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Gardeners get their green thumbs ready for spring

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 15, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Spring in Yellowknife brings potholes and mud puddles - but for some Yellowknifers, it brings healthy vibrant green plants, fragrant flowers and enough fresh vegetables and herbs to fill the fridge.

NNSL photo/graphic

Horticulturist Christian Frenette stands with some home-grown strawberry plants at Arctic Farmer on Drybone Drive on March 31. - Heather Lange/NNSL photo

The North can yield a good harvest to a determined gardener, according to Kathryn Roy, a gardener who has been landscaping and growing a vegetable garden in Yellowknife for 25 years.

"Gardening is a hobby that has grown into a passion. Work is secondary to the pleasure you get in gardening." says Roy.

Some of her keys to successful Northern gardens are: being flexible, learning from your mistakes, using rock lime to counteract the above normal levels of acidity in Northern soil, and maintaining compost bins in the winter months to provide a rich black soil for the garden in the spring.

One interesting way Roy has learned how to start her roses early, is by storing her perennial roses under the house. The roses start growing in the dark which causes the new leaves to turn yellow instead of green because of the lack of photosynthesis. After bringing them up to be planted, she trims the rose leaves and has a solid root, stem and fledgling branches. This gives her roses a head-start to flower and spread their beautiful fragrance and splashes of colour on her patio.

Darwin Rudkevitch, owner of Arctic Farmer, and his right hand man, horticulturist Christian Frenette, have been busy growing their herbs, plants, flowers and ornamental grasses in the business's greenhouse on Drybone Drive.

No finish product has been imported from down south.

"We turned on the heat in the greenhouse, Feb. 19 and I haven't slept since," said Rudkevitch.

They are going to have over 250,000 varieties of horticulture to sell over the summer months, according to Rudkevitch, and right now some impatient flowers have already begun to bloom. Frenette proudly mentions the business uses no pesticides on its product but strictly ladybugs. On March 31, they released 6,000 ladybugs into the greenhouse.

Frenette says the best time to plant is in early June, and a week before for root vegetables. This of course is taking the weather into consideration.

Arctic Farmers' grand opening for the spring season is June 4 but the doors are already open to customers.

Across the street, Dave Hysert, new co-owner of Boreal Garden Centre, Gift Shop and Cafe, was busy levelling out his driveway with a Bobcat on April 8. Sam Kidston, the other co-owner, is working on the Garden Centre/Gift Shop interior decorating and set-up. They will be having their grand opening May long weekend, offering a barbeque to their customers.

As the gardening season begins, students at Weledeh Catholic School will be able to get their hands dirty learning how to grow their own food.

Eve Peterson, site manager of the new community garden at Weledeh, is enthusiastic about this new project.

"Volunteer gardeners will be mentoring students of Weledeh school and their families in growing vegetables in the garden and 25 per cent of the product will go to the Weledeh School Program," said Peterson.

For more information about the community gardens, and how to secure a community garden lot, visit the Yk Community Garden Collective website.

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