A blog about my adventures as a professional garden writer, radio show host and obsessive veggie gardener! Look for my first book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, which is now widely available in bookstores across North America, the UK and more!
Talk about giant pumpkins! Pete from New Brunswick just sent me this photos of his 'babies'.. they one in the background is now 700 pounds - Pete hopes it reaches 900 by Labour Day! The one in the foreground is weighing in at 400! It is amazing how fast these gourds can grow..
Pete - how often are you watering and what do you feed them!? Or.. is that a trade secret!? :)
My new copy of Gardens East just arrived in the mail yesterday - so exciting! I was lucky enough to write the cover story, a feature on one of our outstanding Maritime gardens! The property featured in this issue is truly stunning and shows just how much you can do on a shaded, sloped piece of land. Thanks to Faye and Yvon who let me peek into their garden and who shared some of their stories with me..
Tomorrow on The Weekend Gardener - 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 fm, News 91.9 fm, News 88.9 fm or live online at www.news957.com - I'll be joined by Alice and Brian McGowan, the authors of the great book, Bulbs in the Basement, Geraniums on the Windowsill - How to Grow and Overwinter 165 Tender Plants. Also, Joan Watts from Village Nursery to chat about fall blooming perennials (thanks for your suggestions Donna!) and I'll talk to the VP of Marketing for Contech, the company that makes my 'scarecrow', which has been successfully keeping away the deer (knock on wood!).. should be a fun show and I'll have a book to give away.. Plus, I may be able to 'leak' some details on our upcoming contests (BIG prizes!)..
My next door neighbour has a garden almost as big as mine! She's filled it with veggies that her kids love - peas, carrots and peppers mainly.. along with her treasured tomatoes.. we also share seeds every spring, saving on the cost of our sizable orders! She has about six types of peppers planted this summer, including Gyspy, a pale green sweet pepper and these blocky green peppers! She surrounded the plants with glass panes, which helps lock in heat, particularly in late spring. I have posted some early shots of her garden in an older post.. scroll WAY back for the photos..
She also has planted huge clumps of marigolds throughout her garden.. I never liked marigolds as a child - smelly and too bright (I was an early plant snob!), but now I love them in all their shapes, forms and colours.. Plus, they look so pretty nestled between beds of carrots or tomatoes.
When I snuck over yesterday morning to snap some photos, she brought out a bucket of plums she picked from her Dad's garden - aren't they spectacular! and organic.. who says you can't grow tree fruit organically! I'm hoping to put in a small orchard over the next year.. plums, cherries, apples and pears to start..
Mid-summer in the garden is such a time of bounty that I could take dozens of photos a day of the different crops (and often do!) and post continuously! I woke up early this morning to make a few notes for today's radio show - it will be a fun one - and out of the corner of my eye, I could see something moving.. a deer, of course! Grrrrr.. so, I ran out and started throwing anything close at hand (a bouncy ball, a frisbee, a plastic trowel), but it was too far away and my aim is too bad! At this point, the deer have been making nightly raids in the top garden (we have two gardens of about equal size).. so annoying! The winter carrot tops have been well nibbled and footprints are scattered throughout the beds. I think the feet do as much damage as the mouth! Anyway, I could go on about the darned things all day, but I just took some garden photos and thought it would be better if I shared these instead..
The top photo is a yellow pear heirloom tomato and a black cherry heirloom tomato.. every day, we pick from about 10 types of small-fruited tomatoes and the big ones are finally starting to colour.. A handful of roma's are almost ready to pick (if I can just keep my hands off them for another day or two, they'll be perfect!). Here is a shot of the hubby's favourite summer breakfast.. eggs, with herbs, onions and tomatoes from the garden. He used yellow pear, ladybug and sungold tomatoes in this morning's scramble..
As a year-round veggie gardener (see the title of the blog!), I use my grow-lights throughout the spring, summer and fall. Right now, there is kohlrabi, endive, winter lettuces and more under the lights. I just seeded them a few days ago and they'll go to the garden in about 3 weeks. I do have two trays of seedlings that I grew in early August under the lights and have just finished hardening them off. See the bounty of summer in the foreground of the photo.. and the seedlings will give us food in the fall and winter.. In this photo, there are collards (2 types), kohlrabi, endive (2 types), lettuces, green onions and more. One cold frame is already full of swiss chard, baby leeks, bunching onions and napoli carrots (plus a few deer footprints - argh!). The other two cold frames will be seeded with a mix of winter hardy crops in another month or so.
Another favourite crop, Lemon cukes are crisp, delicious (never bitter) and adorable! Just look at them! We pick them, rub them on our shorts to remove the spikes and then eat them like apples.. sigh.. each plant is also prolific, producing dozens of the crunchy fruits.. I like to grow them up an A-frame trellis, along with our gourds, and they create a solid wall of foliage.. some escape under the deer fence and venture into the neighbouring woods and out onto the lawn.. we don't mind, they can do whatever they like, as long as they keep giving us lemon cukes!
This is Holy Moly pepper, a 2007 award winner. The biggest ones are almost 7-inches long and soon, they'll turn a rich chocolate colour. The supplier of my organic cow manure gave us a dozen late last summer and we liked them so much, we had to grow them this year.. soooo good!
Late August is a time when most garden tours have come to an end and gardeners are back to focusing on their own gardens. Yet, there is one more unique tour coming up on Saturday, August 28th! Organized by the Annapolis Heritage Society and the Annapolis Royal Historic Garden in Annapolis Royal, NS, the Five Century House Tour is a 'must-attend' event for history buffs, architecture lovers and gardeners. This major fundraiser has two components - the house tour by day and a musical tour by night..
The day house tour features six houses and runs from 10 am to 4 pm. The houses represent five centuries in Annapolis Royal - the 17th century Acadian cottage, the 18th century Bonnett house (never before opened to the public!), the 19th century Runciman house, the 20th century Arts and Crafts Pickels-How house and a lovely 20th century Colonial - the Revival Foster-Nicholson house. Plus, a 21st century home - the Langstaff house! All guides and volunteers will be in period costume.
The evening musical tour will include music, food and heritage on a variety of properties.
Tickets are $25 and you can find more about the event by going to the website for the historic gardens, http://historicgardens.com/experience_calendar.php
Join me this Sunday on The Weekend Gardener when Owen Bridge of Annapolis Seeds (www.annapolisseeds.com) and his mentor Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds in BC (www.saltspringseeds.com) will be in studio for a very special one hour chat! We'll talk all about heritage seeds, favourite varieties, the zero-mile diet (your backyard!) , seed saving and help you decide what you should grow next year! I'm looking very forward to it! Here's a photo of Owen and I from just 2 months ago when he first joined me on the show.. Owen is the 19 year old owner of Annapolis Seeds, which is based in the Annapolis Valley and has been growing by leaps and bounds since he started the company at 16! What were you doing at 16? I was going to school and working part time in a muffin shop.. definitely not starting my own seed company!
Also, Beckie Fox, the editor of the gorgeous Canadian gardening magazine, Garden Making will join me to chat all about this new magazine and offer a preview of the fall issue! (www.gardenmaking.com) (Shameless self promotion alert!) I have an article on seed saving in this upcoming issue, which should be available across the country on August 23rd - please check it out! Don't you just love the cover of the fall issue? So beautiful!
Finally, Laura Ponsonby, who will chat about the new book, Abundant Beauty: The Adventurous Travels of Marianne North, Botanical Artist. This book has been a favourite summer read of mine and Laura wrote the introduction to the book, which is based on excerpts from Marianne North's journals, which chronicle her global travel and adventures in the Victorian era, a time when most women didn't venture far from home! Simply a great read.. Plus, I'll have a copy to give away to one of our callers!
The Weekend Gardener - Sundays from 11 to 1 pm on News 95.7 FM (NS), News 91.9 FM (Moncton, NB) or News 88.9 FM (Saint John, NB). Listen live online at www.news957.com.
What a lovely time in the garden.. No matter how many of the small fruited tomatoes I pick, the next day, there are dozens more that are ripe and ready to pick! We're now enjoying sungold, yellow grape, yellow cherry, ladybug and red pear.. The costoluto are starting to ripen up too! In about a week, they should be ready to harvest. I have about a dozen roma tomato plants too and although they are heavily laden with fruit, not one seems to be turning colour! (Brenda - are yours finally starting to colour?) Once they start, the sauce making can begin.. some romas, garden garlic, handfuls of basil, just-picked onions.. can't you just smell it?
The zucchini are going crazy.. I picked about 20 4-inch wide patty pan and 6 kousa just before we left for PEI.. thought I'd share them with the Ontario cousins, who seemed thrilled by the garden bounty. (I also brought along some sungold tomatoes and a HUGE bowl of multi-coloured beans). Yet, by the time we returned only 5 days later, there was another dozen zucchini ready to pick.. no wonder gardeners leave excess zucchini on their neighbours doorsteps!
The peppers are always a bit slow to start in late spring when the earth is still a bit cool and the rain is more frequent than they like.. But by early August, the plants are 2 to 3-feet tall and covered with a variety of fruits. We grow jalapeno (my favourite!), sweet banana, cayenne, sweet chocolate, gypsy and Holy Moly, a smoky pepper that grows up to 8-inches long! The long, thin peppers start off deep green, but mature to a deep brown. This award winning pepper is very delicious and easy to grow. Not the greatest photo, but this pepper is now 7-inches long!
The white 'baby boo' pumpkins are looking gorgeous.. they're about 4-inches across and growing up one of our A-frame trellises. I'm so glad I planted the cukes and gourds on the newest A-frame trellis, as they're really weighing it down! Somehow, in early April, when I start the seeds indoors, I always forget how vigorous the vines are and how I should be a bit more conservative in the amount of gourds I grow! They're just so much fun, it's hard to use any restraint! We also have apple, spinning top, snake and speckled swan gourds!
The snake gourds are out of control! The vines are sprawling in every direction and 'snaking' under the fence and up a nearby spruce tree.. in fact, that vine is now about 12 feet in the air and has reached the top of the tree.. I have NO idea how I'm going to harvest those gourds! If you look closely, you'll see the huge, light green leaves of the gourd at the top of the tree.. anyone have a tall ladder?
Hello everyone - thanks so much for all the kind comments while I've been 'offline'. We just got back from PEI, and enjoyed good food, good family and good times (the weather was iffy!). What was the first thing I did after getting out of the car? Unload the luggage? Toss out the Tim Horton tea cups that were littering the car? Feed the children? Nope! I ran up to the garden to see if the deer had penetrated my fence while I was away.. they did. But I'm not too worried.. they didn't get too many beans (just had a HUGE feed tonight) and the summer photo shoot is over with almost 2 months until the autumn one..
Anyway, on a more garden-related note, I've been getting some gorgeous photos from some of the blog readers and wanted to share them with you! I'll get my butt up to the garden in the morning and snap some updated photos from my garden, but until then, I hope you enjoy these!
I've been following the progress of Peter from NB's giant cabbages for months now, and these are the most recent photos. As you can see, this cabbage is getting huge! I can't wait to see what they'll look like in another month! The bottle used for scale is a local ginger beer.. sounds good to me! Peter also grows giant pumpkins and when he e-mailed me a few days ago, the pumpkins were weighing about 80 pounds at 16 days after pollination. They're putting on 4 inches around a day, which translates into 15 pounds!! Every day!
Stephen and Shelia also e-mailed me some photos of their gorgeous veggie patch! His deer fence is apparently working better than mine.. They also grow rainbow chard, basil and garlic - check out this photo.. it looks good enough to eat..
Quick Tip - If you haven't put your fall carrots in yet, do so ASAP! There is still time for quick growing types like Napoli, especially if you're going to seed in a cold frame.. Also, you can still order seed for late Aug/Sept seedings of mache, claytonia, swiss chard, arugula, winter lettuces, spinach and more!
Ok, as promised, here are the photos of my photographer, who now forever be known as 'Chicken Wire Joe' - since he tripped on chicken wire and dislocated his shoulder.. If you can think of a better name, let me know! Who says garden photography isn't a dangerous business!
As you can see, the day after the accident, he managed to soldier through the pain and get all the shots we needed.. the sun even came out.. the location is one of our Maritime treasures.. a gorgeous spot that will be featured in my book and also an upcoming issue of Gardens East..
What a few days it has been! I've been busy with my book photographer Joe, taking photos of many of the veggie in my garden, as well as nearby gardens.. This is Joe's second trip up from Alabama, but I don't know if he's ever seen the sun in Nova Scotia. After record temperatures and hot, humid weather, it turned damp and cool as soon as Joe set foot on our soil.. Then, it started to rain. and rain. and torrential rain! When the rain slowed to a drizzle, we darted outside to get some shots at my neighbour Faye's amazing garden (and her dill pickles! I hope to include that recipe in the book!). Then, we headed to Chester, where Joe tripped over some chicken wire, while holding his two cameras.. down, down, down he went and landed on his shoulder, dislocating it!! Unbelievable!
Then, Joe was introduced to Canadian health care.. off we went to the Lunenburg hospital, where he was seen immediately and within 3 hours was drugged up, his shoulder reset and then finally released.. what an ordeal for him! Not being one to sit around and whine, he was ready to shoot yesterday and we managed to still get most of the photographs from our shot list..
Here's the funny thing about photographers - when we were at the hospital, he was in intense pain, hooked up to oxygen, and IV and various other contraptions.. he looks at me and says in a pain-filled voice, "Get the camera and take some pictures." I thought he was kidding, but nope, he really wanted photos.. only a photographer! I promised that I'd put them on the blog, so as soon as I figure out how to get my blackberry photos on the blog, I'll post them..
One more shoot today at the fabulous gardens of http://gardeningbren.blogspot.com and we're done and then he's back to Alabama.. at least until late September when he returns (if he dares!) for shoot #3..
The photographer for my upcoming book, Joesph De Sciose has just arrived back in the province from the hot and humid Alabama! Welcome back Joe! Of course, from the moment his plane touched down last night, the nice weather ended and the rain began.. murphy's law, I guess. Anyway, hopefully we'll still be able to get a bunch of good shots.. From what I've seen so far, Joe can work magic, no matter the weather..
Here's a 'goofy' shot from the first shoot. My editor, Carleen and I are working out our differences! Just kidding, we were laying out the materials for a photo shoot of constructing an A-frame trellis when we decided to have a little fun.. I'm in the ugly black boots, while stylish Carleen has the bright red boots that all the garden book editors are wearing this year..
By the way, in case you're wondering what the outcome of the sword fight was - I won! :)
The darn deer have been back.. and just as I was about to whack the Scarecrow sprinkler with a baseball bat, I discovered that the battery had died.. so, I assume that the deer invasion wasn't the fault of the sprinkler and instead of turning it into a pile of expensive rubble, I inserted another 9 volt. Fingers crossed that it continues to do its job.. so far, so good - at least when the battery is good.. plus, Marjorie Willison was on the radio show today and she offered an interesting solution to deer - one that has worked for the Urban Farm in Spryfield.. They put up a fence - 4 to 5 feet tall - but of course, that wasn't tall enough to keep out the deer. So, they set up a centre pole, cut a bunch of strips of surveyor's tape, tied one end of each length of tape to the pole and the other end to the fence - like a maypole. The deer have been too timid to jump over the fence with all that tape moving in the breeze.. and the farm is almost 10 years old.. hmmmm.. maybe once Joe has finished this round of photos for the book, I'll tie some tape to the pole bean teepee and stretch it out to the deer netting in all directions.. something to think about!
On a happier note, the beans still continue to produce copious amounts of super long, extremely thin and meltingly tender pods! Every day, I pick several thick handfuls of yellow and green filet types. I've been growing 'Emerite' for years, but I have to say that 'Fortex' is fast becoming a favourite.. check out this photo with the ruler.. The yellow one is 'French Gold' (7 inches), the center one is 'Fortex' (9 inches when stretched out!) and the smaller green one is also 'Fortex' (5 inches). The younger sample of 'Fortex' is ideally how you would pick your filet beans - so thin and very tender.. but, with 'Fortex' if you forget to pick for a day or two, the pods may be longer, but they'll still be tender and extremely thin - even at 9 inches in length!
The nasturtiums are also looking good - finally! They've been a bit slow this year.. I've learned that heat and humidity isn't really all that good for a garden! But, there is such a variety of bloom colours, that I wanted to share.. the first photo of the deep burgundy nasturtium is the 'black nasturtium' from www.kitchengardenseeds.com.. gorgeous! Much deeper in colour in real life, rather than in photos.. nice when paired with a light coloured variety..