The number of books available about gardening has grown exponentially since I started growing plants. Then there is what is available on the internet. Phenomenal.
I do not plan to attempt such writings. In this column, I would like to share what works for me here in Albert County by the marshes with the moisture-laden breezes from Shepody Bay loitering over our property.
What I share may not be for every gardener. Over the years I have come to rely on watching what goes on in Nature, reading whatever I find on gardening, totally avoiding chemicals, including native plants and “weeds” in my collections, and tolerating what may be a mess to others because I do not always have time to keep things “neat.” The books would call me an informal gardener; I say English cottage gardens and lichen-covered roadside banks have always been some of my favourite designs.
An equally important limitation was the restriction of funds for gardening. In other words, what can I do that costs little or nothing?
One of the first things I did was start a compost pile. Books have been written on composting, how to speed up composting, and how to avoid rodents populating compost piles, etc. Over the years, I have come to throwing all plant material on the pile. I try to layer green and brown, wet and dry, live material and dead material, but mostly I only have time to throw it on. I have come to accept that with my strategy, it just takes more time for the plants to decompose. (Actually, Tom Hemenway in Gaia’s Garden believes that more nutrients are available to plants in compost that was made slowly.)
Because I now include material from the campground, my piles are so big I have to use a tractor bucket to turn. My husband has enjoyed the astonishment from one of our drivers at the beautiful soil created “from all that garbage.”
Because the compost pile was so far from some of my beds and I had wheelbarrows of weeds, I started piling the weeds at the back of some of my flower beds where they could be hidden. This has provided lots of soil over the years.
Another strategy is clipping or pruning and burying the cuts at the foot of the plant. I may walk by a plant, and instead of waiting until I have time to find a bucket and prune everything at once, I cut the dead branch or bloom and bury it with my boot at the foot of the plant. (I saw Bob Osborne do this at a rose seminar at Cornhill Nursery.)
Finally, one of the most effective strategies in soil building is burying plant material or kitchen scraps in the garden beds or in the compost pile. Bury it deep enough to keep it covered and in a few weeks, you will see worms feeding on the material.
There are other strategies as well, especially in mulching. These will be material for another column.
About the Author: Phyllis brings a wealth of knowledge from her experience creating beautiful organic gardens at her home and business, Ponderosa Pines Campground. She has studied gardening in England, Maine and Canada, including a Master Gardener course.