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Community Gardening North of the Arctic Circle

Jun 29, 2017 03:00 PM

Posted by Emily Mann

In 1998 the Grollier Hall hockey arena in Inuvik began its transformation from an ice rink to a collection of community garden plots to be called the Inuvik Community Greenhouse. (Don’t worry—a new hockey arena was built in town). Now, the community greenhouse is entering its 19th season, run by the Community Garden Society of Inuvik (CGSI). The successes and challenges carry over from season to season, with each year presenting new ideas and opportunities.

The community greenhouse includes over 140 garden plots, with a regular size plot measuring 4 feet by 8 feet, and the planter box size measuring 1 foot by 4 feet. These plots are rented out on a yearly basis to residents of Inuvik, some of whom have been members of the greenhouse for 10 or 20 years. Membership costs about $75 for the year and members are required to contribute a set amount of volunteer hours each year. Membership includes access to member-only plant sales, a variety of workshops, and use of the unique facilities. Each year the greenhouse hires a Coordinator and for the past three years the CGSI has also employed an Executive Director.

Gardeners at the greenhouse experience unique growing conditions. The long daylight hours (including 54 straight days of 24-hour sunshine between May and July!) provide a good opportunity to allow plants to photosynthesize at all hours of the day. One gardener who was picnicking in the greenhouse witnessed her plants growing right in front of her eyes. With this quick growth the garden harvest can be quite prolific.

However, these long daylight hours also create challenges: vegetables like radish, spinach, and broccoli tend to bolt—that is, the plants begin to flower, making it difficult to harvest vegetables at their proper maturity. Since the gardens are located in an indoor environment, gardeners must rely on themselves for watering, rather than partnering with the timing of rain as outdoor gardeners do.

Gardening north of the Arctic Circle can be intense, but the greenhouse and its members have devised many impressive strategies to make the most out of a few warm months. For example, snow from outdoors is added to plots by members in April and May to add moisture back into the soil.

In most years, the greenhouse doesn’t open until May, but this year (2017) gardeners were given the opportunity to start early with the opening day occurring On Easter. in mid-April. The temperature was barely above zero on opening day but that didn’t stop over one hundred eager children hunt for chocolate Easter eggs and feast on a pancake breakfast. The greenhouse hosts a variety of community events, some of which are only available to members of the greenhouse, with others being open to all members of the public. The greenhouse has hosted birthday parties, traditional dinners, tours, ladybug release parties, and this summer will be hosting its first summer camp and adult paint nights.

Ladybug release

The Inuvik Community Greenhouse showcases the capacity for community members to mobilize behind a community-based project, as well as the ingenuity and commitment of Inuvik residents, past and present. Visit the Inuvik Community Greenhouse on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or on their website.


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