INNISFAIL – The Innisfail Garden Club is going mobile.
The longstanding club, which has inspired many an aspiring green thumb in the community for decades, is about to realize its dream of having a three-season greenhouse on wheels at its community garden beside Dodd’s Lake Manor.
Karen Bradbury, the town’s community and social development coordinator, confirmed recently that $5,000 in Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) funding has been provided to the Innisfail Garden Club for its greenhouse project.
With the MOST funds, the club, which also contributed monies of its own, was able to recently purchase a SunGrow 32 greenhouse kit from Planta Greenhouses.
The $5,000 grant comes from the $76,940 of unused MOST funding the town received from the province last fall to assist the municipality with the financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Municipalities had until March 31 to use it, or return remaining monies to the province.
Town council approved giving the $76,940 to Innisfail FCSS for additional community COVID assistance, which included $30,000 to a free counselling program, $10,000 to the Innisfail Public Library and another $5,000 to the Innisfail Garden Club.
Marion Davidson, who has managed the community garden for the past seven years, said the greenhouse project is one that club members have talked about in the past as being a natural extension to the community garden. She said members are excited about the project, especially after enduring pandemic challenges for the past 16 months.
“It has been pretty inactive for the past year and a half. The garden itself has been the only part that has been happening,” said Davidson, whose club’s membership fluctuates between 20 to 50. “This (greenhouse) has given us something to really focus on and to put our energies towards, which we haven’t done for a year and a half. This is new and exciting.”
Davidson said a greenhouse site has been staked out beside the community garden. She said the new greenhouse is expected to be assembled through a “community building bee” by a team of volunteers by the end of the month.
“It will take a day or two, probably. We have a video and a book that comes with it,” she said of the assembly work.
The new Sungrow 32 greenhouse is a 9.75-metre (32-foot) long, three-metre (10-foot) wide and 2.44-metre (eight-foot) high heavy-duty structure designed for backyard farming. The club is putting in six windows that will automatically open for plant temperature requirements.
Davidson said the greenhouse is a mobile structure that can be operational for three seasons.
“We can move it from three different locations,” she said, adding club members had a prototype wheel jack made to help with the moving. “We are putting these wheels on it so we can move it twice a year to different locations. Wheels and a jack, so you can lift it up and then pull it along.”
Once built, club members will then have to figure out what they will grow in the greenhouse, said Davidson.
“Usually, the summer crop is things like tomatoes, cucumbers, and things that are sort of climbing, egg plants and those kinds of things. But it’s a little late to be doing that, so we probably won’t be doing a summer crop this year,” she said.
As for extending the growing life to four seasons, which SunGrow 32 is designed to do, she said it can be done if the greenhouse is heated, but added she believes members will want to take a break in the winter.
“But we will extend it to three seasons by extending the spring by starting early and extending it into the fall to make it later,” she said, adding it’s more likely members will decide to just move forward this season with a fall crop.
“Probably some greens, things that can stand a little cool at the end of the season, like your spinaches, your kales, those kinds of things,” said Davidson. “I’m still investigating that as to what is going to work here. It will be fun, just experimenting for the first year or so.”
For more information on the Innisfail Garden Club, go to its Facebook page.