Chart showing comparative growing conditions on Vancouver Island.

Working with Mother Nature

Dawn Moorhead and David Lang discuss the factors underlying a successful garden.

Weather and soil conditions dictate which fruits and vegetables grow successfully on the North Island. Proficient gardeners adapt to those conditions, using various methods to diversify their crops and improve the quantity and quality of their harvest.

Weather

The following table illustrates weather facts and regional differences that are critical to plants – excess of rainfall over evaporation, summer temperatures, and quantity of sunlight:

Soils

North Island soils are quite variable but one aspect is common to them all: nutrients are concentrated in the clay and the organic matter. Those nutrients, the plants’ food, are soluble in water. Imagine placing a pumpkin and a tablespoon of salt in the sink and turning on the tap. The pumpkin doesn’t change, but the salt dissolves and runs down the drain.

So too are nutrients leached by all that excess, unevaporated, rainfall running through the soil and taking the nutrients with it. These leached soils tend to have low pH (acidic) levels. Vegetables generally prefer a higher, near neutral pH.

Poor drainage presents an even greater problem than leaching. Excessively wet soils directly damage crops both above and below ground. They are low in oxygen, which is essential for plant roots to function, and can harbour plant destroying fungi and toxic compounds, especially where there is stagnant water.

Improvement and Mitigation

Drainage can be improved and leaching mitigated. Raised beds, given the right soil, will drain efficiently. Swales, ditches, and drains to carry off excess water also work.

Add organic matter, as compost or mulch, to improve aeration and drainage. Organic matter holds nutrients more abundantly and more strongly than clay, improving nutrient availability and combatting leaching. Plus, it helps plants overcome soil pH levels that are too low or too high. Selecting cultivars which are tolerant of wetter soils or lower

temperatures and sunshine is important, as is choosing the most appropriate site available for different crops.

Use greenhouses, floating row covers, cold frames, cloches and polytunnels to raise soil and air temperatures and protect plants from rain damage. Reduce winter nutrient loss with cover crops and green manures.

All around the North Island there are healthy, abundant food gardens. Gardeners can and do meet the challenges!

Dawn Moorhead and David Lang are longtime practitioners of organic agriculture. They welcome your comments or questions at organic9@telus.net

 

Just Posted

Port Hardy council to apply for poverty reduction program grant funding

How should the District of Port Hardy deal with the issue of poverty?

North Island Bantam Eagles rebound from first loss with two big wins at home

The Eagles took down the top ranked Tier 1 Comox Valley Chiefs 5-3 on Sunday at the Chilton Arena.

The Wardens play the Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill

The evening was not only a night of music, but also of storytelling.

LETTER: Woss helps out in time of need

“I just wanted to acknowledge the wonderful people we met in Woss”

Northbound lanes re-open along Malahat after small rockslide near Goldstream

Drivers asked to use caution, clean-up crews have finished on-site

Bye bye Bei Bei: Giant panda born in U.S. zoo heads to China

Panda heads back to China as part of cooperative breeding program

Members of little people community applaud change to drop ‘midget’ term

‘It’s not about sensitivity,’ says Allan Redford, the president of the Little People of Canada

Little progress in preventing sudden infant deaths since last report: BC Coroner

Coroners panel studied 141 sleep-related sudden infant deaths between 2013 and 2018

Dive team searching for missing Cowichan fisherman

Bill Court said family and friends are actively engaged in the search

B.C.’s ‘Dr. Frankenstein of guns’ back in jail yet again for trafficking in Glock parts

Bradley Michael Friesen has parole revoked for allegedly importing gun parts yet again

B.C. woman suing after laser hair removal leaves her with ‘severe’ burns, scarring

Nadeau felt ‘far more pain’ than usual during the treatment

$2.9 million judgment in B.C. blueberry farm sabotage lawsuit

The new owners saw most of their farm ruined just as they took possession

B.C. to more than double sales tax on vaping products

Tax up from 7 to 20 per cent, tobacco tax up two cents

29 B.C. students in Hong Kong amid tense protests, university siege

Eight UVic and 21 UBC students still in Hong Kong

Most Read