Meet Cristina Ciotinga, from Parksville, Vancouver Island, Canada

“After spending the first years of my life on a farm in Romania, I spent the next twenty some years living in big cities, foreign to anything plants and farming. It was through a chance work move that I started living on Vancouver Island, and is here where I started my first garden plot in the backyard, in 2019.

From day one, the garden was established as a well-balanced ecosystem, with all its inhabitants coming uninvited, and starting living together – plants of various sorts, flowers, weeds, pollinators, bugs and the bug eaters.

The first harvest was pretty much a sampler of what was going to come. Within the first year, with help from my dad and brother, the garden grew from one plot to twenty garden raised beds on over 5,000 sqft, twelve rose bushes and over ten fruit trees. In 2020 we have harvested a combined several hundred pounds of: radishes, kale, carrots, peas, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, egg plants, cauliflower, red beets, corn, sunflower, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, red currants, figs, apples and a variety of spices. Through the process, the garden was a festival of colours, and attracted an army of happy pollinators, that did their work for free. We gave away in the first year about 70 percent of our crops.

Through this first year of gardening I observed that you need good soil, appropriate food for each plant, sunlight and water. These plus decent quality seeds would always lead you to satisfying crops.

Our garden established itself quickly as a focal point of attraction in our part of the city, and we had numerous visitors from close and far – friends, neighbours, tourists, passers by. Our front lawn sunflowers field especially made it in many tourists’ Parksville memories.

The planting and exponential growing of the garden coincided with major changes in our lifestyle, towards a more balanced and healthy way of life. You cannot live healthy unless by eating healthy, and for that you need to be close to and related to your food.

The joy of tending the garden was manifest in many ways: the planting of the seeds, and the tender love and care of the growing plant, the joy of working the soil with bare hands, seeing the miracles of life growing and multiplying, tasting the sweet goodness of fruits and vegetables, and sharing in the joy of the many people that got a taste of this goodness.

As life has it, at the beginning of October 2020, I plan to be moving to another house. This well established garden would have to be passed to new owners, alongside with the responsibility to love it, care for it, eat and share from its goodness. The new house has its own garden, though a little smaller, and I plan to apply many of the lessons learned at the new place.

I would encourage every inhabitant of this planet to have at least one new plant of their own, to love it, tend to it and nourish it. Our world would be a much better place with these new 8 billion plants!”