Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My latest blog post for Proven Winners!

I love writing my monthly Proven Winners blog for a number of reasons. First, there are the fabulous folks that I get to work with, including my fellow bloggers, but I also love the opportunity to write about ornamental plants. In this blog, my books and most of the magazine articles I write, I typically focus on the edible side of the garden, but with Proven Winners, I get to explore a variety of techniques, ideas and plants bred for pleasure - colour, texture, form and more! In my latest Proven Winners blog post, I share the concept of colour echoing to bring harmony to a garden. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grow a Farmer! Time to apply is running out..


Less than one week left to apply to ACORN Organic ‘Farm School!’

February 21, 2013

Sackville, NB – A notice to those green thumbs, or aspiring green thumbs, who are seeking more information about agriculture before making an important decision: do you want to farm?
Surely, if you haven’t yet had the experience, you may be trying to imagine what it is like to live and work an organic farm. Or perhaps you're already looking even further ahead to visions of managing your own farm. These dreams are pleasant enough, but you may be feeling hesitant about making a commitment, as you don’t feel like you ‘know- enough’ just yet.

Let’s face it, not many of us grew up on a farm, or even near a farm. Not only that, but likely our parents didn’t either. This means that for anyone interested in pursuing an agricultural career, there’s a huge generational gap in farming knowledge, which in years past, used to be passed on from generation to generation. Given that farming can be such a challenging profession–one requiring business management and mechanical skills, for example–all in addition to a basic understanding of general farm skills (like harvesting), while you spend your days working with (or against!) the forces of Mother Nature. Indeed, these days, it’s tough luck finding a one-stop-shop for all of the training you need to feel successful as a farmer, on your own, or with others.

And this is precisely what has inspired a local agricultural non-profit organization, the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN), to collaborate with a selection of Maritime-based organic farms to develop the first regional farm school: the Grow A Farmer Apprenticeship program. Pairing applicants with a dedicated and dynamic ‘host’-farm–ranging widely in style and scale of production–the Apprenticeship Program is catered to people who want to gain real, curriculum-based farm skills. The program is a 7-month apprenticeship guided by a curriculum that covers everything from production techniques for vegetable growing and soil, to broader topics including the more ideological origins of organic farming and the next steps to take forward as ‘growing farmers’.
Needless to say, it’s comprehensive, and bound to connect any new grower with a strong and unified network of other new and long-standing organic farmers and stakeholders in Atlantic Canada.

“Many of us don't have the natural experience of growing up on a farm or knowing of a mentor to guide us,” claims John Quimby, of Dunn Creek Farm, “but every successful farmer is mentored during his or her development be it via grandparents, parents, a wise friend, a learning course, or hard-earned experience–these are the guides that have brought every one of us to the hands-on skill-development of planting, growing and managing a farm,” he continues. “Susan (my wife) and I are no exception. That's the reason for this program. That's the reason we support it.

With the growing demand for sustainable local food, we also need to ‘grow more’ organic food producers in our communities. The Grow A Farmer Apprenticeship program guides potential new agriculture entrepreneurs to realize their farm dreams, through hard-earned, practical and educational experience.

For full details, please visit Applications are available on the program website at Scholarships are still available to applicants with limited means. ACORN strongly encourages interested participants to apply by the deadline: March 1st, to secure their placement for the full season! There are also 4-month summer positions available for student applications.

Since 2000, ACORN has been the key organization for information on organic agriculture, eating organics, and connecting all the parts together in order to advance the local organic sector in Atlantic Canada.

For inquiries, please contact:
Lucia Stephen, Program Coordinator 506-536-2867 or 1-888-322-2676 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Join me in Chester Basin on Monday February 23rd!

I'll be in Chester Basin on the afternoon of Monday February 23rd to talk about year round veggie gardening! If you're in the area, hope you can attend! This is from the poster:

Join Niki Jabbour and Basin Gardeners Association for a dynamic talk that focuses on how to pair sneaky season extenders (cold frames, row covers, mini hoop tunnels) with the best crops for the cool and cold seasons (early spring, fall and winter). Niki will share plenty of photos and ideas for creating a garden that offers a harvest 365 days a year. 
Monday, Feb. 25, 2-3pm. AEnon Baptist Church, Chester Basin. Info 273-2000

Monday, February 18, 2013

Kiss My Aster - A Book Review

Late last autumn, I was asked to preview and provide a brief opinion of Amanda Thomsen’s book, Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You just before its November 2012 release. The publisher (Storey Publishing, who also created my own books) wanted some quotes for the book jacket and promotional materials. Being a HUGE fan of Amanda already (she has a tattoo of a pair of flaming Felco pruners for goodness sakes! Who wouldn’t worship her?), I was thrilled to get a sneak peek at her book and here is the (not-so-brief) blurb I originally provided to Storey:

Amanda Thomsen is a quirky, badass landscape genius! This is the first time I've read a garden book (or heck, any book for that matter!) that required me to use 'jazz hands'. And I liked it. Kiss My Aster is cavity-inducing eye-candy, but it's also packed with solid information that covers all aspects of crafting a stylish, yet sustainable landscape. The choose-your-own-adventure form is easy to follow and allows the would-be gardener to change direction when new inspiration strikes or a project seem overwhelming ("call a guy!"). Thanks to Amanda, I'm no longer ashamed of my love for garden gnomes and my new landscape goals include sculpting a life-sized topiary of Mr. T from boxwood. If I plant it near the veggie garden, will it keep the deer away? ("I pity the deer that tries to eat my pole beans!") . Kiss My Aster is THE new bible for anyone who wants to learn, laugh and landscape.
So much information, so much fun!
Since then, I’ve read it cover to cover - twice - and my opinion hasn’t changed a bit. In fact, it’s become my go-to gift - especially for friends who are buying a new house and are in desperate need some solid advice. Amanda delivers and then some! Her humourous approach will have you laughing and landscaping, quickly taking an overgrown or non-existent yard from frumpy to fabulous.
The best part is that Amanda, who, if you’re the kind of person that wants some credentials, is a Master Gardener and landscape designer, gives gardeners - especially novice gardeners - the inspiration, information and permission to go ‘off the grid’ and create a landscape that reflects their own needs and wants. You don’t have to have that horrific juniper foundation planting. You don’t need to have a dozen shrubs scattered in the front yard each circled by a tidy ring of mulch. She helps you define your aforementioned ‘needs and wants’ and then shows you how to achieve them. Want a hedge? Check! Want to pick the best evergreens for your yard? Check! Want to improve your desert-sandy soil? Check! Want to grow a vine to cover the side of your house? Check! Want to take a break and colour in a gnome? Check! 
“Your landscaping is just as much an expression of your style as your rugs, curtains, or ‘Hello Kitty’ waffle iron are.” Amanda Thomsen
Garden fashion!
In conclusion, Amanda rocks. And if you want to connect with her, check out her incredible book (just $19.95 Canadian - cheaper online at amazon and chapters!) and/or find her online at, on Facebook at Kiss My Aster! and on Twitter at @kissmyaster. 

Some of my favourite fellow bloggers are also reviewing Kiss My Aster this week.. check out their take on this choose-your-own-adventure-style landscaping book here:

Austin Garden Design - J Peterson Garden Design
Cowlick Cottage Farm
Gardener to Farmer
Red Dirt Ramblings
Kiss My Aster
The Dandelion Wrangler
Gossip In The Garden

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Upcoming Seminars and Talks

Ok, in between trying to finish this next book and my magazine deadlines, I'm also trying to get my 2013 seminars and lectures ready.. I feel like I still have a cushion of time, but I have just realized that I am wrong!! I've given a few talks already, but the lecture season really kicks off next Saturday with my talk in Fall River.. As with 2012, I'll be traveling around Canada and the US here and there for various events and thought I should share a few of these with you in case you're nearby and can drop in to say 'hi'! :)

Saturday February 23 from 1 to 2:30 - Fall River, NS. This will be a fun talk on the basics of veggie gardening that covers many techniques and favourite crops. I'll also discuss growing crops in pots and spotlight some of my top aromatic herbs. Register by calling 860-4570 or visiting

Monday Feb 25 from 2 to 3 pm - Basin Gardeners Garden Club - I'll tackle one of my favourite topics - obviously! - Year Round Veggie Gardening. Plenty of ideas and inspiration for growing food year round with an emphasis on my season extenders and cold season crops. Just click on the link for more information. 

Wednesday Feb 27 - 7:30 - Prospect Bay Gardening Club - The Year Round Vegetable Gardener

Saturday March 9 - 1 pm - Blomidon Nurseries in Wolfville, NS - Crops in Pots! Join me for a fun and visual chat about growing food crops - veggies, herbs and fruits - in containers. From pallets to wine boxes, potted pizza gardens and vining veggies, I'll cover it all! 

Friday March 15 - 2 pm - Canada Blooms - I'm heading back to Canada Blooms! I had a blast last year (even though I was sick with a respiratory infection) so fingers crossed for good health this year. I'll be sharing my updated talk on growing food year round with plenty of photos and tips one extending the season. Hope to see you there!

Thursday March 21 - 6 to 8 pm - Cafe Scientifique: Food for Thought at the Wooden Monkey in Dartmouth, NS - Here's the detailed link, should be an interesting evening. 

Saturday March 23 - 1 and 3 pm - Moncton Home Show - Join me at the Moncton Home Show for two different talks, both on growing food - in pots and year round. Plus, I'll be available for questions after each talk. 

April 5 to 7 - Halifax Ideal Home Show - I'll be speaking over the course of the weekend and will make the schedule available when I receive it. Always a fun weekend!

Friday April 12 - 6:30 pm - Lee Valley in Halifax - I'll be talking about Amazing Edibles - Fun and Easy ways to Grow your own Organic Food! Pre-registration is required, so please give them a call at

Tues April 16 - Hubbards Library - 7 pm - Year Round Vegetable Gardening

Wednesday April 24 - Keshen Goodman Library in Halifax - 7 pm - Crops in Pots!

I have another dozen or so later on in the spring/summer/fall, so will post more as I finalize the details! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Break in the 'Deep Freeze'

This is the time of year that I like to call the 'deep-freeze'.. It's been so cold with some days reaching a low of -28 C, with the windchill. Brr!! And of course, it's not just a random day here or there, we've had a few weeks of bone-chilling weather. When the temp drops so low, I generally leave the cold frames shut. I'll still harvest some kale or leeks from my mulched beds or a mini tunnel, but the rest can wait until it's a bit warmer. Which brings me to this past Wed and Thursday when the temperature rose to the almost-tropical 9 C.. a mid-winter heatwave! It was blowing like crazy though and as I peeked out my kitchen window, I could see one end of one of my hoop tunnels had blown loose so I wandered up to re-secure it. While there, I snapped a few photos and harvested a big bowl of garden greens.

Asian greens.. under a mini hoop tunnel. These were
'volunteer' babies that I replanted to this bed.. Then
covered it for winter and we're still using the greens
for salads and stir-fries.

This bed demonstrates the extreme hardiness of
kale, Asian greens like mizuna and mustards, arugula and
radishes. I had covered it with a mini tunnel in early December,
but just roughly with no actual clips securing
the plastic. I totally forgot that I never secured it and
of course the cover blew off in a late Dec snowstorm. That bed
has since been covered with about 15 cm of snow for the past month
and was uncovered in the last few weeks of arctic temp's. But, once that
snow melted in this weeks mild patch, the veggies were FINE!!
I have since re-covered the bed and now that it's Feb, we're
getting more than 10 hours of sunlight a day and these
will begin to regrow again.. 

Curly parsley that has no cover.. The plant is 10 inches across
and still producing.

A carrot cold frame ready for picking!
Our other one is nearly empty, so we'll be turning to this
carrot factory for the rest of winter.