Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Busy (Bad) Blogger!

So sorry that I've been slack with the posts lately.. it's my busy season and between writing, the radio show, weekend lectures and regular life, there has been little time for blogging. Truth be told, I think that blogging is one of my favourite forms of communication. I love reading about other people's gardens and watching the progress of their crops and the seasons.. I love getting inspired from their photographs and ideas. It's like going on a garden tour every day! 

I've also been held back by technology!! I've been trying to post this entry for 2 days now!! Since the cord that connects my camera to my computer 'magically disappeared' three weeks ago, uploading photos has been a challenge.. how do things disappear so completely.. it was on my desk and presto, it's gone forever!! Argh!! 

 The good news is that I think I've semi-mastered the art of the Belgium waffle!! For years, I've just quickly whipped up a pancake-like batter for weekend waffles, experimenting with a variety of whole grains to boost the nutritional value.. But, after enjoying authentic waffles in Belgium last month, we've been spoiled.

There are two main types of Belgium waffles - Liege waffles, which are dense buttery treats that glisten with caramelized sugar (I haven't attempted these yet - but will soon!) and traditional 'light as a feather' waffles that are crispy, yet airy. So delicious! These are what I attempted ( I did scour the internet and my cook books for a good recipe. This is a yeast batter and I decided to try the allrecipes one because it was highly recommended. I whipped up the batter before bed and then let it rise  overnight in the fridge - spectacular!! It rose and was gorgeous - I hated to dip the ladle in to scoop it onto the waffle iron!

We topped them with fresh sweet whipped cream and local maple syrup. Maple syrup may not be a traditional Belgium topping, but it's our Canadian twist! In the market in Bruge, the artisan topped our waffles with a thick layer of super-light whipped cream. Divine.. and I'm pretty pleased with my version. As you can see, the kids added some sprinkles for extra colour!

Now, I'm on the hunt for a local source of Belgium sugar - chunks of sugar used to make Liege waffles. I've heard that you can just roughly chop sugar cubes for a similar product.. but, if possible, I'd love to find the authentic sugar. In any case, I won't be attempting these waffles this weekend, as it's going to be a busy one. I will be speaking on Saturday afternoon in Western Shore, NS at the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs. Amazingly, the event sold out months ago! I can't wait, that will be so much fun! It's always lovely to meet and re-visit with some of the amazing gardeners in our region. Then on Sunday is the radio show - Andrea Bellamy, the author of Sugar Snaps and Strawberries (and the blogger behind Heavy Petal) will be joining me! I'm really looking forward to that conversation!

Anyway, in other gardening news, my own veggie patch has also suffered from neglect (along with the blog). First, many things were delayed because of our recent trip and now that I'm home, I'm behind because there is just not enough time in the day. Mind you, the deer and slugs are not helping me in any way!! We have been working on the garden fence when time allows - usually in the evening alongside clouds of blackflies. The posts that will surround our biggest garden are in finally in, but we haven't put up the deer netting yet and we need to finish the posts around the 2nd garden. So far, we've been very very lucky that we haven't hit any large rocks! It seems our soil grows big rocks!!

In regards to the darn deer, they have been wandering in at night and nibbling on the peas, but have so far not been too damaging. I tossed a lightweight row cover over the peas for now and thanks to the added warmth from the cover, they're growing like crazy and the deer can't get to them. Of course, that makes staking them difficult.. hopefully this weekend we'll get garden 1 fenced in and I can get the pea supports up!

I've also been using simple cloches to cover my newly planted tomatoes each night. Like many gardeners, I tend to use recycled objects - plastic milk jugs, salad containers and even large buckets. At night, the plants don't need a clear cover to allow light to penetrate, all they need is a barrier against a potential frost, so pretty much anything will do - even a sheet of newspaper or an upside down box! My neighbour is extremely clever! She uses old punch bowls that she bought at a garage sale and even large wine and margarita glasses!! Check out the photos below! Love it! She had these glasses over her small newly transplanted tomato seedlings and then over these cute lettuces.. so much fun! 

Fence posts awaiting their new home!

The mache is in bloom - soon I'll have the seed for next year's crop!

The pollinators love the dainty flowers of mache. 

My box of 2012 Proven Winners container plants arrived.. Fedex played catch with it!

Poor damaged plants.. I'm hoping they come around. 

Found some old peat pellets and thought I should use them up. Don't usually like them, but I'm not going to waste them!

An elegant lettuce!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Cover!!!

Ok.. I've been sitting on this for about 6 weeks now (extremely impatiently!!), but I'm happy to say that I can finally show you all the cover of my upcoming book.. I should mention that it was taken on Jan 15th of this year in my backyard. No photo manipulation!! (ok, maybe my hair)

It will be available everywhere in December of 2011 (a few more months).. but I just noticed that it's available for preorder on and Exciting!!

So, without further ado.. (drum roll please).. Here is the cover - Ta da!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This Weekend on The Weekend Gardener...

Wow.. have we already reached the Victoria Day long weekend!? I love long weekends.. especially when we have not much planned except puttering around the house and maybe popping into a few farmer's markets. I do have the radio show on Sunday, of course and I'm really looking forward to this coming show!

When I first went down to North Adams, MA to visit my publisher, Storey Publishing ( in March of 2010, my editor was putting the finishing touches on a new container book. She had an entire wall covered with the photos from the book and I spent quite a bit of time checking out the gorgeous photos.  Now, that book has come out and the authors, Sara Begg Townsend and Roanne Robbins, will be joining me this weekend on the show!! Plus, I have copies to give away to a few lucky callers!!

Also, we'll be talking deer (and anything else you'd like to talk about) with Duncan Kelbaugh of Brunswick Nurseries.. and, Andrea Berry of Hope Seeds in NS will be sharing tips on planting Jerusalem artichokes and seed potatoes, as well as tell us about some of her favourite heirloom crops! Finally, we'll get an update on what's happening at the Kingsbrae Garden, which was voted one of top 5 gardens worth traveling for!

Exciting.. Hope you'll join me for all the garden fun! Listen at News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM or News 88.9 FM.. or live online at Sunday from 11 to 1 pm Atlantic time.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sowing Seed Tapes and Garden Update

So many types of carrots.

Have you ever used a seedtape? I remember trying them many (many!) years ago when I was a teenager and a budding gardener.. I had extended our existing veggie patch and wanted to use the new 10 x 10 foot extension for a cutting garden - zinnias, cosomos, marigolds, California poppies and so on. I picked up a 'cutting garden' packet of seeds from the garden center and inside were a bunch of seed tapes.. I hadn't ever seen such a thing, but eagerly planted them in a pattern so that the tall plants were at the back and the shorter ones in the front - I was soooo clever, eh? :) 

Nantes carrot seed tape from Burpee. 
Yet, very little happened..  a few clumps of California poppies germinated, but that was pretty much the extent of my first cutting garden. Since then, I've avoided seed tapes with my nose high in the air. Then, last autumn, I was given a few packets of carrot seed tapes from one of the larger seed companies. I really wasn't sure I'd bother with them again, but my neighbour did have excellent success with a sweet alyssum seed tape a few years ago, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Ready to bury!
So, when I was planting more carrot seed this past weekend - in the rain and within a cloud of blackflies - I also planted the carrot seed tape. Many gardeners love seed tapes and some even make their own with toilet paper.. Although, I haven't used them in years, I do see their use - especially when planting a crop like carrots, which need to be spaced carefully or later thinned. I'll keep you posted on the seed tape progress and how it compares to the direct seeded carrots. 

Anyway, I also thought I'd include a few other shots of some of the vegetables that we're currently eating - the last of the mache before it goes to seed, giant red mustard, winter density lettuce, and several types of endive that overwintered. I left several kale plants from the winter crop in hopes that they would provide an early spring flush of fresh leaves.  The cold frames have been wide open for weeks and the claytonia that is left has gone to flower - very pretty and yummy!

I must head up to the garden now as the sun has unexpectedly come out!! Happy Gardening!!

A bed that was covered with a  mini hoop tunnel for winter.

Endive - a spring treat!

Another type of endive - great for baby leaf salads.

Giant Red Mustard from last autumn - growing like crazy!

The wintered over kale has resprouted. 

Mizuna went to seed - peeking through the row cover.

Claytonia in the cold frame - next to the chervil - so much chervil!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainy day thoughts of Mont St Michel

Today is Sunday.. that means I have the radio show from 11 to 1 pm.. I generally try to get to the studio a bit early to go over my notes before the show and jot down questions and such.. but, by the time I manage to get out of the house and drive through Tim Hortons for my green tea, it's about 10 minutes before air..

Today, in particular was a lot of fun. I had a great group of guests that all were super personable and ready to have a good time chatting about gardening.. sometimes, you never know! Last week, we had major glitches with the microphones. In the past, I've been very excited about certain guests - perhaps a favourite author of mine, or someone whose work I've admired.. but the segments turn out to be disappointing.. either they are one-word answer guests (never good for radio!!), cranky or even rude to my callers! That's a huge no-no.. So, I've learned over the past 5 years to not anticipate anything before a show and just enjoy it as it comes..

Later today, we tackled our newest project - what will become known as 'Man versus Deer'.. the battle to erect a new garden fence. The old one came down late last summer in a category 1 hurricane (can't remember which one!). I might have to rename this project Man versus Deer versus Blackflies, as they are out in full force! And, we still don't have any sunshine to lighten our spirits.. It was too damp to snap photos as we pounded in the new fence post supports, but I'll try to take some tomorrow. Fingers crossed, but so far, the supports have gone into the ground quite easily.. we expected more massive rocks! (refer to my post from last spring when we expanded our cold frames and encountered HUGE rocks).

Anyway, the point of this post was to share some photos of my favourite place from our recent travels.. Mont St. Michel, which is a small rocky island off the coast of Normandy, France. Fun fact - the tides at Mont St Michel are the 2nd highest in the world - behind the Bay of Fundy here in good ol' Nova Scotia (Insert chant - we're #1, we're #1). It began in the 8th century AD, when a simple monastery was erected at the top of the island to honor Saint Michel. The island was even depicted in the famous Bayeux tapestry (we stayed in nearby Bayeux) which details the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Over the years, the monastery became more grand and a village sprung up around the outside of the monastery.

I've wanted to visit this ancient island since I was a teenager and a friend traveled there and kindly/cruelly, sent me a postcard. We went mid-day, although my travel book warned me that this would be a busy time of day for tourists. But, when you travel with young children not used to the time difference, you do what you can. We stopped in a small village about 10 minutes from Mont St Michel to pick up some picnic supplies - fresh brie, baguettes, wine and other tidbits for a lovely meal that was enjoyed roadside, with the tantalizing sight of the island in the distance.

My book was right, it was crowded.. dozens of tour buses packed with tourists from around the world.. but, thanks to my trusty book (Thanks Rick Steves!), we avoided the 'main drag' of the village and hiked up the ramparts that were practically deserted. As we wove our way through the winding stone streets, bordered by incredible architecture and ancient buildings, we stepped back hundreds of years through time. Here a few photos from our adventure..

Just arrived.. Can't wait to explore the village and hike up to the monastery! 

Still climbing.. a view of a small garden, part of the village and the distant mudflats.

The Abbey at the top of the island - we made it!! 

An interior shot of the amazing abbey.

Outside the abbey - plants are growing all along the ancient wall.

We came down through the 'tourist strip', the main drag of the village.. Crazy, eh?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Caribe Potatoes!

For the past few years, our favourite potato has been Caribe. It's a medium-sized potato with starchy, snow-white flesh and amethyst hued skin. We started growing it for the colour - if it's purple, the kids will eat it - but, I have to say, that Caribe has been a great all-around potato and it holds up to all types of cooking - for baking, boiling, mashing, roasting and potato salad.

Because we love baby potatoes (see photo), I plant successive crops of Caribe, which allows us to harvest tender new potatoes from early summer until mid-autumn.

Now that May has arrived, I popped into my usual source last weekend, but they didn't have any! Yikes.. where was I going to find precious Caribe?? But, they called me today to say that they just got their shipment in!! So, I'll be heading down to Oceanview Garden Center in Chester ( this weekend to pick up my 20 pounds. I know what you're thinking - who needs 20 pounds!? But, in my defense, I'll be sharing and I want to tuck some away for the successive crops.

On a side note, I also picked up some River John Blue potatoes at Halifax Seed - long, oblong tubers with deep purple skin (do you see a purple pattern here??!) and purple and white streaked flesh. So pretty!!

The rain has stopped (temporarily, I'm sure), so get out and plant!!

Happy Gardening

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Upcoming Native Plant Sale!

I just love spring (except for the never-ending rain). It seems I spend my days planting seeds, buying seeds, poking in the local garden centers, talking about gardening (on the radio) and writing about gardening (everywhere else!). Plus, there are so many plant sales - from garden clubs to small neighbourhood sales to places like the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens.

Here are the details:

Native plant sale
Saturday June 4, 9am – 12pm
Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens

(Wolfville, NS) – Pollinators such as butterflies, bees and bats are in decline and in need of our help. Pollinators play a vital role in our environment by pollinating human food crops and contributing to local biodiversity. Major threats include habitat loss, pesticide use, disease and loss of food sources. A great way for individuals to help support pollinators is by creating pollinator-friendly gardens using native plants.  

Buy local native plants for your own pollinator garden at the Friends of the Acadian Forest Region Society’s annual Native Plant Sale on Saturday June 4 from 9am to 12pm in the Walled Garden and Conservatory at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens on the Campus of Acadia University in Wolfville.

Plants available for sale will include Turtlehead, Labrador Violet, Meadow Rue and the rare Swamp Milkweed. These plants have been grown by volunteers from seed collected in the Botanical Gardens. A variety of other native plants including trees and shrubs will be offered from local nurseries.

All money raised from the plant sale goes to support conservation of the Acadian Forest Region. The Gardens are open daily and free to the public. For more information, visit our website at <>  or phone 902-585-1917.

Finally getting organized..

We've been home a week now, but rainy weather, endless housecleaning and piles of work (captioning 200+ photos for 'the book') have kept me inside and away from the garden.. I did get the peas and sweet peas in the garden during a brief break from the rain and on Mother's Day, I snuck up to the garden for 10 minutes and planted some salad greens - mild Asian mix, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, arugula, spinach and my favourite lettuce mix.. it was Mother's Day after all and I needed to do something for myself! :)

I knew I'd be weeks behind with the trip this spring, but I was willing to make the sacrifice.. I was also able to keep our non-stop harvest going thanks to the cold frames and mini hoop tunnels. In one tunnel, I had planted a few dozen clumps of endive, spinach, mustard and lettuce in mid-autumn. Now, they are lovely sized heads and ready for picking.. I will take some photos, but in the crazy rush of this past week the cable that connects my camera and computer has decided to go AWOL.. sigh.. I guess I'll have to look for my card reader instead!

I've also discovered another unique Maritime blog - - check it out.. it's just new this year, and I'm really enjoying the posts..

But, until I find my darn camera cord, here are a few more shots of Monet's Garden in Giverney..

Me, poking through yet another seed rack.. 

Monet's house.. 

I just love the arches.. so beautiful.. 
Approaching the wisteria bridge.. just a bit further down the pathway..

Towering bamboos line the stream.

There it is - and it's covered with tourists.. ah well..

So crowded that we couldn't even get near.. still beautiful though.

Imagine the nasturtiums of summer spilling over the pathway..  (you're not allowed to go down this path, or most paths for that matter. They were roped off.. just the perimeter. 

A lovely Japanese Tree Peony. Huge flowers!!

Leaving, but needed one last look back before the parking lot.. (mind you, the parking lot had a homemade ice cream stand, so it was also spectacular!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Monet's Tulips in Giverny

Since we were traveling with small children (with limited patience!), I knew that I had to choose our garden destinations carefully.. The opulence and structure of Versailles or Monet's garden paradise in Giverny? Truly, I really wanted to see how average people gardened and I took much pleasure in peeking over hedges and through fences throughout France and Belgium.. but, when it came time to choose between these two famous gardens, I went with Giverny. I had always loved the photographs of this artist's paradise - cascading willows, fragrant waterlilies and long chains of lavender-hued wisteria.

We planned to stop there on day 3, after spending a few days in Bayeux, France (near Juno Beach and Mont St. Michel), but after we landed in Paris, we all still had a bit of energy (I think it was the fact the trees had leaves on them and  it was about 22 C), so we decided to stop at Giverny on our way up North. It was busy, but we found a parking spot and waited in line to enter the garden, eating homemade ice cream as we enjoyed the gorgeous weather and colourful surroundings. The small village that surrounds the garden was very pretty - charming stone buildings, narrow cobble-stoned roads and the fragrance of lilacs in every breath.

When we finally entered the garden, it was breathtaking - tulips filled every bed, along with forget-me-not's, peonies (just coming into bloom), iris, wisteria, clematis, golden chain trees and so much  more.. I decided just to focus on the tulips today, but more photos will follow.. it was very hard to get photos without other tourists in the shots.. we all shuffled along the pathways, snapping photos.. but, overall, it was amazing and I'm so glad we made it there. The kids also loved it - especially the massive clumps of bamboo and the bridges.. Now, I just need to go back in the summer to see the waterlilies and the carpet of nasturtiums that blanket the main pergola walkway..

Forgive the quality of the photos - the sun was very intense..

Just before entering the main garden.

Forget-me-not's and tulips - one of the best combo's!

Love fringed tulips!!