2021 Greener Greenspace Profile
Eglinton Park Communty and Mashkiki Gitigaan (Medicine Wheel Garden)
Located in Toronto, ON, the Eglinton Park Community and Mashkiki Gitigaan (Medicinal Wheel Garden) was created in 1995 by RAINscapeTO, an eco-lanscaping social enterprise that is a program of the non-profit Toronto Green Community. The gardens are in a corner of Eglington Park, a municipal park in a densely urbanized area of Toronto on the site of a former First Nations settlement.
Design and Process
The Eglinton Park Community and Mashkiki Gitigaan was the first community garden in a city park in the City of Toronto. Created in 1995, the garden has evolved over several decades and contains a community garden, a food forest and a medicine wheel garden (Mashkiki Gitigaan). Plants grown are mostly native, pollinator-friendly and selected according to soil, light and water conditions. Sumac, native grasses, and fruit-bearing shrubs are incorporated in the garden and native vines cover a 60 metre covered walkway. Native wildflowers / pollinators planted in a red canoe symbolize Mud Creek that previously flowed through the park and the Wendat settlement on this site.
Following a large construction project on the site that compacted the soil and resulted in the loss of trees and other vegetation, the Medicine Wheel Garden - Mashikiki Gitigaan - was rebuilt by RAINscapeTO in 2020 with community volunteers. The medicinal garden is Indigenous-led in terms of the design, maintenance and programming. Funding comes from the City of Toronto's Indigenous Arts Culture Fund. Through a program called Growing our Roots, the site is being reclaimed and re-indigenized through the caretaking of the land to reestablish native medicinal plant communities and support biological diversity. The medicinal garden serves as a welcoming place for placemaking, ceremony, growing and harvesting medicine, knowledge sharing and as a site to build community as a step towards reconciliation between Indigenous peoples, newcomers and settlers.
When the medicinal garden was being rebuilt, the soil was prepped with organic worm castings and mulch to rebuild the soil health. Seedlings were then planted in quadrants based on Indigenous teachings. Cedar mulch was used to retain moisture and keep the weeds down. The soil is protected to avoid erosion using mulch and some crover crops. The plants do the rest to regenerate the soil. Water management is a key part of the garden as RAINscapeTO specializes in raingardens and sustainable landscapes.
RAINscapeTO’s crew of Indigenous youth visits the gardens every other week to care for the garden and to ensure the garden is a safe, accessible and welcoming space. Community members and staff spend time watering when needed, and harvesting and composting materials. Everything is done by hand and with care. There is a garden coordinator for the community garden and a lead for the Medicine Wheel Garden. Both of them have worked with RAINscapeTO and have been trained in topics such as ecosystem restoration, pollinators, native plants and rain management.
There are work bees sessions to invite community members to work in the gardens. The gardens are sites for garden therapy walks, smudge stick making workshops and other community programs. In previous years, the gardens hosted activities for newcomers, neighbourhood volunteer sessions to get people involved in growing and harvesting food, and generating knowledge of Indigenous land care practices. Future programming includes additional ceremonies related to the plants, art installations and other activities to engage passersby on the history and significance of the Wendat settlement.
The David Suzuki Foundation supported a pollinator garden as part of these community gardens and other funding has come from the Climate Action Initiative Fund and PollinateTO.
For more information about the medicine garden in particular, visit their Facebook page.
Virtual tour of Eglinton Community Garden and Medicine Wheel Garden
Presented by Jose Torcal and Robin Jacko of RainscapeTO
Greener Greenspaces is a recognition program for sites from across Canada that exemplify greener greenspace stewardship. The aim of the program is to showcase examples of ecologically-focused land care as a means to inspire others and to further the movement across Canada.