Greenhouse Operations 

Introduction

The Brantford Parks and Recreation Department is in its 109th year of operation. The Department has always played an important role in this community and its significance has been underscored by numerous wins in the Communities In Bloom Program. Part of the Department’s success has been the greenhouse operation that began in 1950. This operation has provided the community with an impressive horticultural reputation which residents take great pride in. The significance of the greenhouse operation will likely continue as a result of the increasing interest in gardening as a recreational/leisure pursuit.

Brantford Greenhouse Operations Structural Components

A picture of flowers in a greenhouse

The first greenhouse was constructed in 1950 with additions in 1951 and 1952. A fourth greenhouse was added in the early 1970’s. Staff have also made use of less expensive poly-hoop houses for several years but as the demand for plant material grew the need for larger houses forced staff to replace two of these houses with larger glass houses. The first was constructed around 1979 and the second in the early 1980’s. The two poly-houses are still in use. They are activated late in the growing season for the faster growing annuals and crops such as pansies that do not require a warm glass house.

In the mid 1980’s, the C.O.E.D. program (Canada Ontario Employment Development) provided infrastructure money to make improvements to the existing greenhouses. The three houses that were built in the 1950’s were re-glazed. This process replaced the original wooden roof frames and glass with aluminum frames and tempered glass. The side frames and glass weren’t replaced at this time because their condition didn’t warrant it.

The heating system was originally an oil fired boiler system. This was replaced in approximately 1974 with a gas-fired system. In the mid 1980’s this heating system was replaced with newer versions of the Hydro-Pulse heaters. As the complex grew the use of the gas unit heaters were also introduced to augment the main hot water system. Although the main boilers have been upgraded over the years the piping that distributes the heat throughout the complex has not been upgraded only added to as needed.

The venting/cooling system has always been a combination of temperature controlled exhaust fans and manually operated intakes which include both roof and side vents. Circulation fans with tubes have been used for air movement throughout the complex. In the late 1990’s a temperature controlled automatic roof vent was installed in house #4. The result was very positive. The new vent helped to provide a more consistent temperature in this house without staff manually opening and closing it.

The growing space in the greenhouses has always been used to the fullest extent. Wooden benches and shelves were constructed to utilize all available space. This has worked well over the years but now the set up is considered to be dated and inefficient compared to newer set ups and rolling benches. The benches require regular repair and replacement and the walks prevent efficient movement of material and employees throughout the complex.

The greenhouse operation is a very significant part of our parks operation and provides 400,000 annuals for planting in city parks and at City facilities. This number has increased somewhat over the years and continues to play a significant role.

Brantford Greenhouse Operations - Programs

The greenhouse operations main function has always been to grow high quality, unique and versatile plant material for city parks and facilities. The greenhouse operation also supports many other community programs. These programs include:

  • Neighbourhood Associations events
  • Community Initiatives such as hosting press releases, special ceremonies & events, participating in Canada Blooms
  • Education - High School Co-Op Program, Horticultural Apprenticeship Program,Greehouse Tours
  • Recognition of Organizations Milestones (carpet bed and mosaiculture)
  • Landscaping - Municipal locations such as golf courses, cemeteries, City Hall, Market, Parking Garage, Sanderson Centre
  • Community Partnerships - groups such as Weed Warriors & Brant County Stewardship have used greenhouse space to augment community planting initiatives
  • Cemetery Program - The lot program and hanging baskets available to lot owners relies entirely on greenhouse stock
  • Indoor Plant Displays - Program for municipal offices for improving air quality and workplace atmosphere

The program that most closely reflects the strong community support the division provides is the Vocational Incentive Program at the Brantford General Hospital (VIP). This has proven to be a win/win situation for both parties. Our Horticultural apprentices provide technical support to the volunteers that help with the program. This gives the apprentice experience in organizational and communication skills and teaches the volunteers and clients of the program to produce their own plant material. As this program moves forward the group will become more and more self-supported and only need us as a resource for technical and design support.