Monday, October 24, 2011

Busy Weekend and Awesome Cold Frame!!

It was a busy weekend.. I think this is actually the first time I've sat down in days!! It all started on Saturday morning, when I took part in the Transitions Four-Season gardening workshop at the Tantallon Library. Originally I was told there would be around 30 or so people, but word spread fast and there were in fact, over 80 who attended! What an amazing turnout! Plus, the lunch was supplied by The Flying Apron Cookery, a local husband-wife team who make the most amazing local food.. 

Anyhoo, I spoke for about 40 minutes on four-season gardening, focusing on the fall/winter season (my fave gardening topic!) offering a wide range of photos from my gardens, as well as other outstanding local gardens. The feedback was great and everyone seemed very enthusiastic, so thanks to much to all who attended, as well as the organizers Bob and David! 

I also got to meet Joan, a blog follower who now has her own brand new handmade cold frame! Isn't it a beauty?? I had to post her photo so that you could all admire her lovely new structure! I wish you many winter gardening adventures with your frame Joan! :) Thanks for sharing this with us..

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Join me this Saturday at the Tantallon Library!

This Sat, Oct 22nd, I will be offering a lecture on four-season gardening as part of the following full-day workshop. It's only a $10 donation to attend this workshop - which includes a locally sourced lunch from the amazing Flying Apron Cookery!! I'm also looking forward to the intro by Bob Cervelli, a talented four-season gardener who will be featured in my upcoming book. Hope to see you there!

Nourish body and spirit with a lively and uplifted mix of interesting speakers, locally grown food, and a tour of three gardens exemplifying delightful ways to harvest locally gardened foods in all four seasons.
  • 10:10  Intro & talk – What and Why about Transition Gardening  (Bob Cervelli- master gardener, botanist & innovator)
  • 10:40  Introduction to Permaculture  (Jayme Melrose- Garden Doula, permaculturist, & ecological landscape designer)
  • 11:30  Four Season Gardening  (Niki Jabbour- garden author & radio broadcaster with book on this ready soon)
  • 12:20  Luscious Lunch with Learning (The Flying Apron Cookery- focusing on sustainable & local ingredients, much from local Four Seasons gardens.)
  • 1:20    Local Soil Amendments and Composting  (Phil Warman- Professor & researcher of organic methods for growing food)           
  • 2:00-5:00  Tours of three area "Four Seasons" gardens with refreshments at final site
Tantallon  Public Library. Saturday, October 22-- 10 AM to 5 PM.  All welcome.  Suggested donation only $10 to cover costs.  Student donation $5.  Work scholarships available by email or calling 2224391. Pre-registration (at or <> ) requested, but not required.  Includes an exceptional lunch plus refreshments along a garden tour.

  • Co-sponsored by Transition Bay St Margarets, by Tantallon Public Library, and by St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association. Supported,  in part, by a grant from the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia to help with a series of events in support of developing resilience in the St. Margaret’s Bay area.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Leaf Thief

 The heavy rain and gusty winds of the last few days have knocked many of the leaves off our trees and onto our lawns. Before you rake, bag and deposit your leaves at the bottom of your driveway for pick up, consider the many ways that you can use your leaves to enrich your soil and feed your plants.

Leaves are truly nature’s fertilizer. Plus, the worms go crazy in leaf-enriched soil and I’ve found that adding them to your garden is one of the best ways to boost your worm population. Because of this, I have become a leaf collector. This time of the year, I find it difficult to pass by the bags of leaves that have been placed beside the road for pick up and occasionally find myself ‘adopting’ some of these abandoned bags, bringing them home to enrich my own gardens. I know I’m not the only leaf-thief out there (hello Donna!) and as much as I enjoy collecting a bounty of leaves, I would also love to see more homeowners take advantage of this inexpensive soil amendment in their own gardens.

Of course, if they’re such a great natural soil enhancer, why not just leave them on the lawn to break down? Why bother raking them up? The reason is simple: whole leaves left on the lawn will form a barrier above the grass that if thick enough, will smother your lawn. Before adding leaves to a garden or compost bin, they should be shredded into small pieces with a lawn mower, leaf blower/vacuum or leaf shredder.

Shredding increases the surface area of the leaves, allowing them to break down quicker. It also prevents them from clumping together into unworkable layers. And now that you’ve got plenty of shredded leaves, here are five easy ways to use them:

1)    The first and perhaps most important thing to do with your fall leaves is to rake them into a very big pile, take a short run and jump into the leaves with as much gusto as you can muster. Invite your kids, neighbours and anyone else you can think of to join you. Once you’ve gotten that out of your system, re-rake the leaves into a big pile and shred them into small pieces – I use my lawn mower.
2)    Take some of those shredded leaves and spread them over the bare soil in the vegetable garden. This will help prevent winter soil erosion and come spring, the decomposing leaves can be dug into the garden to provide valuable nutrients. The leaves may also be used as a mulch in garden pathways to suppress weeds and keep walkways tidy.
3)    In late autumn, I mow the lawn gathering up the mulched leaves and organic grass clippings as I go. Once the mower bag is filled with this lovely mixture, it’s emptied into black garbage bags. I then toss in a shovelful of soil or compost and a sprinkle of water. A few holes are poked into the bags with a screwdriver to allow good air circulation. The bags are placed at the back of my cold frames where they will start to turn into nutrient-rich leaf compost. As a side benefit, the leaf bags will provide added insulation to my winter cold frames. Come spring, I open a bag whenever I need some rich organic leaf compost. If you’ve already raked and shredded your leaves, you can still gather them into garbage bags, add some soil or finished compost and a splash of water. Poke holes and place aside for the winter.
4)    Put a few bags of shredded leaves aside to be used as an insulating winter mulch around perennials and roses. After the garden has been cleaned up for the year, apply a thick layer of shredded leaves over the soil surface. If you have any compost, put a bit on top of the leaves to help them break down and come spring, you won’t need to remove them. They’ll just continue to decompose and add organic matter to the garden.
5)    Use any surplus shredded leaves to start a new compost pile. Form a one-metre square pile of leaves, enclosing it with inexpensive chicken wire and a few wooden stakes for support. Toss in a few shovelfuls of soil or finished compost to start the pile ‘cooking’ and during the winter add your cut up kitchen scraps. Turn occasionally to allow oxygen to reach the centre of the pile and use the finished product next summer to enrich your gardens.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Frost is in the air..

We may get a frost tonight.. of course, I haven't actually harvested and frozen the basil.. or picked the last few cukes and zucchini (still so many more coming!!). So, I ran up just before dark and tossed row covers over everything. Fingers crossed they don't blow away in the strong winds!! I typically end up with a few 'row cover ghosts' hanging from our trees at this time of the year. A reminder that I need to secure the covers with rocks or pins.

We've had 2 days of heavy, continuous rain. It began just as I was working in the garden on Monday. Some of my hardy Asian greens had reseeded in random spots, so I was digging up those precious seedlings and moving them to empty areas of the cold frames and garden beds that will be protected for a winter crop. I went out to check on them today - in between heavy rain showers - thinking that they would be crushed by the not-so-gentle transplanting (hurry, before the rain comes!!), but they are just fine.. In fact, they look like they're settling in well. I also moved a few mature curly parsley and thyme plants into the frames for winter seasonings. We love fresh parsley in soups and salads and it's so hardy that it can easily provide aromatic sprigs all winter long.

In celebration of the coming frost, I thought I'd post a few frosty photos from last October.. Frost makes all the hardy veggies look so pretty - from the red lettuces to the curly kales!

Plastic cloches are an easy way to protect individual baby lettuce heads.

Annapolis lettuce - one of the deepest red cultivars.

Frosted kale - take 1

Frosted kale - take 2

A quick peek in the cold frame.. hello 'Winter Density' lettuce and tatsoi.

Hello baby endive.. 

A quick floating row cover over the tall Italian parsley!
Frosted kale - take 3!! (My favourite kale and my favourite kale photo)

'Marathon' broccoli - so cold tolerant that we can harvest into January with mini hoop tunnels. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The 1st Annual Atlantic Rose Hip Festival!!

I'm a bad blogger! So sorry for the neglect.. I've been weighed down with magazine deadlines, pre-book promo, lectures, the radio show, book #2 groundwork and life. Yet, a good post is coming soon, I promise!! Until then, I thought I would post this exciting upcoming event at the incredible Bunchberry Nurseries in Upper Clements, NS. It takes place in just a week - what a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, eh?! It's the first Rose Hip Festival that I've caught wind of and it promises to be a fun, informative and tasty event - hello, rose-hip nibblies!!

Hello Folks

We are starting a new tradition at the nursery, and you are invited to be part of it.  

Sunday, October 9th from 12 to 4 pm we will be hosting the first annual 'Atlantic Rose Hip Festival'.  Enjoy a fun filled afternoon of outrageous events for the entire family.  

Participate in the 'Giant Rose Hip Weigh-Off'.  Grand prize winnings are a $100 gift certificate from yours truly, Bunchberry Nurseries.

Other events include 'Rose Hip Fly-Swatter Badminton'.  This sport is definitely destined to be an Olympic Games contender.  

There will be a 'Harvest Arrangement Competition' open to members of the Nova Scotia Garden Club Association.  

Annapolis Royal and the surrounding area is famous for it's Bed and Breakfasts.  We have put out the challenge for a muffin bake-off.  Come and see which inn will have the bragging rights to the best breakfast muffin in the region.  

Join us for a celebration of our harvest.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, jams and jellies and other foods will be available for purchase from local producers.  

This is just a sampling of the events for a fun filled afternoon.  

The feature nursery plants for the event will be those 'Perfect for Pollinators'.  These plants will be reduced by 25-75%.

Hope to see you Sunday, October 9th.

Jill Covill
Bunchberry Nurseries
Upper Clements 
Annapolis County