Transforming Precambrian-Shield Soil into Rich Garden Loam


| 7/19/2016 1:15:00 PM


When we first began work on our remote lake front homestead in the Precambrian Shield, we knew gardening would be a challenge. Being above the 56th parallel, we are in Zone 0, the harshest zone per Ag Canada.

We're faced with a short, fickle growing season where frost can occur at any time during the summer months. Because this was virgin wilderness, our first course of action was to clear all garden and orchard areas of trees and roots (read a previous post about that here.)

Next, we were faced with the daunting task of improving the poor boreal-forest soil. Actually it's more accurate to say we “made soil” as the layer of topsoil was very thin as shown in the photo. The following paragraph from my book, Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness, gives you an idea of what we were up against.

One of the characteristics of the Precambrian Shield is poor, thin soils, and our sandy knoll was no exception. As soon as I started rototilling, it was evident that a thin layer of moss and decaying organic matter was all that covered our new garden spots. At most, 2 inches of top soil existed.

I can clearly recall one of the bush pilots saying to me when he first saw us establishing garden areas, “So you think you're going to have a garden here?” To which I replied, “yes.”



Clearly he was skeptical and not without reason. But that pilot was out during the following summer and he remarked with genuine sincerity what a great garden we had going. I think we earned his respect at that moment.





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