When you drive out past Digby along highway #1 you eventually arrive at Gilbert’s Cove where Gilberte Doelle lives and works on her Wild Rose Farm. She is quite unique in the way she cultivates her land and grows fresh and delicious greens, vegetables & fruits all year round, that she brings to the winter market at the Historic Gardens and to the Annapolis Royal Market from May to September.
Her two green-houses of 1,200 square feet and the outside land is divided into bio-intensive 5 foot beds in 8 row blocks. She grows many crops in the same area, broccoli, sweet potato, tomatoes, peppers and many varieties of greens besides lettuce. She moves the produce around, never leaving a bed empty. Gilberte does not till the soil but works it by hand. She solarizes the soil to keep out the perennial weeds. The bottom layer of each bed consists of weeds, then over this fresh manure from their cows, then seaweed and finally a two inch depth of soil. Worms work the soil. Hay is used to suppress the weeds in order to minimize the work. She also uses wood chip mulch to keep the weeds down and create a pathway if needed. 50% of the work is preparation of the soil and replanting.
Outside on her 0.68 acres she uses floating row covers (blankets) directly over the plants to keep them warm during the winter. By law in order to have certification to grow vegetables for sale she has to have a twenty-five foot buffer zone round the outer edge of her land, preventing any contamination such as spraying from other properties. She tried planting different kinds of trees along the edges of her property. The most successful was the local willow.
Another building on the site is her transplanting shed. She also has a washing room for the produce (700 pounds per week) which she sells at the market and her outlet shop on site where she has seasonal greens, vegetables, honey and other products for sale. Gilberte also grows seeds for Hope Seeds, another local business. The coastal climate around Gilbert’s Cove allows seeds to dry better for packaging.
A few years ago one of her greenhouses (a commercial purchase) blew down in a big wind but the 12 year old one she designed with extra bracing added, is still standing firm and is 10 degrees warmer.
To attract bees and butterflies she provides insectary rows of flowers like milkweed, blue, yellow and white daisies and borage. To water her plants she uses low volume drip irrigation. As ladybugs are beneficial to the farmer she releases 4,500 of the insects at the end of June and encourages kids to visit. In 2013 she won the NS Farm Environmental Stewardship Award. She is certainly certified Organic and her farm is definitely bio-intensive.