Thursday, February 24, 2011

Books are Shipped!

Yes- No Guff- my new book is on its way from the printer.... Will arrive in Calgary March 1. Order directly from Steve and I through our web page or ask about the book at your favorite independent book store or garden center.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Talks and Giveaways

Steve and I started making our business cards. They are going to be little coin envelopes with special seeds in them - with a really cute Mariko drawing on the outside of course.

In the book "No Guff Vegetable Gardening" there is a section on compost and Mariko drew a little rat sneaking off with a green shopping bag of compost. Here she has drawn a close relative of that rat but this is the french rat- wearing a Coco inspired t-shirt. These "cards" will be sent out with books ordered directly from us or given away at talks. The book is just a few weeks away!

Apple Tree Pruning

This time last year I took an apple tree pruning class to refresh myself and we came home and really got into it. Trouble is our apple tree in our summer home had not been pruned in a long time so we did too much and had to force ourselves to stop.

Today - a year later- I finished the job by cutting out the two big branches we just couldn't do last year.... still needs a little fine tuning and then we will be ready for spring.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heating the Greenhouse

Have I lost my mind or just my heater? Last year this time I was merrily heating my greenhouse to get some tomatoes and whatnot growing. So when I strolled out to the greenhouse this weekend to get the place properly fired up I was wondering where the little heater I used last year had gone?

Apparently it is gone. As in stolen or misplaced - it is just not there. So luckily my husband rescued me and was off to buy a topnotch Honeywell Ceramic heater at the hardware store. I put all my trust in it and this morning everything was fine. Little seedlings looking good, high-low thermometer registering a minimal temperature of plus 5 last night. I love this little greenhouse. It feels like summer in there. A trip to Australia might be cheaper but this is a daily feel-good activity.

I am going to plant the rest of my potatoes for easter today.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let the Seeding Begin

When should I start my tomatoes asked my good friend A.S.? This is the same friend I used to start tomatoes with when our kids were young. We would exchange plants so we could maximize the types grown and by late spring our grow lights and windowsills were packed with seedlings. We shared a huge vegetable garden on a farm and brought our kids along to romp and look for bugs. Flash forward a few decades and she is on to soils and tree research and has become quite an expert in both. But meanwhile she has lost her memory of all things vegetable and is trying to get back in the game.

We always started 8-10 weeks before we wanted to plant them outside - I reminded her. And then I think- but can't be sure- she probably laughed at me for telling the same story again and again about how my tomatoes froze one spring in Calgary on June 8th. So what does the average spring frost date really mean when you can have frost weeks later? Well it is only a tool. We use it for planning and in Calgary that means starting tomatoes in mid-March. That gives them ten weeks until the end of May although we might not plant them out that early. We might hedge out bets and save a few for a later planting date. Like July. But then that reminds me of the time I was filming an episode of Bugs & Blooms in late July and it started to snow....

So what crazy thing prompted me to start tomatoes yesterday on Feb 5? Leeks and Easter. I decided to start my tomatoes along with leeks because leeks take so long to germinate and I didn't want them all alone in the seedling flats. So I started my tomatoes alongside my leeks with plans to plant them out by Easter. In the greenhouse of course - I am not that bold that I would consider tossing perfectly good tomato seedlings outdoors in any part of Canada by late April.

If you like Mariko McCrae's little picture of the school bus full of seedlings above check out all her illustrations in my new veggie book No Guff Vegetable Gardening. Like the seedlings, it will be ready and in stores by spring.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Never Too Early to Worry about Bugs

I went to a fabulous lecture last night by Dr. Linda Gilkeson, Entomologist. She told a story about a new bug bothering gardeners right across Canada. Climbing Cutworms are so hardy- she said- that when she peeled a frozen cutworm off the road to show someone it woke up in the jar she was using to transport it. Now that is a hardy bug.

Like all cutworms they curl up in a C shape in the soil and wait for your garden to sprout in spring. That's when the voracious and full size larva climbs up on and eats the plant. Any plant. Lovely.

See Linda's webpage to find out if she is speaking in your neighborhood. ( )

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Guff Vegetable Gardening

Not Your Average Couch Potato:
Check out some fabulous images from No Guff Vegetable Gardening! This new book takes solid science and turns it inside out with hilarious illustrations by Mariko McCrae of Feedlot Studios. Over the next month as the book is being printed look for illustrations from the book popping up on this page.

No Guff, Lots of Fun

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

'The Soil Solution' Film Preview

Thinking About Potatoes

I have a greenhouse I mainly use in spring and summer. I love it for keeping the frost off basil and tomatoes in May. When other gardeners are struggling with too-tall seedlings and freezing cold nights, I have some protection built in with my greenhouse.

I do have some sprouting potatoes in my cupboard right now (early February) and it did occur to me they might do quite well in a cool greenhouse and possibly yield a few spuds by Easter if I got started now. Easter is at the end of April this year and wouldn't purple and blue potatoes be fun in a salad or with supper along with all those Easter eggs?

I decided to put a high-low thermometer in the greenhouse before I decide if the weather is suitable. I know I will have to heat it a bit but not sure how much. Meanwhile I have hauled all my stored pots into the greenhouse in preparation for the big planting event. This way the soil can thaw and warm up a bit prior to planting. I know some people empty out their pots in fall but I never get around to that so guess what? They are ready to go into potato production. I only have four potatoes so it is not a big deal if it doesn't work but they are all special - a blue, purple, red and yellow saved for illustrations for my new book and now just spares laying around.


L H-Y from North Mount: I love Donna Balzer. My past as a compulsive gardener in a challenging climate has found me many times reading her books and periodicals. I like your (No Guff Vegetable Gardening) cover as I think it’s funny and light. Believe me gardening and gardeners are way too serious.