BioChar enhanced all-purpose soil.

Gardening: A product of Maple Ridge

Many reasons to appreciate living here, nature among them.

There are many reasons to appreciate living in Maple Ridge, not the least of them being that it is home to people who know how to think for themselves, particularly as you gravitate towards Whonnock.

Some might credit the local water, but I think it has more to do with the ever-present beauty that surrounds us and the fact that we jealously guard those indefinable qualities we seem to find in the nature, people and places that make Maple Ridge feel like a place where we belong.

It is that sort of attitude that brings many good ideas to the forefront, with one of these being a relatively new garden product that not only helps plants to grow better, but also preserves the environment.

I’ll admit that I was a little reluctant to promote something that I knew little about and had yet to prove itself, but the feedback I have been receiving from both professional landscapers and your everyday gardeners is overwhelmingly positive – so I think it’s time to share that optimism with you.

BioChar is an organic soil amender produced by local business Canadian AgriChar Inc. It is available as a base additive or incorporated into retail soil mixes that include all purpose, indoor and herb blends that are available from some local garden centres and building supply companies.

BioChar is essentially a specialty charcoal that is produced by thermally decomposing organic material (leaves, wood and manure) at lower temperatures and with limited oxygen – with the resulting product not intended for use as a fuel, but a soil amendment with specific properties.

These include helping to retain moisture and hold nutrients that are subject to leaching, both of which result with increased plant growth.

A single application can have positive impacts that can last for years and since the base materials are often derived from by-products, nothing is going to waste.

But its greatest potential lies in its ability to keep nutrients in the soils where the plants can use them, saving us from the water pollution so common when nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers leach away from gardens and into our waterways.

Next on my list of local inspiration is a children’s book that I mentioned earlier and has finally been published. The author, Zdena Novy, dropped by the nursery to give me a copy in person and I have to say that she possessed a ‘glow’ common to the recently published.

She has every right to be proud of Rhys and His Pot of Gold, a story inspired by the adventures of her grandchildren as they learn to grow their own food in her garden.

The book is lovingly illustrated by Nattasha Wright, a former student of Zdena who is currently studying art education at the University of Victoria.

I think this story strikes a deeper chord with me, as I spent most of my summer vacations at my grandmother’s home in the Okanagan. It was here among the bee hives and cherry orchards that I learned my love of gardening under the watchful gaze of ‘Gran.’

She was ever-present when I was pelting the hives with green apples or gorging on strawberries, and yet she always found a way to distract me onto better things.

In my mind, there is no greater inheritance than a healthy respect for nature and the food we grow, all of which can be found within the covers of this book.

Mike Lascelle is a local

nursery manager and

gardening author

(hebe_acer@hotmail.com).