Nothing grows in Inuvik. For gardeners familiar with the zone system (in which Victoria is Zone 8 and Ottawa is Zone 4, for example), Inuvik is Zone 0. The only things that grow here are stunted willow, birch and spruce trees, a few Arctic grasses and wildflowers ... and, surprisingly, dandelions.
The town is built on permafrost, meaning only the top few centimetres of soil thaw in summer; below that, it's frozen solid year-round. You can't plant flowers, fruit or herbs - and tomatoes are definitely out of the question.
But you can't keep dedicated gardeners from growing so, 12 years ago, a group of green thumbs got together and convinced the town council to recycle an old hockey arena rather than tearing it down. Today that old rink has a plexiglass roof and is a Community Greenhouse, open May to October every year.
It's an amazing place that houses 74 four-by-eight-foot garden plots that residents rent out for about $100 a year. Every gardener commits to volunteering 15 hours each season to keep the greenhouse going - with such duties as filling water barrels, turning the compost, running the gift shop, mixing fertilizer, that sort of thing.
In addition, volunteers tend plots designated for the Food Bank, elders or youth groups.
When I first arrived in Inuvik, three weeks ago, I took a wander through the greenhouse and saw lots of little plants sprouting. I said hello to the lone gardener who was working on her plantings.
Earlier this week, I re-visited the greenhouse. This time, the place was a jungle - and a hub of community activity. Rhubarb, strawberries, lettuce, chives, basil, peas, arugula are now in full production. Tomatoes, zucchini, beans, potatoes, dill, peppers, cucumbers are well on their way.
|Three weeks later|
It was a great class in an unexpected venue. With every deep inhale came a lungful of humid, soil-and-fertilizer-filled air. With every exhale, we breathed out new CO2 to
feed the plants. And the light that floods in, day and night, nurturing the garden beds all summer long also gave a boost of energy to us yogis as we, appropriately, practised our tree poses ...