Groundswell Articles

Community greenhouse thriving in the B.C. Interior

November 28, 2022 By John Dietz   Greenhouse Canada

A small-town greenhouse, passive and solar, owned by everybody, is tucked away beside the headwaters of the Columbia River in the East Kootenays. It was unique when built and scores high for creativity today.

greenhouseWith about 100 active members, the Groundswell network hosts workshops and hundreds of visitors, including busloads of school children.

Step aside commercial, university and hobby greenhouse operators, this is a story about a community’s greenhouse in southeastern British Columbia. It’s a humble, educational, technical achievement and easy to miss.

More than an insulated, thermal-heated, 2,400-square-foot curved-wall greenhouse, Groundswell is “a living classroom that teaches people of all ages how to grow crops regeneratively,” says the community website: 
Read full article…

Seed Saving 101

August 18, 2022 The Columbia Valley Pioneer • 13
Submitted by Groundswell and Home Hardware
Groundswell has been happy to be a part of seed saving and lending endeavors this year, particularly with helping out the new Invermere Public Library’s Seed Library, launched this past spring, The idea behind a seed library is to create a collection of regionally adapted seeds, ones that know how to grow in our climate. Seed libraries make
seeds more accessible and can be a huge part of food and environmental sustainability. We can grow food for our families, friends, and food banks. We can find unexpected and beneficial places to grow (squashes in a ditch, anyone?). We can teach our youth how to grow their own food and build a hearty collection of heritage seeds for the valley!
How do we save seeds though? Read more ↓

seedsWhile it depends on the crop, seed saving is not as hard as it sounds. There are lots of online resources (check out or but having hands-on teaching can make all the difference. Groundswell is hosting a Seed Saving 101 workshop with long-time valley gardener Gladys Hanson on Sept 17, 10 to 12, Invermere Public Library.The workshop is $25/person and space is limited! Please register by emailing
Gladys Hanson has a fantastic wealth of seed-saving knowledge. Born into a family of gardeners in Kimberley, B.C, Gladys moved to the valley in 1960 and home gardened in Athalmer until moving her entire yard – soil, trees, perennials and fencing to Windermere.
She started to grow trees and perennial plants from seed to help fill her acreage. From pear, to plum, to apple and apricot. From peony, to petunia and pine, Gladys has only to see a living plant and she is eager to save the seeds and generate more. She is a true sustainable gardener with 100s of varieties of Heritage Plants.
If you want to attend the event or save seeds on your own, now is the time to prep!
Check your garden for dried out beans, peas, flower heads, etc. that you want to grow next year or donate to the Seed Library at the Invermere Library. Look for plants bolting (going to seed/flowering) and allow them to dry out. Be sure to protect them from wildlife! Then, bring a few of those plants with you to the Seed Saving 101 workshop! . Then you can share what you learned with friends, help the library build up a community collection of seeds, and support food security and sustainability in the Valley. Who wouldn’t want to save seeds?!

A Groundswell Network Society and Home Hardware Winter Gardening Tip:

Like eating? – you may be thinking about Food Sustainability, an increasingly important issue as food costs rise and climate change’s fires, floods, heat blooms, and drought decimate food sources.
Groundswell is finding amazing gardeners throughout the valley who are working towards raising more food by extending the growing season. One ‘cool’ way you can feed family and friends more nutritious food is to practice Winter Sowing – a method of starting seeds outdoors in winter that allows them to germinate early in spring. This method takes advantage of natural temperatures for those of us who don’t have a green house or grow lights. It saves on your electrical bill, removes the need to harden off your plants and ensures no leggy seedlings. Read more ↓

Start with a trip to Home Hardware to buy seeds (they are in store now). Here are some cool-season vegetable seeds for Winter Sowing: Arugula, Beets, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Endive, Green Onion, Kale, Spinach, Radicchio, Pea, Radish, and Spinach. Note: flowers too.
milk jugmilk jugmilk jugmilk jugNext dig through your recycle bin for containers – anything that is translucent enough to allow light to pass through. Tip: make friends with your local coffee shop, they go through dozens of milk containers each week.
Cut your milk container in half underneath the handle (you want to be able to refit the top over the bottom.) Poke a few holes in the very bottom to create drainage. With the top off for easy access, sprinkle in 2 inches of potting soil. Dust on seeds. Water. Sprinkle on a bit more soil. Push down the top of the container over the bottom and duct tape all around the container to seal it closed. Leave the lid of the container off for air circulation.
Last step – use a UV proof pen to write on a label what is planted in side. Tip – most pens fade and can’t be read when your seeds sprout. Stick on labels tend to breakdown in the snow. Tie the label around the handle of the milk jug.
Finally, place your containers side by side into the snow. NOW. Let them settle in to sleep. As daylight increases and temperatures rise, the seeds will sprout. Remember to water them. The container becomes a mini greenhouse for the new sprouts. When spring is fully here, simply remove the duct tape, lift the seedlings out and transplant them into your garden or raised bed. Then prepare for your first fresh garden green salad a month early.

Kids can do it… Grandparents can do it… You can do it too! – This spring grow a few extra veggies for the Food Bank.

We are in the midst of a “perfect storm” in the valley – exploding population growth; economic recovery from Covid’s decimation of our tourism industry; climate change with drought, heat blooms and fire significantly impacting food production, plus the floods of the Delta eroding an area that normally ships significant food into the valley and then the exploding price of fuel. I understand packaging alone is going to significantly increase the cost of food over the next few months. Feeding a family or a senior on fixed income is already a critical issue. While concern over shortages increases, wasted opportunities to fix it remains high. Read more ↓

It is a loaves and fishes story – there can be enough to feed us all, even in tough circumstances, as long as we begin to educate ourselves and change our behaviours now.
Do you have access to a bit of ground or some plastic pails, perhaps you have an old tire and can put some soil in the middle of it?
It doesn’t take much to plant a few potatoes, some beets or lettuce and enjoy watching it grow. Then harvest it and have the satisfaction of taking it to the Food Bank. What an great experience to involve your kids (of all ages) in. You can even obtain FREE seeds to plant, just drop by the Invermere Library’s new Seed library.
You don’t need a big fancy garden that takes a ton of upkeep. Sandra Howard, a Groundswell leader took a weedy wasted spot of ground in Mt Nelson gardens. She lay down some burlap sacks from Kicking Horse Coffee right on top of the weeds. She then took some cardboard boxes, cut them open and laid them on top of the sacks and watered it all until it was soggy. Next she took some soil and shoveled about 2 inches over the top of the cardboard. She sprinkled in a few squash seeds, then covered the whole thing with grass clippings to keep the moisture in and the soil alive. By July the whole area was covered with beautiful vines and blossoms. Dozens of squash were harvested from that little weed patch. The cardboard and burlap breaks down and becomes mulch, enriching the soil for future years. Any young person can have fun doing this while increasing their self- confidence and learning that they too, can contribute to community.
How about finding a bale of hay? Just poke a few holes in it, pour a bit of soil into each hole and then stick in a piece of potato. A few months later and a tummy is filled with delicious nutrition thanks to your small efforts.
Become part of the solution to Food Sustainability in the valley. Plant a few veggies on your deck, in your garden, or in the unused ditch beside your property. Mix some veggies in with your flowers or your perennial bed. They’ll look lovely and they will feed a hungry person.
As a board member, Eileen Bilodeau shared her concern, “The Columbia Valley Food Bank would greatly appreciate any community support of fresh produce!
With the ever increasing cost of living, Food Bank resources continue to be stretched.
Part of the Food Bank’s mandate is to support those who are food challenged in the valley, while supporting our local producers whenever possible.”
To be healthy everyone needs to eat some fresh food. This spring, with just a little imagination, you can ensure that happens. When my mom planted seeds she always said, “One for me, one for the worms and one for the birds.” This spring as you sow your seeds please say, “One for me, one for the wildlife and one for the Food Bank.”
This information brought to you by Groundswell Network Society and Home Hardware

The Winter Gardeners turn to spring… the results are burgeoning.

Home Hardware and Groundswell Network Society are pleased to report that combined, the gardeners who participated in the program are planning on planting 3X more edibles this year. It adds up to a minimum additional 100,000 home grown food products. These gardeners are planning on donating a portion of that food to the Invermere Food Bank. “Impressive results,” said Al Miller of Home Hardware. “This produce is clearly going to be needed in our community in these times when the demand on the Food Bank continues to increase.” Read more ↓

Example: Wicking Bed to conserve water.

Wrap Up of The Winter Gardener.

Al shared his thoughts on the program, “When we add the additional food production to the fact that these gardeners will now be practicing Permaculture, which will save water and enrich the soil for future generations; we feel this was a good investment for Home Hardware to make in the community.”
Home Hardware knows that Food Sustainability is an increasing issue for the valley. They will be lending a helping hand to Groundswell so it can offer spring and summer gardening programs that will encourage new gardeners and help increase the production of experienced gardeners. Watch for a calendar of events to be published in the Pioneer soon.
planterIn addition Home Hardware is inviting you, our readers to grow a few edibles for yourself and the Food Bank. To make it easy for you to join the food movement they have created simple raised garden beds, designed right here in the store. These can be purchased as a kit or you can order them pre-assembled.
Stay tuned – you’ll be seeing other Home Hardware Initiatives that encourage Food Sustainability over the coming months.
The Invermere Public Library wants to encourage Food Sustainability as well and is pleased to help you out with FREE seed from their new seed library.
You know that Groundswell always welcomes a chance to support you, whether it is with Raised Bed gardening programs or renting you a box in the Mt. Nelson Community Gardens or providing you with valley hardy bedding plants which will be available at the Groundswell Plant Sale on May 8 at the Greenhouse. Make growing food a part of your summer outdoor fun this year.

Food Sustainability in the Valley through Seed Saving and Sharing

“When life hands you dirt, plant seeds.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

seed libraryOver the last 80 years, 90% of varieties have been lost.
With your help Groundswell Network Society and Home Hardware are working to change that.

Seeds saved from year to year are open pollinated, not hybrids and they become more disease resistance, climate tolerant and have better flavor. Read more ↓

The Invermere library is launching a SEED LIBRARY – just like borrowing a library book but with a longer return period. You will borrow seeds in the spring and return them in the fall when you harvest your garden. Imagine contributing seeds for those who can’t afford them, ensuring they enjoy a garden of nutritious veggies all summer long, plus slowly creating a seed bank of valley acclimatized seed to feed the future.

IF YOU HAVE ANY SEEDS TO SHARE (new, home grown, or old packets you never used).

Librarian Blair McFarlane said, “We want to build a seed library to provide free access to seeds and education about seed-saving. We want to help bring the community together and be part of the solution for food sustainability in the Columbia Valley. The library is the community gathering place and it can be a place from which we all grow and foster collective care and wellbeing.”

Make seeds a part of your legacy… When one of our gardener’s great uncles was a child, his father mail-ordered a small packet of bean seeds. The packet cost a penny. Seeds were saved from these plants from the very first year and were passed down to the next generation. They have become excellent producing plants that have adapted to the area. They called them “Penny Packet” beans.
This spring plant some seeds with your little ones, harvest the seed in autumn and begin your own seed legacy story for your children’s children to enjoy generations from now.

Begin this spring’s seed journey at Groundswell Greenhouse and enjoy an outing. Buy, sell, and swap seeds and plants all while visiting with the gardeners and breathing in the green.
Groundswell is growing the Food Sustainability initiative in the valley.
Don’t have a garden? You can still plant seeds with a donation to Groundswell to assist with seed saving. For more info: email