One of the delights of consulting and promoting gardening is that once in a while you stumble into on oasis that you did not know existed in Whitehorse.

I was asked by our editor to check out what “The Seniors” up by Yukon College were doing, and when I eagerly drove up there recently and had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours, I was, as they say, “blown away”.

Driving up to the senior complex known as 600 College Drive Seniors Association, it was easy to tell the “senior” residences from the student residences: the seniors’ balconies were colourfully adorned with an assortment of flowering plants. I spotted an assortment of geraniums, pansies and petunias. It looked absolutely lovely.

Tearing my eyes away from the balconies, I saw the greenhouse and was immediately thrilled.

I’m not sure what I expected, but certainly not this professional, totally functioning 20-by-30-foot greenhouse built on concrete and complete with heating system (propane), ventilating system, watering system and plants that appear wonderfully healthy.

I wasn’t sure whether to be jealous (thinking of our frugal greenhouse operation) or whether to wish to be older so I could move up there and participate in this operation.

I soon met Doug Tufford, who was a customer more than 20 years ago and who also had a lovely garden back in the 80s and 90s, on 4th Avenue, and whose garden I recall was an immediate attraction for anyone who happened to walk by and look over the fence.

I remember him talking to many a tourist who would exclaim, “You can grow this in the North?”

The plan for having a community greenhouse came from the residents themselves, back in June 2007. The project was helped with the full co-operation of Whitehorse Housing.

The planning of the project was started in June of 2007; building of the greenhouse was started last year and it is now in full operation this year. The tenants formed a loosely knit Horticultural Club and now have 18 to 20 members.

Some members had never gardened before and are being shown the ropes by the more- experienced gardeners. Between all of them, they have about 167 years of gardening experience – impressive when you consider that the first ripe tomato was harvested June 11 (the greenhouse was planted May 14).

Doug has already harvested 17 cucumbers, and I saw many just days away from harvest. The growing system being used is kind of unique. I recognized an updated hydroponic component that we ourselves had tried.

Individual plants are planted in a large plastic bag filled with sawdust and individually watered and fertiled; this system is much simpler, easier to use and convenient.

It is called the Maxikap Self Watering Plant System. The system consists of a rectangular Styrofoam-looking box filled with a 50-litre water reservoir. On top of that is a 40-litre bag of soil provided by the system.

The plants are planted in the soil. Through a capillary system, plants are fed and watered through at the roots. Boxes are 15.5-inches wide by 12-inches deep by 32-inches long.

Each box can hold two tomato plants, but I have also discovered a few marigolds, basil and dill tucked among the tomato plants – a tribute to companion planting as all these plants interact favourably with each other.

Each box needs to be topped up with water weekly, and organic fertilizer is used.

The greenhouse contains one bench across the back that is constructed in the traditional way, filled with soil and a wonderful assortment of herbs are grown organically.

The herbs are grown for the Yukon College Culinary Department so that, come fall, students can start their year learning to cook using fresh locally and organically grown herbs. The herbs were thriving when I saw them and I expect there will be a bumper crop.

There are 25 grow boxes in the greenhouse, plus the herb beds. The boxes are spoken for by a first-come, first-serve system with some folks tackling one or two boxes, others more. A couple of boxes are being used to grow produce with the harvest going to the food bank.

There is also a large outdoor garden to complement the greenhouse operation, which I will share with you next week.

Ingrid Wilcox operates Lubbock Garden and Floral Consultant and offers gardening, greenhouse and flower-arranging workshops. Contact her at ingrid@northwestel.net.