that, all surplus will be given out to the public once those teams have had a chance to plant their gardens. 

Hundreds of tomato plants (roma, bonnie best, best boy, better boy, and cherry) with healthy spacing to allow for excellent air circulation, lowered pest transmission, and to optimize the light absorption.

These are some of our onions that have been started from seed. We have two flats of onions with a mix of “bunch onions/green onions” and walla walla onions (yellow onions). 

This is a larger photo of the front half of the greenhouse. The layout has changed quite a bit from how it was in years passed. With this new layout we are better able to use the space within the greenhouse. As you can see below the floor itself functions as viable growing space. In effect doubling our square footage that can be used for growing. 

Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts are laid out on the floor here. This photo gives you an idea of how we are optimizing the square footage available, allowing for adequate spacing for plant health, and giving each plant equal opportunity to absorb the sunlight. A small path can be seen to the left of the centre row. The path is left clear of plants to allow for foot traffic and minimize a shadow that could be cast by the plants that are elevated off the ground (to the right) in the center row.

The back half of the greenhouse has elevated tables for doing more detailed work. In the foreground you can see the nursery area. This area receives the least amount of sunlight and is the most temperate. Germinating seeds has little to do with sunlight. The recipe for popping a seed is heat and moisture. The greenhouse is kept at roughly 21C (the heat) and I mist the flats of soil blocks once or twice a day depending on the amount of sunlight on a given day. Maintaining moisture in a soil block is crucial to a plant’s success.

First steps for the Urban Farmers

Dale and Sallianne Patch, two generous volunteers, have offered to donate a large pile of composted horse manure to our project. Once the park is dry enough for delivery, Dale will be coming by with a load for us to spread over the furrows before we plant. 

If you’d like to be involved in fertilizing the garden please reach out to me ASAP so I can put together a covid safe schedule. This will be our first step together as Urban Farmers. 

I would also like to give a hearty shout-out to Charlie West, the owner of The Indoor Farmer, who donated a skid of ProMix last year. His generous contribution to our greenhouse is what made it possible to start all of these healthy and wonderful plants. So thank you Charlie and thank you to The Indoor Farmer.   

Get involved now

Once more I would like to invite you to reach out to me: The Green Team, Edible Forest Team, and The Urban Farmers Program all have spaces available. Hope to hear from you soon. 

Also, if you don’t know where you fit into The Local and just want to find out how you can pitch in or get involved. Here is a link to our general volunteer sign-up form that was put together by our talented Community Chef and Volunteer Coordinator Mike Lurz: Volunteer Sign-Up Form.  

Cheers to the first steps toward something amazing this year

Garden Educator for The Local


There is no question that community gardens are an essential part of our food system and that they are an instrumental piece to a multi-strategy approach in addressing poverty and food insecurity.

At The Local, we believe that access to good, healthy food is a human right. A community garden where our neighbours can choose what they grow – and learn different tricks and techniques on planting, growing and harvesting their bounty from other gardeners – is beneficial to personal well-being, as well as mental and physical health.  Ultimately, community gardens build social capital and that helps our whole community prosper.

When people feel like they belong and are given opportunities we all benefit from their contributions. Let’s build healthier communities, together, one garden at a time.

~Debra Swan, Executive Director

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