Julian Trachsel says he’s learned valuable lessons from some gardening missteps made during last year’s growing season.
As the founder of Newark Park’s community garden, he said after a rather unsuccessful year in 2022, this summer’s yields are high and the plants are in full bloom – all thanks to more attention paid to biodiversity and pollination.
“If we had had a stellar garden last year, I probably would not have looked into much of anything,” Trachsel told The Lake Report.
Seated in the sun on the picnic table just outside the garden, Trachsel spent a Tuesday afternoon bringing tomato stakes over to the plots for fellow gardeners to pick up.
His dedication to the community and helping out newbies is clear in his approach to running the garden.
“I’m not looking to change anybody’s ideas. I’d rather, if I can, educate a bit and provide some guidance,” he said.
At the arrival of this year’s growing season, he started looking into where things went wrong last year.
He began with the soil, noting that a shocking lack of worms was the first sign of trouble.
Attempting to attract worms, Trachsel added mushroom compost, cardboard, newsprint and dried-up leaves to the soil.
Trachsel said that when looking to improve one’s garden, you can either feed the plant directly, or you can feed the soil.
“If you feed the soil, it’s long-term,” Trachsel said.
“It may not be as immediate, but it’s a much better solution.”
The next step after treating the soil was shifting focus to pollination.
“That’s when I started to investigate native bees,” said Trachsel.
He explained that there are over 400 native bees in Ontario and only one non-native type, the honey bee.
“The (honey bee) is all people think about because it gets a lot of PR,” he said.
Trachsel said that shortly after planting a plot of sunflowers, life was all around the garden.
“When the sunflowers came up, that was our first sign. They were covered in bees.”
And more than just bees have made themselves known around the park, with creatures like dragonflies, butterflies, ladybugs, hummingbirds and more coming out to play.
“The whole park is becoming more alive,” Trachsel said.
“My zucchini yields are up, the fella next to me has got lots of peas. It could be a coincidence but certainly all the activity has got to be a good thing.”
Trachsel expressed gratitude for last year’s less-than-great gardening season, citing it as the main reason he shifted his habits.
Given the success of his more green practices, Trachsel tries to spread healthy habits with the other green thumbs.
Traschel said he encourages hand watering whenever possible since it promotes mindfulness and ensures a more controlled watering of roots and plants.
He discourages the use of Miracle-Gro, though some gardeners can’t shake old habits.
“You can do what you want, I’m not going to fight you. But we absolutely do not permit pesticides.”
His solution for bugs and pests? “A soapy solution, or just squish them with your fingers,” he said.
Trachsel said he believes that if he, a retired accountant who drives “an Alfa Romeo that emits fumes,” can shift to spending 15 hours a week on gardening and maintaining an ecosystem, other NOTLers can, too.