Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How to Start an Organic Garden

All you need to do to grow flowers, herbs and vegetable, organically, is follow these ten steps.
1.      Put the right plant in the right place. In other words, make sure the plant you choose is placed where it gets the amount of sunlight it requires as well as the water and food needed for strong growth.
2.      Do the above in the planning stage so you know what you are going to do before the actual planting, what you will plant, where you will plant it.
3.      Organic gardeners feed the soil because the healthy soil will produce healthy plants. One of the most effective ways to build healthy soil is to add organic material, such as compost to the soil.
4.      Mulch, proper mulching prevents weeds from taking over your garden and thus reduces your labour. Mulch also reduces the soil’s thirst, as it reduces the rate at which it dries out after watering, and will warm up the ground in Spring and Fall.
5.      Use organic and heritage seeds as these will breed true and you are then able to save seeds from the most productive plants.
6.      When planting the  seeds, especially if you are a novice gardener read the seed pack and follow the instructions.
7.      Rain barrels allow you to collect rain and use it when you need to water the garden. Dry days are not uncommon and to save turning on the tap to provide the plants with that needed drink if you have a rain barrel you can meet their needs and conserve water at the same time.
8.      Spend time in your garden simply observing the activity. An evening stroll can serve as an early warning system and help to avoid infestations and diseases. Paying attention to your garden can pay big dividends when it comes to combating pests and diseases.
9.      Keep a garden journal, record your observations and thoughts. This will help when planning next year’s garden.
10.   Enjoy experiment and have fun. We learn by doing so do not be afraid to do.
If you are a beginner do not read too many gardening books, stay focused on what you want to grow and how much time you have to garden. Start small and expand, if you want, as your skills develop and your knowledge grows.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Majestic and proud, those are the words that come to mind when I see hollyhocks and ancient. The hollyhock has been around for a number of centuries and there are times when I am standing near one that I can almost feel the pull of that history.
The hollyhock is well known in the English cottage garden standing above all else well except maybe the delphiniums, but unlike the beautiful but tender delphs the hollyhock can stand alone without support.
If you do live in a place with high winds, I’d still provide them with some support though why take chances.
The hollyhock is often referred to as a biennial which means the plant flowers in the second year but it is considered by some to be a short lived perennial.
So remember when you plant the seeds in the fall that is you do not see flowers that first summer, do not despair and rip them out, give them the time that they need and your patience will be richly rewarded.
There are annual hollyhocks available. The hollyhock will self-seed.
An aside, the house I grew up in had hollyhocks planted in a small side yard near the neighbour’s house. It was a favourite play area for us when w e was small. It was a little space and the hollyhocks dominate the area. The frequent bees buzzing in and out also added a fascination.
One day that house was torn down and the hollyhocks went with it. I was a teenager at the time and had pretty much forgotten my old companions.
One day, about ten years later when my parents were getting ready to move, I was cleaning up the backyard and noticed that there were hollyhocks coming up. They were about 2 feet tall. My parents had not planted them.
I decided that they were sprouting from seed that had been scattered all those years ago, and this chance meeting renewed my affection for this magnificent plant.
The hollyhock enjoys being in the sun but is happy with some shade. Make sure the soil is rich and somewhat moist, if you want the plant to thrive. Just before you plant be sure to add well-aged manure or compost as this will help the plant grow.
You can sow the seeds outdoors just slightly beneath the surface of the soil one week before last frost. It may take 10-14 days for the seed to germinate. Be sure to space the seeds 18-36 inches apart.
If the weather is dry it is vital to provide water if you want them to flower. You can plant hollyhocks near a rain barrel if the site gets sufficient sunshine. They can help beautify the spot and this will make regular watering easier, provided, of course, that it rains.
The hollyhock flower is edible and would look great in a salad. I prefer to leave them on the plant and enjoy them visually but it is good to know that they have a secondary purpose.
The hollyhock is an ideal plant for the back of the border along the fence and especially with chain link fences can help serve as a privacy screen.
Drop by your favorite plant nursery and see the varieties that wait.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The School Garden

What is a school garden?
Simply put a school garden is a garden on the school property. It may be a flower garden or a vegetable garden or both. The choice is up to the people who plant and tend the garden; the students with guidance and advice from teachers and parents.
A school garden is an excellent way for the parents to become involved in the school that their child(ren) attends. The garden can be a container garden, raised bed or planted directly into the ground, once again the choice belongs to the gardeners taking into consideration the available resources, such as the amount of land available and the type of land as well as the amount of time that can be dedicated to gardening.
The school garden can complement the learning experience as there are many lessons that can be based on the garden. For one thing, students can learn how to work together to plan, plant and care for the garden.
How to get started?
The impetus for the garden may come from a teacher, a parent or a student. For the garden to work all must be involved. Regardless of who initiates the project, the school principal must be involved and the principal’s permission is essential.
If a teacher starts the project and gets the principal on board then the next step is to rally other teachers and plan a public meeting.
The students’ parents are invited to that meeting in order to inform them about the project and get them interested. Have them bring their children as well so all the concerned parties are in the room.
You will need to give them information such as the size of the garden and where on the school grounds it will be located. Having a clear purpose for the garden may help; for example, will it be an edible plant garden, that can provide fresh food for the cafeteria; or will it be a native plant garden designed to introduce native plants into the area and encourage birds and butterflies.
The meeting begins with a quick overview of the project which includes the benefits that the students will receive from being involved. Then a question and answer period follow.
Be sure to have a sign-up sheet handy for any parents who want to help with the garden, their assistance will be invaluable over the summer months.
If a student or group of students are eager to start a garden on the school grounds, the first step is to talk with a teacher and get his or her support; once that is done then the process becomes the same as the above for the teacher initiated garden.
If a parent or parents are interested in starting the garden, then the first step is to contact the school principal and any teachers you may know and arrange a meeting to discuss the project. A parent initiated garden may not need to hold a community meeting, as parents are already in the loop.
Once you have the principal’s permission and have students, teachers and parents o board, the final gardening decisions can be made. Decisions such as organic or not; what to plant can be worked out by the gardeners.
A school garden can provide an outdoor classroom, a source of healthy food or habitat for local wildlife or the best, all three. There are enough examples of successful school gardens around to know that it is a win-win situation for your child’s education.
Gardening can help build a child’s confidence, engage their imagination, make new friends and enhance the school property.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Excerpt: Lawns

Large or small we do love our lawns. We value them so highly we curse the so-called weeds without realizing they are doing us a service. But, I will talk about this service in another column.
Our passion, perhaps for some an obsession, with our lawns, dates back to a time when not using space to grow food was a sign of wealth.
People still devote hours and dollars to maintain a lawn that may look good but requires constant attention and far too many people rely on toxic chemicals to keep the green, green.

Lawns are important. They provide a place for BBQs, family gatherings, a playground for the children and space for pets to roam. Lawns are needed but not in all cases and perhaps, in some, they could be smaller.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Excerpt: Perennials

"From my Garden"  ebook available  Feb 6, 2018.

Perennials are herbaceous plants that live for more than three seasons. Perennials are the foundation upon which your garden is built. If you treat them well they will come back for several seasons and in some cases even longer.
Perennials are often considered to be the gardens’ skin because they form the majority of plants which are used for borders and for ground cover.
Perennials offer a wide variety of form, flower, and foliage and give the gardener a large palette from which to make plant selections.

The perennial plant ranges from very small rock plants to gigantic bamboos and there is a perennial for just about any gardening situation.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Asters: Book Excerpt

In mid to late October as I was waiting for a taxi at the end of the driveway, I noticed 20 or so bumble bees flocking around the asters. The asters were pretty much all that was in flower at the time, despite the cold night they were still displaying their brilliant colours.
For anyone who is concerned about the fate of the pollinators we depend upon, then give some thought to adding asters to the garden.

The genus Aster has somewhere around 250 species and most of them are native to North America. In fact, here in northern New Brunswick, asters are everywhere. They line the railroad tracks and abandoned spaces all around town.

The other members of this large group are zinnias, dahlias, mums, and other daisy-faced beauties, all of which belong to the Asteraceae family, the largest of the flowering-plant families. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Excerpt: Greenhouse

"If you are thinking about buying or building a greenhouse, there are a few things to consider. One is location. There is some debate as to whether the greenhouse should be located on a north-south orientation or an east-west one. I say, regardless of the orientation, unless the greenhouse is in shade, any location will improve the yield."

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Excerpt from an upcoming book; From My Garden:

The mix of green and brown, fresh and dry materials will provide the optimum combination of carbon and nitrogen to make good compost and it will prevent problems such as smelly, wet, or compacted piles.
Be sure to check the compost pile’s moisture content. Think of a sponge, the compost should as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Is it too dry, then sprinkle with the garden hose or open the bin temporarily to a rainfall? Too wet, then it is time to turn the pile and aerate it, and add dry material.
Now and then you will want to add a shovel of soil so that you introduce into the pile the micro-organisms that break down organic waste.

In a fairly short time, you will have a rich dark material that will make your garden thrive. Remember as the gardener said feed your soil.

Monday, January 8, 2018


“A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Most gardeners would not agree with Emmerson. They see weeds as an enemy. One which they will go to extreme lengths to vanquish. They will even wage chemical warfare in desperate attempts to rid their lawn and garden of any invaders. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Campbellton Community Garden

I was a founding member of the Campbellton Community Garden. The photo shows the bee garden we established at the community garden last summer. The bee garden was established as part of Be City Campbellton which is the responsibility of the Galerie Restigouche Gallery and the City of Campbellton. It is part of the Bee City Canada network.

The garden was begun by the Restigouche Community Inclusion Network which I help create and is, today, maintained by the Inspire Cooperative which I helped organize.

Details of how this community garden was brought into being will be part of my upcoming book. "From My Garden."

Friday, January 5, 2018

Intro to Hügelkultur

 Hügelkultur involves the use of wood debris, fallen branches, and logs. The final bed will hold moisture, improve soil fertility and improve drainage. It is possible that once the bed is established, it will never need to be watered again, unless, of course, there is a prolonged drought.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

In A Garden Size Does Not Matter

When it comes to gardening, size does not matter. The garden can be as small as a single container with a cherry tomato and some basil set on a tabletop,  or vast.; the choice depends upon the available resources (time, money, land) and, of course, the grower’s interest. Anyone can garden, the design is the key.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bees & Sunflower

New Book; From My Garden

In February, I will be publishing an ebook. The book From My Garden is based on the weekly articles I have been producing over the past three years for the Campbellton Tribune. The book will include photos and a section on permaculture design, ethics, and principles.

Podcast Coming soon

I am working on a podcast, working title "We Are Nature Working" I will talk about the many issues facing us from climate catastro...