~ SAIT Campus July 19, 2014
On Saturday July 19, 2014, a group of 22 Common Ground Community Gardeners, friends and family members visited the SAIT Memorial Garden (‘Jackson’s Garden’). Under sunny skies, we met up with our SAIT guide, head gardener Adam Weaver, who treated us to an informative tour of the garden, plus nearby beehives. Adam has a background in Urban Planning, and tends the garden in addition to other urban garden projects in Calgary.
Jackson’s Garden is primarily a teaching garden, and was created four years ago to complement the campus’ culinary program. It was designed by Sue Galliver, and includes a small circular brick centre court with trellised arbour and seating, from which beds spread outward in an irregular, organic pattern ending in stone-tiered herb beds. There is also a large outdoor pizza oven, a table, recycle bins, greenhouse, and automated sprinkler system. Fruit-bearing trees such as sea buckthorn rim the outer fence, with fruiting shrubs (saskatoon, currant, gooseberry, Evan’s cherry) scattered throughout the maze of vegetable plantings.
In keeping with SAIT’S Polytechnic commitment to innovative teaching and environmental sustainability, the garden is organic, so uses no fertilizers or pesticides. Over 200 varieties of plants are grown here, from an extensive kitchen herb collection, to staples like corn, peas, beans, onions, tomatoes and potatoes. Interspersed throughout are more unusual crops to whet the palate, and we were able to see what artichoke, chick peas, lovage, borage, stinging nettle, horseradish, cantaloupe, ‘sister plantings’ (of corn, squash, beans) and ‘affinity’ beds (which pair various herbs with white vs. red wines) look like. Plant labels painted by Grade 2 students add a touch of whimsy, and around the central court, there are two topiary-like Korean dwarf lilacs grafted onto crabapple stems.
The small polycarbonate window/wood frame greenhouse is a relatively new feature in Jackson’s Garden, and is an experimental design built by SAIT engineering students. It incorporates the use of biodiesel for heating, plus soap bubble insulation – both technologies that allow it to be utilized year-round.
Produce from the garden is used in SAIT’s programming, ranging from summer camp offerings for children learning to cook, to full-time student and apprenticeship courses. Adam jokes that on occasion, ‘chefs-to-be’ will run down to the garden, frantic to pick a particular herb or vegetable they need for a dish they are concocting during cooking class.
After answering our many questions, Adam led the group upstairs through an adjacent building to the rooftop to view an example of urban bee-keeping. SAIT currently has four honeybee colonies there, and the bees help pollinate Jackson’s Garden. Because the weather was mild, we were treated to an active display of foraging worker bees at the hive entranceways. From the roof, we also had a good view of Jackson’s Garden, plus SAIT’s new expansion garden. Adam hopes that this trend will continue and garden beds will spring up throughout other campus green spaces in the future.