This community garden is thriving inside a curling rink in Fort Providence

The community garden in Fort Providence, N.W.T., isn’t outside, it’s in the curling rink. This season is a bit of an experiment to see what works, says gardener Gina Brown.

Anyone can help with the garden and helpers get a share of the bounty

Gina Brown encourages anyone who's interested to come out to the community garden meetings — every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the community centre. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

The new community garden in Fort Providence, N.W.T., isn't outside — it's in a curling rink, and this season is a bit of an experiment.

"For our first crop, we're just trying little things to see which things will take good," said Gina Brown, who is tending to the vegetable garden.

Brown says she's had concerns about food security since the pandemic started, which is one of the reasons why she's glad the garden started up.

They have 15 beds and 30 lights, and she's applying her knowledge of growing gardens outside but she says it's a bit different under the artificial lights.

"The plants are growing, like, 10 times as fast," she said. "It's amazing! I've obviously overseeded it in some places because it's overtaking the boxes."

The community garden has 15 beds and 30 specialized lights that can be customized for different growing stages. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Gardening indoors also had a bit of a technology learning curve. The lights are on timers and have different spectrums for the different stages of growth.

"It was a little high-tech for me, but it actually was quite simple once I figured it out," Brown said.

She hopes to teach others how to manage the lights so new people can take on her job next year.

"In case our food supply does get cut off — we'll have something to fall back on."

Pollinating with a paint brush

There are other tasks that need to be done differently, too; for example, because there are no bees inside, someone needs to manually pollinate the plants.

"I have to pollinate them with a little paint brush," she said. "I go round to each flower and try to pollinate them."

The method is working: cucumbers are coming in and the peppers are thriving.

People are interested in canning, so they're planning on making pickles at one of their Wednesday night meetings.

Gina Brown says the peppers are doing particularly well in the indoor growing conditions. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

The peppers are her personal favourite, though.

"I'm pretty happy with them and they seem to be doing really well under these lights. They like it a lot, the best, I think."

In her own greenhouse, she has 80 pepper plants and makes hot salsa every fall. "They're my pride and joy," she said.

Next year in late winter or early spring, the plan is to start trays inside so that anyone in Fort Providence can come and get some vegetables to plant in their own garden.

"This is like a dream for me to be able to experiment on this and plus, pass on my knowledge because I've often wanted other people to do gardening. And it's easy, it's free food, it's fresh, no chemicals."

Anyone can help with the garden and helpers get a share of the bounty. Meetings are every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the community centre.

Written by Ashleigh Mattern, with files from Loren McGinnis


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