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From the Ground Up: Planning Your Garden

The adage holds true; if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The success of our gardens greatly depends on us creating a solid plan. Typically, this process starts at the end of the previous season. With all the data collected throughout the season still fresh in our notes we can begin to identify what worked well, what could be improved, and things we might not do again. Hopefully we spend more time on the first two, but no one is born with a green thumb.  

Now, I hope you aren’t sweating thinking that you have missed your opportunity to start planning your garden. It’s only too late if you don’t start. By following this post, we hope to help you create an effective plan quickly that will get you producing food efficiently this season.  

Where do you start? 

Before we can think about the types of plants we want to grow, we need to first determine the best spot to put our garden. Many people avoid starting a garden believing that they don’t have enough space or that the space they do have doesn’t get enough sunlight. Though many of our main crops do require full sun i.e., 6-8 hours of direct sunlight, many plants will do just fine in partial sun (4-6 hours of sunlight) or partial shade (4-6 hours of diffuse sunlight or shade in the afternoon). The first step we recommend is identifying the length and quality of sunlight that your potential growing area is exposed to. Make a list of potential garden sites that you have access to, this could be your entire back or front yard or a specific section of your yard, a deck or balcony for those with limited or no yard. Beside each potential garden space, list the light exposure (backyard – full sun 6-8 hours, front yard – partial sun 4-6 hours).  Another note on sun exposure is that throughout the season sections of our gardens can have varying degrees of sun exposure. An area that receives full sun exposure during the middle of summer might be a partial sun or partial shade area in the spring and fall. Keeping notes on the sun exposure of your garden can help you in further planning. 

Next, identify the terrain and landscaping elements of the potential garden spots. Is the area flat, sloped, or uneven? Is there anything already growing in the area (grasses, trees or perennial bushes)? Also, is the ground bare soil, mulched or paved? Identifying the quality of the terrain of a potential garden is an important step as it will give you an idea of the time commitment needed to build the garden. For example you may choose a spot that receives less sunlight but has ground that is flat, soft and rich in organic matter (basically ready for a garden) over a site that has full sun but also compact soil, is on a steep slope or is very uneven. Choosing the shadier garden location may mean you have to change your crop list for more shade tolerant plants (think lettuces and leafy greens such as kale, and many herbs do wonderfully in the shade). Last season I planted bush beans in an area that was mostly shade and produced an enormous amount of beans, others have had success growing peas, carrots, beets and even winter squash in partially shaded areas. Crops that do not do well in the shade however include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Prioritize planting these in areas that do receive full sun. 

Now that you have a location that you are satisfied with, go back to our first post about soil to test its quality (structure, drainage, fertility etc). If you don’t have time to do the tests (or don’t want to) amending with compost is a cure all for every garden.

Crop Selection and Seed Procurement:

Your goals and location will likely be the biggest factors when deciding what vegetable or fruit crops you want to grow. Many gardeners grow to save money, become self-sufficient or to provide a larger variety of crops to their diet than grocery stores offer. 

If saving money is a major motivation, you may want to consider herbs as a top priority. On a per pound basis herbs and spices are the most expensive produce items at any grocery store with many costing over $50/lb! Lettuces and other leafy greens are also great options to grow to decrease the grocery bill. Many salad ingredients (lettuce, radish, green onions) grow incredibly fast, while leafy greens like kale produce quickly and for long periods of time. 

Perhaps you are wanting to become more self-sufficient. In this case growing higher calorie crops that have the ability to be stored for prolonged periods will be a feature you look for. Excellent crops to grow for storage are potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips (I’ll save myself some time and just say basically any root crop is great for storing) and winter squashes. These crops are fantastic choices for the self-sufficientest (not sure that’s a word) as they provide energy and vital nutrients during the bitter Winter months. Other options for self-sufficiency are crops that are dried for storage. Many gardeners refrain from growing corn as ears of sweet corn are extremely affordable when in-season. However, there are many varieties of dry corn available which can be ground into corn flour for breads and tortillas. Dry beans are a necessity for any self-sufficientest (yes, it’s a thing now) as they are magnificent sources of protein. In a future post we will explore and demonstrate how squash, corn and beans are incredible crops to grow together in an intercropping system. 

Finally, perhaps one of the most popular reasons gardeners continue to grow their own food every season is the enormous variety of crops available as seeds (compared to what is available at grocery stores or even the farm market). There are over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes despite grocery stores only selling a handful. How about potatoes? Over 4,000 varieties. Those are some pretty easy to think of examples. What about broccoli? I don’t think I’ve ever seen grocery store broccoli be labeled anything other than broccoli. It is actually possible to find 40 different varieties of broccoli seeds. They come in all shapes, sizes and even colors! 

These are just a few of the most popular reasons to start a garden and things to consider when selecting the crops you want to grow. Perhaps the most important thing to consider when planning your crops is to select ones that you actually enjoy eating as this will only encourage and motivate you to grow more. 

Now that you have an idea of what crops you would like to grow you will need to consider if they are well suited for your context. Refer to the chart below for crops that grow well in the various forms of sun exposures. Note: this is not an exhaustive list, just some ideas to help you get started. 

Next you may be wondering how to procure your seeds. Springtime is a spectacular season, the snow is beginning to melt, buds are forming on the trees, the birds are returning and filling the outdoors with their beautiful songs and every garden/grocery/hardware and dollar store has their planting and gardening isles full of seeds, tools, bobs and gardening doodads. 

These stores are great places to purchase seeds though grocery, hardware and dollar stores likely won’t have the variety that garden centers do. As well, garden centers do not carry anywhere near the variety of seeds that are available through online sources. 

Each seed source has benefits and drawbacks associated with them. Local stores typically only stock the most popular varieties and depending on the location of online sources shipping and pollution costs may be high. With a little bit of research however you are likely going to be able to find a local seed producer that grows rare and diverse seeds mitigating both the drawbacks of box stores and online retailers. Being a small business that specializes in rare seeds expect to pay more or get fewer seeds for your dollar. 

Heirloom, Hybrid and GM Seeds

With the “growing” popularity of gardening (lame gardening jokes and puns will be a theme in all blogs), there are many different camps and opinions about what kind of seeds you should get for your garden. Again, your gardening goals will likely be a major determining factor when you are purchasing seeds as each type of seed (heirloom or hybrid) has a distinct set of benefits and negatives. 

First, it is important to dispel a common myth. Genetically modified seeds are not available to home gardeners. You can not purchase them at the grocery, hardware store or garden center and you can not get them through online seed suppliers. They are only available to farmers. These are crops that have had specific genetic material added to them to make them resistant to herbicides, pesticides, or to improve traits that allow them to grow in an environment that they may not have thrived in before. Why are these seeds not available to home gardeners? One major reason is that regulators want to limit the ability of GM crops to cross with native plants which could lead to an ecological disaster. Another is that adding genetics for herb- or pesticide resistance allows the farmers to spray large fields with chemicals to kill weeds more efficiently and economically. The use of these chemicals is also tightly regulated and requires certification. So, GM seeds are not available to the public.

What about heirloom and hybrid seeds? 

Heirloom seeds are ones that have been isolated from other varieties and grown for many generations until their genetics become relatively stable. The stability of these genetics means that plants grown from these seeds will produce plants and fruits that are the same as the parent plants. The main benefit of heirloom seeds is that home gardeners can save the seed, plant it next year and grow the same crop (as long as it has not crossed with another variety). 

Sometimes new gardeners will get “hybrid” seeds confused with GM seeds. They most definitely are not the same. Hybrid seeds are ones that have been selectively bred from two varieties of a crop. You will most often see “F1” after the variety type on seed packets indicating that the seeds are hybrids.  Seed breeders hand pollinate two varieties of a crop by transferring pollen from a flower on one variety to a flower on the other variety. Tomatoes are often cross pollinated this way to create hybrid seeds. Hybrids often have traits that allow the plant to taste better, improve appearance, improve hardiness, improve disease or pest resistance. There does seem to be trade offs such as growing seeds from hybrid plants will not give you the same plant as heirloom varieties do. Often people will also report that hybrid plants that are grown for improved disease/pest resistance, improved appearance or hardiness, or for better storage don’t taste as good as heirloom varieties. 

My simple suggestion for new gardeners… save seed saving for later. Grow plants that are easy, produce a lot and that you really enjoy eating. There isn’t much that is more rewarding and encouraging for new gardeners than finally getting your first harvest and enjoying fruit and vegetables picked at the peak of their ripeness. Conversely, there isn’t anything more discouraging to a new gardener than planning and caring for plants that don’t produce a great crop or that they really don’t like the taste of. 


I hope that this quick article helps to spark some thoughts for your gardens. Remember, gardening should be fun, enjoyable and relaxing. The planning phase can sometimes be overwhelming but try to stick to the basics. 1) Pick an ideal location and 2) grow what you enjoy to eat.

In the next article we will be discussing sourcing water for your garden and how to set up a rainwater collection system. Bookmark our page and check back each week for new posts. 


About the Author 

E Kelly (they/them), aka the Garden Gnome, is passionate about supporting the health of their community. While working closely with individuals in the health & fitness industry E noticed a concerning trend. Many individuals’ health concerns did not stem from a lack of knowledge, willingness or desire to eat healthier or exercise more. Instead, a growing number of health issues were correlated with a lack of access to healthy foods. Thus started E’s journey to learning more about sustainably produced foods and how to produce an abundance in small spaces.  

With a formal education in Kinesiology and years of experience growing food as a hobby, E is combining their experience and knowledge base to promote the production of local and sustainable produce.  

E is the Garden Coordinator at United Way of the City of Kawartha Lakes and Edwin Binney’s Community Garden located in Lindsay, ON.

By |2023-04-18T12:13:57-04:00April 18th, 2023|Community Gardens, Uncategorized|0 Comments

From the Ground Up: Fit to Garden

Garden season is upon us whether we are ready for it or not! Before we get right into the heavy slugging of it though we should take a few moments to check in with our bodies to make sure they are up for the tasks ahead. Gardening can be physically taxing on the body requiring individuals to have a considerable amount of endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. Gardening can be a great way to improve your health and fitness, but taking on more than you can chew (pun intended!) may lead to injury which puts the rest of your season in jeopardy. In this post we’ll cover the endurance required for gardening and a simple fitness test to assess your aerobic endurance. 

The energy needed to perform gardening tasks can be measured in terms of METs, or metabolic equivalents of tasks. Simply put, MET values are a multiple of the energy required to maintain your metabolism at rest. Gardening comes in at 4 METs meaning it is 4 times as energy consuming than rest. Activities that are similar intensities include brisk walking, cycling, raking leaves, table tennis, and badminton.  

We can use the MET value to determine if an activity such as gardening is appropriate for our current fitness level. To do this we need to know two things; 1) the oxygen consumption rate of the activity and 2) our current VO2 max (the most amount of oxygen our bodies can utilize). The former is very simple, at rest roughly 3.5 ml of oxygen is consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute (, so simply multiply the MET value of the activity by 3.5 and that gives the oxygen consumption of our selected activity per minute. For example, gardening is 4 METs multiplied by 3.5 gives 14 O2. Finding a true VO2 max is slightly more challenging (and should be supervised by an exercise professional) but there are indirect and lower intensity ways of calculating an estimate of our VO2 max. A simple test that can be done on your own with minimal equipment is the Rockport One Mile Walking Test. You will need a stopwatch, heartrate monitor and a flat one-mile (1609m) walking route (a 400m running track works great). Before starting the test put on your heartrate monitor and perform a light warm up by walking for 5 to 10 minutes. Once ready, start your watch and start walking the one-mile route as quickly as possible, make sure not to run or skip, one foot must be always on the ground. Once you have completed the mile stop your watch and immediately check your heart rate. Now to calculate your estimated VO2 max you can input your data into the equation below. (If you want more information on the Rockport One Mile Walking Test follow this link; Rockport Fitness Test ( ) 

132.853 – (0.0769 × Weight (kg)) – (0.3877 × Age) + (6.315 × Gender (1=male, 0=female) – (3.2649 × Time to complete test) – (0.1565 × Final heart rate) = VO2 max ( 

Now that you know your estimated VO2 max you can determine the relative intensity of gardening to your fitness level. Divide the oxygen consumption of gardening (14 by your VO2 max and multiply by 100, which gives you a percentage value. If your value is less than 80% you are in great shape to garden as much as you see fit. If your value is greater than 80% you can still feel safe in the garden, but you may want to perform your garden tasks in smaller chunks of time (15-20 minutes) and gradually increase over the season.  

Gardening is a great way to get active and improve many aspects of health. No matter your current fitness level, make sure to start the season off easy and gradually increase as the season progresses. Rest in the shade, drink lots of water and make sure to enjoy nature around you.  

About the Author 

E Kelly (they/them) is passionate about supporting the health of their community. While working closely with individuals in the health & fitness industry E noticed a concerning trend. Many individuals’ health concerns did not stem from a lack of knowledge, willingness or desire to eat healthier or exercise more. Instead, a growing number of health issues were correlated with a lack of access to healthy foods. Thus started E’s journey in learning more about sustainably produced foods and how to produce an abundance in small spaces.  

With a formal education in Kinesiology and years of experience growing food as a hobby, E is combining their experience and knowledge base to promote the production of local and sustainable produce.  

E is the Garden Coordinator at United Way of the City of Kawartha Lakes and Edwin Binney’s Community Garden located in Lindsay, ON. 

By |2023-04-14T13:04:52-04:00April 14th, 2023|Community Gardens, Uncategorized|0 Comments

From the Ground Up: Soil

Thank you for visiting Edwin Binney’s Community Garden Blog. We have been growing and distributing fresh produce in the City of Kawartha Lakes since 2019 with the help of many volunteers and partner organizations. To date we have donated 56,093lbs of fresh produce.   

In this short series of blogs, we’d like to share our gardening tips and tricks to help you grow your own food, increase the biodiversity of the local environment and discuss how growing food locally helps our communities. In this first blog we will explore the foundation of the garden; Soil.  

The Foundation of Life: What is soil, testing your soil, and improving the soil  

What is soil?  

We may walk over it many times each day not giving it much more than a mere glance. However, the ground or soil we trod upon deserves so much more than that. At a macro level soil looks like a mixture of various sized particles from sand up to large rocks. But look a little closer, now we see that there are also clumps of a dark brown material that holds moisture and gives off the scent characteristic of earth. These clumps are the decaying organic matter of previously growing plants such as leaves from trees or lawn clippings. On its own this organic matter would stay preserved, unchanged from when it fell from a tree or when we cut the grass. As we are looking closely at the soil, we now notice that there are in fact living organisms; worms, ants, beetles, pill bugs and much more. If we had a microscope, we would be able to see even more organisms living in the soil. These organisms are responsible for helping the fallen organic matter turn into soil by breaking it up, eating and digesting it. In addition, these organisms also eat and digest each other keeping the balance of helpful and harmful organisms in check. All this activity helps to release the stored nutrients in the decaying plant material making it available for small animals, microbes and future plants to feed on.   

In essence, the soil that we walk on each day, played in as kids (or adults) and shape into our personal landscapes is much more than a collection of various sized particles. It is a living breathing community that contains more living organisms in a tablespoon than there are people on Earth (Hoorman & Islam, 2010). Soil is a community that works together to clean up, recycle and repurpose previously growing organic matter in order to support the continued growth of future organisms.  

Though there is not a universally agreed upon definition of soil we have defined it for the purposes of our discussion here as; a complex and diverse community including macro and microscopic organisms, various sizes of rock particles and decaying organic matter that support life cycles above and below its surface.   

How do we know if our soil is good to start a garden?  

Though our soils at home and even at EBCGs may be able to support the growth of grasses and some perennial flowers, bushes or trees we may have difficulty growing plants for food as these plants typically need slightly different conditions than what is already growing in the area. You could of course just turn over a section of your lawn and plant edible plants or their seeds into this soil but getting a decent harvest would have similar results to throwing darts with your eyes closed and hoping to hit a bullseye.   

To help you understand the structure of your soil, its ability to hold or drain water, and its potential ability to support the growth of your crops, tests should be completed prior to planting. These tests can range from simply looking at and feeling the soil to collecting a sample of soil and shipping it to a company to perform a complex analysis. And of course, these tests range in cost from free to hundreds of dollars, so keep a budget in mind as growing for yourself or neighbors likely won’t require very expensive and complicated tests.  

Simple tests can be completed with items and materials that you likely have at home already. The first involves simply digging up a sample of soil in an area where you would like to grow some plants. Evaluate the consistency of the soil. Is it loose or hard? Does it feel fine and smooth or is it coarse/gritty? Describe the color of the soil. Is the soil dry, damp or wet? Does the soil have visible decaying organic matter and living organisms?  

Soils that are loose usually have good drainage and allow plant roots to grow deep into the ground, increasing the root surface area enabling the plant to absorb more water and nutrients. Harder soils tend to hold water longer or create areas in the garden prone to flooding which can drown and rot our crops. Similarly, soils that are coarse or gritty contain more particles of sand which helps with improving drainage while soils that feel very fine/smooth or silky consist of silt and clay which have more surface area to hold onto moisture. Good soil should have a mix of these substances that allow it to hold enough moisture for plants to use but also drain fast enough to not drown the plants.   

The color of the soil can also give you an idea of its composition. Clays typically are found in light brown, gray and red. Sands also come in shades of brown from light to dark. Organic matter usually appears as a very dark brown or black substance.   

A slightly more complex test using a mason jar can give you a more accurate description of the composition of your soil. Using a hand trowel, dig up a sample of soil from the top 10 cm of your potential garden area. Place this sample in a mason jar, aim to fill the jar with 10 cm of soil. Fill the rest of the jar with water and place the lid on top. Shake the contents of the jar for one to two minutes then let the jar sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Over the course of 24 hours the soil particles will sort and settle themselves into layers on the bottom of the jar. From the bottom to the top of the sample the layers will consist of 1) sand, 2) silt, 3) clay and 4) organic matter. The substances that make up the soil (sand, silt, clay, organic matter) all have different densities meaning that after being shaken in the jar they fall through the water at different rates thus we see the sorting and layering effect. Now you can use a ruler to measure the thickness of each layer then divide that by the total thickness of the sample to calculate the percentage of each substance present.   

These two simple tests can give us valuable information about our soil’s texture (percent of sand, silt, clay and O.M.) as well as whether it is currently able to support life. To grow edible crops though, it is helpful to know what elements are present and may be available to our plants. There are three elements that plants need in large quantities, you have likely seen these on fertilizer packaging as N-P-K, they are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Plants also need other elements and minerals from the soil but in smaller amounts, we refer to these as trace elements/minerals. This is where testing the soil can get quite expensive. Many garden and hardware stores sell simple home chemical tests that can give you a vague idea of how much of the macro elements (N-P-K) your soil contains. These are fine for home use but are limited as they typically consist of a color changing chemical that you compare with a key provided with the kit that gives you a value range for the given nutrient. More expensive tests can be performed by universities and private labs, for a larger cost, with the equipment to analyze the samples and provide more detailed results in percentages. Another limitation of the home test kits is that they don’t test for the trace elements/minerals.   

Finally, plants also grow in soils that have various pH levels. Most vegetables and fruits do just fine in neutral soils while others (like Blueberries) prefer soils that are slightly more acidic. A quick refresher on the pH scale. The scale is measured from 1 to 14, 7 is neutral while less than 7 is acidic. The pH scale is a logarithmic scale that measures the amount of hydrogen (H+) ions in a substance, in our case the soil. For every whole number decrease on the scale the acidity level is increased 10 times. So why do we want to know the pH level of our soil? Some plants like Blueberries mentioned above need higher concentrations of H+ in order to absorb nutrients from the soil. So, while our previous tests may indicate that our soil contains suitable levels of N-P-K, we may struggle to grow Blueberries if we don’t know the pH of the soil.   

Testing the pH of our soil at home is fairly easy. Many of the kits that are available for testing the N-P-K values also come with a chemical test that will give a value range for the pH. Simply add a sample of soil to the provided test tube, add pH indicator provided, fill the test tube with water and shake. The solution will change color and you can use the key provided to identify the pH of your sample. Digital pH test units are also available at garden and hardware stores. To use these, you will need to mix a sample of soil with some water in a mason jar (we’ve already got that prepared from our earlier test!). Now take a sample of the water from the mason jar and place it into a separate container. Place the metal probe of the pH test unit into the sample solution and a digital value will be provided.   

Improving the soil  

Now that we have gotten personal with our soil and collected a bunch of data about its texture, fertility and chemical composition, how do we use this information to help us improve our soil for growing food?  

Let’s look at soil drainage first. If growing in the ground, as opposed to in containers or raised beds, the most common issue you will face is slow drainage. This results in water logging of the soil which displaces oxygen and drowns the roots of the plants and causes rot. There are mechanical and (let’s say) “natural” ways of dealing with slow drainage and its cause.   

Slow drainage is likely caused by soils that are high in clay or soil that has been compacted by foot traffic or heavy machines traveling on top. Whichever the case mechanical methods most often used in home gardens to improve this issue are tillage, digging with a spade, or broad forking. Tilling, though very common, is something we want to avoid. In the short term it does a wonderful job of mixing the sub-soil layers with the topsoil temporarily improving drainage. Over time continued tillage results in compaction of deeper layers of soil. There’s no need to be dogmatic with this rule, as a single tillage event to start a garden is unlikely to result in severe negative effects. The key is to limit its usage. Digging with a shovel or spade is similar, albeit a much slower version of tilling. It’s also very labor intensive if you are starting a sizable garden. A tool called a broad fork is often used in organic and no-till market gardening. Broad forks are used to penetrate, separate and slightly lift compacted soils to allow water, air, soil organisms and plant roots to migrate into the deeper layers of soil. Broad forking or forking with a pitchfork is the recommended mechanical method of alleviating soil compaction and drainage issues in our gardens.   

“Natural” methods of coping with compacted soil take a little longer to work than mechanical methods, but also contribute to building a healthier and more diverse soil environment. If you live in an area that experiences true winter, water that has penetrated the soil through wormholes, broad fork holes, or root spaces will freeze and expand pushing chunks of soil apart and breaking up some compaction. Another “natural” method is to use cover crops. Cover crops are simply plants that we can grow in our gardens that we don’t intend on harvesting but help keep the soil covered and support biological life under the surface. Forage radish (also known as tillage radish or daikon radish) grows large and long tap roots that are very effective at breaking up compacted soil and can be included with a mix of other cover crops to compound this benefit with the benefits of others. More info on cover cropping will be included in an upcoming article.  

From our soil fertility tests we now have an idea of how much nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus (the three most important plant nutrients in soil) are available for our crops. As with anything else in life we can make this process as simple or complex as we desire. If you are so inclined and have received detailed chemical analysis of your soil from a scientific lab you could calculate exactly how much of each nutrient you need to add based on your garden’s surface area. That’s too complicated for me as I would rather spend more time planting than solving the required math problems. Fertilizing in this method also runs the risk of over fertilizing which can lead to the excess chemicals being washed away with heavy rains polluting natural ecosystems. Look up algal blooms and fertilizer contamination for more information. Rather than using synthetic or refined organic fertilizers, slow-release organic fertilizers are available and are made with by-products of organically grown crops such as alfalfa, cottonseed meal, peanut meal, and soybean meal just to name a few. As the name suggests the fertilizers release their nutrients slowly, feeding the plants and microorganisms for a prolonged period. As suggested earlier cover crops are handy to use for improving soil and can be used beyond breaking up compacted soils. For example, plants in the legume family (beans, peas and clovers) create a symbiotic relationship with certain types of bacteria in soil. The bacteria can take nitrogen that has moved into the spaces between the soil particles and turn it into a form that is available for plants to absorb. In return for this nitrogen plants provide the bacteria with a home in their roots (nodules) and sugars that they have made through photosynthesis. Other plants that create very deep tap roots are also able to bring nutrients and minerals from deeper layers of soil and make them available to plants with shallow root systems. Our favorite plants that create deep tap roots are sunflowers and others in the aster family of plants. Cover cropping is a great method to increase soil fertility, organic matter and biodiversity of our gardens and more information will be provided in a future article, so stay tuned.   

Another option of soil improvement that doesn’t necessarily fit in one category is the use of compost. Compost is a naturally occurring process that turns once living material into a nutrient rich substance and component of soil. Using compost in the garden can provide similar benefits to using slow-release fertilizers. In addition, compost creates a great environment for macro and microscopic soil organisms to live in. Worms, for example, eat the decaying organic matter and excrete nutrient rich waste. They also tunnel through the soil breaking up compaction and depositing some of the nutrients in deeper layers of soil.   


Starting a garden to produce your own food can seem like a daunting endeavor but the satisfaction and reward of eating fresh fruit and vegetables from your own yard is extraordinary. By taking the time now before planting to inspect the soil you have will save you from tremendous headaches later in the season. If you haven’t already, consider starting a compost system to help you build your soil diversity and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.  

Thank you for taking the time to read our first article in this series. In the next article we will explore sourcing water for our gardens. In each article we will be exploring gardening topics in a sequential order to help you with each step throughout the entire growing season. Make sure to check back frequently as new articles will be posted each week.  


Hoorman, J. J., & Islam, R. (2010, September 7). Understanding Soil Microbes and Nutrient Recycling. 

About the Author 

E Kelly (they/them) is passionate about supporting the health of their community. While working closely with individuals in the health & fitness industry E noticed a concerning trend. Many individuals’ health concerns did not stem from a lack of knowledge, willingness or desire to eat healthier or exercise more. Instead, a growing number of health issues were correlated with a lack of access to healthy foods. Thus started E’s journey in learning more about sustainably produced foods and how to produce an abundance in small spaces.  

With a formal education in Kinesiology and years of experience growing food as a hobby, E is combining their experience and knowledge base to promote the production of local and sustainable produce.  

E is the Garden Coordinator at United Way of the City of Kawartha Lakes and Edwin Binney’s Community Garden located in Lindsay, ON. 

By |2023-03-21T09:47:46-04:00March 21st, 2023|Community Gardens|0 Comments

United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes kick off greets new leadership, celebrates retirement, and announces new matching grant

On Tuesday, September 28th, the United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes (UWCKL) held its annual fundraising campaign kick off event at Edwin Binney’s Community Garden with the introduction of a new Matching Collaborative Grant. They also welcomed Paul Murphy as new Board President, introduced Emily Beall and Shantal Ingram as new Co-Executive Directors, and bid warm retirement wishes to outgoing Executive Director Penny Barton Dyke.

(left to right) Murphy, Ingram, and Beall address kick off attendees.

Paul Murphy, the current General Manager of Crayola Canada, has been a long-time supporter of UWCKL, most notably through the agency’s supportive relationship with Crayola. Concerning his appointment to Board President Murphy offers, “I have been involved with UWCKL for many years as a Crayolian: volunteering at the sales, fundraising and trying to support where I could… I am very honoured and proud to be working with not only the great individuals that make up the Board, but also with our fabulous staff.” Murphy then introduced UWCKL’s newest funding opportunity, the Matching Collaborative Grant.

This new Matching Collaborative Grant will award up to $10,000 per project, contingent on the collaborating agencies providing a matching amount of funds to what has been requested (in capital, not in-kind). Each application requires a minimum of three collaborating agencies, at least one of which must be registered as a charitable organization with the CRA, to receive funds. All partners must be located or serving clientele in Kawartha Lakes and/or Haliburton County. Two grants will be available in this funding stream, one in Kawartha Lakes and one in Haliburton County.

Shantal Ingram, incoming Co-Executive Director notes “UWCKL has been promoting collective impact models for a decade and a half.  It is important to look at ways to strengthen our community impact on poverty and collaboration is the necessary.  Although many collaborations exist, at times those involved need an infusion to look at some innovative tactics. UWCKL is and will remain focused on actions to end poverty and help our most vulnerable. We hope to inspire new partners to join and also further match the funds given out to help increase our trajectory of ending poverty.”

For more information, guidelines, and application please visit

Outgoing Executive Director Penny Barton Dyke greets an attendee.

UWCKL’s two incoming Co-Executive Directors then took the time to update attendees on ongoing and future initiatives introduce this year’s Campaign Chairs Jeff Tompkins and Brian Nash representing the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County respectively. Several staff and board members then took a few moments to congratulate outgoing ED Penny Barton Dyke on her 17 ½ years of service to UWCKL and the community before Barton-Dyke addressed attendees herself, imparting praise and advice on both Beall and Ingram as the UWCKL begins its next chapter.

By |2022-09-30T09:45:56-04:00September 29th, 2022|Campaign, Kickoff, News, Special Events, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Crayola Sale canceled due to ongoing Covid-19 health and safety uncertainty

For a third year, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes and Crayola Canada to cancel the popular Crayola Sale. Prior to 2020, this annual event had taken place every fall for more than 30 years. Since its inception, over $1 million has been generated from the annual warehouse sale and Crayola’s workplace campaign.

Crayola Canada and UWCKL Staff touring Edwin Binney's Community Garden in 2021.

Crayola Canada and UWCKL Staff touring Edwin Binney’s Community Garden in 2021.

“With the continued uncertainty, we have made the very difficult decision to not have the sale this year, as the health and safety of staff, customers and volunteers is our highest priority,” explains Paul Murphy, General Manager of Crayola Canada. “The cancellation of the sales does not change Crayola Canada’s commitment to our relationship with the UWCKL. We will continue to work with them and find new ways to support their efforts within our community.”

Our work continues with Edwin Binney’s Community Garden, located on Crayola’s property in Lindsay, where we have donated over 30,000 lbs. of fresh produce to food programs in the City of Kawartha Lakes. If you would like to support our education centre and food security program please visit our site!

By |2022-09-19T13:09:45-04:00September 21st, 2022|Crayola Sale, News|0 Comments

Executive Director of UWCKL announces retirement

United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes announced at its September 8th AGM, its Executive Director, Penny Barton Dyke will be retiring from the organization after seventeen and a half years.  “It has been a privilege and honour to work with incredible community leaders, donors, volunteers and staff over the years, she noted.  I am looking forward to taking some time off and looking at new adventures.”

Over her tenure, Penny was tasked to be a brave community leader and look at innovative ways to help agencies and the communities that we serve.  With her retirement, we are looking back at some of the ground-breaking work that has been completed:

In 2005-08, UWCKL participated in the largest (and first) collaboration of 16 small rural Ontario United Ways.  This in-depth consultative process was called Community Matters. It became a catalyst that transformed UWCKL’s approach to community engagement and development work.  Ms. Barton Dyke added, “Community Investment has always included traditional agency support. Community Matters steered us towards deeper community conversations which led us to help develop better collaborations with partners.  Essentially, it was a call to action to help lead cutting edge projects and find new ways of working with partners.  UWCKL assisted with the development of the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.  It really highlighted that our work was going in the right direction but we needed to continue to look for diverse approaches to systemic issues.”

Shantal Ingram, Penny Barton Dyke and Emily Beall are pictured at the Edwin Binney's Community Garden Farm Stand located at 50 Mary Street West in Lindsay.

Pictured (from left to right): Shantal Ingram, Penny Barton Dyke and Emily Beall at the Edwin Binney’s Community Garden Farm Stand located at 50 Mary Street West in Lindsay.


Duncan Gallacher, Board President noted in his AGM remarks that UWCKL’s noted it took two years of consultations with more than 30 lead supporters and subject matter experts to create an impactful food security project called Edwin Binney’s Community Garden (EBCG).  EBCG was created four years ago.  With the help of lead partners such as Crayola Canada, Fleming College Sustainable Agriculture and Lindsay Campus and the Otto and Marie Pick Foundation it established a multi-pronged approach to food security and education. Crayola provided land and financial supports.  The Fleming College Sustainable Agriculture program and Lindsay Campus has provided skills and knowledge in planning and growing crops.  The setting has provided experiential learning for its students. From the beginning the Otto and Marie Pick Foundation has supported the initiative by providing funding for paid co-op students and young learners.  In his remarks at the AGM as his last year as President, Gallagher described their Executive Director as one of the most genuine and dedicated people he has ever worked with and he said, “I don’t feel the city will every truly appreciate the positive impact you have had on us all.”

Keeping with innovative approaches, the Board of Directors has hired Emily Beall and Shantal Ingram to be Co-Executive Directors.  Both currently work for UWCKL and bring a wide breadth of talent and dedication to the position.  Ms. Beall is currently the Projects and Communications Coordinator and oversees the EBCG as part of her duties.  Ms. Ingram is the Community Investment Coordinator and has led six campaigns and worked with many of the agencies, donors and volunteers in this role.  They both look forward to meeting with community agency leaders, donors and volunteers as they move into their shared roll.

By |2022-09-19T14:06:02-04:00September 19th, 2022|News, Staff|0 Comments

Introducing the Edwin Binney’s Community Garden Farm Stand!

Beginning Tuesday, July 26th at 10am, United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes will be offering fresh produce from Edwin Binney’s Community Garden! Every Tuesday between 10am – 3pm—or as long as our stock lasts—interested shoppers can visit our 50 Mary Street location in Lindsay, Ontario to choose from a selection of freshly harvested veggies, fruits, and herbs.

Since the garden’s inception we have donated nearly 35,000lbs, the overwhelming majority of our harvest, to local organizations and food banks to help combat food insecurity in our region. As we continue to expand and develop this initiative, fundraising for new pilot projects and additions will be imperative. The new Farm Stand represents one such opportunity for our organization, with all proceeds earned being put back into the ongoing development and maintenance of our community farm.

The Farm Stand will offer a variable pricing model allowing shoppers to pay below market, at market, or above market values depending on their budget. With rising rates of inflation affecting the majority of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton residents, it is important that we offer affordable solutions that also help our projects grow to serve greater numbers of people in our community. We know that community members with means will gladly pay a little extra to help support purchasing by those in dire need. United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes remains committed to alleviating the stress and hardship caused by food insecurity, now more than ever.

cauliflower rows

For the time being, the Farm Stand will only be able to accept cash payment, and we are always excited to receive extra donations at the point of purchase. Our weekly offerings will be posted on our social media channels in advance of each week’s Tuesday market so be sure to check in regularly with our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages to stay informed.

We are so excited to see you at our inaugural Farm Stand market day Tuesday the 26th from 10am – 3pm, right out front of our 50 Mary Street office location!

The UWCKL Team

By |2022-07-19T11:34:16-04:00July 19th, 2022|News|0 Comments

UWCKL Giving is Believing Golf Tournament



This June United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes will be hosting a brand new fundraising event!

We welcome you to participate in the Giving is Believing Golf Tournament which will take place at Wolf Run golf Clun in Janetville on June 22nd. This tournament aims to raise funds to support our community agency allocations process to ensure that service organizations in the Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton can meet the urgent and emerging needs among their clients.

Some funds will also support the operations of our main food security project: Edwin Binney’s Community Garden. The harvest from the garden continues to prove necessary as the cost of living rises and access to fresh and nutritious food becomes less available. With over 34,000 lbs. of food harvested and donated in 3 years, we must continue this work.

If you are interested to register for the tournament, send an email to Shantal Ingram at

We are looking for tournament sponsors and if you’re interested please contact Jennifer Bain at

Thank you to our hole sponsors:

Thank you to our prize sponsors:

Aaron Hill, Financial Advisor Edward Jones

Via Rail Canada

Amsterdam Brewing Co.

Food Basics

Ice Man Video Games

Crayola Canada

Ontario Out of Doors Magazine

Kawartha Sign & Pillow Company

Fresh FueLL

Burns Bulk Food

By |2022-06-28T10:43:23-04:00May 2nd, 2022|Fundraisers|0 Comments
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