Friday, April 27, 2012

Graphic Garden Cartoons

Wow- this is the preview of big things to come! Starting next week in the Real Life section of the Calgary Herald (in print or online) check out a whole new way to learn gardening as Donna Balzer and Mariko McCrae "show" you gardening through Mariko's fresh fun illustrations. New, easy, simple. It's all you need. Here is our sneak-a-peak launch cartoon:

PS Join me Sunday afternoon for a garden chat at Strathcona Chapters in Edmonton.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Magic for the Cancer Society in Regina

Yes I am speaking in Regina about Magic in the Garden. What a fun topic. Saskatchewan is birthplace of my mother. Home to my cousins. Here I come Regina! The folks there produced this lovely poster. Please support Cancer Research by passing it around and do come if you are in the area!

Calgary Gardeners Free Talk

Tonight 6:30 (April 26th) is my free talk at the Signal Hill Chapters in Calgary. If you have time to drop by after work I will give a short chat about getting started in the garden this spring. I have free No Guff mugs to give away to the first three people so come on down! Bring your questions. I have to run out at exactly 7:30 but if you have questions and miss me then don't forget to phone them in to CBC radio this friday on Alberta at Noon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

No Guff Reviews keep pouring in...

"With knack for combining wit and knowledge, Balzer and Biggs take a "he says/she says" approach to sharing insights about growing vegetables" says Diane Daniel in the April 1, 2012 issue of Homes-Extra in the Toronto Star.
Thanks Diane!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Press Release This week - Have you heard?


Canadian Gardening Character Heads South

Toronto and Calgary, 27 March 2012—Canadian gardening personalities Steven Biggs and Donna Balzer are sending Guff to the USA.

It wasn’t a hard choice to send Guff packing, not with the reaction he’s caused. That reaction has been overwhelmingly positive—like the time someone stopped Balzer on the street and said, “Your book changed my life!” That book, No Guff Vegetable Gardening, is the wacky Canadian book that is home to Guff.

The book—graphic novel meets gardening—brings together the gardening perspectives of two very different Canadian horticulturists: boy and girl; east and west; and Gen Xer and boomer. But they’re not alone: Guff, the chief antagonist, is a curmudgeonly third “expert” with silly advice that Biggs and Balzer discuss.

The reaction to the book in Canada has been so positive (it’s now in its second printing) that Balzer and Biggs are collaborating with American garden publisher St. Lynn’s Press to take it—and Guff—to an American audience.

The authors think the conversational coaches’ corner approach makes gardening a lot more fun. They’re not alone: Toronto Star reviewer Peggy Mackenzie says, “Energy emanates from this book, which seems odd since it’s about growing vegetables.” It helps that there are lots of fun anecdotes, such as Biggs’ stories about making parsnip wine or washing carrots in the washing machine.

"Occasionally in a librarian’s life … a book will arrive that causes immediate bibliomania. A book that is so different, so appealing, and upon reading it, so completely perfect, that it must be shown with great excitement to everyone who loves books," says Susan Yates for the Gabriola Sounder.

Earth Day at Bylands

It is almost earth day and I am trying to dig myself out of the mess I have created. First I have a load of things planted in my greenhouse that need to be moved outside in the next few weeks before they get too big. This includes cabbage and broccoli and hardy lettuce (Freckles Romaine pictured above). The tender plants need to stay indoors a while longer yet.

Trouble is I am off to Bylands Nursery in Kelowna on Sunday where I am giving an updated talk about vegetables (loosely based on my book No Guff Vegetable Gardening.) Jenny at Bylands has been the best to work with and she warned me the talk would be in the greenhouse but right up to the last minute I was asking her about powerpoint. Uh- No. It is in a greenhouse where it will be bright and sunny and spring-like. It will not be good for slides. Oops.

So this morning I converted my whole talk to just over ten slides and Jenny has promised to print them out. (wish I could show it here - let me know if you are a computer person and know how to add pdf's or keynote presentations to blogspot).

Some of my top ten points about Veggie Gardening - A love Affair are:
#10 Size Doesn't Matter
#9 Frost Free Dates are just a guideline
#8 Veggies are Hip
#7 Culture Counts
#6 Good for Your Soil(get your hands dirty)
#5 No age restrictions
#4 It's not a boot camp
#3 Have fun/ Don't forget to Play
#2 Don't let the bugs bug you
#1 Good for you- Good for your soul

For more information about my earth day talk call Jennifer at Byland's Nursery in Kelowna at 1-250-769-7272.
For more information about how I will get all the work done at my place on Vancouver Island stay tuned. I am about to be on the road for 6 weeks. P.S. I also have a place in Calgary so this is becoming complicated. To book me as a speaker for your event call my land line in Calgary (1-403-233-8999) and leave a message- I am not sure where in the world I will be when you call but I do hope I am in a garden.

Meanwhile I am speaking at various towns in Alberta including: Calgary (several dates in April and May), Vilna (April 28), Edmonton (April 29, May 12 &13), Camrose(May 4), Stettler & Rimbey (May 5) and Hillcrest (May 24). In Regina I will be speaking on May 10th - and that is a fund raiser for Cancer so I hope we have a big crowd. In British Columbia I am in Fort Saint John on May 27th. Lynnette there has done an amazing job rallying the troops to bring me in and I look forward to a great response as I return to my Northern roots.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Farmer for a day

Yesterday I swapped stories with other farmers, chatted with new gardeners and had a great old time pretending.

It was my first day at a farmers market as - you guessed it- a farmer.

I was selling my extra tomatoes and lettuce and visiting with shoppers in the tiny community of Qualicum Beach. "Is it time to plant your tomatoes outdoors?" asked several people as they looked at and considered buying my tiny plants. "NO!" I warned everyone. These plants are ready to bump up into a bigger pot but it is not time to plant tomatoes outdoors yet.

My full adventure is going to be featured in my Calgary Herald column appearing May 4 2012 when my regular Herald articles resume on Fridays. Photo above will give a hint of what is to come: Donna as farmer and gardener and generally having fun. Meanwhile mark your calendars- I will be at the Signal Hill Indigo store April 26, 2-12 at 6:30 PM in the evening.

And no, I will not be selling tomatoes there, only books.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Good Bugs in my Greenhouse

This morning when I went into the greenhouse I brought the bugs in with me. Thousands of them. No I am not losing it- I am just trying out something new. Carnivores on a mini-scale.

It all started last week. I saw a single little black fly zooming above me as I approached to water a tiny seedling tomato. A single black fly. Not a hovering mass. I got right on the phone and ordered fungus gnat predators. In the past I have used nematodes to kill off fungus gnat larvae but this time I was going to try something new. My one litre hypo-pak came complete with 25,000 Fungus Gnat predators or Hypoaspis miles (also known as Stratiolaelaps miles).

This little carnivorous insect eats other small insects and is harmless to people. The added advantage over using chemicals is obvious to me. It means my greenhouse is pesticide free. The advantage over nematodes is that Fungus gnat predators also eat thrips and red spider mites. While most gardeners don't see thrips, they are often there in wet soil eating away at the roots of your plants, making them susceptible to damage from disease and drought. Natural Insect Control (NIC) in Ontario is a retail outlet for biological controls and they ship across Canada. The Bug Factory in Parksville is strictly wholesale but they directed me to a retail outlet and I drove over to pick up my precious cargo.

If you go into the greenhouse today you are in for a big surprise. Well, honestly you wouldn't notice it but the little bugs are now hard at work for me in their little piles of vermiculite. It was chilly in the greenhouse today so I turned up the heat a bit. I don't want my bugs getting cold and working at less than their optimum speed. And, yes, I do feel a bit foolish fiddling with nature this way but a greenhouse is hardly nature and I don't want to be inhaling clouds of fungus gnats in two weeks. Instead, my plants will continue to grow in a stress free way as I watch and wait for that first tomato harvest which is only 120 days away now. I hope.