Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Hi Fans and friends - I have finally jumped on board and started a web page. This means all my blog content is moving there!

Check out www.gardenguru.net
A Stunning garden viewed at the GWA meeting in Tuscon, October 2012

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Straw Bale Gardening -messy but fun

In huge news I am speaking at the Seattle Flower Show next week (Feb 23, 2013). Okay it is technically not the flower show it is the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (Gardenshow.com or tweet @NWFGS).
Initially, bales are laid on the ground in a square 

In day to day life I am not a speaker, I am a gardener and a consulting horticulturist and because I don't have to make my living off farming or raising food for my family I have plenty of time to play in my garden, a practise that is fun, gives me an excuse to go outside and brings surprising results.

No- I don't want anyone to dredge up that long-past incident with the flame thrower and my ornamental grass. Yes - there was a small fire and a few neighbour's came running down the street but I quickly hosed my garden and husband off and there was no harm done. In fact I would suggest the grasses look stronger than ever this year.

Anyway - this year there will be no flame throwing. Instead, I am playing with straw bale gardening. I picked up the bales on January 1 because they need to "season" a bit before planting. In farmer lingo they will go "punky" or rotten. After sitting outside all winter they definitely won't be animal fodder by spring. A couple of weeks ago I was taking riding lessons (No - I am not a hip chick Snow Boarder, I am fulfilling a childhood dream and learning to ride a horse.)

While at lessons in the indoor ring I casually asked about manure. What did Gordan do with all he was scooping out of the stalls when I arrived that morning? We give it away, was the simple answer. So by later that same afternoon my  husband has stopped around with our utility trailer and loaded up a few scoops for our straw bale project. Now the bales are neatly arranged in squares of four bales per "planter" and they are filled with fairly fresh manure. Do I suggest gardening in fresh manure? Of course not- but have you checked the calendar? It is a long time until spring and that gives plenty of time for bales to condition and manure to break down. As it sinks and decomposes, the manure will be topped with garden soil and planted into. I will probably grow heat loving crops like squash and pumpkins.

But meanwhile I get to speak in Seattle next week and tell tales of my garden and vegetables generally. I can hardly wait to speak of manure and other exciting gardening topics. And, no, I will not speak of the flame thrower. Such things are best left to the memory banks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Deer Proof Vegetables?

When I was speaking to the Qualicum Beach Garden club last night I posed a question to the audience at the beginning of the talk.  I didn't rush the process. I knew I was in the company of garden keeners so I thought I would crowd source the question so many of us veggie gardeners want to know. I had them think about what they would grow in a deer prone area.

My ten day-old pea shoot micro-greens growing under lights are not deer proof
I started speaking about my New Year's gardening projects. I chatted up my indoor and very successful micro-greens project seeded December 27, 2012. I spoke about already eating three salads of pea shoot micro-greens this week just 7-10 days after seeding.
After a fun 45 minutes describing the Ten Things I Love about Vegetables I reminded the audience I needed their help. I started a straw bale garden on January 1, 2013 outdoors. Part of the garden is outside my deer-proof fence. I still need to wait for the straw to mellow and the season to improve but when the planting time comes I need a list of locally hardy vegetables for this trial area.

The audience bantered back and forth. Many ideas came forward and many were dumped right away. I discovered last year the deer avoided my squash so I put that on my list but others booed that idea. Someone suggested Shitake mushrooms but most of the audience thought no- it just wouldn't be warm enough to grow mushrooms outdoors (more on that in February when I go to a lecture on growing mushrooms outdoors and report back).
Artichoke is a beautiful and deer proof vegetable
Photo courtesy No Guff Vegetable Gardening

In the end we came up with a short list of plants I can try in  my straw bale garden (more on that in a later blog post as the garden evolves). I crowd sourced the answer and together with over 100 people we decided if you are thinking ahead to spring and wondered what might grow in an area likely to be visited by deer,  these vegetables are worth a try:

Garlic, Artichokes, Cardoon, Broad Beans, Amaranth, Corn Salad and Squash (maybe). 

Let me know at donna@gardencoacheschat.com if you have any other ideas for deer proof vegetables. Let's expand this crowd sourcing to the whole world. If you write, please tell me where you live so we can create a map of deer proof vegetables!