| My name is Danuta, I garden in the West Kootenay,
British Columbia, Canada, in the plant hardiness zone 5a, in the area known before as "that dry desert".
It is undoubtedly dry here, nothing can be done about that, but it doesn't mean it has to be a desert.
My soil is sandy and acidic. The drainage is
almost too good. Summers are very hot and dry here, winters are very
snowy and seemingly without end. Very often a thick blanket of snow
covers the ground since the middle of November through the middle of
April. I have about four months frost free, usually since the middle of May through the middle of September.
In my gardening I try to follow Nature's ways of
doing things. From my observation, Nature, if not disturbed by human activities, is the best gardener
of all. No wonder, she has 3.8 billion years of experience!
This kind of approach to gardening is called bio-mimicry, from bios,
meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Intercropping, green manuring
or cover crops, mulching and composting are major components of this approach.
I don't use synthetic fertilizers and don't use herbicides and
During dry weather I water my gardens about once
a week. During heavy production of fruit I may water every five or
six days. I try to mulch as much as I can to ensure that the soil is
cool and moist all the time and the soil temperature even and to
provide food and home for
organisms. It is the soil organisms that make soil fertile.
In my garden I grow vegetables, flowers, fruit
trees and berries, especially those not grown commercially.
I find the plant and animal life on this little piece of land the most interesting.
There will never be enough time to learn and know everything.
And the whole place is getting better and more interesting all the time. I
call it "this dry desert - my paradise".
I consider my gardening as a never ending experiment.
My most important task here is observation. I look
for signs of diseases, I look for pests, I look for signs of drought to know when to water, I
look how plants are doing when different kinds and varieties grow
in close proximity, I compare the growth of the same kind of plants in different areas of the garden.
Observation and learning take a lot of time in my garden.
My next most time consuming gardening task is
harvesting. Since the first vegetables are ready for the spring
salad and first fruit is ripe, through the summer and until the
first bad frost, there is always something to pick.
Mulching comes next. There are two kinds of mulches:
living mulches or green manures and already harvested, dead organic matter in different stages of decomposition.
In addition to growing green manure or living mulch I try to cover my flower beds and my food garden with
organic mulching materials: grass clippings, straw, leaves, compost, sawdust
(I don't recommend using sawdust for the inexperienced gardener,
though), wood chips. Anything organic is good.
I like to mix different kinds together.
In my Nature mimicking approach to gardening
there of course should be no digging. Because at the beginning the soil
had been very compacted here and depleted of organic matter I had to have
the beds in my food garden dug once a year, but that is done less and less
often. My goal is not to do digging practically at all.
I value my garden not only as a source of beauty
and fresh, healthy food but also as an opportunity for a health restoring, whole-body exercise in fresh air and sun.
An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of
preaching - Mohandas Gandhi