Gardening can be a hobby, a passion, our way to help the environment, grow great fresh food, help defray the cost of living, or all of this and so much more. We can learn so much from the experience of others in our own neighbourhoods, and not so infrequently the lessons learned are not so much new ones but rather reaffirming the old ones.
Such is this story. It is the story of my neighbour who has lived on a few properties in this neighbourhood for more than two decades. He is now in his late 70’s and shows no signs of slowing down. He is of Italian extraction. Grew up in Sicily. He has forgotten more about gardening than I am likely to ever know. He practices the ‘old school techniques’ many of which have been reinvented, or rebranded as environmentally friendly, best practice techniques. He recently moved to the property across the street from his old home and its two acre vegetable garden. In less than 6 months the land for his new home went from secondary growth Arbutus, Douglas fir, Salal etc to a home and garden.
Since he knew the move was coming - needed to move to a single story house for mobility reasons of other family members- he propagated his most cherished plants, started this year’s late summer and fall crops in flats and built two huge piles of compost: a mix of horse manure, grass clippings and other mulch. The photos below show the progress of the new property. The contrast to most subdivision construction and landscaping practices is obvious. He too had to have the topsoil removed from the building site. Instead of being trucked away somewhere, his was added to his ever expanding compost pile.
The lot was cleared of only what was necessary to build the house and vegetable garden. All other trees were left intact. The trees logged from the property were milled on site and used in the house construction. Each night he went around and collected the sawdust from the Douglas fir and saved it to be used in his compost mix. Having studied the local winds, the pattern of the sun in the spring, summer and fall he knew exactly where to place his fruit and vegetable producing raised beds. By careful use of the slope of the land and rock retaining wall placement he was able to have the yard deer proof with minimal fence height. ( normally you need at least 8 to 10 foot fences to protect your crops from the deer that in this neighbourhood actually outnumber the people).
A pond was dug for summer irrigation. It was necessary to have new topsoil added for the landscaping done at the front of the property. Two feet of good topsoil was nested in carefully laid beds placed amongst the rock removed during the foundation excavation. Drought and deer tolerant plants of varying sizes, texture and shades of green were carefully selected.
TOP PHOTO- Part of the old 2 acre patch, note the compost piles in the upper right corner
The Building Site and Foundation
Douglas Fir Fence Posts
The Fruit and veg beds
The end result is obvious. A healthy garden that respects its surroundings and has flourished from day one. Move in date was June 29th. The raised beds are already producing this year’s crops. In true gardener style, he says the garden is still a mess and that there is much work yet to be done. ‘ Wait til next year’. ********* PHOTOS and Text by Lynn Doyle- Vancouver MG