The Farm to School grant for Mamquam Elementary was used to furnish a 20’x42′ greenhouse. It’s been a blast growing in there!
The greenhouse was installed over spring break, so we had to leap into action to get it outfitted and ready for planting. Thankfully with all the enthusiastic students and teachers at the school, community volunteers, and a few garden staff, we were able to do that quickly.
While the weather outdoors was cold and unsuitable for planting many things outdoors that early in the season, the new greenhouse was the perfect environment to start seeds to plant in the garden later, and to sell some starts as a fundraiser. It was also a cool space to be in while it was pouring rain because it was so loud!
Each class came out during their weekly 30 minute gardening lesson, and lent a hand with moving potting soil into pots, deciding what to grow, seeding, labelling, etc.
We wanted to get planting as soon as possible, so we had flats of seedlings covering all available surfaces and the ground before we had time to get potting benches made! It was truly a school-wide effort to get all the seeding done. We got electricity installed slightly later, so next year we hope to give the plants an earlier start with heat mats.
We held a plant sale in mid-May, and sold almost 1000 vegetable, herb, and pollinator flower starts. Parents, neighbours, and other community members supported the sale. Students also made calendula lip balm with last year’s flowers from our garden, and packaged sunflower seeds that we saved last year also.
After the plant sale, we quickly started to transition to converting the greenhouse growing plants straight in the ground. This entailed taking apart all the potting benches, planting many of our starts into the outside gardens, and prepping the ground. We had to rototill through some tough grass, pull out remaining roots, and wheelbarrow in a few yards of organic compost. We hilled up the compost into rows and tied up strings to the ceiling for tomatoes and cucumbers. We also planted various peppers, basil, eggplant, okra, and roselle hibiscus in the rows.
One end of the greenhouse remains open and paved with bricks to serve as our Outdoor Classroom. Teachers can book the space to use for whatever activity they like, whether it’s art, gardening, or science projects. The kid’s area is surrounded by edible landscaping of pumpkins, calendula, sunflowers, and basil, and living dividers made out of pole beans will make the space feel more cozy once they leaf out. We also hope to host some gardening workshops and small films here. We can’t wait!
Every June we have a school-wide garden party, and this year we officially cut the ribbon of the new greenhouse as well. We had wonderful live music and gorgeous botanical flags for decorations that our students made from the garden. For food, we always get watermelon, samosas, and make herbal iced tea with herbs and flowers that we pick and dry from our garden. It was a hit!
We are about to install drip line irrigation in the greenhouse to ensure consistent and even watering, so we can focus on weeding and harvesting instead. This year for the first time we are starting a bi-weekly school farm stand, where the public can purchase our produce by donation. We will continue donating any process to the Squamish Food Bank.
Turns out setting up a greenhouse is a lot of work, especially on a tight timeline! We are looking forward to planting fall crops in there, such as greens, to extend the growing season and time we can garden outdoors with the students. Then we will do it all over again in early spring!
More photos and updates about the project can be found on our Facebook page.