Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gardening lessons

The survivors of what I'd hoped would be a flourishing double row of nut-producing trees on the hill of my Saltspring Island property. After 14 years, still no nuts.   

The delicious task of gardening on a hillside. John took this photo of me on Monday as I cleared dead branches and weeds out of parts of my "jungle."

Okay, nature wins. We are even letting the weeds grow in this corner of the property, where mainly indigenous trees provide homes for wildlife. Rabbits abound!

Another part of the jungle, slightly enhanced by the pedestal of a broken birdbath. No veggies here!

When we first bought our half-acre on Saltspring Island, I fantasized about gardening there. Vegetables! Flowers! Nut trees, fruit trees! I imagined a double avenue of such trees climbing up the property's (very steep) hill, with beds of all kinds of berries running alongside.

My fantasy was based on the fact that the property had sunshine, and lots of it, compared with our shady city lot. But in my excitement, I was ignoring two things -- the island property was shale rock with a thin coating of indifferent soil, and water there was scarce and expensive. A clear case of wilful blindness. As a farmer's daughter, I know all about the three magic ingredients -- good soil, plentiful water, and lots of sunshine -- needed to make plants flourish.

The predictable happened. I began with tons of enthusiasm, ordering truckloads of good soil and having John build garden boxes and carve holes in the rocky hillside for my precious trees. All summer, I dragged hoses up and down the hill, dribbling out that pricey water. But over the years, the excitement flagged. The garden beds vanished, along with all the expensive trucked-in soil. The nut trees that survived produced no nuts, although two apple trees still miraculously push out fruit every year.

What did grow, along with plenty of weeds, wild blackberries and native bushes, was some drought-resistant shrubs I planted mainly as privacy hedges. Now they form a jungle-like border on three sides of the property, where birds, rabbits, snakes and other wildlife abound. It's certainly not the fantasy garden of my dreams, but it's taught me a lesson or two about going up against nature.  I may not have fruit, flowers or vegetables, but judging from the number of critters in my garden, they are very happy with what I'm leaving them to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, my mother also tried to grow things on Gabriola. She gave up eventually but one thing that did flourish were primulas. When they sold the property, she took some of these hardy plants and they had a home in our home in Victoria. We were indifferent gardeners at the best of times so I was always pleased to see these come up in the Spring. Well, one thing about being such gardeners, the numerous deer in Victoria always went to neighbouring gourmet treats. They turned up their noses at our garden.