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Cooperate with Mother Nature for a Healthier Garden

The beautiful weather seems to have settled in for the season in the Okanagan, and with it the gardening season is in full swing.

Master Horticulturist Ken Salvail (Photos Contributed)

Kelowna Horticulturist Ken Salvail offers some sage advice for those who are hoping to maximize the health and efficiency of their urban landscaping. According to the expert, the best garden takes into consideration not just the needs of the owners but the needs of the plants themselves. Plants that are under more stress tend to be targeted and more susceptible to pest and disease.

“I have a theory about plant health,” says Salvail. “The theory is that if you look back to what Mother Nature has provided for plants and try to replicate and perfect that, you will have great success in creating an ecosystem that plants will quickly adapt to.”

This approach is often called Permiculture gardening and is focused on working with and not against nature.

One example of this approach is forests, where plants are surrounded with natural surface mulch that creates a wonderful living environment for micro-organisms that are beneficial to plant health. No one goes out to a forest to rake up leaves and other natural debris from around plants. In the same way, plants in your urban garden need to be surrounded with healthy compost mulch.

Mulch provides many benefits to a garden:

  • Supplying life supporting organisms

  • Acts as a moisture retentive blanket in the Okanagan's hot, dry season

  • Reduces frost penetration to the roots

  • Suppresses weed growth by reducing light to weed seeds and makes it easier to pull weeds when the time comes

  • Improves soil over time as the by-products leach into subsoil

  • Releases nutrients slowly over time instead of over fertilizing which attracts more pests

For those looking for the ideal mix of mulch, there should be a variety of fine, medium and coarse particles. An ideal mix would have 60 per cent coarse, 20 per cent medium and 20 per cent small chunks.

“The next time you’re thinking about landscaping think about plant health,” says Salvail. “Look to Mother Nature for tips and remember; healthy plants planted in the right conditions and the right place require considerably less maintenance and water.”

Happy Gardening!

Ken Salvail can be heard every Saturday Morning on the AM 1150 Garden Show from 8 to 10 am. Check out his website at

(With files from Ken Salvail)

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