Starting All Over Again in the Country


By Kelley Liebzeit, Master Gardener

In 2015 I achieved some of my gardening goals. First I officially became a Master Gardener. Then in July my garden was featured on the Nature Manitoba Garden Tour and 2 weeks later on the Master Gardener Tour. To have my garden on these tours was a dream come true.

So why would I leave my garden to move to the country? My health had a lot to do with it as I no longer felt I could maintain it. My plan was to just have native plant gardens. I had developed and managed the Whyte Ridge Butterfly garden since 2014 and found it relatively easy to care for the plants.

In 2017 our family moved to Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. We now owned a beautiful 80 acre property of mostly forest that backed onto Crown land. In May of 2018 we started cleanup of the vegetable garden. Weeds had grown to over 4 feet tall when we moved here. Tree roots from poplars had encroached as well as creeping Charlie and wild yarrow. The plot was fenced and 40 feet by 50 feet. The former owners only
grew potatoes.

Woodland with granite boulder.

The garden was tilled and we made a plan. We made 17 beds or rows that were 10 feet long and 3 feet wide. The soil really needed to be amended and we came to realize that there wasn’t any compost to buy in Lac du Bonnet. There was probably manure, but it would take a while to find some. Lots of communication is done on a social media site and if you posted something like “searching for well aged manure” ten people would answer you.

Veggie garden tilled.
Veggie garden grid.

We made a trip to Winnipeg to get the compost. I wanted to compost here, as I did in the city, but hadn’t considered the wild animals that it would attract. I wasn’t convinced until bears, skunks, and other critters visited us. We even had to bring the garbage cans into the mud room and leave no trace of food outside.

So back to the veggie garden. The beds were amended, and paths mulched. That first year the vegetables were great. I changed my mind about wanting wild flowers only. I was feeling better and had been more active walking in the forest all winter. There were no flower beds except a decrepit brick raised bed along the side of the house. There were no plants.

Veggie garden newly planted.
Veggie garden with cucumber in the front, rudbeckias and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) in the back.

My husband dug me a 24 foot diameter perennial bed. That was not easy as our property is on the edge of the Canadian Shield and we could see rocks at the surface of the grass. He came across many rocks and large boulders. To remove the boulders he had to use the loader on our newly acquired tractor. Now that is a big garden to fill with perennials so slowly I am filling it by growing most of them. I have mostly drought -tolerant plants like globe thistle (Echinops), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), sea holly (Eryngium), sea lavender (Limonium), echinacea, yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and stone crop (Sedum).

24 foot perennial bed.


24 foot perennial bed after planting

Watering is an issue out here. We have a well and are concerned about how deep it is and whether it would run dry. We are city folk with no experience. The decision was made to use only collected rainwater for the gardens. We have three 1000 litre totes and fifteen rain barrels. The water is pumped from the rain barrels to the totes and then the vegetable garden is watered by hand. Luckily my husband leaves water in some barrels by the perennial garden and I can put a pump in and use a hose to water the large flower bed. During the drought of 2021 we actually had to load up the totes and fill them in town. Learning to manage water needs is extremely important out here.

Garden with water tanks.

Living on a large acreage has come with many challenges. I feel the largest is water conservation- we live outside the town and have to pay extra for insurance for the fire department to come here. This city girl did not know that they were all volunteer firefighters. I mention this as in the first year of living here the RCMP showed up at my house telling us to evacuate due to a fire close by. Later in the summer a tree was struck by lightning and thankfully we had a horse trough full of water to put the fire out.

Tree struck by lightening.

These are a few of the challenges you come up against when you move from an urban setting to a rural setting. Not everything is a challenge though. I am surrounded by nature, animals, birds, and plants. These are some of the plants and trees that are found naturally on my property:

• Blue eyed grass
• Blue violets
• Yellow violets
• Goldenrod
• Fireweed
• Asters
• Prairie rose
• Yarrow
• Black eyed Susan
• Anemone
• Culver’s root
• Gumweed
• Giant Hyssop
• Joe Pye weed
• Fleabane
• Wild iris
• Columbine
• Strawberries
• Lady slippers

Exploration of my property is so much fun. Identifying all the plants and trees is very interesting. Some trees and bushes here include:

• Ash
• Elm
• Oak
• Birch
• Cedar
• Poplar
• Cottonwood
• Tamarac
• Pine
• Arrowwood
• Willow
• Pussywillow
• Blueberries
• Raspberries
• Snowberry
• Balsam fir
• Black spruce
• Creeping juniper
• Red Osier dogwood
• Winged hazelnut
• Wild plum
• Saskatoon
• Chokecherry
• High bush cranberry
• Nannyberry

So I have traded in my urban garden for Nature Paradise. No Regrets.

Woodland edge with nannyberry and highbush cranberry.

Photos by Kelley Liebzeit
Published: September 2022