Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to all of you trick or treaters out there! It's been a fun afternoon of pumpkin carving, hot apple cider, face painting and best of all - this morning I got a new nephew - our little Halloween baby!

Super pumpkin grower, Pete from New Brunswick just sent some halloween photos of his giant pumpkin.. unfortunately, he had some vandalism, but his pumpkin still looks gorgeous! Thanks for the photos Pete..

Happy Halloween and Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Leaves!

Fall leaves are a true treasure for a gardener! Even though we rake up about 30 bags a year, I don't think I could ever have enough.. Not all leaves are created equal, however.. some, like oak leaves are very rot resistant and can take years to break down. Most of our trees are maples and birch, which make a very good leaf compost.

My next door neighbour also has a lot of trees, but she is another leaf lover and makes frequent (almost daily) stops whenever she spies piles of raked and bagged leaves at the curb awaiting pick up. This is a great way to get some leaves if you don't have too many trees on your own property, but I'd caution you to check that the leaf-owners didn't use any pesticides on their lawn or have a doggy that might have left some 'gifts' in those bags of leaves..

Here are a few of my favourite ways to use fall leaves:

1) Before you do anything else, grab a rake and make the biggest pile of leaves that you can. Take about 20 steps back from the pile and get ready to run.. now, jump into that pile as high as you can! Repeat as needed.

2) Now that you've scattered your leaf pile all over the lawn again, get out your mower and shred those leaves into small bits. Whole leaves take a lot longer to break down and can form a impenetrable layer on the lawn and the garden, so chop them up well! If you're not in a rush, you can skip the chopping and just make a big pile of leaves at the side of your garden. They'll break down into a lovely leaf mold in about 2 years, depending on the type of leaves. If you've chopped your leaves, gather them up and put a few bags beside your composter. You can use them to alternate layers of kitchen scraps during the winter.

3) Next, bag up a bunch of your shredded leaves in big black garbage bags. Add a shovelful of finished compost or garden soil (to inoculate the mix with beneficial microorganisms) and a sprinkle of water. Give the bag a good shake and poke holes throughout with a screwdriver. Toss the bags to the side of the garden and let nature take its course.. by early next summer, they'll be full of rotted leaf mold, a lovely soil amendment and a favourite food for worms.

4) Work several inches of those shredded leaves into your veggie garden beds right now! They will break down all winter, adding nutrients and organic matter. Plus, they attract worms..

5) Tuck a generous layer of shredded leaves around your perennials for winter insulation. I also save about 10 bags to use in the spring as a mulch around my veggie plants. A shredded leaf mulch will lock in soil moisture, suppress weeds and regulate soil temperatures.. Plus, they keep veggie beds looking nice and tidy and can help prevent soilborne diseases spread by splashing water. (Hello blight!)

I could go on (and on and on), but I think you get the idea.. Leaves, specifically shredded leaves are a wonderful source of organic matter, compost fodder and nutrients for the gardener. Don't bag them up and stick them on your curb. Use them to make free food for your plants!

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Please support for our local students!

One of our local schools has entered a competition that is intended to inspire change within our Canadian communities. The school has been hoping to construct an outdoor classroom, including a solar greenhouse, butterfly house and composting station to teach primary to grade 6 students more about their surrounding environment, including where their food comes from. To vote for the school, as well as read more about their entry, click on this link. Voting begins tomorrow, October 25th!

As well, here is a letter from the Tantallon Elementary School Parents Association:

We Need Your Help!

We are the Tantallon Elementary School’s Parents Association, better known as TESPA and on behalf of our school we are seeking your support via VOTES for our Outdoor Classroom project.

The Aviva Community Fund Competition is an online competition that inspires and encourages positive change within our communities. Canadians submit ideas and earn votes from people like you, for the projects that they would like to see initiated within their own community.
The most popular ideas, as chosen by Canadians through the voting process will be evaluated by a judging panel and upon culmination; winners take a share of the $1,000,000 prize to make their ideas come to life.

You can find our idea submission at the direct link

Our Project Title: The Nature Room, our Outdoor Classroom

Our Category: $100,000-$500,000

Some of the highlights of our project include:

A Green House using Solar Thermal Energy

A Water Wise, Rain water Collection System

Natural Stone Amphitheatre with Pergola

Native Nova Scotia plant beds and a Compost Station for Nourishment

Butterfly House, as well as Butterfly meadow and Pollinator Garden Beds

This outdoor classroom will not only add immense beauty to Tantallon Elementary, it will also serve as an important, new and unique educational tool for our students and all other schools and groups within the community to use.

Voting for Round 2 begins Monday, Oct. 25 and runs until Nov. 5

Start by registering today at the Aviva website, then vote each and every day once the voting opens. Don’t forget to tell your friends, family, neighbors and employees, all across Canada about this great opportunity for our community.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lazy blogger..

I've been a bad blogger.. I don't mean to be slack, but I'm finishing up my latest project - 'the book' according to the kids.. I know that everyone is getting tired hearing about 'the book', but I'm happy to say that in just under 2 weeks, the manuscript will be off to Storey Publishing ( and life will return to normal.. I hope! Mind you, I have two big lectures coming up in early November and several major magazine deadlines..

The funny thing is that just one year ago, I thought that my career as a garden columnist was over. One of the large local newspapers had folded - I wrote a weekly column for them for over 12 years - and another newspaper that carried my column was on the verge of closing. Luckily it didn't and just a few days later, I got 'the book' deal.. then, I was lucky enough to fall into Gardens East magazine, as well as Canadian Gardening and Garden Making.. it's lovely to be able to write about something that you love - and be able to pay for groceries!

Anyway, on to more interesting things - the garden! We've been enjoying a rainbow of carrots lately.. 'Atomic Red', 'Yellowstone', 'Napoli', 'Purple Haze' and more! They're so pretty and the kids love them.. This is 'Atomic Red', which is is a long, tapered carrot with reddish-pink roots that turn bright red when cooked. It also has the antioxidant lycopene, which is commonly found in tomatoes.

The lettuce under the cloches in the photo at the top are 'Tom Thumb', which is a tiny butterhead type. It's so pretty under the cloches (which I bought at Halifax Seed this past summer on clearance - 3 for $1!!) and it also makes a great individual-sized salad.. I started them from seed in early September and transplanted them to the garden about 3 weeks later.. With the protection of a low tunnel, they will be in harvestable condition until late December - or until we eat them all!

The mini hoop tunnels are all up now, although they're not covered with plastic yet. It's been too warm during the days, so I continue to rely on a medium-weight row cover for night protection. We've had several frosts, but the crops are nice and cozy tucked beneath their white blankets. As you can see, this is a wide row of mixed Asian greens - mustards, arugula and mizuna - and some white alyssum. The fact that the alyssum is still thriving while the nasturtiums have already succumbed to the cold surprises me..

Coming up this weekend.. I'll be posting about my five favourite things to do with fall leaves (hint - #1 involves jumping!)

Happy Gardening!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marathon Winner!

I hope you didn't think by the title of this post, that I'd be the winner of the marathon! Ha.. nope, definitely not me.. but my sister-in-law, Leah has won another marathon this past weekend - her third overall, but her first in Bar Harbor, Maine. With a time of 3:05, she makes me feel very tired, indeed..

Leah has also won the Nova Scotia Bluenose Marathon twice and has ran the Chicago race too, among others..

Congratulations Leah! The whole family (and province) is very proud of you!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

First frosts and photo shoots

What a week! My book photographer, 'Chicken Wire' Joe arrived from Alabama this past week and we spent several days photographing the fall garden.. putting up protective mini hoops, the cold frame crops, the bounty of autumn and the first frost! It was pure luck that the first frost arrived 2 mornings ago.. as soon as the sun rose and I could see that the garden was frost touched, I called Joe at his hotel and he grabbed his gear and got here asap.. we spent a good hour photographing the gorgeous frost patterns on the garden and various veggies before the sun began to melt the ice crystals..

We also squeezed in a trip to the amazing Annapolis Valley Heritage Seeds (, which is operated by 18-year old Owen Bridge. Owen was fantastic and gave us a wonderful tour of the fields and gardens, as well as his winter hoop house, which was filled with massive sunflower heads, containers of fermenting tomato seeds and in ground winter veggies. Joe and I also checked out the 'seed room' where all the seeds are stored until packaging and shipping. It was so interesting to see all the large containers of dried seeds.. the variety of seed shapes, colours and textures is just wondrous. I especially love the bean seeds - speckled, striped, solid, purple, red, white.. too pretty to eat..

We also popped into the spectacular garden of to photograph the progress of her crops - I think I could pitch a tent and just live in her garden.. it is one of the loveliest veggie patches I have ever had the privilege to visit. So much to photograph.. so little time.. This is a photo of one of Joe's cameras set up and ready to shoot!

Phew.. Joe has now left for the Cabot Trail - have fun Joe - and life is returning to normal.. or at least as normal as life could be with only 2 1/2 weeks until book deadline!

Yesterday was a very wet and windy day and I had forgotten that I had left some of the floating row covers unsecured on top of the garden for the photo shoot. I only remembered when I noticed that there was a white 'ghost' fluttering wildly about 20-feet up in a tree. Oooppps! At least I got a photo of a garden 'don't'! Always remember to secure your row covers..

Anyway, here are a few photos from yesterday.. love the red and green lettuce combination..

Happy Gardening!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tomorrow on The Weekend Gardener

I've been a slack blogger this week, consumed by deadlines.. sorry about that! I did get out and take some photos of the garden yesterday and will post them tomorrow after Thanksgiving dinner #2!

Had a great time today in the Annapolis Valley getting lost in a corn maze (completely, utterly lost!), filling up our trunk with bags of local fruit and veggies (including and an orange Cheddar cauliflower.. soooo good and has 25 times more vitamin A than white cauliflower), picking apples, and stuffing our faces with fresh baked brown bread drizzled with local honey on the drive home.. a perfect day.

Tomorrow is the last radio show of the season - 6 months has just flown by! I can't believe how fast time can pass.. one minute it was mid spring and now we're well into autumn.. mind you, the trees still seem pretty green! Hopefully the fall colour show will start soon.. anyway, back to the topic of the last radio show.. we've got a good one tomorrow - going out with a bang! We'll be focusing on some of our amazing local experts - Duncan Kelbaugh of Brunswick Nurseries and my dear friend Carla Isnor of Halifax Seed!

Duncan and I will talk all about pruning - when, why, how and he will also offer ideas for winter interest in the garden. It's not too late to plant and if your garden looks a bit empty in the winter, you'll get some good ideas tomorrow..

Also, Carla and I will tackle enriching the garden soil and sort through the confusing mass of organic soil amendments and fertilizers.. plus, we'll talk about garden trends for 2011 and ornamental grasses if time allows.

Plus, it's organic week - - and there are plenty of Maritime events happening over the next 7 days.. take part and support our local organic products - honey, cheese, veggies, fruits, beers, wines and more! Throw an organic wine and cheese party with some of our delicious local products.. break ground on a new organic veggie patch.. we'll offer some ideas on how you can celebrate organic week!

We'll also announce the winner of our Boost My Backyard Contest, who will receive a $1500 gift certificate to Stone Gallery!!

Hope you'll join me and call in with your questions - 1-877-801-8255.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The gourds are in..

I've been waiting for weeks to get under the huge tangled pile of gourd vines to see what was hiding under the rampant foliage.. Thanks to Hurricane Earl last month, our trellises were all knocked down and I wasn't exactly sure what survived and how big the remaining gourds had grown.. I'm thrilled to say that we picked a great crop of snake gourds - our best ever! We usually have a bunch of 3+ foot tall gourds, which always thrill the kids at school when I bring in our wacky selection of gourds each October to the local schools.

Yet, as we checked beneath the mass of vines, we also discovered a very, very, very long snake gourd - 51-inches long! We kept pulling and it kept coming.. I don't know who was more excited - me or the kids! As you can see from the photo, it's much longer than the rest of the ones we harvested. I used the shovel as a point of reference.. So much fun! After we show the schoolchildren, we'll use it as part of our seasonal decorations on the front doorstep.

As you can see, we're also beginning to harvest the fall plantings of greens. We have about 18 types of salad crops planted now - including this lovely mix of Asian greens.. The spicy baby leaves make a nice salad or can used to add zing to sandwiches and wraps! In the background is another bed of arugula, our favourite salad green. We also have several types of arugula growing in the cold frame, including a rustic one, which is more winter hardy than the traditional arugula.

The cold frame carrots are a lovely size now too.. mind you, we're not actually eating them yet. We won't start pulling them until late December.. the 3rd photo shoot for the book will take place next week and it will be nice to get shots of all of these fall crops.. plus the various kales, kohlrabi, celeriac, fall broccoli, endive, escarole, lettuces, spinach, chards and more..

I also tucked a few parsley and thyme plants in the frames to supply fresh herbs in mid-winter.. what a lovely treat to pick your own herbs when a thick blanket of snow covers the garden!

Happy Gardening!