News » Whistler

Greenhouse project lottery to fill empty trays

Planting season kicks off in early April



Spring is still more than six weeks away, but the Whistler Community Services Society is just waiting for the snow to thaw before planting the first seeds in the Community Greenhouse Project.

This will be the third year for the project, which was more popular than organizers expected. All of the available beds in three greenhouses were snapped up by members of the community, and when a few spots became available the next year, the WCSS was forced to hold a lottery because of the amount of interest.

There are 54 community planting beds that can be rented by community members for just $50 for the season. The WCSS will provide all organic soil, seeds, fertilizers, irrigation and instruction to renters, who in turn agree to donate about 15 per cent of their produce every month to the Food Bank.

Tomatoes start early, usually in March, but growers have planted everything from lettuce to herbs to beans in their boxes.

The WCSS planned to add two more greenhouses this year, but will likely hold off until next year to ensure the existing green houses are filled, and look at more options for growth with the municipality.

According to Eleanor Simmers, who is coordinating the Community Greenhouse Project, there are about 20 renters returning from last year, and the lottery already has over 15 names. The draw will take place on April 5.

"It’s been really sensational," said Simmers. "People loved it, and for families it’s become a whole recreational activity they can do together. It’s really quite social, and it’s a lot of fun to work in there with different people. You really learn a lot about growing food."

A lot of Whistler residents do not have backyards to grow vegetables, and even if they do have the space there’s always the issue of bears. The greenhouse provides participants with garden boxes that only measure about one metre by two metres, but are extremely productive. Most boxes can grow food from April to the beginning of November, and harvest more than enough to meet their own needs.

Aside from setting aside some of that harvest for the Food Bank, the other condition for renters is that they have to use the seeds and fertilizers provided to keep all the produce organic and to guard against pests and disease. All the seeds are supplied by Two Wings Farm in the Victoria area, a new sponsor for Whistler’s greenhouse project. The other sponsors are the RMOW, and the Whistler Rotary Club.

There is a time commitment to renting a box, says Simmers, and it’s recommended that renters come by the greenhouse at least once a week to maintain their boxes. Currently there are two greenhouses in Spruce Grove, and one at the bottom field at Myrtle Philip.

However, you don’t necessarily need a green thumb.

"It’s all relative," says Simmers. "We provide advice when we give out the seeds, and some instruction. And there are always people around with green thumbs that can answer your questions, and are willing to help their neighbours out. It’s quite social."

For people who have boxes or get a box through the lottery the orientation meeting for this season in on April 7.

To get on the lottery list you can contact Eleanor Simmers at 604-932-0113 or