Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Front Yard Edible Paradise!

Andrew, Cheryl and 3 year old George have a new playground this year! And what a playground! It's a front yard organic veggie garden - what a visual treat for the neighbours, eh? They've been working hard at creating it and were finally able to plant on June 15th.. as you can see, the plants have taken off and are doing very well.. There are also plans for expansion, as Andrew and Cheryl hope to add a perimeter garden all around the outside of the beds next spring..

And since I'm on the subject of veggie gardens, it's still not too late to get the fall/winter crop of carrots, parsnips, beets, swiss chard and kale in the garden.. in a few weeks, the mache, spinach, claytonia, lettuces, arugula, tatsoi, pak choi and such will follow.. time is ticking though, so get yours seeds and get planting!

Thanks to Cheryl for these gorgeous photos - your garden looks fantastic and just think of the fun that George is going to have!

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

End of July Update!

Is it really the end of July?! Where is the time going? Yet, there is still so much to do - more kale, kohlrabi, collard, chicory and lettuce seedlings to plant and plenty more to direct seed in the garden - China Rose and China White radishes, Daikon radishes, dozens of greens (lettuce, arugula, spinach, mache, swiss chard, etc.), carrots for fall/winter, beets and more! If only I could find some space!

This is a shot of the 'black nasturtiums' that I order every year from Kitchen Garden Seeds ( I love their velvety, deep burgundy colour - so intense! All the nasturtiums have finally started to go CRAZY! The kids pick daily bouquets, which I put on the kitchen counter - they smell so good!

The main crop of Super Sugar Snap peas came out over a week ago, and the bed has been amended and replanted with some kale seedlings.. in between, I interplanted some purple kohlrabi that I started indoors at the same time.. As you can see, the bed looks pretty empty! I'm used to the 7-foot tall pea vines, so the garden seems like its missing something! Soon, the kale will be 3-feet tall though and I'll toss a mini hoop tunnel over the bed in late November.

For the first 4 or so months of their lives, celery and celeriac look the same - from seed to seedling to young plants.. if it wasn't for the tags, I'd constantly get them mixed up.. but, now that mid-summer has arrived, they finally are showing their individuality! The older leaf stalks of the celeriac start to droop and can be snipped off - use them in soups, stocks or pasta sauce. As you can see, this sturdy celeriac just got his haircut and in just a few more months, the huge, knobby bulb will be ready to harvest! I can't wait.. Barbara Pleasant, the author of 'Starter Vegetable Gardens' and 'The Complete Compost Gardening Guide', among others, told me that her favourite way to prepare this unique veggie is to saute the slices in butter.. sounds good to me! I can't wait..

I thought with the unusual heat, this would be a record year for the tomatoes! And, I'm kind of right.. the plants are HUGE - the largest I've ever had.. some are over 7-feet tall.. and, sure they have a lot of flowers and developing fruit, but nothing is even close to being ripe.. I think it will be another 10 to 12 days before the first Sungold is even ready! Last year, we had rain and fog all of June and early July, and the plants only reached 4 1/2 feet, yet we had Sungold tomatoes ready by July 25th.. is it the humidity causing blossom drop? Is it the abundance of aged manure with too much nitrogen? I'm hearing the same from many gardeners, so I'm going to lean towards the humidity.. This is a photo of the Costoluto tomatoes - an Italian heirloom beefsteak variety.. spectacular! Can you say bruschetta?

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tomorrow on The Weekend Gardener

I'm so slack! I should have posted this a few days ago, but it's summer and I am spending less and less time indoors! Nevertheless, I hope you'll join me tomorrow on The Weekend Gardener - 11 am to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM and News 88.9 FM or online at

Susan Mosher, the owner of Oceanview Garden Centre and Landscaping ( in Chester will join me live in studio to talk about some of the new plants for 2011 - she just had a preview! As well, she'll share some of her favourite garden plants and fill me in on whether the new lilac 'Bloomerang' is living up to the hype!

Also, Craig LeHoullier ( will chat about keeping your tomatoes healthy and disease free! Plus, what do you do with all of those tomatoes?!?! Craig has some great ideas - as always - and I'm really looking forward to talking with him again.

Finally, Peter Schneider, the author of 'Right Rose, Right Place' will be my guest! Peter is also the author of the combined rose list, the annual list of the roses in commerce and the author of 'Peter Schneider on Roses' and the editor of 'Taylor's Guide to Roses'. Phew! He's a busy guy and he'll join me to talk all about his gardens (and his THOUSANDS of roses) and what roses will do best in our Maritime climate. Spoiler - Peter gardens in zone 5, so we should be able to grow most of what he can grow!

Plus, I'll have a copy of Peter's new hardcover book - Right Rose, Right Place - to give away! (If my producer can pry it from my hands!) It is gorgeous! For your chance to win - be one of our callers 1-877-801-8255.

I hope you'll join me.. Happy Gardening!

The Magic of Legumes and Wonky Carrots!

I pulled out the first batch of peas this past week.. It was our Super Sugar Snap's - over 7 feet tall! - and I miss them already! I do have another crop planted for a mid-Sept harvest, but they're a short-season shell pea, which although yummy, doesn't compare to Super Sugar Snap - our family's favourite.

You might wonder what the photo above has to do with peas.. but this is a photo of just one of the many reasons that I love peas! You also might have noticed similar nodules on the roots of your own peas (or beans, for that matter!). Inside these nodules are BILLIONS of Rhizobium bacteria - a beneficial bacteria that can 'fix' nitrogen from the air and make it available to plants. When I pull up my peas and beans, I always toss the nodule-coated roots back into the soil to ensure that there will be plenty of bacteria to 'inoculate' future legume crops.

To follow the peas, I've planted some purple kohlrabi and salad greens - to take advantage of the increased nitrogen in the soil! I just love these dense clumps of the nodules - working hard in my garden!

Another garden curiosity are wonky carrots! These three carrots are all 'Napoli' carrots - our favourite type.. the two on the left were grown in clay soil that is rocky and has hard soil clumps.. the one on the right was grown in a raised bed with loose, loamy soil that was enriched with aged compost.. Quite the difference, eh? It just goes to show you that a little extra time and care that is taken before planting can make a huge difference when it's time to harvest.

And, since I'm talking about carrots, it's almost time to seed fall and winter carrot crops! I usually sow the seed of our fall/winter carrots in early August in the garden and the uncovered cold frames.. a little work now, will pay off big time when the snow flies and you can still enjoy garden fresh carrots! Plus, the cold weather boosts the sugar content, making winter carrots super sweet!

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My new best friend..

I know it seems sudden, but I think I've fallen in love.. with a Scarecrow! After setting it up yesterday and having a deer-free night, I am actually hopeful that I might be able to keep the deer out of the garden this summer!

I know that we'll have to give it some more time to tell for sure, but so far, I'm quite impressed.. I will continue to turn it on every night and let you know how it goes..

The only problem is that I have 2 gardens (due to the awkward lay of my land).. so, maybe I need to pick up another??

Wish me luck!

Happy Gardening!

Cukes, Gourds and More!

Don't you just love these cute curly tendrils? It amazes me how plants can be so clever.. when I go up the garden some evenings, I will help 'weave' my cukes and gourds through the supports, but by the next morning, the tendrils have taken up the task and are tightly curled around anything they can grab!

I noticed that one of our gourds - perhaps the speckled apple gourd? - is starting to form small fruits.. I should know what it is, but the tags have disappeared! I'll have to sneak up and take some photos this morning and post them..

After 3 deer visits in 4 days - ARGH!! - I spent about 2 hours reinforcing the fencing last evening with my 8 year old.. he was super helpful and discovered a 'deer-sized' slit in the back of the mesh fence.. he then cut himself a large piece of garden twine and 'weaved' it between the two sides of the slit, sealing it..

I also remembered that last year I obtained one of those Scarecrow motion activated sprinklers from Contech.. so, we set it up (ok, my son set it up.. I'm not so technical!) and it worked like a charm! The kids tested in out by running around in front and along side of it and each time, it squirted a 20+ foot hard burst of water at them.. We nestled it beside the bean A-frame trellis, which is also only 10 feet from one of my (now eaten) pole bean teepees and this morning, the garden looks like the deer didn't manage to get back in! Success! I'll snap some photos of my little Scarecrow too.. he's already like a member of the family..

Anyway, time to grab my camera and head up for the garden..

Happy Gardening!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sneaking Next Door..-

My next door neighbour is an avid veggie gardener as well.. it's great to have a gardening buddy next door - not only do we raid each other's gardens, but we also share seed orders and split seed packs! In the past, she has also had deer problems.. they typically go from my backyard down to her front yard, taking their time to nibble on anything not securely fenced in.. this year, she's gotten serious about keeping out the deer! In the winter, this HUGE net (about 12-feet tall!) surrounded their outdoor hockey rink (so Canadian!), but in the summer, it's become her deer net.. so far, it's been extremely effective.. not sure the neighbourhood loves it, but who cares - it keeps out the deer!

This year, she has planted mostly peas, carrots, peppers, tomatoes and beans because that is what her children like to eat.. it's so nice to look over and see the kids in the garden munching on peas or pulling and rinsing carrots to eat.. she seems to be getting a high number of 'forked' carrots though, likely from her rocky soil.. the kids think they're cool though!

We both grow a wide variety of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes - these are her treasured Sungold's (check out my archived posts for info on the super sweet Sungold tomato). In just a week or two, the first ones should be ripe! Because of last week's wet weather, blight is starting to affect many tomatoes in the Maritimes.. take a good look at your plants to check for any yellowing, spotted leaves - these will usually be at the bottom of the plant. If you notice any, remove the leaves and apply a mulch to the soil surface.. shredded leaves or straw (not seeded!) is a good choice.. remember to plant in a different location next year and leave room between plants for air circulation.. hard to do, I know, but it's important!

Here's a shot of her broccoli and carrots.. nice planting partners!

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Deer Devastation!

Every morning I wake up and look out the upstairs window at the garden to make sure the deer haven't invaded over the night.. this morning when I looked out - I could see that they had infiltrated one of the gardens - the pole bean teepee was bare - bare! And the pole beans on the A-frame trellis were half eaten - which meant that the deer had to walk over my new planting of baby green and purple bok choi! Argh!!!

So frustrating! Plus, in just a few weeks, Joe (, the photographer from my upcoming book will be coming back to NS for another photo shoot.. I hope the beans recover in time.. deer tend to eat the foliage, but leave the new buds to continue developing. A bit of hope for the beans.

Sadly, this is an annual event - the deer usually manage to find a way to jump the fence at least once per season.. I rely solely on the fence to keep them out and don't bother with other tactics - scare, scent or noise - that can also work.. but I think it's time to combine my resources and come up with a new battle plan!

Venison steaks anyone?

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Phew! The Sun Came Out..

Yesterday, I was getting a bit worried about the endless heavy rain.. not only did it flatten all the lettuce (it was 'past-due' though, so I wasn't too concerned about it), but we really haven't had a good sunny day in almost a week! I was starting to think about tomato blight and how easy it can spread in splashing water.. My 2 main tomato beds (32 plants total in those 2 beds, another 42 plants tucked in other places - don't ask! I have a tomato addiction) are pretty jungle-like at this point in the season - most of the plants are HUGE - about 5 feet tall and very heavily branched.

When tomato expert, Craig LeHoullier ( was on the radio show last month, I asked him about the big tomato debate - to remove suckers or let them be.. Craig said that he typically leaves the suckers - mainly as insurance for more tomatoes, especially if deer or other problems arise and nip off some of the buds. The suckers will offer more fruiting branches, thus more tomatoes..

So, I therefore left my suckers, but the plants are thick and leafy.. and with the excessive rain and high humidity, I was worried about tomato blight.. when I woke up this morning though, the sun was shining strong and more sun is in the forecast for the next few days! Woo hoo! The tomato plants are also starting to fruit quite heavily, and I'm very excited about the first harvest - it's a race between Sungold (our family favourite) and Cherry Roma (a new variety for us).. go Sungold!

It was a super hot day, but now that the sun is setting, I just went out and pulled up those old lettuces that were flattened by the rains. I use a mix of my favourite lettuces as an edible edge around the garden beds.. but it was time to pull and replant.. so I did - adding some alfalfa meal and kelp meal to the soil before I reseeded. Now, in a few weeks, new baby lettuce border will be ready to eat! In the meantime, we'll have to content ourselves with the 7th crop of baby arugula, mizuna and the large heads of red and green oakleaf lettuces that are still in their prime.

FYI - I'll be heading down to the annual Seaside Garden Tour this Saturday.. it takes place from noon to 4 pm and features a handful of gorgeous Chester gardens.. It should be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to bumping into other local gardeners - yes, you Donna and Duff! Tickets are available at the Chester Visitor Information Centre or the Chester Pharmasave.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Sweet Gift!

You know that your family truly understands you when your 8 year old runs inside and yells (in a VERY loud voice) that he has a gift for me.. What is the gift? A beautiful little ladybug larvae.. isn't it cute? Then, over the next 10 minutes, he finds another 6 and runs each one up into the veggie patch to put on various veggies - just in case there are aphids around!

What more could a mother ask for?

Happy Gardening!

Photos from a Rainy Sunday

It rained and rained and rained yesterday and in between heavy downpours, I snuck up into the garden to shoot some photos.. here are some of them!

I don't know what this lime green insect dude is on the bright orange calendula, but the colour contrast is gorgeous!

The purple kohlrabi are read for harvest! The swollen stems are about 3-inches in diameter and perfect for salads, stir-fries or snacking!

This garden shot shows some of the tomatoes and peas.. this is about 1/8th of the garden total.. we're just under 2000 square feet.. but there is never enough room!

Thanks to the rain, the pole beans have reached the top of the A-frame trellis.. in fact, they're about a foot taller than the trellis now! I've been measuring and some of them grow 4 or more inches a day!

Finally, the basil.. ahhhhh, the basil.. spectacular, fragrant, delicious.. what can I say about basil that hasn't been said before..

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another great garden!

Who says that you need a huge garden to grow veggies? You can grow veggies in a windowbox, large container, hanging basket or even a compact garden like Faye and Yvon.. Shade is a huge issue for Faye, so she has placed her garden by the road (a great way to inspire the neighbourhood!) and grows a mix of her favourite crops.. She even has a potato bin, where she grows a bushel of potatoes! As the plants grow, she continues to fill up the bin and when it's time to harvest, she simply undoes the bin and the harvest spills out - fun and simple!

Now that it's early July, it's time to put in a fall crop of peas - I just planted mine yesterday. I choose a short-season type - Green Arrow, which matures in just 58 days. It's my first time growing this variety, but the pickings were slim at the garden centre! I guess that's why it pays to think ahead and order your mid-summer and fall crops when you place your spring seed order.. oops!

I also did a major clean out of the garden beds yesterday - between the rain - and planted more carrots (3 types - Purple Haze, Atomic Red and Napoli), arugula, bush beans and mizuna! There are still so many more things to plant for fall/winter, but I need to make more space.. I harvested all the Chinese Cabbage yesterday (there were just 5 large heads) and cleaned them and put them in the fridge for this week.. Yummy!

Well, it's almost time for the radio show, so I better head out! I hope you'll join me today - we have some great guests - Sonia Day, the author of Incredible Edibles - 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City (3 copies to give away!), Patricia Bishop of Taproot Farms ( Patricia and her hubby Josh Oulton won the Atlantic Canadian Outstanding Young Farmers Award for 2010 and they'll be heading to Victoria BC in December to compete nationally! Plus, they offer weekly food boxes and they are offering a bunch of jam/canning/tomato sauce/salsa/pesto workshops this summer/fall.. Also, Bill and Sharon from the Willow Garden! They'll tell us about their amazing garden and offer advice on growing rhododendrons! Phew.. hope you'll join me..

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Check out my article in the new issue of Gardens East!

The July/August issue of Gardens East has just hit newsstands!! I'm a subscriber, so my issues come conveniently in the mail - plus subscribing saves me 33% on each issue.. money that can be reinvested in seeds! What can I say? I have a serious seed addiction!

I thrilled to say that I wrote the article on the featured garden in this issue and both the garden and the gardeners are incredible! In just a few short years, John and Jeff, have created an incredible garden that overlooks the deep blue waters of Trinity Bay.. Their plant choices and pairings are inspired, but it is also their stonework - all done by these two gardeners - that makes this garden stand out!

Check out the details at

Happy Gardening!

Reader photos..

I love getting e-mails from readers with photos of their gardens.. These just arrived from Pete in NB and I thought I'd share them with you.. As you can see, Pete is growing pole beans - look at the amount of blooms, onions, poppies, giant cabbage and more! If you look closely at the giant cabbage, you'll see a bottle nearby, which offers a sense of scale.. these massive veggies get HUGE! I can't wait to see the final size of the cabbage at the end of summer..


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Upcoming Garden Tours!

It's almost that time of the year again - time for the annual Seaside Garden Tour in Chester. It's the one tour that I never miss and this year it will take place on Saturday, July 17th from noon to 4 pm (rain or shine).. I've been to the tour when it's a gorgeous summer day and other times when it's raining as heavily as a monsoon! Either way, it's a blast.. great gardens and great people.. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the event (the tickets include a $5 luncheon coupon). Tickets are available at the Chester Visitor Information Centre and at the Chester Pharmasave. You can find out more by calling the Visitor Information Centre at (902) 275-4616.

Also, coming up this weekend - on July 11th - the Basin Gardeners are putting on the 10th Annual Strawberry Tea & Garden Tour! Tickets are just $10 in advance, or $12 at the gate. The event runs from noon to 4 pm and begins at the host garden - the lovely property owned by Nancy Guest, located at 26 Marriotts Cove Road. For more information, please call Myra at (902) 273-2000 or e-mail at

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Random musings..

Lorraine Johnson joined me on the radio show this past Sunday.. and she was fantastic! So interesting.. we only covered a few of the topics I had hoped to talk about in the half hour we had.. next time, I need to book her for a full hour! Here's a photo of her book cover.. it was a lovely summer read for a gardener.. by this time of the year, I'm tired of glossy how-to type books and want to fall into a gardening adventure.. this book had ample stories (which often made me laugh out loud!) and an important message.. plus, it got me thinking of all the ways that we city dwellers could be growing more food! Think - empty lots, boulevards, rooftops, front yards and more!

Lorraine also has chickens! And her poultry adventures are detailed in a chapter, aptly named, 'What the Cluck'.. In Halifax, the by-law will hopefully allow backyard chickens in the next year or so and we're been thinking about it for several years.. hmmmmm..

In the garden, the lavender is at its peak right now - the fragrant buds are just about to open! We picked thick handfuls of it early yesterday morning and will hung small bunches to dry. Once the spears are completely dry, we'll use them in sachets for tucking into drawers and under pillows.. who wouldn't love to drift off to sleep surrounded by the soothing scent of lavender..

I often plant lavender as a low-growing evergreen border at the front of my perennial gardens and also I have a few clumps at the entrance to the veggie patch. I love the look of a lavender hedge and the fragrance of lavender instantly transports me back to my childhood.. Plus, the bees and beneficial insects absolutely LOVE it!

The first kohlrabi was harvested last night! I sliced it up, along with a handful of Japanese turnips to go with dinner.. Raw, it has such a nice flavour.. mind you, kohlrabi is also great stir-fried.. The Purple Vienna kohlrabi aren't quite ready yet.. hopefully in the next week or so! I also started a few more seeds indoors for a fall crop of kohlrabi.. The seedlings are up and will be transplanted into the garden in 2 to 3 weeks.. By mid-Sept, we'll be enjoying another crop of crispy kohlrabi!

The pole beans are also doing well - most are about 4 to 5 feet tall now.. and hopefully will start producing soon! I can't wait for the first crop of beans.. so good steamed with butter and salt! When the deer invaded last month, they nibbled on a few of the pole beans.. the stubs that were left have actually recovered and I tucked a few more seeds in too - just in case! I hate to say it, but the fact that some of the pole beans will be delayed (thanks to the deer), means we'll have a longer season of harvest.. I just hope the deer stay away! We saw a big doe just outside the garden a few nights ago and she wasn't easily scared away.. and just yesterday, we saw a doe and a fawn just down the road..

It's going to be a hot one today and the rain that threatened yesterday never materialized.. so, it's time to get out and water!

Happy Gardening!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quick Carrot Salad!

It's hot outside and it's hard to think of cooking supper when it's so hot.. we've also been eating daily salads for months - spinach, lettuces, arugula, mustards, chards, beet greens, mache, mizuna - but every once in awhile I just get tired of regular leafy salads and want something else.. Well, the answer is our quick carrot salad - perfect for a hot day! It's easy and fast to make and tastes cool and delicious!

When it comes to salads, I like to throw ingredients together, adding more of this or that until it tastes right. So, if you find the salad too sweet, add less sugar. or, too lemon-y, add less fresh lemon juice - easy! :)

This simple salad is a great way to use sweet carrots and fresh parsley from the garden! For the past few years, I've been growing giant Italian parsley and it has become one of my very favourite herbs! Plus, it is cold-tolerant and can be picked into early December with no protection.. toss it in a cold frame for the winter and you'll be enjoying it when the snow flies..

Quick Carrot Salad (for 2)
  • Grate 4 medium-sized carrots
  • Pick a handful of Italian parsley (flat-leaved) and tear in large pieces (about 1 cm flakes)
  • In a glass or small bowl, mix together the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2 tbsp olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste - add more lemon juice or olive oil, to your taste.
  • Pour the dressing over the carrots and parsley, tossing well. Allow the salad to sit for a few minutes (or stick in the fridge until it's time for supper).
  • Done!
Happy Gardening!