Members of the Silver Beach condo community begin digging their new gardens. From left Cliff Ottaway Mary-Lou Gerstl Vickie Tranter Peter Oyler and Haden Heathcock. /Photo submitted

Garden group digging their conservation win

By Jenn Watt

Efforts to improve the landscape around Silver Beach condominiums has landed a committee of residents the honour of being the first recipients of the Lake Kashagawigamog Organization’s Conservation Award.

The Silver Beach Stewardship Committee consisting of about 11 members are being recognized for their five-year plan to cultivate a series of gardens around the property using native pollinator and edible plants.

John Sheard a member of the conservation award committee said the Silver Beach project checked off all the boxes and offered an example of projects that contribute to the wider environmental health of the lake.

“They had a great submission and we marked it according to criteria maybe 25 or 30 aspects of what we were looking for in a submission and pictures and how much they involved their community their larger community and their particular Silver Beach community” he said.

Mary-Lou Gerstl is part of the Silver Beach Stewardship Committee and said they were thrilled to be selected.

The committee formed about a year ago and brought the idea of investing in gardens to the condominium board she said which lent its support to the project. The Haliburton County Master Gardeners were consulted and they provided tips on how best to go about planting the native vegetation.

“We met with them first and then we sat down and they had some great suggestions which we will follow of course” Gerstl said.

Three Hugel beds were planted by the clubhouse first. Hugel beds are raised garden beds built on discarded wood which rots and enriches the soil creating air pockets and warming the ground.

Interviewed on Friday Gerstl said the group was planting three dwarf apple trees on the property that day as part of their larger plan of offering an array of edible vegetation for the people of Silver Beach and the fauna as well.

“We are well aware that the deer will think they’ve died and gone to heaven” Gerstl laughed. “That’s OK too. Everybody’s got to eat.”

Another item in the five-year plan is to put in a large community garden.

Gerstl said the project had been a positive experience for everyone and before the pandemic required physical distancing brought an opportunity for neighbours to socialize while improving the immediate environment.

“We have a plant day and maybe have a barbecue lunch after or get-together or have a drink after. It’s just a great community and just another opportunity for us to all get together and have fun” she said.

As part of the group’s win they receive $100 a free LKO membership a painted Lake Kashagawigamog paddle by cottager Lori DaRosa and a CD by Sheard who is a world-renowned pianist and was music director for Vinyl Café for nearly a decade. He most recently performed in Haliburton in September of 2019 with his sold-out Beatles tribute show.

The award committee consists of Sheard Wendy Hampson and Kathleen Conlan. Sheard said the initial idea of the award came from Conlan who is a marine biologist.

The committee is taking nominations for next year’s award. Find more information online at

Those interested in naturalizing their shorelines or who have gardening questions can contact the Haliburton County Master Gardeners at