​​Richard Khoo, Clinical Project Lead, Bickle Redevelopment and Klara Siber-Simic, Spiritual Care Practitioner
This summer, the Bickle Gardening Group gathered for a planting workshop led by Parkdale community organization, Greenest City. Richard Khoo, Clinical Project Lead, Bickle Redevelopment (left) and Klara Siber-Simic, Spiritual Care Practitioner, enjoyed the sunshine and soil. (Photo: UHN)​

Toronto Rehab is painting the hospital green this summer with UHN's first wheelchair accessible garden at Bickle Centre for Complex Continuing Care.

Toronto Rehab's Bickle Green Team received funding from TD Friends of the Environment to start a collaborative effort involving staff, patients and the Parkdale community organization Greenest Cityto create a 1,200 square foot community garden located in the heart of Bickle Centre's property.

The six plant beds are elevated, enabling a wheelchair accessible, inclusive gardening experience for all patients and staff to enjoy.

A group of green thumbs at Bickle, including staff from recreational therapy, speech language pathology, nursing, clinical nutrition, spiritual care, volunteer resources, maintenance, management and administration, gathered this summer for a planting workshop led by Ayal Dinner, Executive Director at Greenest City and Arlene Hazzan Green, Co-Owner & Operator, The Backyard Urban Farm Company.

 "This has been a great team-building exercise," says Paula Cripps-McMartin, Clinical Director, Bickle Centre. "We're working together to create something new, learn from each other, and have some fun while we're doing it."

According to a recent UHN survey, 98 per cent of staff indicated environmental protection was important to them. OpenLab, a design and innovation shop based at Toronto General Hospital, which looks at ways to transform healthcare, is working with UHN Choices for Ontario Food Coordinator Adeline Cohen to identify multiple ways in which local, fresh and sustainable food can be incorporated into the hospital setting for patients and staff. The garden is one of the ideas that emerged from a 2014 online idea crowdsourcing forum by UHN Choices for Ontario Food to increase local food at UHN.

Bickle's garden project aims to promote these values and increase environmental accountability through local food production, water conservation, waste reduction, and educating the community on the role of urban gardens for environmental protection.

This year, the team will grow various herbs like basil and rosemary, leafy vegetables including kale, lettuce and chard, and will add a splash of colour with tomatoes, peppers, beets and marigold.

Not only are staff looking forward to spending time outdoors and working together as a team to grow their new harvest – the hope is that they will be able to encourage patients and families to participate in the process and incorporate gardening into day-to-day activities and therapies.

 "Our new green space is wonderful for patients who have gardened in the past because it makes them feel at home," says Amanda Beales, Dietitian at Bickle Centre.

"It gives them an opportunity to connect with an activity in a meaningful way – and helps them to feel more like themselves again."

While the team is still determining what to do with the produce at the end of the summer, they hope to give back to the Parkdale community by donating some of the harvest to a local food bank.

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