Tuesday, March 23, 2021 9:38 AM
Warmer days and signs of spring such as the return of redwing blackbirds and evening grosbeaks to the feeder inspired dreams of greening lawns and thawing soil, but a return to plunging temperatures put a stop to them temporarily. I revert, during the plunges, to late-winter activities such as viewing online posts from friends in warmer climes, where spring is already under way. One of my gardening correspondents also sent me an inspiring photo of the rooftop garden of a Montreal, Quebec, IGA supermarket, the largest certified organic garden on a roof in Canada. Images showed abundant beds of over 30 crops, ranging from strawberries, lettuces and herbs to eggplant, kale, bok choy and heirloom tomatoes, growing in beds of soil just six inches deep. Hives of honey bees busily pollinate the crops and produce honey, which the market sells, along with its vegetable harvest, under the name “Frais du Toit,” or “Fresh from the Roof.” The enterprise is doing so well the owners plan to expand their efforts to fresh-cut flowers and a flock of chickens to help with bug reduction.
The idea of the rooftop farm began when the borough in which the store is located demanded that half of the store roof be a green roof. The IGA is a certified LEED Gold building, and the insulation layer of the growing beds adds to its lowered energy use, keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. To further conserve resources, the crops are irrigated with water recovered from the store’s dehumidification system. Warmth from the building also makes a three-season growing period feasible, as the growing beds’ soil warms sooner and stays warm longer into the autumn with the addition of protective grow tunnels.
While the IGA’s bottom line is improved with its rooftop garden, here in the U.S. a similar project is helping to feed the communities surrounding Boston’s historic Fenway Park. In the spring of 2015, Fenway Farms began a rooftop garden on the third-base side of the ballpark, one that produces an estimated 6,000 pounds of produce annually. Crops are sown in Vermont Compost Company soil, and Fenway chefs are involved in selecting which plants will be grown each season. Weekly harvests go into salads and fresh side dishes available in the restaurants that serve the deluxe box seats, ranging from arugula, snap peas and rosemary in the spring to eggplant and potatoes during the summer months. Some of the harvest is also donated to the community food rescue organization Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
Not many of us garden on a rooftop, but wherever we garden, we can join in the efforts to ameliorate food insecurity in our communities. Right now, as you begin garden planning, why not figure out where you can tuck in a few rows of produce to donate locally. In this area, Knox County Gleaners volunteers work with local farms to glean vegetables that are taken to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Last year 3,212 pounds of vegetables and fruit grown by gardeners like you were distributed to 18 locations in Knox County. If you’d like to join in the efforts, plan now to tuck in a row or two of some kind of produce that stores well and is easy to grow. Summer squashes and cucumbers, winter squash, potatoes, carrots and cabbages all fall into those categories, but anything fresh is appreciated.
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