Friday, December 31, 2010

The Perfect Way to Start the New Year!

I just got the news - the online version of the 2011 Annapolis Valley Heritage Seeds catalogue has been released!! There will also be a print version in the coming weeks. I've been waiting patiently (ok, semi-impatiently!) for the past few weeks to see what our amazing Owen Bridge has come up with for this coming season.. I'm very interested in his extensive list of greens. I love arugula, Outredgeous lettuce and Black Seeded Simpson, but there are so many more to try!

We did a photo shoot for 'the book' back in October at Annapolis Seeds and it was such a fantastic place. I loved the lettuce gardens - I just wish I had been there when they were at their peak to see the patchwork of colours and textures.. Some of the photos of Owen's seeds, his seed saving methods and his veggies should be appearing in the book when it finally hits stores in late 2011. I just finished the sub-edit of the first few chapters and now it's back at the publishers again.

Anyhow.. if you're as seed crazy as I am, you'll want to check out

Happy New Year!

PS - this is a photo of Owen and I from this past summer when he joined me on The Weekend Gardener - fun fun!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Reinforcements!

Ok, I finally caved.. after storm #3 I grabbed the hubby to help me tighten up the winter hoop houses - we did this a few days ago, just before the big snow. I got tired of going up to the garden after each Nor'easter and re-covering the tunnels. He added a strip of wood down the center of two of our tunnels to help stand up against the snow and high winds. It took literally 2 minutes per tunnel. Why didn't I get him to do this in October!!?

Anyway, we used a 1-inch x 2-inch x 8-foot slat from an old A-frame trellis - resourceful gardeners recycle! These tunnels may not be super fancy, but they are inexpensive to build and extremely effective in protecting our winter veggies. We have three types of kale tucked into the tunnel shown in the photo.

The 15-cm of snow that arrived a day or so later, gave the strengthened tunnels their first test - and they passed with flying colours, surviving without any problems at all.. and it was a very heavy, wet snow! The remaining tunnel, which didn't have a centre support was flattened on one end by the weight of the snow.

Here are a few shots after the snow - as you can see, the tunnels look good.. I also have a Kale Kozy to the side of the tunnels.. we just bent two 1/2-inch PVC conduits overtop of a mature kale plant and then covered it with plastic. Super easy and enough protection to keep a kale plant going all winter long..

After the storm passed, I needed to shovel the cold frames.. it only takes a minute if you do it right after a snow.. a few days later, you'll be chipping at ice and snow for a 1/2 hour! If the weather was super cold, I would leave the snow on for a week or so until the cold spell passed.. yet, because it's only a few degrees below zero, I like to remove the snow so that the frames can be warmed by the solar energy.. isn't nature grand?

Anyway, we're just 2 weeks from the final photo shoot of the book - I can't wait!

Happy New Year and all the best for 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Surprise, surprise, another monster storm is heading towards us.. is this three or four Monday Nor'easters in a row? I'm beginning to lose count! Yet, I think we're ready for it! Christmas Eve, the hubby and I spent a very productive hour and a half in the garden tightening up the structures and strengthening the mini hoop tunnels. At this point, the weather is forecasting up to 20 cm of snow and then the temps will rise and we'll get 40 or more millimeters of rain.. but you never know! This could turn into a huge snow storm.. If so, the kids would be thrilled! New sleds for Christmas, but no snow..

On a completely unrelated note, I loved the book, Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart - she joined me on the radio show in the summer of 2009 to chat about this unique tome.. Over the past 18 months, Wicked Plants has become so popular that there have been displays set up at botanical gardens and now Botanical Interests, a seed company has created a 'Wicked Plants Collection'. It includes foxglove, poppies, nicotiana and more! Plus, Amy has just finished her next book, which will arrive in bookstores in May of 2011 - Wicked Bugs! For more info, check out this link.. I can't wait!

Happy Boxing Day!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

A Christmas checklist:

1) 2 Butterscotch pies - check!
2) 2 Caramel apple pies - check!
3) Last minute trip to the grocery store for more eggs and bread - check! (Plus, all the cash registers were open and there were no line ups - a Christmas miracle!)
4) Gifts wrapped - check! (Is it just me or is wrapping paper thinner than ever? It tears soooo easily!)
5) Now, a quick trip up to the garden to tighten up the mini hoop tunnels after the last three days of super windy and mild weather - again!

Have a wonderful holiday and all the best for 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010


After the stormy and windy weather this week, I need to do a bit of repair to the winter hoop tunnels, as the sides had loosened up a bit in the strong gusts. Plus, because the weather was so warm (14 C in our backyard on Tuesday!) I had to pop open the ends of the tunnels to allow for ventilation - in mid-December! Crazy.. anyway, I just tossed the plastic back overtop of the tunnels and used our homemade snap clamps (see earlier post) to secure the cover and added some rocks and logs to weigh the sides down.

Well, I just took these photos - 3 cm of show has fallen and it's finally beginning to look like winter.. I only left the top of the frame open for a few moments so that I could take the photo - note the snowflakes falling as I snapped away!

Assuming the long range forecast predicts more of the same weather, I hope to 'tighten' up the hoop tunnels this weekend so that they are finally ready for the cold. To winterize them, we twist both ends like a piece of hard candy and pull them tight, tying each end to a piece of rebar stuck in the ground.

As you can see, this tunnel is still covered pretty loosely, but it's still extremely effective - underneath, 1-foot wide rows of spinach, arugula and mixed mustard greens are going strong! It's amazing how hardy some of these veggies are!

On another note, I'd love to hear some of your suggestions for what to grow for 2011. This whole year has been about writing and photographing 'the book' and all garden planning has revolved around that.. now that we only have one photo shoot left - a winter shoot - 2011 will allow us to get back to growing whatever we want, whenever we want! The kids say 2000 sq feet of corn.. well, I'm open to a corn patch - it's been 2 years since the raccoons made crop circles in our last corn crop - but I'd like to try some new veggies/varieties.. so, what do you like to grow?

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You did it!

Thanks so much for voting for the Outdoor Classroom for our local school, Tantallon Elementary! I just found out that they made it to the finals of the Aviva Community Fund and are now entering the judging round!! They'll find out in late January if and how much funds they will have to put towards this unique learning classroom.. Thanks again for your support!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Will Winter Ever Come..?

It seems as if our wild weather will never end! I said to the kids yesterday afternoon as we played out in the backyard - "Enjoy this day, it will be the last nice day before winter arrives." They said, "Mom, you've been saying that since Halloween!" And it's true! I have been saying that every time another stretch of mild weather arrives.. but I'm always wrong, as that warm spell is followed by another a week or two later.. ah well, I'm not complaining, but Monday's weather did certainly wreak havoc on the garden!
The winds in the backyard were wailing by at around 90 km per hour and of course, all my winter tunnels blew off! I still hadn't secured them really well, as the cold weather hasn't really come to stay. So, yesterday, in the 14 C temperatures and sunshine (which felt HEAVENLY), I trotted up to the garden and vented the cold frames and recovered the tunnels. Since I was up there anyway, I also picked a salad!

You might be wondering what's up with these winter photos? Well, the top one is a shot of the sage from this time last year! The other photo is the unprotected leeks at the same time.. as you can see, a 14 C day in mid-December is not normal!

Work on the book is speeding along and we're now in a process called sub-editing.. it's all new to me, but it's nice to get back to the manuscript after handing it in 6 weeks ago! It's amazing what the touch of an experienced editor can do! Even the names of the chapters and each section have been 'revamped' with amazing results.. I can't wait to see the final product, yet it's still going to be another 10 months or so.. patience Niki!

Well, it's another mild day today - not as warm as yesterday - but 6 C is nothing to sneeze at! But mark my words, this will be the last mild day before winter arrives! (I think!)

Happy Gardening!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Live and Learn!

Ahh.. the joy of learning from mistakes.. I think that's where most of my gardening knowledge comes from - my many 'misadventures'! I think my favourite misadventure was planting 5 packets of climbing nasturtium seeds in the new perennial garden at my parent's cottage. The 15 x 25-foot bed (with stone pathways) was filled with small divisions and young seedlings, along with a few just-planted shrubs. Anyone who has grown vining nasturtiums knows how rampant they are.. but I was young, inexperienced and thought I had bought the mounding types.. ooppps!

We planted the seeds around the perimeter of the garden, hoping for pretty clumps of nasturtiums to soften the stone border. In the end, they did soften the border - but only because it was completely covered by a 2-foot thick layer of nasturtium vines! In fact, the entire garden was overrun. To save the perennials, we had to pull all the nasturtiums out of the garden and ended up with a pile of vines that was over 5 feet tall - taller than me! I can't believe I didn't get a photo of that! Talk about learning your lesson!

Here's another lesson.. When growing in cold frames, make sure that you leave enough clearance between the plants and the top of the frame so that the plants have room to grow without touching the sash. As you can see, I added a bit too much manure this past autumn to 'bulk up' the soil and now my soil level is a bit high.. Plus, the extended warm weather has caused excess growth and the endive has been pushed up against the sash. In a normal year, this would have all worked out fine, but with the crazy mild weather, it's been hard to keep on top of the endive before it reaches the top of the frame. Anyone for endive salad tonight? :)

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Photos of the Day

That was some storm yesterday! We went up in the dark last night to adjust the mini hoop tunnels, as they were certainly whipped around in the 90 km/h winds!

I took these photos Sunday morning with the early sunshine.. this is 'outredgeous' red lettuce growing with mache.. completely in the open garden with no covering.. I had planned to eat the lettuce in mid-autumn, which would then be replaced by the succession crop of mache. Yet, the lettuce is still going strong!

I'm not surprised the mache is fine - it survives all winter in the open or under a thick blanket of snow, but I am shocked that this little red lettuce is still holding its own.. I've noticed that some of the red lettuces seem to be hardier than the green types.. hmmm... maybe an experiment for next year?!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Crazy Weather!

What a funny year this has been.. and here we are in early December and we're smack in the middle of another warm stretch.. It was 12 C in the backyard yesterday and I had to fully prop open the cold frames and open the ends of the mini hoop tunnels. (Don't you love my fancy cold frame prop? My broken garden fork) When it was minus 8 C a week or two ago, I thought it would be safe to close them up for the winter.. I guess Mother Nature had a few more tricks up her sleeve!

It was so glorious yesterday morning that I took the opportunity to plant more garlic - about another 50 cloves.. with the soil soft and warm, it only took about 10 minutes. Plus, it felt great to be up and puttering in the garden. It has actually been a few days since I peeked into the cold frames, so it was nice to air them out for a few hours and give them a sprinkle of water.

Two of the more interesting crops that we're growing (and eating) right now are claytonia and Sylvetta arugula, which is a 'wild' type of arugula. It only grows about half the height of the common arugula with deeply lobed leaves and a bit more 'bite'! It's fantastic and extremely cold tolerant - not that it's very cold outside at this point! Plus, it continues to grow through winter, even when we have less than 10 hours of sunshine - the typical cutoff point for many veggies.

Claytonia is also extremely hardy - it rivals mache in terms of winter hardiness. When young, it has lovely heart-shaped leaves that will eventually 'wrap' around a central edible flower stem as they mature. The plant forms a tidy rosette and I like to steal a handful of leaves from each plant, allowing them to continue growing. It's great tossed with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil - simple, but sensational!

I'm also surprised at the hardiness of Winter Landis lettuce.. Some of the Rouge d'hiver has already succumbed to the frigid weather over the past few weeks, but the Winter Landis looks fantastic - and it's at the edge of the cold frame.. We also have Winter Density lettuce planted in another frame, and it's also looking very good. It's fun to play with the various 'winter' lettuces to see how long you can stretch the lettuce season.. it seems to get longer and longer each year..

Happy Gardening!

Friday, December 3, 2010

All I Want For Christmas Is...

Hmmmmmmm.. what do I want for Christmas this year..? Besides a large glass greenhouse (c'mon, a girl can dream!), I guess I wouldn't mind a few of the following:


There are some great new gardening books that are starting to arrive in bookstores, including The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook by the father-daughter team of Ron and Jennifer Kujawski. It is an interactive calendar workbook that one can customize by using their own first and last frost dates - what a great idea! It hits bookstores on December 13th - just in time for the holidays..

Also, look for Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere, by Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin. It was featured on Martha Stewart recently!

Gift Certificates:

Who says a gift certificate isn't a personal gift? I love getting a gift certificate to a favourite nursery, greenhouse or seed catalogue! I bet all you gardeners out there will agree wholeheartedly! Some of my favourite places include Halifax Seed, Annapolis Seeds, Johnny's Seeds, Renee's Garden, Bloom Greenhouse, Oceanview Garden Center and Landscaping and Village Nursery.. I could go on (and on and on), but I should probably stop there..

By the way, this photo is of me with Owen Bridge of Annapolis Seeds and Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds.. they joined me on the radio show way back in the summer and since they are 'great Canadian seed men', I thought I'd post this photo!

Personalized Calendar:

Another great idea for the gardener in your life is a calendar of images from their garden.. If you have a gardener who loves to take photos of their plants and gardens, gather up some of the best images and use them to create a calendar.. easy and extremely thoughtful!


I could also use another 'Scarecrow' motion activated sprinkler from Contech.. I have one, but since our veggie patch is divided into two separate gardens, one just doesn't do the trick when it comes to the deer. I found it to be extremely effective, but you need to remember to turn the water off before you go up to the garden in the morning - otherwise, you'll get a second shower! I'm embarrassed to say that this has happened to me more times than I care to admit!

Garden Art:

I would also love to get more pieces of garden art - my inspiration is found at Bren has the most wonderful eye for design and she has peppered fun, funky and elegant pieces throughout her edible and ornamental gardens..

Please remember to go to: to vote today for The Outdoor Classrom for Tantallon Elementary School if you get a chance - they really need as many votes as they can get! Plus, our children need the chance to learn where their food comes from and more about their natural environment.. thanks for voting!

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Please vote for our local school - Voting Starts Dec 2nd!

A few weeks ago, I put out the request from a local elementary school urging people to vote for their bid for the Aviva Community Fund.. the school is hoping to win a portion of the $1,000,000 prize to fund an outdoor classroom, complete with amphitheatre, butterfly house, compost station, solar greenhouse and more! The facilities would be used by kids in grades P to 6, as well as other local schools and organizations.

The good news is that Tantallon Elementary School has made it to the semi finals! Now, the competition begins again and the voting for the semi finals starts tomorrow.. Here is a press release from the school.. if you an extra 10 seconds a day, please vote for this worthy cause:

The Nature Room – our outdoor classroom is a semi-finalist in the Aviva Community Fund Competition.

Semi-final voting begins December 2nd.

* Vote daily from multiple email addresses -
* Get at least 5 other people to vote daily from multiple email address
* “Like” The Nature Room on Facebook ( and add us to your status updates
* Tweet about #TheNatureRoom to your followers

1. Voting

You can register from any or all the email accounts you have (personal and work). Once registered, you get to place 10 votes. We want you to give all your votes to The Nature Room. Here’s the catch: you can only vote for the same idea once a day. But daily voting is easy.

But don’t just stop there, get your kids, grandparents, neighbours, cousins and anyone else you can to join us. As long as they live in Canada and have an email address, they can participate.

Here’s what you need to do to get started:
1. Go to the website:
2. Register
3. Confirm your registration by clicking on the email they send you.
4. Go to The Nature Room page ( and click on the vote button.
5. Vote every day and use as many email accounts as you can.

Don’t hesitate, vote now so our kids and our community can have this extraordinary opportunity!

2. Facebook

“Like” <>

3. Tweet

If you’re on Twitter, you can use this quick Tweet to tell your followers.

#TheNatureRoom is now in the semi-finals. We need your votes to make it to the finals. RT to all you can! <> #acf