What if you had a garden at work where you could grow fresh veggies (and eat them)?

What if that garden were raised in custom planters so that people in wheelchairs could tend them too?

What if I told you that’s all happening right now at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Centre?

And so it is! Garden Rehab On Wheels … aka GROW, is thriving in its second season. It is bigger (more planters added), better (more veggies growing), and more accessible (check out that wheelchair-friendly path!).

I chatted with Amanda Beales, the powerhouse garden group organizer and Registered Dietician at Bickle. She shared some thoughts:

As a Registered Dietitian, I love seeing people excited about vegetables! We had a staff salad potluck last week with veggies from the garden, and it was amazing to see how much everyone enjoyed eating vegetables, and we all learned different ideas from each other—i.e. “I never thought to put hummus on top of a salad” and “I never thought to mix herbs into a salad- this is delicious”

Garden Group gets creative with ingredients at the salad potluck
Garden Group Salad Potluck Creation … peachy keen!

Some patients have been enjoying adding some ‘fresh’ to their diets as well, all whilst doing meaningful therapy activities. Every time I’m out in the garden, I see a patient and family member touring it, enjoying watching the changes and growth. It is really meaningful to see it as a place for patients to spend time with loved ones, and a good place to discuss memories. I really see the garden as a beautiful intersection of patient therapy, staff wellness and environmental role modelling—all with “interprofessional collaboration” at the heart.

2017-07-10-salad made and eaten by patient in therapy-cu
Salad made and enjoyed by a patient at Bickle as part of therapy

A limitation to many ‘traditional’ staff wellness programs is that they target the ‘young and fit’. The staff Garden Group is very welcoming to a diverse group. We are all learning from, with, and about each other—the definition of interprofessional collaboration. We are seeing reach beyond the hospital—I have seen local school children and daycare groups come to tour it.

I am thinking more about ‘green’ and it’s amazing what I have learned, from crop rotation to companion planting to the ins and outs of composting. It is always amazing to come back to work after a weekend and see the exponential growth. It takes me a back every time to see the lettuce that I harvested on a Friday look untouched on a Monday!

The greening element really comes into play in many ways, including on-site composting. The lovely and rich compost goes right back into the garden. Very circle of life (apologies if you now have an earworm of the Lion King).

Lisa Behnke, Registered Dietitian—new to Bickle and the garden group this year, added:

It’s been a great way to meet and get to know other members of the team. It’s inspired me, and given me some skills, to start a garden at home on my balcony- my kale is doing amazing! I love being able to do something to help make the hospital feel more ‘homey’ and less clinical. I love being able to get outside during my workday.

garden pics-collage-planning-build.jpg
From planning to building to harvesting

Fermina Sticklee, Materials Management Supervisor, chimed in:

I love having a hobby at work! My backyard at home is too shady, so I can’t grow vegetables there. I love being able to do so here. It’s a nice team to be a part of.

All and all, this has been a big win for patients and staff. Those raised beds also save some backs with much less bending and stooping of a traditional garden bed.

A big THANK YOU to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation for their grant that helped the Bickle Garden flourish, to Adeline Cohen for all the planning and grant getting, to Paula Cripps-McMartin for her leadership, and to Amanda Beales for the critical day-to-day organizing that keeps this garden growing. You reap what you sow, in the very best way.


L-R back row: Fermina Sticklee, Ana Ferreira, Hovan Stepanian, Richard Khoo, Maria Chiera-Lyle, Angela McGauley, Paula Cripps-McMartin, Amanda Beales, Elzbieta Glowacka L-R front row: Susan Currie, Lisa Behnke

(Update Aug 2, 2017)


We had a fantastic workshop on July 28th by the lovely people at Greenest City. Have a look at the photo album. Check out the difference some compost can make.

A wonderful workshop for the garden team at Bickle's GROW garden by our friends at Greenest City. We learned how to make non-toxic pesticides, compost crash course and a whole lot more.

Posted by Talkin' Trash with UHN on Monday, July 31, 2017