Monday, May 31, 2010

The Trench!

When we first bought our property, there was an awkward slope in the backyard just behind the house. It wasn't huge, but it was steep and long, running for about 75 feet. The soil was also poor and the former homeowners gave up and just tossed some mulch over the incline every few years. Even weeds didn't grow on this slope.. I was anxious to do something about this unslightly eyesore and when we cleared and leveled the area above the slope, we had the excavation company transform the slope into a stone terrace..

Then it sat for a year, while we were busy with the kitchen garden.. finally, last week we added more soil and were ready to plant (I still need to clean out the weedy grass the grew between the rocks!). So, we planned to put in a mixture of shrubs, perennials and grasses, yet this past weekend after our annual plant sale, the hubby mentioned that perhaps I could tuck a few of the extra heirloom tomato seedlings leftover from the sale into the terrace. Hmmmmm, I thought, what a great idea. So, what did I do? I planted 30 tomato seedlings and 6 peppers in the trench - no room for anything else!

That wasn't quite what he meant.. I should have known better, after all, he did say 'a few'.. Now, I don't know if I should let the tomatoes enjoy the hot sunny trench all summer and then in the fall tuck in some hardy ornamentals or pull out 1/2 of the veggies and put the shrubs/perennials in the trench now..???? Any suggestions?

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sunday May 30th on The Weekend Gardener

Coming up tomorrow on The Weekend Gardener:
  • My favourite garden author, Barbara Pleasant will join me to chat all about her new book, Starter Vegetable Gardens - 24 No Fail Plans. I've got a copy to give away and we'll be welcoming your questions about veggie (or any other type) of gardening! She's also written books on composting and houseplants, so please tune in!
  • Maureen Mcllwain from Kingsbrae Gardens in New Brunswick will tell us what's in bloom in the gardens, as well as fill us in on upcoming events and contests!
  • Finally, Barry McPhee of McKenzie Seeds will join me to talk about some of the gorgeous new varieties for 2010 and offer tips on planting seeds outdoors - flower, herb and veggie!
The Weekend Gardener runs every Sunday from 11 to 1 pm Atlantic time on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM and News 88.9 FM or listen online at!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Celery versus Celeriac

A few years ago, I planted a couple clumps of celery just for fun. (I guess that tells you a lot about what my idea of fun really is!) It has a reputation for being a bit 'finicky', yet I found it remarkably easy to grow - perhaps it's our Nova Scotian summers of rain and fog!? Celery does appreciate an ample supply of moisture, as well as a soil well amended with compost or manure.

Now, every spring I plant about 6 celery plants, which is enough for a family of four - unless you really really love celery! We don't eat a lot of celery by itself, but I use it as an aromatic base along with carrots and onions in a variety of foods including soups, lentil stew, chili and pasta dishes.

The first photo was taken last July in the celery patch and you can tell that the plants are almost mature. The bright green stalks are big, crisp and simply delicious!

Perhaps the most important reason to grow celery - it tops the 2010 list from the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides! Last year it was #4 on the list, but now it has reached that dreaded top spot - #1! Why? Many reasons, but because it is a heavily sprayed crop and has no protective skin, it is hard to get celery clean by washing alone.. YIKES! I do buy organic celery 6 months of the year, but the other 6 months, we grow our own.. As you can see from the photo, this year's plants are already about 10-inches tall and almost big enough to start using some of the outer stalks.

Celeriac, on the other hand, is grown for its root, not stalks and is a bit less demanding than celery. It will grow in a variety of soil types. It produces a large, knobby root that tastes like a cross between celery and parsley and has the consistency of a potato when peeled. It's great fresh on a veggie plate, in a stir-fry or in soups and stews.. At this growth stage, it looks very much like celery, but the root will soon start to swell.

Either way, both celery and celeriac should be started indoors about 12 weeks prior to planting out to the garden in mid-spring. Because space under my grow lights is at a premium, I just buy transplants. They are readily available - thanks to increasing demand - and I can usually get 6 good-sized seedlings for about $2.20.

Be warned that slugs like celery too! A bit of diatomaceous earth around your plants can help protect them from these slimy mollusks.

Happy Gardening!

Third Crop of Arugula

Spring has morphed into summer so quickly this year.. yet our favourite cool-season salad green is still chugging along.. we're now on our third crop of this tangy green (took this photo yesterday) and I've been sowing fresh seed every 2 weeks or so.

Now that the temp's are getting warmer and warmer, I'll start to tuck my new plantings of arugula under the A-frame trellises, where they will get a bit of relief from the sun.. otherwise, the leaves will quickly go from baby-sized to coarse and extremely peppery. As I've mentioned in a previous post, we simply toss the leaves with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle some salt and a handful of fresh parmesan if you have it!

Also, the dappled shade of an A-frame trellis or pole bean teepee is perfect for spinach, mache and leaf lettuce! Why have bare earth when you can use the space to harvest gourmet salads!

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gorgeous Hosta

I've just been wandering all around our gardens, snapping photos with the new camera and snuck over to my neighbour's yard to take a few shots of her gorgeous hostas! Please don't ask me to ID them, as I'm not sure which ones she has.. nevertheless, they are beautiful and it's great to compare the leaf textures, colours and sizes. I'm hoping to tuck a hosta garden beside our deck this summer. There is a short slope that is quite shaded and I thought it would be the perfect spot to plant some of these leafy beauties!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Giant Cabbage Update and Cabbage Salad Recipe!

As I mentioned earlier in the month, Pete from Moncton sent me some giant cabbage seed. I'd love to say that these are my giant cabbage seedlings, but sadly, they're not. Mine are just 1/2 the size of these. To rub salt in the wound, Pete sent me this photo to show me the progress of his cabbages. In the past, he has harvested cabbages that weigh 60 pounds!

While I'm on a cabbage note, I should say that one of our favourite ways to eat cabbage (perhaps not 60 pounds of cabbage though!) is in a cabbage salad with a warm balsamic dressing.

First, I thinly slice some cabbage - about 2 to 3 cups, depending on the amount of hungry people. Then, in a medium pan, I saute about 1/3 cup olive oil with 6 cloves of garlic until the cloves just start to turn golden. Remove from heat and take out the garlic. All you want is the flavour of the garlic, so you can dispose of the cloves. Pour the oil in a bowl and put the now-empty pan back on the heat. Add about 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar and a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar. Heat over med-high for about 1 min and then add the olive oil back to the pan. Drizzle the hot dressing over the shredded cabbage, toss and serve immediately! For an extra treat, crumbled bacon can be added to the salad, just before you dress it!

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gorgeous Long Weekend

Well, the long weekend is here and I just finished the first show of season 4 for The Weekend Gardener! What a lot of fun.. my guests were fantastic (so knowledgeable!), and we had some great questions from callers.. thanks so much! In a few days, I'll post on my guests/topics for next weekend's show.. it will be a good one with some giveaways! (hint 1 - one of my favourite gardening books of this year. hint 2 - I've posted on it several times in recent months! hint 3 - get your calls in to the show so you have a chance to win!)

Now, it's time to play in the garden! I did (finally) pick up a new camera yesterday and really appreciate all the advice on what to buy. We did go with a Canon Xli and I took a few test shots yesterday and they look fantastic! I'll need to get my butt in gear and start downloading them to the blog to show you the progression of the garden over the past week! It's amazing what a little rain can do. The nice steady rain that we had 4 days ago just made everything double in size overnight! Here are a few shots though from my sad old camera.. I'm sure you get the idea though!

All is coming so well.. and in just under 2 weeks, the first photoshoot for my book takes place - fingers crossed that the deer don't knock down the fence and munch all the veggies the night before the photoshoot!

The beans in the top photo are purple podded pole beans - a family favourite. They're vigorous, tasty, deep purple in colour (turning to green when cooked) and so pretty dangling from the vines - like amethyst jewels!

I think we must have a purple theme this year (which is what happens when you let a 5 year old pick out so many of the crops!), because we also have purple chieftain potatoes too! They're coming along nicely, as you can tell from this photo.. if only we had more space! I'd love to plant a huge variety of heirloom potatoes.. maybe next year?!

Also, the radishes are doing very well.. we're on our 2nd crop now and have been enjoying 'Sparkler White Tip', 'French Breakfast' and 'Easter Egg'. Every few days, I scratch a bit more radish seed into some empty patch of soil. Usually within 3 weeks we have a fresh crop of tangy radishes.

I hope you get out and enjoy the spring sunshine.. at 24 C, it feels more like summer!

Happy Gardening!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lebanese Kitchen Garden!

My hubby was born in a mountain village just outside Beirut and because of his heritage, I've been introduced to the wonder of Lebanese food. The cuisine of Lebanon is connected to the earth. Fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, legumes, nuts, cereals and olive oil take centre stage and are used in dishes that are both simple to prepare and full of flavor.

Lebanese cuisine focuses on freshness and foods that are in season, often those grown just outside the door. With one-third of Lebanon covered in mountains, often the only areas for gardens are in terraces that are constructed on the steep slopes that surround the many villages nestled in the rocky peaks. These terraces help prevent soil erosion and water runoff, making gardening possible in a very challenging location.

Fortunately, most of us don't need to create our own edible Eden in such extreme conditions and capturing the essence of a Lebanese kitchen garden is as simple as growing a selection of vegetables and herbs commonly used in its cuisine. Cultivate varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, Swiss chard, green beans, parsley, cilantro, mint, garlic, fava beans and chickpeas for use in authentic dishes.

Veggies for a Lebanese Kitchen Garden


For truly authentic flavor, try ‘Omar’s Lebanese’, an heirloom beefsteak tomato that matures in about 80 days. Although the history is a bit vague, it is said to originate from a mountain village in Lebanon where local farmers have been growing it for many years. It was brought to America by a Lebanese college student and has since become a favourite in kitchen gardens across North America.

The indeterminate vines of ‘Omar’s Lebanese’ are both high yielding and disease resistant. The pinkish-red fruits typically weigh one to two pounds, but can reach sizes over four pounds with proper care, good weather and a little luck. The meaty tomatoes are also deeply lobed and boast a rich, sweet flavor that has pushed this heirloom to the top of many taste tests.

Lebanese Zucchini (50 days)

Lebanese zucchini, also known as kusah, kusa, koosa or cousa is an essential element in both the Lebanese garden and kitchen. It is used in a variety of dishes from the simple (slices brushed with olive oil and garlic and then grilled) to the more elaborate. Kusah mahshi, a recipe where the marrows are stuffed with a variety of herbs, spices, vegetables and meats and then cooked until tender is a popular element in traditional Lebanese mezza, where dozens of appetizer-sized portions of food are shared with family and friends.

Easy to grow and very prolific, Lebanese zucchini bear light green oblong fruits that are usually harvested when they are between four and six-inches long. Try ‘Lebanese White Bush Marrow’, a flavorful heirloom with a bush habit that is ideal for small gardens or 'Kousa'. Neither takes up too much space, yet they both offer a heavy yield of creamy tender fruits.

Armenian Cucumbers (70 to 75 days)

Although often sold as a cucumber, this Lebanese favourite is botanically a melon. It goes by a variety of names including snake melon, metki and yard-long cucumber and is an ancient plant, said to have been introduced into Italy from Armenia in the 15th century. The fruits are soft green, heavily ribbed and although they will grow up to three-feet long, they are best picked when about 12-inches in length. The skin is very thin and need not be peeled, while the flesh is crisp, juicy and free from any bitterness.

The vining plants will produce long, straight fruits when trained up a trellis, but if left to sprawl on the ground, the fruits will curl and twist into unique snake-like shapes. Either way, select a very sunny part of the garden with well-drained soil that has been enriched with compost or rotted manure. In cold climates, start the seeds indoors about six weeks before transplanting outside. Also try Striped Armenian, commonly called Painted Serpent.

Lebanese-type Cucumber (60 days)

Considered gourmet fare in most supermarkets, Lebanese-type cucumbers are remarkably easy to grow. They differ from regular slicing cucumbers by their thinner skin and often sweeter flesh. They are also harvested before maturity, usually when they are only four to six-inches in length. ‘Beit Alpha’ is an open pollinated Lebanese-type cucumber that is both prolific and delicious. The vines are resistant to cucumber mosaic virus and may be trained up a support or grown along the ground. The crunchy fruits are smooth-skinned, bitter free and do not require peeling. 'Sultan', a hybrid is very similar, but slightly more vigorous in my garden.



Considered by many to be the national dish of Lebanon, tabbouli (or tabbuli or tabbouleh) is a prime example of Lebanese cuisine – simple, delicious and made with garden fresh ingredients. This popular salad is a vibrant combination of finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, burghul, onions, olive oil, lemon and salt.

Flat leaf parsley is the most common type of parsley used in Lebanese cooking and may be planted directly in the garden in early spring or enjoyed throughout the winter when grown on a sunny windowsill. My favourite is the heirloom ‘Italian Flat Leaf’, which boasts deep green glossy leaves and a concentrated parsley flavor.

Lebanese Mint

Aromatic and flavorful, mint is a delight to all the senses. As it has a tendency to be invasive, this hardy perennial is usually given its own special place in the garden where it can happily grow without choking out its neighbors - we tuck ours in a slightly shaded spot to the side of the veggie garden. Mint is an herb that is treasured by the Lebanese people and often shared among families. When children leave to establish their own homes they are given a clump of mint to take with them to plant at their new residence.

Happy Gardening

Maritime Morning this morning at 11 am!

With season 4 of The Weekend Gardener starting in just 2 days, I'll be joining Andrew Krystal this morning at 11 am on Maritime Morning.. Listen live from News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 89.9 FM or online at!

We will be taking your gardening questions, so please call in!

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Weekend Gardener - Sunday, May 23rd

This Sunday is the start of Season 4 on The Weekend Gardener! I'm really excited about the new season and we've got some amazing guests lined up for you!

To start the season off with a bang, we've got Elizabeth Peirce, the author of Grow Organic: A Simple Guide to Nova Scotia Vegetable Gardening! We'll be taking your questions on what to grow this year and how to do it. As well, I have 2 copies of her new book to give away to our callers!

Then, Michelle Fike from the Wolfville and Kentville Farmers Markets will join me to fill us in on upcoming events!

At noon, Dorothy Horton, the publisher of the fantastic new gardening magazine, Gardens East will tell us about some of the amazing gardens that have been featured in the past few issues as well as upcoming articles.

Finally, Michelle Muis from Blomidon Nurseries will join me to share some of her favourite perennials and ornamental grasses! She'll also give us a preview into what is hot and new for 2010 (Hello, coneflowers!?) and tackle what to grow in those difficult spots - shady, hot and dry, etc.

Again, we'll be taking your questions throughout the show and we'll have books to give away to callers, so please tune in!

Maritime gardeners can tune in on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 88.9 FM.. or, you can tune in from anywhere around the world on!

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden updates..

Things are growing like crazy! I've been planting new seeds and seedlings every day and have even reshaped some of the garden beds. It's surprising how a little change like a slight altering of the garden design can make a such a huge difference. Some of my beds were rather large and I needed to use a flat board in order to reach the centre for planting and harvesting. I wasn't happy with that, but was reluctant to give up precious growing space to allow for more access. Yet, I broke down a few days ago and divided some of the larger beds into smaller plantings by adding a few 1-foot wide pathways. Now, I'm pleased as punch! I feel like I've just rejuvenated the entire garden!

I will post some photos, but my beloved camera sadly passed on to a better place and I need to replace it - hopefully in the next few days (any suggestions? I'm thinking a Canon digital SLR).

Here are a few shots though from today with my ancient camera.. the baby greens are growing like crazy and we've been enjoying some lovely gourmet salads.. Also, the celery and celeriac seedlings are in the ground and I've interplanted some mixed baby lettuces between the plants. The seeds have just sprouted, although you can't tell that by this photo. By the time the celery and celeriac need the space, the lettuces will be long gone.

The cold frame crops are also doing very well. I
keep the tops open most days, although they are still closed at night, as the evenings are quite cool - it was down to 2 C on Sunday night. It's been cloudy, cool and windy most days, but I still need to water the cold frame crops every day or two. The baby arugla is now 3 weeks old and the leaves are about 2 to 3 inches long - perfect for a salad. The purple pak choi is also big enough to be added to a stir fry or eaten fresh (often right from the cold frame!)

I hope to have a new camera in just a few days and will then take many more photos - especially of the new beds. The two A-frame trellises also need to be put up and I still need to clean up the area around the cold frames.. this weekend, I hope!

Happy Gardening!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Attack of the Cabbage Worm!

Survival of the fittest certainly applies in my gardens - mainly to the bugs though! I usually have a mild infestation of cabbage worm every year, but with only about 30 broccoli plants, they're easily controlled with row covers and hand picking.. Yet, until today, I never realized how tenacious these little critters were!

About an hour ago, I brought some more broccoli, purple cabbage and celery transplants up to the garden to plant. After I planted my six celery seedlings, which took about 2 minutes, I turned around and there were already cabbage moths on my broccoli and cabbage transplants! Talk about moth to a flame! The seedlings were still in their packs and had only been outside for about 5 minutes. Where did they come from? How did they know? Who knows!

I guess it's time to get out the row covers!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top 5 Companion Plants!

Based on the simple idea that growing certain plants near other plants can be beneficial, companion planting has become the cornerstone of organic gardening. Some of the benefits of companion planting include attracting both pollinators and predatory insects, soil enrichment, and discouraging pests from munching on your favourite plants.

The key to companion planting is diversity. By including a large assortment of plants in the garden, especially plants that are attractive to beneficial insects, a healthy ecosystem will be achieved.

Top 5 Companion Plants:

  • Marigolds - A workhouse in the world of companion plants, marigolds should be planted throughout the garden to discourage nematodes, whiteflies and aphids, as well as attract various beneficial insects.
  • Nasturtiums – Another tried and true companion plant, nasturtiums add color and beauty with their edible flowers and leaves. Although they are a well-accepted trap crop, they are also excellent at attracting predatory insects that will feed on a range of garden pests.
  • Sweet Basil – Tomatoes and basil are truly meant to be together in both the kitchen and the garden! Planting basil close to your tomatoes will help repel common pests such as aphids, mites and even mosquitoes, and is said to improve the growth and flavor of the tomatoes themselves. Plus, just inhaling the aroma of fresh basil is a balm to the soul!
  • Garlic – A popular companion to roses, garlic is quite effective in deterring aphids. Also plant garlic near cucumbers, lettuce, peas and celery to help discourage root maggots, beetles and other assorted pests.
  • Yarrow – This hardy perennial may be planted among pest-prone plants in the mixed border or grown in permanent clumps around the vegetable garden. It attracts a wide array of beneficial insects, including predatory wasps, ladybugs, hoverflies and damselbugs.
Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Update - sunflower house and coldframe

Here is the newly dug sunflower house - look at that rich soil! I also added a dozen shovelfuls of aged organic manure and loosened the earth to about a foot - we want HUGE sunflowers.. We started the seeds indoors to get a jump on their growth and planted 'Kong' (often up to 15-feet tall!), 'Van Gogh' (the classic sunflower from Van Gogh's paintings) and 'Teddy Bear' (a dwarf double type to help 'fill in' the lower portion of the sunflower house). I still need to finish cleaning up the sods I removed, but it's ready to plant! Now, all we need is some sunshine..

It's been 2 weeks since I seeded cold frame #1 and the seedlings seem to be doubling in size every day! So exciting.. The arugula (in the middle) is ready for baby greens (2 weeks!) and the purple pak choi is in the 4th leaf stage.. Even the carrots sprouted after only 6 days - they usually take at least 2 weeks to emerge when planted in the garden.

This shows just how much a cold frame can impact a garden in the spring, fall and winter. I think I'll tuck some hot peppers in here during the summer - keeping the top up, but this spot will allow the peppers to maximize the amount of sun and heat they receive..

Oh, and in cold frame #2 - seed 1 week ago, the radishes are growing like they're on steroids! I hope to break my record for the first radish! Old record is 23 days.. new record is ?? I'll let you know in a week or two..

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Attack of the Killer Bleeding Heart!

My neighbour, Raylene has been busy digging up and dividing perennials for an upcoming plant sale.. plus, she needs to move several of her perennial borders, to allow a backhoe to do some needed work on her septic field (boo hoo)..

We are self-proclaimed 'plant nerds', so when she was digging up some bleeding hearts on Friday afternoon, she ran over to show me the HUGE root that came from one well-established plant.. the root was over 2-feet long and had about an 8-inch circumference - crazy huge! She divided it into a bunch of smaller pieces, but this root was a casualty of the battle..

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Busy weekend

Phew! I'm tired already and the weekend is only 1/2 over! Yesterday, the kids helped me dig the new spot for the sunflower house - when I say 'help', I mean watch and offer random pieces of advice. I'll post photos in the next day or two - it's pouring out, so no chance to snap a few right now.. It's funny how my soil seems to grow such nice rocks - big ones too! After prying out about a dozen large rocks from the sunflower house, I'm just glad my shovel didn't break! Happy Mother's Day to me!

Then, we made a quick pre-rain trip to the Halifax Public Gardens.. take a look at these beauties! I just love Fritillaria imperalis - so gorgeous! They're also unpalatable to deer - just another great reason to love them..

We also seeded a half dozen types of sunflowers indoors under the lights. Once the risk of frost has passed in early June, we'll plant them around the sunflower house, along with some marigolds, zinnias and purple pole beans! The beans will eventually create a roof on the house and the kids can munch on the pretty purple beans that hang down.. sounds like a nice place for me to relax with a good book!

I'm also looking forward to this coming week.. my 'garden gal' neighbours and I are going on a plant road trip! We'll be heading down the south shore to The Briar Patch, Village Nursery and Oceanview Nursery and Landscaping.. the only problem is - how many plants can three people get in 1 car? Time will tell!

Happy Gardening and Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gardening with Children!

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or small neighbours, consider planting a little patch of earth with them this spring.

Gardening is a fun and easy way to teach children about the Earth. It's easy to cultivate their curiosity by encouraging them to help you in the garden, but remember to keep it simple - no need to bore them with too much info! Kids love to imitate their parents, so dress them in worn clothes and pick up an inexpensive set of children’s gardening tools and gloves from the dollar store.

Be aware that wandering feet may inadvertently tread on prized tomatoes, and weeds may be watered while vegetables are pulled. Accidents like these are a part of the learning process and it’s important to ignore blunders and continue to encourage your kids to help in the garden.

Young children such as toddlers and preschoolers will love to dig holes, water seedlings and plant seeds. Choose annuals and vegetables with large seeds to make planting easier. Good choices include beans, peas, nasturtiums, cucumbers, pumpkins and sunflowers.

Older kids can tackle such projects as sunflower houses, pole-bean teepees or even making a ‘garden quilt’! For a quilt, mark out a rectangular area that measures about 3 feet by 5 feet and have the kids design their pattern by sprinkling the seed of quick growing annuals such as marigolds, alyssum, calendula and zinnias in stripes, swirls or patches. Choose different colours for each section and keep well watered until the seedlings are growing well. Try to pick plants that all grow to a similar size!

For a sunflower house, mark out a spot in a sunny patch of soil measuring four feet by four feet, or larger if you have the space. I usually excavate a 1-foot wide strip from the lawn for the perimeter of the house, leaving the inside of the house sodded, so the kids will have grass to sit on (keeps the clothes cleaner too!) Plant tall or dwarf varieties of sunflower seed in the 'now-unsodded' perimeter of the square, leaving a 2-foot space for a door on one side. Water the seeds and continue to water and fertilize as the plants grow. Kids will love playing inside and around their very own sunflower house. Add a few climbing nasturtiums or scarlet runner beans to climb the sunflowers - if you add some twigs or string across the 'roof' of the house, the beans will make a nice canopy!

Another favourite project is to construct a pole-bean teepee or tunnel. For a teepee, fasten five eight-foot tall bamboo stakes together at the top, sinking the bottoms into the soil. Plant several scarlet runner or pole bean seeds at the base of each pole and enjoy watching them cover the teepee, creating the perfect play fort for the kids.

A unique twist on the teepee is a tunnel. Make the frame with bamboo poles and cover with a mixture of pole beans, cucumbers, gourds and flowering vines.

Children will also have fun planning a theme garden. Interesting themes include a giant garden filled with huge flowers and vegetables (Mammoth sunflowers, Howard Dill pumpkins), a fairy garden filled with tiny plants (alyssum, baby boo pumpkins), a mono-coloured garden (pick their favourite colour!), a butterfly garden, a tea party garden with peppermint, chamomile and lemon balm, or a pizza garden with aromatic herbs and cherry tomatoes.

For budding veggie gardeners, select easy-to-grow vegetables such as beans, radishes, leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, baby pumpkins (Baby Boo is our favourite!) and peas. Let them scatter a few marigold, nasturtium or calendula seeds among the vegetables for colour.

Always supervise younger children to ensure that they don’t put seeds or plants in their mouths. Avoid poisonous plants, keeping in mind that even edible plants sometimes have poisonous parts. Although I garden organically, I never keep fertilizers, homemade sprays or manure within reach of my children. Even organic products should be stored away from curious hands.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More Spring Blooms

Ok.. here are a few more photos from Duff and Donna's gardens..


Stars of Spring - Part 2!

It was a bit damp this morning, but by the time I arrived at Duff and Donna's for a quick garden tour, the rain had retreated and the clouds were beginning to break up. I know I say it every time I visit, but their gardens are absolutely glorious!

There is a huge array of rhododendrons, azaleas, flowering shrubs, bulbs and perennials that are currently in bloom. Here's a sampling of some of the photos I took today.. I'll post more tonight!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First radio guest of 2010!

The radio show is starting in less than 3 weeks now (Sunday, May 23rd from 11 to 1 pm) and my first guest of season 4 is Elizabeth Peirce, the author of the great new book - Grow Organic: A Simple Guide to Nova Scotia Vegetable Gardening! It's published by Nimbus Publishing and is widely available. I've had my copy for a few months now and it's quite 'dog-earred'.. I really love that Elizabeth included so many local growers and gardeners in the book (like Owen Bridge, the 18-year old owner of Annapolis Seed - check out his blog!).

The first show will also feature Dorothy Horton, the publisher of Gardens East, a new magazine that launched just a few months ago. It's a sister publication to the widely popular Gardens West and Dorothy will join me from her home in BC to talk about the magazine and why it's been so well received. She's so personable and is very passionate about gardeners and gardening!

Also, Michelle Muis from Blomidon Nurseries will join me in our final hour to share some of her favourite perennials and ornamental grasses! She'll also offer a preview of some of the exciting new varieties for 2010!

Of course, we welcome phone in comments and questions throughout the show and if you're out of range, you can listen live on the internet at

If you're in NS, NB or PEI, listen on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 89.9 FM..

Also, if you're in NB, you can catch me on 'The Drive with Dan' every Tues afternoon from 4:30 to 5 pm - starting today! It's a fun 1/2 hour and Dan is a passionate and experienced gardener, so we always have a good chat..

Phew! I think that's enough for now! The sun is shining and the temp is approaching 20 C.. time to get outside and start playing in the garden!

Happy Gardening!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cold Frame Update 2

Ah.. the all the cold frame crops have germinated - all but my 'Little Finger' carrots, which grow just 9 cm (about 3-inches) long! I expect to see the tiny sprouts sometime this week. It's so nice to see the little seedlings growing so quickly in that protected enviroment.. the arugula only took 2 days to pop up, while the lettuce, tatsoi and beets took about 4 to 5 days. I've been keeping the cover down and raising it up about 6 inches on warm days.

I also managed to fill up the other side with my good garden soil (Happy Mother's Day!) and planted it yesterday! I put in more greens, round baby carrots, radishes and Pak choi.. so exciting!

This is a strange year for the garden, as all my planning is revolving around photography for the book.. an interesting learning experience though! I've been planting so many hardy greens for the first photo shoot (in June), that we'll have a bumper crop of greens ready to eat all at the same time! Maybe I'll have to try to break the world record for the largest gourmet salad!

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cucumber Trellis

I just received this photo from Pete from NB, an avid veggie gardener.. He just built this new trellis for his cucumbers from poplar saplings and it measures about 12 x 12-feet..

Pretty snazzy, eh?

While we're on the subject of cucumbers, I planted my cuke seeds indoors last week. I usually try to give them about 5 weeks under the lights before the seedlings are moved outside to the garden.

As I've mentioned before, we love Lemon cukes, but also grow the crisp and delicious 'Garden Oasis'. 'Garden Oasis' is a Lebanese-type picked when still small and tender - about 4 to 5 inches long - and is similar to the grocery store cukes that are sold for an outrageous price for a small package.

Happy Gardening!