The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener—How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature
By Tammi Hartung
Submitted by ~ Ann Guthals
Tammi Hartung and her husband started Desert Canyon Farm in Colorado in 1996 to grow herbs and raise food for themselves. They are now a certified wildlife and botanical sanctuary and they often have field trips for students at their farm. Their goal is to co-exist with wildlife — meeting the needs of wildlife as well as their own needs. They attempt to provide protection, food, water and homesites for wildlife.
They now have over 20 years experience trying to meet these goals. Some solutions have worked, like growing parsley for rabbits and deer to avoid losing lettuce and other crops. Some solutions have not worked, but have taught them much about nature. They have found that being wildlife-friendly can actually increase garden yields through better soil, more pollinators, and more beneficial predators helping with pest management.
This book lays out the steps one can follow to develop a garden that is supportive of wildlife. The first activity is the get to know the site — the land, its inhabitants, water sources, light and wind patterns. Tammi believes the most important first step to beginning the garden itself is to make sure there is healthy soil. She describes how to minimally disturb the soil, provide organic matter including by growing green manure, ensure a water source, and incorporate the use of mulch. Then she explains the importance of deciding where to position perennials to provide a structure to the garden and not, for example, overshadow vegetable crops. She suggests one research the site carefully because once in, the perennials are more difficult to move than annuals. Next she wants us to get to know pollinators (bees and other insects and animals) and beneficial predators (ladybugs, praying mantises, lacewings, spiders, wasps, etc.) on our land and to research how to encourage and support them to work in partnership with the gardener. Tammi actually
creates mini-habitats for wild animals to meet the goals outlined above and also to keep them from the main garden.
One of the most useful chapters is how to repel pests without using poisons — ironic in a book about encouraging wildlife. Strategies described include sharing crops, planting crops that distract animals from other crops, hand-picking pests, repelling them with aromatics, hosing the pests off plants, using hot pepper, mint, cinnamon, and wood ash to repel pests, trapping, scare tactics (like the Scaredy-Cat, a motion-activated spray device) and blocking access with netting, screens, fences, hoop-houses, and greenhouses.
The illustrations are delightful and the book is applicable to our growing conditions because the farm is in Colorado. The sidebars are very useful and I plan to use several suggestions going forward. There is also a quick reference chart for remedies at the end of the book.
The only disappointments were the plans in the last chapter for different kinds of gardens did not provide specific information about the plants in the plans and it seemed to me you would need quite a lot of property to implement all of Tammi’s ideas, though one could still learn much from the book even for a smaller garden.
It took me a little while to catch the rhythm of this book, but once I did I began to realize what a plethora of information the author was presenting. And I have many ideas to try in the garden this year after finishing the book.
(Also available as an ebook from Amazon)