Living green through the cold

How to stay agriculturally active in the winter

Cultivate UWinnipeg is a student group at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) that partakes in green activity year round, even in the winter.

Four years ago, environmental sciences student Daniel LeBlanc applied for a grant from the Geography and Environmental Studies/Sciences Student Association (GESA) to build a community garden on the roof of the U of W.

“There aren’t a lot of grocery stores downtown. There isn’t a lot of garden space. A lot of people live in apartments or have small yards. There isn’t a lot of gardening opportunities,” LeBlanc says. “We wanted to give students the opportunity to grow their own vegetables.”

LeBlanc has been gardening for over 10 years and has experience working on an organic lettuce farm in Hawaii. {media_1)

“I’m really passionate about gardening, and I wanted to bring that skill to other people at the university,” he says.

The group usually starts the planting process in January through March, until harvesting goes all the way through till November, and the few months off are all about planning and recruiting.

LeBlanc says the group mostly grows herbs and only some vegetables, as the foot-tall garden plots don’t allow taller plants like potatoes or carrots to grow as well.

“We’re learning every year what grows better,” he says. “We experiment every year and try to find new stuff that might work.”

In addition to growing vegetables, LeBlanc says doing things like pickling, preserving, maple syrup tapping and fruit picking can help to keep green year round.

“Gardening is just one of the many activities that can connect you to the earth, and there’s a lot to see and do out there that teaches you about the earth and how to cultivate it,” he says. “It gives people an opportunity to get their hands dirty and to have a really rewarding hobby.”

Another hobby for people with and without a green thumb is keeping houseplants. Verde Plant Design provides plant education and helps people green their indoor spaces.

Travis Dyck says that through his time working at Verde, he’s seen the winter months as some of the most busy.

“In January especially, I was blown away at how consistently busy we were for it being so depressing and frigid outside,” he says. “But it makes sense. People want some green and some happiness in their life when it’s so dark and awful out.”

Verde offers all sorts of workshops that help folks keep green all year round.

“We do a Houseplants 101, which is more education-based. We also do a terrarium workshop, where people come, and you can build your own little succulent and cacti terrarium,” Dyck says.

“I have a passion for plants and seeing other people benefit from and fall in love with indoor gardening,” Dyck says. “Lots of people swear that they can’t keep anything alive, and we kind of take pride in turning that around and giving people the right information and the right quality of plant education.”

To learn more about Verde’s workshops, visit verdeplantdesign.com/workshops.

Published in Volume 73, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 14, 2019)

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