Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Weekend Gardener is being SUPER-SIZED!!

Well, it's official, The Weekend Gardener is being extended to 3 hours each Sunday - starting this weekend, July 3rd we'll go live from 10 am to 1 pm! That means 50% more garden fun, 50% more great guests and 50% more time for our wonderful callers to take part in our weekly giveaways and ask their gardening questions!

This weekend, we're going to have a super busy show - the wonderful Marjorie Harris, Canada's gardening queen is going to join me to talk about frugal gardening and more. (She's soooo cool!)

Also, we'll talk about backyard buggies with the authors of the book, The Secret Life of Backyard Bugs. I absolutely love this book. The photography (done by the authors) is AMAZING! I do have a copy to give away, but I can honestly say that this is a book my children have loved just as much as I have. Simply fantastic!

Also, we'll hear about urban farming in Dartmouth.. there's much controversy afoot and Jean Snow from Lake City Farm will fill us in on the details.

Plus, Sheri Ann Richerson, the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year Round Gardening is going to join me! We've been e-mailing for months, and I'm really looking forward to talking to her about growing year round. I also have a copy of her book to give away!

So much more.. Please tune in from 10 to 1 pm, Sunday July 3rd on News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM, News 88.9 FM or live online at

Monday, June 27, 2011

Garden Visitors

Look closely - on the opening bud, you'll see a little friend
Sitting quietly in the garden, hidden between clumps of fragrant chamomile, is a true pleasure. In our techno world, those few stolen moments seem so luxurious - just me and the sounds of the garden. I don't think we often consider our gardens to be 'noisy', but there is so much life in the garden - from the buzzing of the bees to the rustling of the plants to the chirping of the birds.

Now that summer has arrived, I find it hard to work - computer work, I mean. I want to tuck into a thick book, while plopped down in the middle of the garden. And, to be honest, that's precisely what I've been doing on and off the past week while I'm supposed to be working! Opps!

When you look closely, the garden is a very busy place. I thought I'd wander up this morning and see what I could find. Here are a few photos!

This tomato was munched last week by a deer - new growth!!

Ladybugs like spinach too!

The chamomile attracts many garden visitors

Everyone loves the chamomile

This guy hovered for so long that I never thought he'd land!

Flies also enjoy the apple-scented blossoms

He's long gone, but the damage remains - darn slugs!

Busy as a bee!

Just hanging on the garlic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quick thoughts..

Say 'hello' to my little friend..
Ok.. last evening I was able to secure both gardens against the deer (I hope) and was generously helped by the local mosquito population. And, I as laboured by myself (everyone else had activities), I only squirted myself in the face twice with the hose.. a new record! I was trying to hook up the 'scarecrow' motion sensor sprinkler that was very helpful in keeping the deer away last year. I figured that if I 'layer' my defenses, I might be more successful. Of course, the connector to the scarecrow was leaking, so I can't use it until I find a new 'rubber thingy' to stop the leaking.

The sensible thing would have been to turn the hose off after I watered the newly seeded beds, so that I could hook up and test the scarecrow without risk of a faceful of water. Yet, since the tap was 30 feet away, I decided to take my chances with just kinking the hose. Mistake. Again, two facefuls of water.

The new fence is now a 9 foot barrier in most sections. In previous years, we had a 7 foot fence, that the deer would typically jump that at least a handful of times in the summer. Hopefully the taller height will take care of that.. I will snap some photos today to post, but we just used 4 x 4 inch 10-foot lengths of untreated wood that support the deer netting. I'd love to go with a more sturdy fence, but cost and appearance hold me back. We'll give this another go and see how effective it is.. fingers crossed!!

Happy Gardening!

Finally, a secure base!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweet Valley Herb Seminar at Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre this Weekend!

If you're in the Halifax area and have a hankerin' for fresh herbs, you'll want to get to Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre this coming Saturday, June 25th for an herb seminar with Anna from Sweet Valley Herbs. She's coming from NB to share some herb growing tips and favourite recipes and I'm told there will be yummy things to taste!! The fun begins at 3 pm and you can go to for more info.

Murphy's Law of Deer

A deer-pruned tomato
Oh cruel world!! Just as I feel that the war on slugs has turned my way, Mother Nature sends back the deer to remind me of my fallacy. Ironically, we had just about finished the deer fence yesterday morning when we were chased inside by the combo of black flies and mosquitos, as well as the fact that I had to head into the radio station (where one of my guests, Ruth Clausen chatted about her new book, 50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants). I guess tomatoes aren't on that list.. or peas..

Anyhoo.. I should have gone up again last night to finish the last bit, but got tied up in everyday life.. So, for the first time in weeks, the *$##!!@ deer returned. I wandered up to the garden this morning to check out the pole beans and make sure the slugs hadn't come back. Thrilled to see that they hadn't, I turned and noticed that the peas had been chomped on.. turning wildly to look for other damage, I saw that the tomatoes had been topped and some completely defoliated!! The horror!!

Look, another deer pruned tomato!
It's funny how some things can literally feel like a punch in the stomach. Ok, maybe not funny, but interesting. After a few minutes of cleansing breaths, I have decided to look upon this damage as formative pruning.. sure, the weather and slugs and my work have set back the garden already, but instead of seeing the damage as a blight, I'll consider it a healthy pinching to thicken up my plants. At least I'll be sure to finish the fence today. And, my beloved pole beans weren't touched.. oh, that darned bright side of life..

Must go tighten up the fence.. I know they'll be back now that they've had a taste..

On a happier note - check out some of the blogs on my blog list.. I just added a new favourite - The Dutch Oven Diaries!! Fun!


Mmmm pea shoots are yummy!

The damage in the shadow of the netting

Poor carrot, never stood a chance..

Another well-pruned tomato

Yet again.. a thoughtful pruning job!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lacewings and Ladybugs

Oh, I wish I had taken my camera when I went up to the garden to plant more cuke seedlings yesterday.. Just as I had tucked the last seedling into the earth, a lacewing landed on my hand! So exciting.. in case you're not familiar, lacewings are beneficial buggies that grow about 1/2 to 3/4 inches long with large 'lacy' wings. They're very distinctive. I would have liked to run for my camera, but I knew that it was a moment I had to capture in my memory and not on a memory card. Next time! These lovely lacewings lay pale green, oval eggs that hatch into alligator-shaped brownish-greenish larvae that munch on aphids, whiteflies, insect eggs and other soft bodied bad bugs - so helpful!!

Other beneficials that you're sure to find around your garden include ladybugs. These are some photos I snapped last year on our sweet peas.. Our mint patch in the front yard is our 'ladybug nursery', where we always have dozens of adults and larvae crawling on the leaves. We then move them up to the garden if we notice any aphids. You can buy ladybugs, as well as lacewings, but remember that you only want to apply them if you have a major infestation. The ladybugs are well known for their immediate departure when first released. A bit frustrating when you've just spent $15 on a package!

On a less positive note, my slug problem continues. I just noticed that my beloved pole bean seedlings are looking a bit 'holey'. After a quick peek, dozens (and I mean dozens) of tiny slugs were hiding under the leaves! Argh! I hand picked them all and then applied a thick layer of diatomaceous earth around each seedling.

Hope your garden is slug-free!

Don't forget to tune into The Weekend Gardener tomorrow - we'll tackle a wide range of topics from deer to garden travels to using your garden produce and herbs to fun ideas with a local garden doula! 11 to 1 pm on News 95. 7 FM, 91.9 FM and 88.9 FM or listen live online from anywhere on

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The darn deer have finally met their match!

I read a lot of gardening books. I also am sent a lot of books because of the radio show. I try to book an author for each show - usually a 1/2 hour segment and then we give the book away to a lucky listener. But, this time, they sent me two, so I'm keeping this book!! :)

It just arrived and it is lovely. Ruth Rogers Clausen, who also wrote the award winning, Perennials for American Gardens is the author of this brand new book from Timber Press and I think she wrote it just for me! We all know that, if hungry enough, deer will eat just about anything, but this book takes the guesswork out of 'will they, or won't they.' She provides a deer resistance rating for a wide variety of annuals, perennials, bulbs and shrubs that deer typically steer clear of and she also offers many tips on protecting the plants they deer do enjoy - hello tulips!

I hope you'll join me this Sunday from 11 to 1 pm Atlantic time on The Weekend Gardener - News 95.7 FM, News 91.9 FM and News 88.9 FM or live online at You'll have plenty of opportunity to ask Ruth your questions and possibly win a copy of her book.

Also, we'll be talking to Halifax's garden doula, Jayme Melrose ( about the interesting things that she's been up to! Plus, Jane Billinghurst, the author of The Armchair Book of Gardens - another wonderful read. I've been enjoying this one when the rain and cold weather chases me inside. 

If you're wondering what to do with all of your garden produce/greens and such, Nova Scotia's Nutrition Coach, Edie Shaw-Ewald will offer tips on the best ways to prepare your garden bounty.. makes me hungry just thinking about it! Edie is so enthusiastic about healthy eating and she feeds two teenage boys every day - healthy food like kale - I can't wait to hear how she does it!! (I think she must sit on them and force feed them)

Happy Gardening - No sun yet, but I'm still optimistic! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Shoreham Wheelchair Gardens

As I was trying to organize some old e-mails, I just found a few photos from last summer's wheelchair gardens at Shoreham Village and thought I'd share them. These are 2 of the gardens (I plant up about 10) and these beds were planted with a mix of annual flowers and veggies.

The raised gardens are not very deep, but the recreation dept at Shoreham takes good care of them and makes sure they have enough water! Not a problem this week - it's pouring heavily right now..

On a side note, and still on the topic of slugs (I might harp about slugs for months!), we passed literally thousands of slugs on the way to the bus stop this morning. They were all along the side of the road.. disgusting! I'm beginning to think they may take over the world.. total slug domination!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Waiting for spring, thinking of fall

I was just about to post the below entry to the blog when I noticed that my publisher, Storey has added my book to their 'coming attractions' section! Exciting! For a preview of the book, click on the website below where there is a 12 page sneak peek!! Once on this page, click on 'preview the book' button under the cover image.

Ok, back to regular blog business:

It's a funny year.. it's just 10 C outside my window today (well below the normal average for this time of the year) and pouring down rain. I was hoping to pop up to the garden to sow more salad green seed while the soil is nice and moist, but I think I'll hold off, as I'm worried it will wash away! Tomorrow looks even wetter and windier.. hopefully, by late week, we'll be back on track..

This is the time of year, mid-June, when I start to think about seeding transplants for fall. Sounds funny, doesn't it? But, kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards and such that are sown in mid June are ready to be moved into the garden around the first of August. This allows ample time for them to mature before the onset of the cold weather in late autumn. In my upcoming book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener (Storey Publishing, Dec 2011), I wrote a piece called 'A Year in the Life of my Grow Lights', which chronicles just how handy a grow light can be to a non-stop harvest. Our lights get a small break from mid-May to mid-June, when the last of the warm-season crops are moved into the garden, but then they are put back into high production for fall and winter crops.

As a kale-addict, I always start at least six different cultivars in mid-June, including our favourite, dinosaur/lacinato kale, an heirloom type with long, strap-like blue-green leaves. I think it's called dinosaur kale for it's texture - blistered and bumpy - which resembles (what I think) dinosaur skin must have looked like. Check out this photo at left - dinosaur kale touched with our first hard frost last autumn!

You can also use your lights in late spring through early summer to provide non-stop fresh kohlrabi, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, and other salad green transplants. Once the heat of summer arrives (IF it arrives!), many seeds find it difficult to germinate. I often find it easier to give them a few weeks under the lights before they're moved into the jungle of a garden.

On a side note, I'd like to say thank you to all the wonderful folks at Shoreham Village in Chester - especially Linda Bell! Each spring I gather up about a dozen flats of annual flower, herb and veggie seedlings to plant in their wheelchair gardens. We usually get the gardens planted in late May, but this year, due to flu outbreaks at the senior centre, terrible weather and such, we didn't get the job done until yesterday. They now look fantastic and I can't wait to go back in a month to see how they're growing.

Hope your day is sunnier and drier than mine!

Happy Gardening!

Monday, June 13, 2011

My best crop!

Hello my little friend.
This spring, I am growing the best crop of slugs that I've ever had!! What's my secret you ask? Simple - add equal amounts of cool weather and endless drizzle, toss in a few of their favourite veggies - and voila, you've created a slug paradise!!

At this point, I'm growing Chinese cabbage, lettuce, Japanese turnips and asparagus for their dining pleasure. The slugs are so accommodating, in fact, that they even eat the lettuce seedlings as soon as they poke through the soil - thank you very much! At this point, all six of my white pumpkin seedlings have also been enjoyed by our bumper crop of slugs. Let's just hope the giant pumpkins that I plan on moving to the garden today will feed them for a longer period of time.

Last year's Chinese Cabbage - virtually hole free!!
Now, don't be jealous.. you too can enjoy your own slug habitat. In fact, if you like, I'll ship you off some of mine - large quantity pricing available!


Heading to the garden

My slug garden

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dinner with Mark Cullen!

Oh, the wonderful quality of a blackberry photo!! Remind me (next time Mark is in town) to bring my camera (and fix my hair before the photo!!). Canada's best known garden personality, Mark Cullen arrived in Halifax yesterday for a few days of Home Hardware events. Mark is the national spokesperson for Home Hardware and he will be in Windsor, NS today and Barrington Passage tomorrow. Gorgeous parts of the province!

Whenever Mark comes to town, he is kind enough to join me on The Weekend Gardener for a segment. So, tune in this Sunday for my chat with Mark! We also went out to dinner and enjoyed a lovely meal at Jane's On The Commons. I can't believe I haven't been there before - it was spectacular!

Mark's latest book is The Canadian Garden Primer, An Organic Approach, which is also his 18th book. After just finishing my first, I can't even imagine the amount of work that it takes to write 18 books! For more information on Mark, check out his website at

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lecture alert - Sat, June 11th!

Boy, this week is flying by! It's been a whirlwind of non-stop deadlines and events this spring - keeps me on my toes! But, my last lecture of the spring will be taking place this Saturday in East River, NS (just outside Chester) where I'll be speaking about container gardening (both flowers and veggies). It's the 3rd time I've spoken at the annual Open House of the Louisiana-Pacific Compost Facility.

I'll be speaking at 11 am, but the entire event runs from 9 am to 1 pm.

One of the highlights is that the Chester Basin Garden Club will be having their plant sale - amazing perennials!! The open house will also be selling raffle tickets on some gardening items with the proceeds going to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The door prize is a truck load of compost (3 to 5 yards with free local delivery) and a backyard composter.

For more information, check out their website at

Hope to see you there!

Gaga for Greens

The sun has been stubborn this spring, but the greens don't seem to care, as they've been growing like crazy in the cool temperatures and ample moisture. I just love salad greens. In fact, I think if I could only grow one type of crop, it would be greens. From arugula to tatsoi, most leafy crops are super easy to grow, very quick to mature and forgiving of less-than-ideal weather. I thought I'd share some of my favourite spring greens with you this lovely June morning.

I'm hoping to get a bit of work done in the garden today and then I'm off to the radio station to meet with Mark Cullen! Mark, of course, is one of Canada's best known garden personalities (truly, a media giant) and an incredibly nice guy as well. It's always great to have him on the show and he'll be in Nova Scotia this weekend (Windsor a
Baby arugula - ready for a gourmet salad!
nd then Barrington Passage) appearing at several Home Hardware locations. For more info, check out his website -

Over the past week, I've been asked a lot about the straw bale gardens.. I must admit that after the zucchini and the first planting of my 'Lumina' pumpkins succumbed to the slugs, I stuck firm and put more in.. well, they've now been eaten too (even surrounded by diatomaceous earth!), so I'm back to planting more tomatoes in the straw bales. They are doing fantastic at this point (knock on wood!!). 

If you haven't had a chance, check out my new facebook page for The Weekend Gardener. I post almost daily, offering gardening tips, photos, show information and more! The link is

Happy Gardening!

Bianca Riccia is my favourite endive!! It makes a great 'come and cut again' crop. 

Red Salad Bowl lettuce - great for all 4 season!

Spinach.. sigh.. just chopped a few handfuls in some lentil soup - yum!

Peppery Giant Red Mustard - great for salads and stir-fries.

Monday, June 6, 2011

YWCA Over the Garden Gate Garden Tour - This weekend!

Coming up this Sunday, June 12th from noon to 5 pm is the incredibly popular, Over the Garden Gate garden tour that features properties in both Halifax and Dartmouth. It's the 19th year for the tour and I hear that the six gardens being featured this year are outstanding!

Tickets are $15 and available at Halifax Seed, Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre, Farmer Clem's and Fred. For more info, check out their facebook page or

Hope to see you there!

The Great Straw Bale Experiment!

I planted a few 'pockets' in each bale.
This is the time of the year when I begin to debate the 'big questions'.. Things like 'which aroma do I prefer? Lily of the valley or lilacs? Should I plant more arugula or go with my 'Wine Country' mesclun greens from Renee's Garden? Oh, the choices!! In between lectures, writing and the radio show (Hello to all who attended my lecture this past Sat at the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs annual convention - thanks so much for a fabulous time!) I have been sneaking up to the garden for my 'real' job - playing in the dirt.

One of the guests on my show last weekend was Michelle Muis, who works at Blomidon Nurseries in the Annapolis Valley. She told me that she was using a few old straw bales to create a straw bale veggie garden. Genius!! I had heard of this before, but never really considered it.. but, now that I have 8 half-rotted straw bales kicking around, I thought that I would also try this. I use straw bales each year for winter cold frames for my taller crops - leeks, kale and such. Usually, when the straw bale cold frames are disassembled, I use the straw to line my pathways, feed the composter and as a mulch under the tomatoes and other veggies. But, why not try planting a few crops IN the bales!

A tiny tomato seedlings and a calendula.
So, late last week, I lined a few bales up in front of and behind the garden and removed (with a bit of effort) some of the straw from the center of the bales. I filled these 'holes' with a mix of good soil and rotted manure and planted a few different types of veggies - tomatoes, zucchini, white pumpkins and a few calendula and cosmos seedlings for colour! By the next morning, the zucchini was gone!! Only a trail of slime was left.. hmmmm.. whatever could have eaten my dear zucchini - darn slugs! A white pumpkin was also gone! Argh! So, I replanted a tomato where the zucchini was and planted my last white pumpkin seedling where the other had been eaten. This time, I sprinkled a thick layer of diatomaceous earth around the seedlings (take that, slugs!!).. So, after my first cup of tea this morning, I wandered up to check on the plants and what do I see? A slug has half eaten that 2nd white pumpkin - and was slithering away on top of the diatomaceous earth (DE) - seriously?? This is the problem when the DE get's wet.. it loses it's effectiveness.

Check out the fat slug!!
Anyhoo.. I've also been snapping a few other photos as so much is lush in the garden. What a lovely time of the year. The pole beans are coming (mental note - finish the deer fence!!), the tomatoes have taken well to transplanting and are putting on new growth every day.. A few of the seedlings have started to produce flowers (Jaune Flamme), so I have been pinching them to force energy into vegetative growth.. I want big plants before they start to try and produce flowers and fruits..

The weather may still be damp and cool (I wore a winter coat and scarf last week in the garden!!), but the salad crops are thriving - that is, if they can stay slug-free. I've also been putting in more potatoes for a long season of baby new potatoes - All Blue, River John Blue and Caribe. The kale also loves this weather.. and the carrots appreciate the steady moisture. At least, I don't need to water the newly planted beds twice a day! There's a gardener for you, always looking on the bright side! :)

Here are some other images from this morning's garden:

The sage flowers are coming!!

The chives are also starting to bloom.

Morning dew on the kale.

The giant red mustard in flower - yummy!

Spring spinach.. overwintered from last autumn.

The last few heads of 'Winter Density' lettuce in the open frames.

Catmint - is there a better garden edge?