Amending the Soil - Church of the Messiah Community Garden
“Amending the soil” is not a phrase I thought I’d ever repeat countless times. But at Church of the Messiah, in Toronto, we have made significant efforts to improve our soil, carrying out wheelbarrows full of gravel, garbage, and weeds, and digging in shovels full of rich organic material.
Improving the soil is one of the hardest jobs we undertake as urban gardeners. Access to our plots is restricted by stairs and busy streets, and high-quality organic soil has to be carried and dug in by hand. But the effort to improve our gardening soil is worth it because this is one of the most consequential chores we can do. Boosting the quality of the soil with organic material and better drainage helps everything we grow reach its strongest and most productive potential.
Light shining down from heaven on the garden at Holy Cross.
As I write this, the Holy Cross Eco Ministry nears its first anniversary, and what a blessed year it has been! Deo gratias!
Our eco team has just arrived back from watering our native pollinator garden and our vegetable gardens. Watering these gardens is often a peaceful task: admiring the growing fauna, greeting passersby, and surveying the bees and caterpillars and butterflies who have found a new happy home.
A Commitment to Sustainable Food: Islington United Church’s Giving Garden enters its 7th year
Islington United Church has long been a “green beacon” in its Etobicoke neighbourhood, demonstrating how a faith community can operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The congregation’s work has garnered community recognition including Faith and the Common Good’s Greening Sacred Spaces Award in 2013 and has been referred to as “the greenest church in Toronto.”
As an independent K-12 school located in Richmond Hill, Holy Trinity School (HTS) proves to be an aspirational leader when it comes to educating, promoting and advocating for sustainability. After joining ClimateWise Business Network in June 2018, HTS has participated in Faith and the Common Good’s Energy Benchmarking for Faith Buildings program and they are currently in the process of creating an action plan to achieve their greenhouse gas reduction goal. In May 2019, Holy Trinity School received recognition for their commitment to sustainability as they received an award for Engaged Green Team at ClimateWise’s York Region Sustainability Awards.
With climate change growing as a moral issue, faith communities are finding their own sustainability profile as an opportunity to lead. A growing number are taking action with the support of Green Economy Hubs, benefiting from a new partnership between Green Economy Canada and Faith & the Common Good.
In Sudbury, York Region, and five other communities, these faith-based organizations are investing time in measuring their environmental footprint and working to reduce it.
This past summer, the Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good collaborated with a new environmental effort: the Wild Pollinator Partners (WPP) network. This new initiative in Eastern Ontario was created to share information, resources and experience on native pollinators and it also has the goal to help liaise between local groups such as teachers, researchers, NGO’s and local residents. WPP saw a need to support and promote the important pollination benefits that native bees and other native species of insects provide to the local ecology. They realized that many people were not aware that wild bees, which are mostly solitary bees, are key to local pollination in both cities and the countryside. The belief that we are dependent solely on European Honeybees (an introduced species) to do all pollination is false. However Honeybees compete for the same nectar and pollen as our native species so it is crucial to provide native wildflower habitat to ensure the health of local populations of pollinators.
The Jaffari Community Centre is a proud member of ClimateWise Business Network. The organization is currently participating in Faith & the Common Good’s energy benchmarking program.
The Jaffari Community Centre’s sustainability journey demonstrates how passionate people can impact the way a community acts on climate change. A few like-minded women were the forerunners of a sustainability movement that effectively shifted the way community members think and act. Their “Eco team”, which started five years ago with a grass roots approach to reducing waste is now a fully integrated eight-member Eco Board, working to improve the Centre’s overall sustainability method.
The Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good (FCG) is offering an Outdoor Greening Program for 2019: Caring for Native Pollinators in our Gardens!
This year's summer program is financially supported by Ottawa Community Foundation - a great big thanks to this amazing local foundation!
This program allows us to offer free "pollinator plants" to gardeners who want to add some native flowers to their current garden beds to help increase local habitat diversity and offer pollen and nectar to our wild solitary bees and other pollinating insects that are native to our region! These wild species provide FREE ecological services to our communities, pollinating thousands (millions?) of flowers each year to help grow nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and who are essential to the ecological food cycle.
Faith & the Common Good has continued its partnership with the Wild Pollinator Partners (Ontario East - Outaouais) who is providing us with some of the organic locally-grown native plants for this program. We are also thankful for other businesses and organizations that are contributing to this new program: Canadian Wildlife Federation - who has donated wildflowers and seeds from their "Wildlife Friendly Gardening" program and the executive director of SOUL (Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care) who has also donated wildflowers from her personal garden and even FRESH on Beechwood Avenue, a local business that donated wildflower seeds to the program.
Contact Katherine Forster if you would like to receive FREE wildflowers - many which you may be familiar with such as Yarrow, Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susans, Beebalm and more. Donations can be 10 or so plants to over 25, depending on the room you have in your garden. Best native plants for your garden will be identified if you need advice. Please contact us as soon as possible as there are limited quantities.
Let us know if you would also like to officially be part of the Interfaith Outdoor Greening network so that you can receive sustainable gardening information, specific tips & techniques, and details on local Ottawa garden resources and our programming such as this "Caring for Pollinators in our Garden" program this summer. Gardening newsletters will be sent out to members every 4 - 8 weeks during the garden season. Members of the Network can get support for their gardens in many ways:
Members of the Outdoor Greening Network can receive a FREE garden visit from the Sustainable Outdoor Greening Coordinator to learn more about the FCG Outdoor Greening resources, discuss specific gardening questions, identify native plants they can add to their garden and/or to help with garden skills including maintenance.
Members can download FREE Outdoor Greening resources available on the FCG website includingOutdoor Greening Fact Sheets and Case Studies that provide inspiration and ideas for sustainable gardening (including xeriscaping, rain gardens, waterwise strategies, wildlife gardens, prayer and meditation gardens, and wildflower gardens, to name a few).
Members of the Outdoor Greening Network can discuss garden plans, designs and sourcing opportunities for their individual gardens and will be provided with information on the local support for sustainable gardening in Ottawa. There are even tips on how to recruit and retain volunteers or organize gardening (weeding) bees and weekly watering committees!
FCG Ottawa staff is here to help support faith community staff and volunteers working outdoors on their landscape and gardens and those who want to add a new sustainable garden component to their property. Let us know what your Care for Creation needs are in terms of your landscape and gardens — we are here to help!
Across the country, United Churches are doing their part to address the climate crisis by getting their own house in order by working to reduce their own carbon emissions. Through a partnership with Faith & the Common Good, the United Church of Canada is offering grants and support for churches to measure their energy use and reduce their climate pollution, in ways that save money and strengthen congregational renewal.
St. Cuthbert, Leaside is an attractive red brick church, but in environmental circles it’s known by another colour — dark green. The church has won the Green Sacred Space Award for 2018, given to the most environmentally friendly place of worship in Toronto. It is only the second Anglican church in the city to receive the award since it was established in 2000.
“We’re delighted and pleased that our efforts are making a difference,” says Heather Conolly, a member of the church and its property coordinator. “We’re keepers of the world and we want to pass on to the next generation what was handed down to us.”