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Crops produce bounty and win award for Powell River homeowner

Townsite Heritage Society recognized Kate Dryden for Best Kitchen Garden

When Kate Dryden relocated to Powell River in 2018 and purchased her 1920 Townsite home, the backyard was shaded by fruit trees and that meant the front lawn had to go to make room for her vegetables.

“I started with a herb and flower border to go around [the yard] and then extended that and put in the first raised bed for veggies,” said Kate. “Last year at the start of the pandemic I put in the second and third raised beds, added deer fencing and extended the herb garden, and that’s where it’s at for now.”

Kate has always possessed the optimism needed to be a successful gardener.

“When I was a kid I planted carrots that never came up and I spent three years waiting for them to sprout,” she said. “Nobody could fully explain to me that if they’re not going to come up in the first two weeks they’re probably not going to,” she added jokingly.

Kate’s raised beds last year contained beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, carrots, beets, celery, radishes and broccoli. Most of it is grown directly from seed with a few seedlings coming from friends.

“When the pandemic hit I kind of went overboard and was like, ‘plant everything!’ and I planted 12 kale plants, which turns out is way more than a single family can eat,” she said. “I have a kale forest that I have to take out so I can put in this year’s stuff.”

Raised beds ease maintenance

Having the vegetables in raised beds makes looking after them a little bit easier and less time consuming, according to Kate.

“Because they are raised beds I did sort of a modified lasagna garden method to fill them; the bottom layer is cardboard and then on top of that I put a bunch of wood,” she said. “I actually took all the fruit tree trimmings from the trees in the backyard, which hadn’t been pruned in years, so I had quite a bit of logs and thick branches.

“I covered that with grass clippings, coffee grounds, compost, mushroom manure and then kept layering. So the wood acts kind of like a sponge; it starts to rot and then it soaks up the water really well so I don’t have to water as often because raised beds usually dry out really quickly.”

The backyard at Kate’s Maple Avenue home has three plum trees, a pear and a cherry, which benefit many.

“The Italian prune plum produces so much. I invite people over, just show up, bring a bag and take what you want. The really cool part this year was I think probably about seven or eight people came by and got plums, and then I started getting jars of things left on my doorstep. Plum butter or plum chutney, spiced plum sauce; all sorts of cool things people had made from them and they were just dropping them off for me.”

Along with her fruit trees and vegetable gardens, Kate has planted an abundance of perennials.

“I like to have stuff that is pollinator friendly, so the border is all lavender and echinacea, tulips, daffodils, thyme, rosemary, snapdragons, lupine; it’s all stuff that smells good and looks pretty,” she said. “Every time I look at it and there’s nothing blooming I run to the nursery and find something in bloom so I can make sure it is always staggered.”

First there’s the crocuses, then daffodils, tulips, the first of the giant alliums and the irises come out and then the second wave of the giant alliums.

“Then the snapdragons are blooming, echinacea, rudbeckia and it just keeps going; there is always something in bloom,” said Kate. “The lavender is definitely a big favourite, I think I have seven or eight lavender plants in there, all different varieties. I have little jars of lavender flowers all around the house. I don’t have as much any more but I used to make soap all the time and so I used to put lavender in the soap.”

Great contribution

John Keller, director of operations at Townsite Heritage Society, conveyed the importance of what Kate has accomplished in her yard.

“The award for Best Kitchen Garden to Kate Dryden represents a great contribution to local food production, sustainable agriculture and community food security in Townsite,” said Keller. “Kate’s efforts are an inspiration to kitchen gardeners throughout Powell River.”

It meant a lot to Kate to hear her garden had been selected for the 2020 Townsite Heritage Awards.

“I grew up in a 1911 craftsman house that was in a constant state of renovation in Victoria and so when I moved to Townsite it was like, ‘Oh, I’m home,’” she said. “That was what my idea of home looked like, so knowing those awards have such a long history and getting to be a part of that, especially because I don’t know a huge amount of the history about this house other than the previous owners before us, it was so cool.

“I know there must have been gardens but I don’t know what they were or what they looked like. I’m assuming there were kitchen gardens here at some point in the past. It’s neat to know we are recreating that.”