Skip to content

Ever wonder what's growing in the greenhouse by the canal?

Member of the Sault Ste. Marie Horticultural Society explains where all the food goes and gives tips for growing vegetables in Northern Ontario climate

Ever wonder what happens with all the food that grows in the greenhouses located at the canal? SooToday sat down with Marg Curruthers of the Sault Ste. Marie Horticultural society to learn more. 

The Horticultural Society operates the greenhouse by the Superintendent’s Residence in the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, despite the Canal itself being run by Parks Canada. The site is known for growing flowers as well as vegetables.

Curruthers told us that there was originally a different greenhouse around the 1920s or 30s but this “history is a bit foggy.”

This site eventually went into disuse, except for storage. Then, the canal staff approached the Hort Society to build a new area for growing plants and food in 2009.

Curruthers is a retired forester for the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and a co-chair of the Greenhouse Committee. She is originally from South Western Ontario but has lived in the Sault most of her life and identifies as “an adopted Northerner.”

She has been involved with the Hort Society for about 15 years.

Members of the Greenhouse Committee pride themselves on the wide range of vegetables they grow:

“We have quite a variety of different types of tomatoes,” she said. “We have kale, broccoli, a number of herb plants, basil, chives, cat grass (it’s a treat for people with house pets), Asian vegetables – pak choi – cucumbers, and sunflowers.”

They also grow flowers like marigolds, cosmos and dahlias.

What happens to all these plants?

“Our general guideline is that about a third there is grown for the canal, a third is for the Hort Society plant sale and about a third is for the individual member who grew the plants,” Curruthers said.

Community members may attend an annual food and flower sale, which helps fund the organization. 

This year, Curruthers estimates that the sale will take place between the Victoria Day weekend and June 5. 

In past years, the Hort Society held a half-day sale but is exploring novel options this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re working on an online sales option because we’re not allowed to have gatherings of people… We’re working on making it a contactless sale. We’re still working on the details but within two weeks we’ll be ready to go.”

Other greenhouses in the Sault include the New North Greenhouse near the airport, which grows vegetables and herbs, the Bellevue Park Greenhouse and the greenhouse in Sault College.

Curruthers also shared some tips with SooToday on growing produce at home:

“If people haven’t grown veggies or plants before, they might think that they have to wait until June. But there are quite a few veggies that can be started early on. 

“Some of the advice I would give is to check the information on seed packages. Seed plants and root vegetables [like carrots and potatoes] can be planted [as] early [as May]. There are some plants that like the cool weather.”

Curruthers also pushes back against the idea that one has to wait until the first full moon in June to be able to grow annual plants – ones that complete their life cycle within a year and die.

“I would say the first week or so in June is a good time to grow those plants and flowers.” In the meantime, “it’s a good idea to get your soil ready,” she said. 

The botanist encourages buying compost from local businesses to fertilize one’s soil.

“Whether it’s a heavy soil or a light soil, adding organic matter is the best thing. Put an inch or two of organic matter on top.”