Good for garden, good for your soul



Part 1: Do onto others

If you’ve ever had someone close to you come down with a serious or terminal illness, you know that there is very little that you can say to make things better.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just keep your big mouth shut, try to listen, and be as supportive as possible.

It is especially difficult when children face severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses, and yet there is something that all of us can do to at least brighten their lives for a day or two.

The Sunshine Foundation ‘Dreams for Kids’ is literally in the business of making wishes come true for such children, and these kids really know how to dream big. Over the years they have swam with dolphins, gone to space camp, seen polar bears in the wild, visited Scottish castles, met their favourite hockey players, trekked an African safari, toured Graceland and visited the happiest place on earth – Disneyland.

The Sunshine Foundation funds these dreams through donations, and the Country Garden Tour 2011 is one great way to donate. Seven Maple Ridge gardeners are weeding, pruning, sprucing-up and planting their hearts-out, getting ready for the tour, which runs on June 26th, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For just $15 a ticket you can visit these seven private gardens at your leisure (it’s a self-guided tour), knowing that while you enjoy these pristine landscapes, all the money you spent on tickets will help disabled or seriously ill children realize their dreams.

It is truly a win-win scenario, and if you don’t mind me saying, I think the Maple Ridge Garden Club (which runs the tour) and these seven homeowners, in particular, have a lot to be proud about. Tickets are available at Amsterdam Garden Centre, Triple Tree Nurseryland and Trice Farms.


• Part 2: Do a little something for yourself.

You may not realize it, but the Metro Vancouver solid waste management plan calls for a total ban of all organic materials from garbage pick-up by 2015 – so just where are you planning to put your kitchen scraps? The logical choice would be to build a commercial composting plant right here in Maple Ridge (an idea fully endorsed by mayor and council), but since bureaucrats don’t always excel at implementing the obvious, you had better come up with a solid Plan B.

Thankfully, the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society has been thinking about that deadline and has been running a Solar Cone Food Digester pilot project for the past three years. There are currently 230 of these units working in our community, composting everything from spoiled dairy, meat scraps, bones, bread products, old pasta, rice and even pet waste (that would be just the feces, no litter please).

The Solar Cone is meant to augment your regular composter (where all the grass clippings, weeds and leaves should go) by handling all those organics that are normally taboo for it.

Solar digesters use a double-walled cone to trap the heat of the sun, which encourages beneficial bacterial growth and accelerates decomposition. The cone sits over a base basket, which is recessed into the ground so that as the food waste decomposes, it liquefies and is released as nutrients into the surrounding soil – meaning that they rarely need to be emptied. Solar cones also keep compost smells to a minimum and are less likely to attract raccoons or bears.

These units should be placed in a sunny site (at least four hours sun) with good soil drainage, and it is advisable to use some drain rock around the basket unit.

If you would like to try one, they are available from the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society for the subsidized price of $56.25 (Maple Ridge residents only), and if you need some help installing it, for another $50 the ‘Support Work Group’ will dig the hole and set it up for you. Dan Mikolay and Leanne Koehn of the society also run Solar Cone workshops for interested groups. For more information, contact them at 604-463-5545 or visit online.

One final endorsement would be the fact that Mayor Ernie Daykin uses a Solar Cone and, as we like to say in Maple Ridge, ‘if it’s good enough for Ernie, it’s should be good enough for you.’

So there you have it, two great ideas – one good for the kids, one good for the environment, both good for the soul.

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author. Email him at has posted two new stories  – Paleobotany and the Constant of Change and The Last Shot in the Roll – to his blog at