Advice for Canada Newbie Please

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Apr 4, 2022
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Invermere, BC
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Hello everyone. This is my first post. I would like to utilize some of my property that is being unused. I live in Canada and this particular area has very "bad" soil aka it is practically dirt/clay. I do not know exactly what "zone" I am in as it seems rather hard to find in Canada compared to the US tbh. This particular area will get very good sun in the summer.

As you can see by the photo, the area is relatively small and has lots of douglas fir trees (fir trees bad for gardening!). I was hoping someone could point me in a direction as to how to best utilize this spot for growing some things like potatoes, yams and/or sweet potatoes, and corn (and possibly Jerusalem artichoke?). I would like to know "the best" way of doing that.

I have been researching for hours over a few weeks and I am just overwhelmed with all of the information online. John Jeavon's biointensive? Ruth Stout? Back to Eden? Just throw potatoes down and don't worry? I have no idea what to do they all seem plausible but complicated. I am looking for something very low maintenance in terms of maintaining the crops once they have been planted to be honest. There are tons of mule deer around here as well so I will also have to make a large fence around the area most likely as they will quite literally eat almost anything around here.

I would greatly appreciate some help here as I am rather overwhelmed about what to do and the more I research the more overwhelmed I get hahah.
 

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Joined
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Welcome from Ontario. Looking at a map of the zones in BC, its hard to tell what zone you might be in. I guess it depends a lot on your elevation.
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Looks by your picture you want to put this garden on the side of a hill. It would be better on that flatter area by the fountain.....Erosion being one factor and tree roots being another.
 
Joined
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Invermere, BC
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Welcome from Ontario. Looking at a map of the zones in BC, its hard to tell what zone you might be in. I guess it depends a lot on your elevation.
-

Looks by your picture you want to put this garden on the side of a hill. It would be better on that flatter area by the fountain.....Erosion being one factor and tree roots being another.

Haha yes trying to figure out what "zone" I'm in was quite a challenge but I think I figured it out! Using this site here, I was able to zoom in and I am basically where the light coloured zone is here in the middle of this screenshot - so basically zone 6b bordering on 5a I think.

That being said, the angle of my photo was probably not the best as it shows more of a slope than there actually is. Our lawn is sort of on a mound and it slopes down to this sort of flat level area which might be a slight slope but mostly flat for another 50-100 feet before it really takes of and then basically goes down a large hill. And definitely the main concern for the area is the douglas fir tree roots.

I have asked around and watched many more hours since posting my question lastnight and here is what I have come up with as my potential ideas. This year, starting within the next week or so, I will do the John Jeavons' "double dig" method, and then I will plant in that quite quickly, mostly just potatoes and possibly some yams/sweet potatoes and/or some Jerusalem artichokes and I might throw some corn down as well just to really experiment. But the priority would be to have potatoes be the most important thing, I'd throw the other things down just because I'm doing stuff basically.

From there I will let that do it's thing this year and see how it goes, potentially cutting down one or two of the surrounding fir trees to help with their invasive roots taking the nutrients away. I might also throw some bins/barrels/buckets of potatoes in the area in some basic topsoil type of thing, just to compare yield approximations. After that I will wait out the year and at the end of the year I will lay down some sheet mulch (either wood chips or hay) and let that decompose over the winter, and therefore starting the Ruth Stout style "no-dig" method for NEXT YEAR. Therefore accomplishing many goals: trying to restructure the soil of the area for the long term, while also minimizing the work, growing some potatoes in the double dig method, while comparing to the bin/barrel top soil method, and then continuing from that foundational soil layer for next year with a more hands-off approach with the sheet-mulching/no dig style into the future (only after I have started building the foundational soil level created from the double digging method this week).

I think that sounds like quite the good and balanced approach that combines pretty much everything I'm after while also helping provide the functionality/optionality of more long term soil structure into the future, while at the same time utilizing the space this year as best as possible, and hedging with the barrel idea as well for an easy benchmark. All while hopefully not having to cut down too many of the large fir trees.

Boom! I consulted many different places and I think that is my conclusion for now. The double digging approach sounds rather intimidating with our largely clay based soil/dirt situation right now, but I think long term that one day of intense double digging will probably pay dividends greatly. Especially if I only ever do it the first year and then proceed to build the soil up from that foundation.

Wish me luck and if you see any negatives in my strategy, please please let me know! This will be rather experimental, and more of a side background project as we work more on expanding the garden we already have in other areas, so hopefully this will be a good medium that will also yield some results. I appreciate any/all input and perspective from those more experienced hahah.
 

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