Monday, November 29, 2010


I know that frost is pretty much a daily occurrence at this point, but when I went up to the garden this morning, the intricate crystal patterns on the foliage of the kale and various hardy greens were just so pretty! I had to run back to the house to grab my camera and I thought I'd share some of the results with you!

Even the mini hoop houses and floating row covers are covered in a thick layer of frost. Yet, a simple barrier can provide enough protection to extend the season for so many types of hardy veggies. When I was working in the garden yesterday afternoon, the surface of the soil was frozen and covered in ice crystals. Yet, when i lifted a lightweight row cover from the top of our curly parsley, the ground beneath was soft and the parley was ready to pick (and incredibly sweet!) - amazing what a simple cover can do!

It always surprises me how hardy some of the garden veggies really are! The tatsoi, kale, winter lettuces, mache, Italian parsley, thyme, swiss chard, leeks and collards are still completely uncovered.. and ready to pick once they've thawed in mid-morning! The hubby is particularly enamoured with the kale - his brother too! Whenever the brother-in-law comes to visit, he and the hubby head up to the garden to eat the kale (and mizuna, arugula and mustard) directly from the garden.. It's an instant salad! I think I'll have to start calling them 'the grazers'..

On a side note.. a few months ago, I saw these cool 'snap clamps' on a US website.. they're simply small lengths of PVC that have a piece cut out. When 'snapped' onto the ribs of a mini hoop tunnel, they securely lock the poly covering into place.. since I couldn't find them locally, I thought that perhaps we could make our own.. The ribs of our tunnels are simply 1/2-inch PVC conduit.. so, we bought 3/4-inch PVC conduit and cut them into about 1-inch wide sections.. then, the hubby used a saw and cut a piece out of the small length of pipe.. Voila! I now have about 30 snap clamps - with about 30 min of work (mostly his)! I took them up to the garden yesterday and they worked great.. I haven't secured the ends of the tunnels yet, but I will in the next day or so. Once our daytime temp's average about 3 to 4 degrees C, I know it's time to lockdown the mini hoop tunnels.. When we want to harvest, I can unsnap a side clamp, lift the cover and harvest.. ain't life grand?

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hort East 2010!

Hort East, the annual tradeshow for those involved in the Maritime horticultural industries (garden centers, nurseries, turf companies, etc.) is taking place this week and I dropped in yesterday morning for a quick peek at some of the new products that will be available in the coming year.

In the photo, you can see that OSC and Burpee each had booths at the show - Burpee also owns The Cook's Garden, the company that first introduced me to the legendary Lemon cucumber 15 years ago.. Since they were bought out by Burpee, The Cook's Garden doesn't ship to Canada anymore (mind you, neither does Burpee), but certain garden centers (like Oceanview in Chester, Scott's in NB) and stores like Zellers do bring in Burpee and The Cook's Garden seed racks in the spring.

Halifax Seed was also at Hort East, and so was the company that supplies Serenade, an organic fungicide that will be available to home gardeners this coming spring at garden centers - not big box stores. Serenade contains Bacillus subtilis, a bacteria that prevents a wide range of fungal problems on both ornamental and vegetable plants. Interesting.. but keep in mind that the best defense against pests and disease is a tidy garden with a wide range of plants - diversity! This encourages beneficial insects and pollinators, and can help break disease cycles..

I also met up with Cindy from Gardens East magazine, who flew in from BC for Hort East. It's been almost 9 months since the magazine launched in Atlantic Canada and the reception from gardeners has been fantastic! I've been very lucky to write a regular column in each issue and have met some amazing gardeners from across the region who have welcomed me into their gardens.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The White Stuff!!

I know that the shopping malls and big box stores want me to feel like the holidays are just around the corner and not still more than a month away, but thanks to last night's snowfall, I'm actually starting to feel the first twinges of Christmas Spirit!

I can't say I'm thrilled that our long spell of mild weather is officially over, but with the cool and cold tolerant veggies tucked under their protective covers, all I can say is: let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Mind you, as you can tell from this mini hoop tunnel, it's only partially secured and still needs to be fastened down a bit more tightly for the winter. It's supposed to be more mild tomorrow, so I may try to get out and do this then..

It's amazing to lift the lid of a winter cold frame and peer into the greenery hiding just inside. In this frame, we have endive, escarole, mache, arugula and spinach. My winter 'salad garden'! The one that is closed is the carrot frame - well-filled with hundreds of 'ready-to-pull' Napoli carrots.. I save them for the kid's lunchboxes - they like to pull one each morning before school..

As space opens up, I'll actually continue to seed more mache all winter long for a non-stop harvest.. deck the halls!

Happy Gardening!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tucking in the Root Crops for Winter

With frigid temperatures in the forecast, I thought it would be a good idea to get up to the garden on Friday afternoon and cover the remaining celeriac and garden carrots with a thick layer of shredded leaves. I dumped a big garbage bag of leaves on top of each of these small beds, mounding it up over and around the sides for maximum protection. Then, I topped each bed with a floating row cover to keep the leaves from blowing away. Plus, the cover offers a bit more insulation. I usually use my old row covers for this, as it doesn't matter so much if they already have a few tears or rips. Mind you, you can also use a sheet of chicken wire, landscape fabric or an old blanket. No need to be fancy here!

To secure the row covers, you can use rocks, logs, garden staples (pieces of wire bent in a 6-inch long U-shape) or even grommets. I used rocks, but I also picked up a package of black plastic grommets from Lee Valley that I thought I'd try.. I'll keep you posted on the grommet situation..

I also covered the row cover mini hoop tunnels with a layer of 6-mil greenhouse poly. The plastic is currently roughly secured with logs and rocks, but the hubby has been working on some homemade PVC clamps to tightly secure the plastic to the 1/2-inch PVC ribs. They should be ready in a day or so and then I can 'winterize' the hoop tunnels.. I'll be glad when that's done..

As you can see, I've had this simple hoop tunnel secured with giant clothespins and clamps.. It's been pretty effective though, but I'll clamp it down tightly over the next few days. Underneath, there are 1-foot wide rows of arugula, mixed Asian mustards and mizuna, baby spinach and some mache scattered throughout. I don't usually put a mini hoop tunnel in this garden, but I really want to enjoy these crops into winter.

It was pretty darn cold and windy yesterday afternoon, but I knew I had some work to do in the garden. So, I dressed warm and went up, grumbling a bit to myself. Yet, when I started puttering around it was so rejuvenating to just be able to still work in the garden that I didn't even notice the cold. I was even disappointed when the darkness drove me back inside.. I love being a year round veggie gardener!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Late Season Celeriac

A few days ago, I put a big pot of chicken soup on the stove.. as the stock was cooking, I ran up to the garden to pick some parsley, celery, carrots and leeks.. I also took some onions and potatoes from storage.. I used these to both flavour the stock and in the soup itself..

As I was wandering the garden, I remembered that I still had about six celeriac plants left in the garden - a late season treasure! I picked the smallest one to add to the soup - at this time of the year, the celery is a bit pithy, but the celeriac is still tender, fragrant and delicious.

Here are a few photos of my little celeriac - cut at the top so you can see the interior colour and turned upsidedown, so you can see the gnarled shape and root stubs (I trimmed them before the photo - celeriac has a very dense and large roots system).

Celeriac is very easy to grow and has a mild, celery flavour that is nice raw, stir-fried, cooked in soups and stews, or mashed with Yukon Gold potatoes (and a dash of cream).. mmmmm..

Because the cold weather is finally predicated to settle in tomorrow, I will toss a big bag of shredded fall leaves on top of the remaining celeriac today and cover with a row cover - to prevent the leaves from blowing away. This will extend the season by about 6 weeks (Merry Christmas!).. During the growing season, the celeriac leaves grow quite tall - about 2-feet, but now, they've all flopped down, making the leaf layer easy to apply. I aim for a 1-foot deep layer of leaves to protect the large bulbs (usually about 6 to 7-inches in diameter).

Sometimes at the base of the mature celeriac, there is a small sprout growing next to the bulb.. These are ideal for the winter windowsill.. just dig up the sprout, separating it gently from the bulb and pot up. Use the sprigs to add a mild celery flavour to your winter cooking..

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1st Seed Catalogue Arrives!

Wow.. I didn't expect to start seeing the 2011 seed catalogues until mid to late December.. Yet, when I checked the mail today, the new Stokes Seed catalogue had arrived! Pretty exciting (you can tell my life is filled with non-stop excitement!) I don't often order from Stokes, but they do have a nice selection of gourd seed - speckled swan, apple, nest egg and snake gourds, for example.

Happy Gardening!

Tis the Season.. For Planting Garlic!

I usually try to get my garlic in the ground in mid to late October, but I've been running late this year.. no worries though, as the warm weather has made a November planting ideal. In fact, if I did plant in October, the garlic may have started to grow with the unseasonal mild weather that we've been enjoying. This happens occasionally, with little bad effect, but I do prefer to have the garlic winter over unsprouted. I think it allows more energy to stay in the bulb and helps 'bulk' up the garlic heads the following spring and summer.

Because last weekend was so nice and because we LOVE our garlic, I decided to plant a little more. This past summer, I harvested about 200 heads of garlic. I've replanted about 50 so far from that crop, which amounts to about 250 to 300 future garlic plants. We grow purple hardneck garlic, which is the best type for our northern region. Warmer areas can grow softneck, or braiding garlic, but it doesn't do well for me in zone 5b.

When planting garlic, look for the biggest cloves, putting any small ones aside for cooking. Bigger cloves = bigger garlic bulbs. These ones in my hand are nice and plump - perfect for planting!

My biggest complaint about growing garlic is the complete lack of variety found locally. I have planted Korean Red and Music Box, but I'd love to be able to grow a dozen different types. There are several online Canadian companies that sell garlic, but I haven't taken advantage of this source - yet.. I have a feeling that next summer I'll be placing a garlic order so that I can expand our plantings.

If you've never grown garlic, I urge you to plant some this autumn - sooner, rather than later. Homegrown garlic is vastly different from the softneck garlic available in grocery stores (shipped in bulk from China). Our garlic is firm, fragrant, juicy (yes, I said juicy) and sublime.. it's lovely roasted and then squeezed onto a homemade slice of bread. Plus, hardneck garlic lasts for at least 6 months, allowing us to enjoy our own garlic for a good portion of the year. The only problem is that everyone else likes it too (and I like to share), so we never grow quite enough..

So, the question is.. do we really need a big lawn in the backyard.. or should we dig it up for an urban garlic farm?!? I think I'm on the side of garlic..

Happy Gardening!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mizuna and Mustard in the Cool Season Garden

A few years ago, I discovered the joy of Asian greens.. mustard and mizuna are particular stand-out's in our garden. They're cold tolerant - lasting until mid-winter in the cold frames and the mini-hoop tunnels and can be seeded again in late February for a super early spring harvest.

When he first tried a leaf of Garnet Giant mustard, my hubby joyfully exclaimed "It tastes just like sushi!" He's a bit of a wasabi addict and most mustards certainly have a 'bite' to the leaves. When picked young, they're great in mixed salads, but once they plants have matured, they're best stir-fried or lightly steamed to reduce the hot taste. Unless you like the 'spicier' side of life!

At first, it was a bit hard to find seed for greens like mustard, mizuna and tatsoi, but now, most seed catalogues offer a good selection of these cool season veggies. I tend to buy my Asian greens from Johnnys Seeds, which carries some of our favourites - Green Wave mustard (see photo of my hand picking a leaf), Garnet Giant (see baby seedlings at left) and purple and green mizunas (green mizuna below).

Green mizuna was the first Asian green that I pushed past the borders of late spring and summer. The frosted photo was taken a few years ago in early December after about a month of frosts. At that point, I hadn't been covering the mizuna, but have since learned that it will survive nicely under a simple season extender - cold frame, mini hoop tunnel or unheated greenhouse, for example.

The garden in late autumn is such a joy.. I love to stroll up in the morning before the sun has a chance to melt the ice crystals that are covering the kales and take a peek in the various structures, which shelter our bounty of greens and root crops. The sun is shining (finally after a week of rain!) and it's time for my morning garden stroll..

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bye bye manuscript!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.. I just sent off the manuscript for my book to my editor at Storey Publishing.. finally. (Hence - the cheerful flower photo!) What a lovely moment, but I'm not unaware that in some ways, the work is just beginning. For the next 10 months, there will be edits, re-writes, layouts and another winter photo shoot.. then, I'll be hitting the promotional trail in the late winter and spring of 2012.. yet, what an experience!

I'm very thankful for all the encouragement and endless support of my family and friends, plus the fellow garden lovers who have allowed me to peek into their edible paradises and learn a little more..

You'd think on a day like this, the sun would come out.. no such luck! It's still raining and I've lost count of how many days of continuous rain this is.. Yet, I'm not complaining, as the temperature is a mild 11 C and the plants are doing well.. even though the deer visited a few nights ago and nibbled on the carrot tops and baby lettuces.. I can't wait to get the new garden fence up in spring - we're going to do a better job this time - renting a post digger and putting in stronger supports and better netting. It would be so nice to know that the deer can't get in the garden, instead of looking out each morning wondering if they came and what they ate.

It's another busy week - I'm off to the Mahone Bay Garden Club on Thursday evening to chat about late season colour in the garden and this past weekend I was down in picturesque Great Village for a talk on kitchen gardening.

Soon, it will be time to start thinking about ordering seed catalogues and I'll post a list in the coming weeks of my favourite websites and catalogues.. yet, as I start plan next season, I still have tasks to do in the garden now - plant more garlic, seed more winter greens (arugula, spinach, mache) and re-erect the mini hoop tunnels that I had to take down last week in the crazy wind.

I love being a gardener!

Happy Gardening!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frosted Leaves and Gusty Winds

I thought I was soooo smart when I set up most of my mini hoop tunnels last week.. the temperature had been hovering around 1 C most mornings and frost was becoming a daily event - as you can see from the photos. Yet, here we are today, with temperatures expected in the mid-teens for the next few days and winds gusting to 80 km/hour!

So, yesterday evening, I decided to take down most of my row covers and tunnels until this storm had passed. I did, however leave one plastic-covered mini hoop tunnel overtop my endive, mustards and lettuces.. fingers crossed it hasn't blown away in the night!

It's a funny time of the year and hard to know when the weather will finally decide to stay cold - not that I'm complaining.. I love the mild temperatures, but the yo-yo weather of autumn certainly keeps one on their toes!

We've finally started eating the kale.. we were enjoying baby leaves throughout the summer in mixed salads, but once the plants mature, we like to wait until the cold weather arrives to sweeten up the foliage. Now, they're so tasty, that we can graze on them as we putter in the garden - no need to cook the succulent leaves!

I love the intensely curled leaves of Winterbor (at left), but as I've said before, it's the Tuscan kale that is the star of the show (top)! The blue-green, strap-like leaves are so pretty - heavily blistered and arching - but they're also so tasty and perfect for sauteeing, soups or fresh eating.. divine! Plus, they're a superfood and packed with nutrients..

We plant our fall and winter kale in mid summer - a time when no garden centers carry transplants for the late season.. I'm hoping that next spring I'll be able to convince a few to start offering some veggie seedlings for fall! Fall broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces, mustards and more.. it's a lovely time of the year..

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HortEast 2010 is approaching..

The biennial HortEast Trade Show and Conference will be taking place in just a few weeks - November 23rd and 24th - at the Cunard Centre in Halifax. I'll be in attendance, checking out the various seminars and workshops - intended for all those working in horticultural fields in the Maritimes - both company owners and staff. The trade show brings companies in from across North America to showcase their products, including some local suppliers like Halifax Seed!

For anyone interested, they can visit the official website - to find out more info.


Workshops on Monday will be offered for both Landscape Construction and Maintenance companies, addressing cutting edge industry issues including permeable pavers and hardscape design, pesticide free turf grass management, and advanced landscape maintenance techniques. An industry tour will visit the new exterior living wall, green roof, and interior living walls at the Nova Scotia Community College, the brand new Halifax Farmers Market, along with other sites of interest in Nova Scotia.

Monday evening will end with a reception at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel for a chance for exhibitors and delegates to meet and mingle before HortEast kicks off on Tuesday morning, with a trade show featuring 120 booths with exhibitors from across Canada and the US and a number of seminars and networking opportunities.

2010 Seminars and Workshops include:

· Landscape Maintenance half day workshop with Jeff McMann (Town of Markham, ON) and Eric Lyons (University of Guelph, ON)

· Landscape Construction half day workshop with Robert Bowers (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, Uxbridge ON)

· It is Up To You - Revisiting The Hiring Process with Tim Brennan (HiringSmart Canada Inc., Halifax NS)

· Engaging your Seasonal Workers for Increased Productivity and Retention with Tim Brennan (HiringSmart Canada Inc., Halifax NS)

· Going to Pot with Liz Klose (Landscape Canada Committee/CNLA, Milton ON)

· Proven Performance Plant Partners with Liz Klose (Landscape Canada Committee/CNLA, Milton ON)

· Phenology with Jeff McMann (Town of Markham, ON)

· Arboriculture Tree Myths and Their Contribution to the Landscape with Jeff McMann (Town of Markham, ON)

· Making Decisions on New Products with Eric Lyons (University of Guelph, ON)

· The Pattern Language of Concrete Pavers with Robert Bowers (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, Uxbridge ON)

· LEED and Sustainable Sites Initiative with Sue Sirrs (Outside! Planning and Design Studio, Halifax NS)

· Living Walls & Green Roofs with Sue Sirrs (Outside! Planning and Design Studio, Halifax NS)

· New Varieties from PanAmerican Seed Co and Ball Seed for 2011 with Jerry Gorchels (Ball Horticultural Co., US)

· Controlling the Growth of Your Greenhouse Crops with Jerry Gorchels (Ball Horticultural Co., US)

Certain seminars and workshops are eligible Continuing Education Credits for Landscape Industry Certified recertification, and through Plant Health Atlantic and the International Society of Arboriculture. Exam opportunities will be available through the Atlantic Region Certification Committee, the International Society of Arboriculture, and Plant Health Atlantic.

Show Dates & Times:

Tuesday November 23, 2010: 10:00am - 4:00pm

Wednesday November 24, 2010: 10:00am - 4:00pm


Cunard Centre

961 Marginal Rd., Halifax NS


Additional information on the HortEast Trade Show and Conference be found at:

HortEast is Atlantic Canada’s largest horticulture trade show and conference for members of the landscape, greenhouse grower, and retail garden centre industry. The 2010 trade show dates are November 23 and 24th, with pre-show events on November 22nd, 2010.

For More Information:

Rebecca Wetselaar, CAE

HortEast Trade Show Manager 

7856 Fifth Line South | Milton, ON L9T 2X8

Phone: 1.866.383.4711 / 1.647.724.8532

Fax: 1.866.833.8603 
/ 1.905.875.1840



Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Please Vote - Just 3 days left!

There are just 3 days left to vote for our outdoor classroom (you can vote once per day!).. Please vote, as we are currently in 10th place and if we don't make the top 10, we're out of the next round!

Here's the link.. Thanks!