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Sustainable Environment and Urban Agriculture 

With summer in full swing, gardens and parks have come alive with vibrant growth. While we celebrate the flourishing plants, we also have to contend with the persistent emergence of weeds. As gardeners, we don't want these unwelcome plants overtaking our beds and lawns after months of hard work. Weeds, with their long tap roots designed to extract nutrients from deep within the soil, can outcompete and overrun our delicate vegetable and flowering annuals.

The battle against weeds is just one aspect of maintaining a healthy garden. Insects, both beneficial and harmful, also find their way into our plots. The sight of chewed or curled leaves on tender seedlings can be disheartening, as some ravenous creatures can't resist the allure of lettuce or sunflowers. But fear not, there are ways to mitigate these challenges.

Our initial response might be to reach for chemical solutions to rid our gardens of pests and diseases quickly. After all, we want a bountiful harvest, especially considering the short growing season. However, the use of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers can be detrimental to biodiversity and soil health. In fact, weeds themselves can serve as indicators of soil imbalances, as they attempt to rectify nutrient deficiencies by drawing resources from deep within the ground. So, what can we do differently?

Rather than resorting to spraying chemicals like *Roundup and loading our gardens with artificial substances, we should focus on building healthy soils. One way to achieve this is through composting. Start a compost pile or consider purchasing compost or topsoil to enrich your soil every spring and fall, as well as throughout the growing season as needed. By doing so, we provide a nutrient-rich environment for our plants to thrive.

Additionally, incorporating native plants into our gardens can help rebuild soils and foster biodiversity. Native varieties are well-adapted to their specific geographical locations and often possess resilience to withstand extreme weather conditions. Moreover, native plants and flowers attract beneficial insects and birds that act as natural pest control agents. Think of the birds, ladybugs, wasps, native bees, and dragonflies that help keep populations of worms and aphids in check.

Maintaining healthy soils also plays a significant role in disease prevention. When plants receive proper nutrition and minerals from the soil, they become more resilient against diseases. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of disease, removing and discarding any affected parts. As a preventive measure, you can spray the affected leaf surfaces with a mild solution of soapy water. Simply grate a solid soap bar with minimal additives into a liter of warm water, and consider adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the solution.

In summary, the key is to invest in the health of your soil, introduce native plants to your garden, and practice companion planting. By taking these steps, you'll not only deliver a powerful blow to insects and diseases but also enjoy the rewards of a bountiful harvest. So, as you embark on your gardening journey this summer, remember that growing green involves nurturing both your plants and the ecosystem they inhabit.


* Roundup was a revolutionary new herbicide, or weed killer, when it hit the market in the 1970s. It and other pesticides that contain the active ingredient glyphosate are the most widely used herbicides in the world. Recent research has produced conflicting evidence as to whether these pesticides cause cancer in people exposed to them.

Please visit the following links to learn more about alternatives to RoundUp:

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Position Title: Assistant Outdoor Educator

Reports to: Program Coordinator

Location: Dallington Park (Don Mills & Sheppard - with an option for remote work days)

Employment Type: Part-time, hourly

Hours: 20 hours per week, June-September (with a possibility of extension until December)

Work Days: Monday-Thursday

Salary: $18-22 per hour

Position Summary:

We are seeking an enthusiastic Assistant Outdoor Educator to support our outdoor educational programs for children at the Dallington Pollinators Community Garden. In this role, you will play a crucial part in ensuring a successful and professional experience for all participants. The majority of your work will take place outdoors during the summer months, involving the design and facilitation of engaging outdoor education sessions. The age range of children will be:

  1. 6-12 years for the summer program

  2. Kindergarten to grades 7/8 for the after school program

Hour Requirements:

This part-time position requires a commitment of up to 20 hours per week, Monday through Thursday, with the following schedule*:

  • School Days (June & September): 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm

  • Summer Holidays (July & August): 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm

*Note that the hours are somewhat flexible.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with the Program Coordinator to design and create a weekly program schedule and engaging lessons for children in both in-school and after-school programs.

  • Successfully manage and supervise large groups of children, implementing effective discipline and reward systems.

  • Familiarize yourself with the pilot project and diligently follow the Program Coordinator's guidelines.

  • Demonstrate a solid understanding of food security, urban agriculture, and environmental stewardship, incorporating these concepts into the educational sessions.

  • Contribute to garden upkeep and maintenance.

  • Lead and assist in summer day camps, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants.

  • Assist with the intake and registration of summer program participants, including completion of all necessary paperwork and risk waivers.

  • Prioritize the safety and well-being of the children by maintaining a secure working environment.

  • Practice and promote low-impact and Leave No Trace environmental practices in all instances.

Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Previous experience in leading and managing groups of young children in outdoor activities.

  • Demonstrated ability to assist in office administration tasks such as filing and reporting.

  • Willingness to be flexible and work effectively with young children, fostering a positive and inclusive learning environment.

  • Comfortable with public speaking and effectively communicating in front of a group.

  • Ability to maintain a professional and courteous demeanor at all times.

Additional Requirements:

  • Be able to participate in nature walks and physical activities.

  • Availability to attend a weekly meeting, either virtually or in-person.

  • Must undergo a police clearance and vulnerability clearance check.

  • Must attend a one-day training session before commencing work.

How to Apply:

To apply for the position of Assistant Outdoor Educator, please send your resume and a detailed cover letter to Mahnaz via email to

Applications will be reviewed as they are received and the posting will remain open till a candidate is hired. Interviews will take place on an ongoing basis. We are looking to fill this role as soon as possible.

We are committed to being an equal opportunity employer and welcome applications from all qualified individuals.

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As we enter the exciting growing season of 2023, many of us may be tempted to head to the nearest garden store or nursery to purchase seedlings for our vegetable gardens. However, if time and interest allow, it's worth considering the art of growing from seed. While it may not be as easy as it sounds, there are tips and tricks that can make the process more manageable.

One of the main reasons to grow from seed is the greater choice available. Passionate gardeners often share their favorite seeds at seed exchanges, allowing you to grow unique varieties like purple tomatillos or patty pan squash. Additionally, heirloom seeds are often preferred for their better flavor, taste, and ability to withstand weather fluctuations, as compared to hybrid varieties which can be susceptible to disease and pests.

Without further advocating for heirloom varieties, let's focus on the best ways to plan for a successful summer garden:

1. Start seeds indoors to give summer-loving varieties a head start, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and brassicas, as April weather is unpredictable and may not be ideal for planting. Follow your regional chart for last frost dates and time your seed starting 4-6 weeks before the last frost date.

2. Grow enough vegetables for your family's needs, keeping in mind that generally, you should multiply a vegetable 3 to 4 times per person, except for high-yield varieties like cherry tomatoes, where one plant per person is sufficient. Only grow vegetables that you and your family will enjoy over the season, but also consider experimenting with new, exciting varieties.

3. Begin seeds in peat pellets, paper containers or toilet paper roll seed starters, and transfer them to larger containers once they germinate. Plant extra seedlings (at least 3 per starter container) to ensure the most robust ones can be selected and to avoid disturbing the ones you wish to keep.

4. Gradually introduce seedlings to the outdoors through hardening off, starting with a couple of hours per day and leaving them outside overnight close to transplant time. For direct sowing, plant cold weather crops like radish and peas in April if the soil is workable and doesn't need further amendments. For summer-loving crops, wait until after the last frost date.

5. Choose the right location: Select a location with good sunlight, water drainage, and soil quality. Vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight a day, so choose a spot that gets plenty of direct sunlight. Make sure the soil is well-drained to prevent waterlogged roots, and if necessary, amend the soil with organic matter like compost or aged manure.

6. Use companion planting: Planting certain vegetables together can help to improve their growth, health, and productivity. For example, planting marigolds next to your tomato plants can help to repel harmful insects and improve their flavor, while planting beans next to corn can help to fix nitrogen in the soil and improve soil fertility.

7. Water regularly: Vegetables need consistent moisture to thrive, so make sure to water them regularly. Water deeply and thoroughly, and try to avoid getting water on the leaves as this can encourage fungal diseases. Consider using a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to deliver water directly to the roots.

8. Mulch your garden: Mulching your garden with organic matter like straw, leaves, or grass clippings can help to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil health. Apply a layer of mulch around your plants, making sure to keep it away from the stems to prevent rot.

9. Monitor for pests and diseases: Keep an eye out for pests and diseases that can damage your vegetables, and take action as soon as you notice a problem. Consider using natural pest control methods like neem oil, diatomaceous earth, or companion planting to repel pests and prevent damage.

10. Harvest regularly: Harvest your vegetables regularly to encourage continued growth and productivity. Check your garden daily for ripe produce, and pick them as soon as they are ready to prevent over-ripening or spoilage.

11. Rotate crops: Rotating your crops each year can help to prevent soil-borne diseases and improve soil fertility. Plan your garden layout in advance, and avoid planting the same crop in the same spot for at least two years in a row.

By following these tips, you can create a successful vegetable garden that provides fresh, healthy produce for you and your family to enjoy. Happy gardening!

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