Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pete's Pumpkin Update

I've been chronicling Pete's pumpkin adventures all summer long and I think it's time for another update! Unfortunately, one' of Pete's giant pumpkins split - check out the wacky red fungus growing on the broken chunks of pumpkin!

The good news is that one of his pumpkins is still going strong and is over 1000 lbs - I can't give the exact weight, as it will be part of a 'guess the weight' contest this autumn.. It's spectacular though, isn't it!?! Gourd gawkers come from far and wide to see the pumpkin - two cars have gone in the ditch already this year!

Once the contest is over and the exact weight is known, I'll post that too.. Pete - will you be selling the seeds from this monster?

Happy Gardening!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Craig's Roasted Tomato Sauce

Of all the requests I've gotten over the past 8 days, the recipe for Craig LeHoullier's (the North Carolina Tomato Man) recipe for Roasted Tomato sauce is at the top of the list.. I have now made 2 big batches and I'm in love.. it's such a lovely way to use up a bumper crop of tomatoes.. we're down to picking about 3/4 of a gallon of tomatoes a day now (from 2 gallons per day over the past month), but I think I'll need to put another pot of this on tomorrow. The roma tomatoes are still in their glory and I have about 25 ripe fruits sitting on my windowsill begging to be made into this rich sauce.

Craig's Roasted Tomato Sauce:

I turned the oven to about 400 F and filled my large casserole dish with washed and quartered roma, persimmon, black krim and big rainbow tomatoes - it was filled over the top, but the tomatoes cook down. I also tossed in a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes. I added about 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic and a large finely chopped onion. That's it! I then covered the pot (as best as i could) and placed it in the oven for about 45 min. After 45 min, I removed the top so that the juices could evaporate. I left it roasting for another 1 1/2 hours or so, stirring every so often. After the tomatoes were meltingly tender and much of the liquid had evaporated, leaving a rich and beautifully coloured sauce, I took it from the oven to cool and stirred in 2 handfuls of chopped fresh basil. Once cool, I transferred it to freezer bags and put them in the deep freeze.


Sunday, September 26, 2010


Thanks to the toppling of the pole bean teepees and trellises, we didn't have quite the bumper crop of seeds this year. I did, however, manage to save a few handfuls of one of my favourite heirloom pole beans - Purple Podded Pole. I went out and found about 10 pods yesterday - you can tell the beans are ready to pick when the pods are dry, brown, and you can hear the beans inside when you gently shake the pods. After a quick shelling, we had about 75 bean seeds for next spring..

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Sunday on The Weekend Gardener and 150 Posts!

Wow.. 150 posts! Can you believe it? Maybe I do talk too much..? hmm.....

Anyway, this Sunday we're going to have a spectacular show on The Weekend Gardener! You can listen live at News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 88.9 FM.. plus online at!

Joining me is one of my favourite Canadian garden writers - Judith Adam! Judith is also the author of Landscape Planning: Practical Techniques for the Home Gardener and has just started a blog for the new magazine, Garden Making ( I'm loving her blog - she's just so funny and personable and knowledgeable!

Also, the king of all things weather and science related, Richard Zurawski will be in studio to talk about the incredible summer that we've just had as well tell us what to expect this fall (and next summer!).. I'll also ask him about our acidic soils and how the nearby ocean keeps our climate regulated! Call us with your questions - 1-877-801-8255

Tim Amos, one of the professors of Horticulture at the Kingstec Campus of the NSCC in Kentville will also be on the show to tell us all about the living wall at the Dartmouth Campus as well as what his students will be doing this year (hint - it involves straw bales).. His enthusiasm is contagious and I can't wait to hear all about it..

Hope you'll tune in..

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ga Ga for Gourds!

It's almost time to pick the gourds! Once we've had our first mild frost, which will kill the rampant foliage, it will be time to harvest the unique variety of gourds that we've grown this year. It will be a bit more difficult this year as the gourd trellis (thanks to Hurricane Earl) imploded on itself and now the various types are growing in a tangled pile.. We have 3 to 4-foot long snake gourds, mini-birdhouse gourds, baby boo pumpkins, spinning top gourds, apple gourds and more! I'm not sure who likes them the most - me or the kids.. probably me, no the kids, no me.. either way, growing gourds is so much fun!

Once they're all harvested, we take them to the schools to show the various classes. The kids love the gourds - especially the HUGE snake gourds.. then, I go back to the classes around the 1st of May with packs of gourd seed that the kids can plant and then take home.. I'm sure the parents are so thrilled! Ha!

Once we've shown the local school, we then use the gourds on our front doorstep as part of our spooky halloween decorations.. everyone who comes to the door wants to know if they're real! The spinning top gourds are especially fun.. They really spin and they're also pretty tough - important if 20 kids are going to be playing with them.. Plus, the vines are very vigorous and produce at least a dozen gourds per vine.. we let them ramble under the deer fence (at least we did before Hurricane Earl knocked the fence down!) and out into the woodland and up the nearby trees.

Even the snake gourds escaped the confines of the garden and climbed a nearby 20-foot tall spruce.. the huge gourds look like holiday ornaments dangling from the evergreen.. very pretty! Not a great photo, but you get the idea.. the front gourd is 2 1/2 feet long and the one hiding behind is almost 4-feet long! Snake gourds are also edible - one of the few edible gourds - and once we've shown them to the schoolkids, my mother-in-law will chop them up and cook them into a delectable Lebanese feast.. they're one of her favourite veggies..

Speaking of feasting, I chopped up a big pot of mixed heirloom tomatoes this morning and have a huge pot of sauce roasting in the oven, along with homegrown garlic and onions.. soooo fragrant! (Thanks for the idea on the radio show last weekend Craig -

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Day of Summer

Wow! How can it be the last day of summer already.. Just 6 weeks until my book deadline (eeek!), but things are coming along very well.. I'm also trying to prepare for the next photo shoot for the book, when 'Chicken Wire' Joe comes back up to NS from Alabama.. hopefully, no dislocated shoulders for Joe on this trip!

As you can see, the 3rd cold frame was finally planted on Sunday afternoon.. I still have a few more seeds to sprinkle - claytonia, tatsoi and maybe a bit more mache, but it's ready for winter.. sigh..

I'm looking forward to getting up the mini hoop houses.. probably another 2 to 3 weeks before they're up. I have enough hoops for 3 houses, but I think I'll pick up enough for 2 or 3 more tunnels, as I have so many lovely fall crops.. see the kale photos below!

The mixed Asian greens in the garden are also coming along well.. these little guys are Giant Red Mustard sprouts - 10 days old. The mix contains several mustards, tatsoi, arugula and more. I bought a packet from Johnny's Seeds, but I wish I had bought more. We love these spicy greens.. They're quick to grow, so pretty and very productive. Plus, they're very cold tolerant. I plan on covering the bed with a mini hoop tunnel in a month or so.. depending on the frost.. (which, we'll talk about this weekend on the radio show with Richard Zurawski!) Hope you can join me!

I also love the kales.. it's such a pleasure watching them go from seed to seedling to mature plant. With the cooler days and nights, they've kicked into high gear and seem to grow bigger right before my eyes! The leaf textures and colours are so diverse and the plants themselves, are incredibly cold tolerant. I think my favourite is the dinosaur kale (with the long blue-green strap-like leaves), but I also love the curly kales too..

Must go finish and article and edit the cold frame section of the book.. will post photos tomorrow of the glorious gourds!

Happy Gardening!

Friday, September 17, 2010

This Weekend on The Weekend Gardener...

I'm very excited for Sunday' show.. Penny O'Sullivan, the author of The Homeowner's Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook will be my guest for hour 2.. I just spoke to her and she is just fantastic.. we'll chat all about shrubs and trees for fall colour, winter interest from berries and unique bark, as well as conifers for winter. We'll even touch on proper planting - it's amazing how often I see trees and shrubs planted in their pots or still wrapped in burlap! Yikes..

Can't wait, hope you'll join me! Did I mention that I have a copy of this amazing $53 book to give away to a caller?

Happy Gardening!

It's Raining!

It is actually raining outside.. A soil drenching, root soaking, completely thorough rain! and I am so glad. Even though we had good ol' hurricane earl rip through here a few weeks ago, the rain really didn't give the earth a deep watering. It's been about 6 weeks since we've had what I would describe as a 'good' rain.. I've been struggling to keep the newly seeded beds watered and the seeds have been a bit stubborn because of the never-ending dryness and heat. Hopefully we'll see a turning point after today and the fall crops will shoot out of the soil!

Here's a shot of my kitchen windowsill this morning - note the lovely rain drops on the window.. also, another photos of a big rainbow tomato.. I just picked it yesterday, but there are dozens more to come.. they're lovely.. but after having 24 varieties this year, I'm starting to whittle the list down to our 'must-have's' - sungold (always #1), cherokee purple, costoluto, black cherry, persimmon, and maybe a few heirlooms we haven't tried before.. I'd love to try Mexican Midget, which bears scads of tiny little tomatoes! And the tomato man, Craig LeHoullier will be on the radio show this weekend.. call us with your tomato questions or thoughts on what you'd like to grow next year! I know that I'll be taking the opportunity to pick his brain! 1-877-801-8255.. News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 88.9 FM every Sunday from 11 to 1 pm or listen live on

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Backyard Gardener Contest!

Season 4 of The Weekend Gardener is now winding down - how did the spring and summer go by so fast?! I've had such fun this year and have learned so much from both our listeners and our guests! We still have a few fantastic shows to go, including this Sunday, when Jean Snow of Lake City Farms joins me to chat about her expansion plans and her worms. (Sounds a bit odd, doesn't it!?) Then, our tomato man, Craig LeHoullier will share his favourites for next year and tell me what I can do with all the tomatoes I've been harvesting. Also, Penelope O'Sullivan, the author of The Homeowner's Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook: The Essential Guide to Choosing, Planting and Maintaining Perfect Landscape Plants. Plus, I'll have a copy of this $55 book to give away to one of our callers!

In typical Weekend Gardener fashion, we have an 'end-of-season' contest for our loyal listeners! To enter and for details, check out the station website - (

The prize is a $1500 gift certificate from Stone Gallery - who doesn't want a new flagstone pathway, retaining wall or backyard patio? The only downside to the contest is that I can't enter!

Good luck and Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's Seed Season!

Now that autumn will be here in just a matter of days, my mind is turning to seed collecting.. I've been letting some of the annual flowers, herbs and veggies go to seed in recent weeks and have just started to collect some of the ripened seeds.. Nasturtiums, calendula, poppies, dill and marigolds are drying and will soon be ready to store for winter.

Here is a seed pod from a calendula seed - the curled, rough seeds are already dried and every day when I roam the garden there are more to be picked. I alternate between filling my pockets and tossing the seeds into the garden to lay dormant until next year.. the problem is that I usually forget that I have a pocketful of seeds until I pull the jeans out of the dryer a day or two later.. oops!

Since we grow arugula pretty much year round, there are almost always some arugula flowers in the garden.. so pretty! I love the pale petals with the deep coloured veins - a nice contrast. Once the flowers are done, the seed pods will follow and when they are dry and brown, you can split them open and collect the small brown seeds.

On another note, I just picked a few purple kohlrabi.. they LOVE the cool weather of early autumn and can even be planted in a cold frame. I still have another few crops to come and should be able to start picking those in 2 weeks.. It's nice to have a continual harvest.. things don't always work out, but sometimes they do!

Happy Gardening!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Ok.. I finally got up to the garden and snapped a few photos.. Here is a shot of the new cold frame.. need to finish excavating and fill with my good mix of garden soil and compost.. Then, this frame will be home to some winter lettuces, claytonia and tatsoi. As you can see in the background, the other 2 frames have winter crops already - carrots, spinach, mache, endive, chicory, leeks, green onions and a few herbs (curly parsley and thyme).

The carrot frame is well-filled with Napoli carrots.. I planted them the first week of August and the roots are already starting to fill out.. They're all thinned and will be a welcome treat from December to Feb - assuming they last that long! The wire screen is to protect the crop from the #&$@ deer.. so far, so good (knock on wood!).

I also discovered an almost-ripe Big Rainbow heirloom tomato.. last year, the hubby described them as tasting like you just sprinkled sugar over them.. very sweet and delicious.. (I've got one for you Brenda! Plenty are on the vines and they're just starting to colour!) Speaking of colour.. they really are like a rainbow - yellow, gold, orange and streaks of red.. so pretty!

I am also in LOVE with the kales.. we're not really eating them yet.. we're waiting for the first few frosts (not too soon though!).. the frost will help sweeten the leaves and then we'll use them all winter long. I'll tuck a few in the cold frame in another week or two, but some of the garden kale beds will be covered with a mini tunnel.. that will offer enough protection for a winter-long harvest. Just look at some of these leaves! Gorgeous!

I also love the Lacinato kale (AKA Dinosaur kale, tuscan kale, etc).. the long, strap-like blue-green leaves are heavily blistered and so tender. Plus, the colour looks fantastic next to the orange nasturtiums and lime green lettuces and swiss chards..

Anyway, off to tuck in some more lettuce..

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fruit Flies and Giant Boulders

Is anyone as tired of fruit flies as I am? I've been so careful this year trying to prevent them from taking over.. last September, they were out-of-control and it wasn't until I finally discovered a rotten potato that had fallen beneath the cupboard, that I realized why they kept multiplying! I became the 'mad vacuumer' last year, using the vacuum to suck up any fruit flies in the kitchen.. I'd just stand there with the vacuum for long minutes waiting for them to land, and then I'd pounce and suck them to the great fruit bowl in the sky! They're not nearly as bad this year, but they're annoying enough that I'm starting to re-think the countertop fruit bowl.. it's also hard to keep any tomatoes around, especially when the overripe cherry ones split so quickly. I even found a fruit fly on a split Sungold in the garden!?! (The black speck at the top of the photo) Who knew that fruit flies were also out in the garden?

I've tried the vinegar on the counter, Contech's fruit fly traps (surprisingly effective) and a few other 'homemade' solutions, but I must admit that I get a lot of satisfaction from vacuuming up those little buggers..

Anyway, on another note, Dany was finally able to tackle the spot for the latest cold frame (happy anniversary to me!) Of course, as soon as he broke ground, the loud 'clink' of shovel hitting massive rock rang through the air.. After digging around and trying to uncover an edge, we realized that this particular rock was way too big to move, so we moved our 'ideal' spot just a few feet.. 'Chink'.. another huge rock.. By this time, Dany was determined, so out came the pick axe and he rigged up some homemade levers using lumber, rope and his aching back. With the help of our neighbours, and a lot of give and take, the rock eventually came out and will now be a comfy 'bench' behind the cold frame. So, back to work digging so we can get the 'less than ideal' soil removed, place the cold frame and then refill with good garden soil. 'Chink'.. a third huge rock.. Considering we were digging an area about 4 x 6-feet, that's a lot of big rocks! Out came the crowbars, rope and lumber once again and within 30 minutes, we had a stone 'seat' to sit beside our new stone 'bench'..

The good news is that the cold frame pit is now dug, excavated and ready to be refilled.. maybe tomorrow? I'll also take some photos tomorrow and post them.. too dark tonight, but here's a shot of the last cold frame that was added a few months ago.. Funny how nothing is nearly as easy as you think it will be..

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A few photos..

Well, between working on the book (7 weeks to go before deadline!) and cleaning up the garden, I haven't posted much in a few days.. here are some shots from yesterday though.. Typically, our season isn't long or hot enough to mature birdhouse gourds.. but as you can see, thanks to the record-breaking summer that we've had, these cute little gourds are growing well and are about 5-inches long.. hopefully they'll continue to grow before I need to harvest them in about a month..

I'm also happy to report that NONE of the long skinny snake gourds snapped in the collapse of the trellis during Hurricane Earl.. we managed to extract all the wood and 'loosen' the massive pile of gourd and cucumber leaves so that they would get some sunshine.. Nature is amazing.. by the morning after the hurricane, all the leaves were pointing up towards the sun again.. no matter what they had just gone though..

As I've said before we are getting 1 to 2 gallons of tomatoes every day! It's a bit insane, but we're freezing, cooking, eating and sharing as many as we can.. we make homemade pizza every week and this is last night's offering - just a bounty of various heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, garden peppers, garden artichokes and more.. soooooo good!

And, just in case you don't believe me about the tomatoes - here is a photo of some of the bounty that I harvested yesterday and the day before..

Here's a shot of one of the circular beds that sits in the middle of the garden.. it's where I usually have a pole bean teepee.. I just cleaned it up on Sunday and stuck in some 'Outredgeous' red lettuce seedlings that I had growing under the lights.. they've perked up considerably since this photo and will hopefully offer a nice harvest this fall..

Anyway, must get back to work! Happy Gardening!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Today's Radio Show

Join me today from 11 am to 1 pm on The Weekend Gardener on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 88.9 FM, or listen live on Joining me today is my dear friend, Carla Isnor of Halifax Seed to chat about fall bulbs and fall lawn care.. as well as whatever else our listeners want to chat about! Carla is a load of fun and we always have a great time..

Also, David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, the authors of the new book, What's Wrong With My Plant (And How Do I Fix It?) - plus I have 3 copies to give away today! It's a great book - a must have for anyone who loves to toil in the soil..

Hope you can join me!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Utter Devastation..

Hurricane Earl has left the province! And, personally, I couldn't be happier.. he certainly made his mark on our gardens.. He started up mid-morning by taking out all the sunflowers - poor things, they had just opened a few days ago! Sigh.. I went out and cut the large heads off and put them indoors in a vase before they were too damaged and windswept. You can see how pretty they are from the 'before' photo that I shot this morning as we were waiting for the storm.

By late morning, the wind was pushing the trees almost horizontal and the pole bean teepees had collapsed. Then.. not long after, the wind picked up steam and somehow my sturdy new A-frame trellises were down! One was laying flat, the other was smashed into pieces and the beans uprooted and the gourds trapped under (or possibly crushed?) beneath the tangle of vines and wood.

NO! not the gourds.. my gorgeous snake gourds (an edible Italian gourd) have been doing so well with the heat - over 4 1/2 feet long! They're long and skinny and I usually end up with 2 or 3 decent 4-foot long specimens, but this year I had over a dozen.. I went out with the hubby's drill and pretending that I'm handy, tried to unscrew the destroyed wooden trellis so that I could check to see if the gourds were ok. There was no way that I was going to be able to fix the trellis and get the gourds vertical again, but I was hoping to remove all the wood and if the vines weren't too damaged, they could at least sprawl along the soil.. I was fairly successful (surprisingly!), but I'm not done yet, and with the amount of wood and leaves and debris, I'm still not sure if my biggest gourd is broken or not..

Just this morning, this garden was a well organized patch of paradise.. now, it's a wreck of debris, damaged leaves and broken wood..

Anyhow.. on a lighter note, here's another 'before' photo of one of my largest sunflowers.. it was over 9 feet tall this morning and stood guard at the entry to the upper kitchen garden.. simply gorgeous..

The good news is that we only had one broken tree and we all weathered the storm just fine - even with no computers, tv, or other gadgets! We pulled out the monopoly board and had some family fun.. plus we played a game of soccer outside during the peak of the storm.. wet, but fun! (and safe - no big trees nearby!)

Now, the work begins.. clearing out the dead and damaged veggies and sticking in more crops for winter..

Happy Gardening!

Hello Earl!

Good ol' Hurricane Earl changed course early this morning, making a bee-line for Halifax.. it's directly overhead right now and the trees are blowing horizontal.. so far, the garden isn't doing too well.. pole bean teepees are down as well as both A-frame trellises - along with my gorgeous 4+ foot long snake gourds! i hope they're not broken! All the sunflowers are down and the large kales are looking like uprooted trees.. I hope I'll be able to sink them back into the soil in a few hours.. fingers crossed! Let's hope Earl blows himself out soon!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


It is hot. hot hot hot. I rarely water the garden (except for the new plantings), but yesterday I actually put the sprinkler in the middle of the top garden and turned it on for a 1/2 hour.. everything was wilting - including me! I may have 'accidently' run through the water once or twice myself..

Of course, since I completely lack common sense, I choose superhot yesterday to turn the oven on for a few hours and 'oven-dry' some tomatoes.. I picked a random selection - black cherry, sungold, la roma, red and yellow pear - and turned the oven to 250 F, drying them for about 2 hours (la roma) and 3 1/2 hours for the rest. Yummy and so easy..

I've also been picking handfuls of lemon cukes every day, along with the tomatoes.. I have been freezing some of the tomatoes for winter sauces by freezing them on a cookie sheet and then tossing the frozen fruits into freezer bags - thanks Donna! I want to dry some basil and parsley soon too.. Plus, I still need to make and freeze more pesto.. the basil is simply in its glory this summer with the heat!

With Hurricane Earl eyeing us this weekend, I'm a bit worried about the garden.. the A-frame trellises with the beans, cukes and gourds will be a prime target for strong winds.. not much to do though, but batten down the hatches and make sure the legs of the trellises are pushed down securely into the soil. Then, cross your fingers and hope for the best!

I've been waiting for days for the heat to end.. I have trays of seedlings just waiting to go into the ground, but it's just been too hot! Another day or so and the temperatures should be back down to normal..

Anyway, off to the beach.. too hot to post much today..

Happy Gardening!