Many gardeners dream of taking their passion and turning it into a business, and over the years that is exactly what Lorraine and RJ Roberts of Caledon, Ontario did. When they purchased their 24-acre property in 1999, there were no gardens at all – just trees, grass, and a house. Season by season, they grew thousands of perennials and established new beds until Plant Paradise Country Gardens, an organic botanical garden and perennial nursery, was born.
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From the start, Roberts knew she wanted the garden to be fully organic. Yet veteran gardeners know that without careful planning, keeping a 24-acre parcel free of invasive weeds and pests could be a full-time job. “Biodiversity is the key to our success,” says Roberts. “We use the natural defense of nature to take control.” By using a combination of native plants and well-adapted perennials, she invited wildlife such as birds, toads and frogs into the garden beds to eat unwanted insects and keep pests under control.
Roberts also credits a healthy soil with getting her plants off to a strong, pest-free start. “When planting, we dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball and add shrimp compost or manure, mixing it well. We also add more compost to the beds every year.” Compost has some nutrients, but to give plants an extra boost, she uses organic fertilizer. “We grow everything without the use of synthetic fertilizers,” she says. “Synthetic fertilizers are derived from the petroleum industry, and they can leave behind toxins such as petroleum, arsenic, and lead.” Instead, she uses an organic product with ingredients high in minerals such as greensand and glacial rock dust, along with the more common organic ingredients such as blood, bone, alfalfa, and kelp meals.