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Donna’s Life Long Gardening Journey

We’re thrilled to introduce a new series the “gardenstead spotlight.”

Gardening is about people and connection. The Coronavirus may have altered the way we physically interact with our neighbor’s but it won’t stop us from virtually sharing what’s in their garden!

On occasion we’re going to highlight a member of our community in one of our three main areas: vegetable gardening, houseplants or flower gardening. During such a time of uncertainty, let’s find serenity and joy in the gardens. Let’s get storytelling.

Allow these gardener’s and their stories to bring you joy! Learn and feel inspired by these stories.

So brew a cup of tea and settle into Donna’s inspiring and motivating story.

“I have no idea what spurned me to like gardening especially since growing up in Guyana, South America, neither of my parents showed even a little interest in it. It is just something I gravitated to from childhood. I vividly recall not being able to wait for food cans to be empty to wash them out, punch holes at the bottom and fill with soil to plant anything I could grow. I first started with cuttings of every variety of croton and succulents I could get my hands on. If I saw a croton plant, I would boldly go up to the door and ask the owner for a cutting. Some people were eager to share and some not so much. After I got married in 1975 and moved into my own home with lots of planting space, I started planting vegetables. When we moved to Canada in 1978, I had to settle for indoor plants, but once my hubby and I bought our own home, the love affair quickly returned and has continued to date. I briefly had a landscape design business, on a strictly referral basis where I would provide my knowledge, and design to a homeowner, who would provide the manual labour – A win/win.

Now that I am retired, the winter is a real drag for me and as soon as the weather takes a slight turn, my gardening head raises again. I am currently nurturing (and talking to) so many different seedlings which I call my babies, and it is now my full time job, but I love every minute of it. Seed pods, pots, grow lights, heater and the like. My husband told me recently that I am obsessed but totally understands. His hobby is golf, mine is gardening and mine puts food on our table…..LOL.”

1. What motivates you to garden?
The rewards of watching something grow from seed to fruit and the best therapy that comes with it.

2. How long have you been gardening?
From childhood – over 55 years.

3. Tell us a little bit about the space you garden in.
My yard is sloped, so I created two rock gardens divided by a small (existing) bridge to the back part of the yard. I also created a veggie garden (4 feet X 25 feet) and added a raised garden bed last season (2 feet X 8 feet). I also have several containers – some for veggies, some for flowers and 2 rain barrels.

4. What is a favorite memory that you have from the years you’ve been growing in your space?
The nostalgia I experience when I can harvest the veggies, especially those native to my birth country.

5. What are the main challenges that you’ve faced in your garden?
The rabbits and squirrels. I combat that with cayenne pepper powder – works like a charm and I don’t mind having to reapply, especially after a rainfall. Helps to clear my sinuses also LOL. I added a rabbit fence around my garden bed.

6. If you were stuck on an island and could only grow one vegetable or fruit or herb, what variety would you pick and why?Eggplant. It is our favourite and can be prepared in so many ways.

7. Do either of you have any rituals or routines in the garden?
Hmmmmm…… not able to think of any, except weeding but not sure that can be considered a ritual. More like a necessity.

8. If you were to give a piece of advice to someone who is just starting to get their hands dirty, what would it be?
Just Do It!!!! It is hard work but one that gives the most rewards, not just mentally, but financially also. There is nothing like harvesting a vegetable you have nurtured, to savouring it a few hours later. From farm to table.

9. Do you have any gardening secrets to share?
Do not use harmful pesticides. I prepare a solution of neem oil, dish soap, and water which is not harmful to our precious pollinators or our bodies. One other shameful little secret – growing is my thing, but when it comes to harvesting? Not so much. My hubby does not mind doing it, so I gladly let him. I guess we make a good pair.

You can follow along with Donna and her garden on Instagram at @mamamiona
All photos courtesy of Donna Hallim

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  1. A true legend in the gardening community!!! Home grown and natural the best way to go especially in the world we live in today where chemicals and heavy applications of forced grown plants.
    I’m happy to share that I was bless with some vegetables seedlings from Donna…… she really set the standards to get me going!
    Thanks for this article and reinforcement to others to plant and enjoy the benefits of harvesting

  2. Donna is my ultimate go to when it comes to gardening. She takes such pride in what she does best 😉 her beautiful garden is very inspirational and I cannot wait to implement all the advice, tips, and tricks she has given me into my own garden this year. Thank you so much for always being so helpful and full of joy Donna. ❤️

  3. I can attest to Donna’s excellent gardening skills. As I admired them since we were teenagers. Whenever I visit her home in Ontario, her garden is always lush and beautiful.

  4. I recently reconnected with my childhood friend from Guyana! When I visited her for the first time in Canada after many many years, of course she proudly showed me her garden; I was blown away!
    She has actually inspired me to start a garden – not as elaborate but definitely therapeutic and ‘food to table’ is always amazing!
    God bless you all and Happy Planting and Picking!!!!!

  5. Donna is my sister, and I can honestly say, once she has found something she totally enjoys doing, it becomes an obsession. Now it’s all or nothing. She has been gifted with that green thumb. Will soon visit to get my share of veggies. Proud of all her hard work and dedication. Certainly confirms the saying
    ” you will reap what you sow”

  6. Chinese proverb says: “If you want to be happy for a day get drunk if you want to be happy for a year get married but if you want to be happy for a lifetime plant a garden. “ I always knew that . I am trying and I am failing. I hope Donna can be my muse and my teacher. We need more articles like this.
    I just want my tomatoes to survive. 😊🙏🏻

  7. A true and inspiring individual, this article couldn’t have chosen a better time to publish. In the world we line in today where chemicals and other enhanced methods are used to our fruits and vegetables we consume more emphasis to plant your own and enjoy the hardest of your all natural grown harvest.
    Planting and overall gardening truly brings peace of mind and add tranquility in these stressful times we live in.
    Hats off to Donna for expressing her love through her passion for gardening – she got me hooked!
    Thanks for sharing Donna…

  8. Donna is an amazing gardener, better then Google!
    She has me hooked on organic vegetables for the past few years and my flower beds look amazing thanks to her too.
    Her passion and knowledge has made me think about what I do to make my place look great too!
    “Mary have you watered and fertilized your garden?”
    These are the constant reminders I need with my busy schedule, cannot get away from her she watches me like a hawk and waters my garden when I don’t. Lol

    • Yes Mary. I will continue to crack the gardening whip of encouragement. Thank you for always being receptive to my advice. You’re a fast learner.💚💚

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