West Park’s flourishing Gardening Club is growing its own food

Michelle Rowe-Jardine

September 21, 2022

For anyone who has visited the rooftop patio this summer, patients, family members, staff, and bumblebees have been treated to a gorgeous splash of nature right here at the hospital. The patio is thriving with vibrant greenery and flowers – and even watermelons!

It has been the perfect backdrop to come and relax, eat, socialize, and bask in nature. At the centre of it all are planters that have been overflowing with flowers, fruits, and veggies – and we have the Gardening Club to thank for that.

The Gardening Club, run by Recreation Therapy, brings patients together to get their hands dirty while experiencing the joys of watching a living thing grow and thrive under their care.

Rec therapy has been hard at work with patients to transform the space for everyone to enjoy, and learning a lot along the way.

While neither Ksenia Melamed, Recreation Therapist, nor Jennifer DeGuzman, Recreation Therapy Assistant, were dedicated green thumbs before the program, Melamed says the club has helped her grow into one.

“We learn from each other, and we learn from the patients. The patients know so much,” she says.

Patients provided input for what they would like to grow this summer, which is why you’ll spot tomatoes, peppers, kale, green onions, watermelons and more. After all their hard work, the club harvests these goods and turns them into snacks for the patients, including kale smoothies.

Learn how to grow food in your own backyard or apartment balcony! While there is limited time for the summer harvest, use this guide today to check out what to plant next for the fall season!

Planting a new year, and joining the conversation

Clara Phillips

January 25, 2022

The harsh recent weather has made it hard to ignore the winter blues. During this time of year, those suffering from poor mental health and mental illness are faced with even greater challenges from reduced daylight hours and colder temperatures. However, the start of a year can be viewed as a new beginning and an opportunity to manage stress, anxiety, and wellbeing with new coping mechanisms and small positive changes. Unfortunately, stigma surrounding mental health brings about feelings of shame, isolation, and self-doubt, leading to reluctancy to seek help or treatment. We encourage you to participate in Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 26 to help end this stigma through conversation. Bell Let’s Talk Day highlights the importance of ongoing action to increase awareness around mental health and mental illness, and encourages Canadians to keep talking, listening, and being there for ourselves and each other. On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every applicable text, call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, social-media video view, and use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat lens. 

There are many coping mechanisms to help manage anxiety and feelings of depression. Make sleep a priority to give your body its much-needed rest. Limit your screen time, especially in the hour before going to bed. Commit time for daily exercise, taking it outdoors whenever possible, even for a short walk. Time after time, researchers also report how indoor and outdoor plants can reduce symptoms of depression and enhance social and spiritual well-being. Plants help purify the air and add moisture to the environment. Taking care of them can also be a soothing and therapeutic task. 

For someone without a green thumb, acquiring plants or a starting a garden can feel like a daunting task. Plus, it may be a long time before we see some earth and soil underneath this thick blanket of snow, and the last thing on our minds is outdoor gardening. Participating in Seed Swap Day on Jan. 29 may be just the motivation! Seed Swap Day offers the opportunity to anticipate the coming spring, learn about new indoor and outdoor plant varieties, and maybe meet some people (safely) along the way. With this helpful Ontario seeding calendar, you can even start planting seeds inside! Many indoor houseplants can also be grown from seeds, any time of year. Seed Swap Day also supports biodiversity, a critical (and often overlooked) factor in a sustainable ecosystem (read our post about Canada’s Biodiversity here). 

“Today’s seeds are tomorrow’s trees.” – Matshona Dhliwayo 

If you are struggling with mental health, professional help is available 24/7: 

Canadian Mental Health Association 

Community Mental Health Programs 

Apps for Mental Health