Earth friendly gardening in the Kootenays region of British Columbia, Canada

Kootenay Gardening

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I look back with gladness to the day when I found the path to the land of heart's desire, and thank Fate ceaselessly with a loud voice that she did not permit town to sap all the years away while the heart was turning to wind-voices and flower-faces
and the hands of kindly earth
- Marion Cran

In my garden

My Garden 2012 - snapshots

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

      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 pesticides.
    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 soil 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

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