“The Year-round Vegetable Gardener” plus “Groundbreaking Food Gardens” (affiliate links) and “Veggie Garden Remix.” She’s also a contributor to the blog SavvyGardening.com. She creates the award-winning radio program, “The Weekend Gardener,” which is heard throughout Eastern Canada, and she gardens with a vengeance in Nova Scotia. So, if Niki can do it people, so can we.
Read along as you listen to the July 13, 2020 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).
Plus: Comment in the box at the bottom of the page for a chance to win a copy of her book “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.”
Margaret: Are you having any rain, and are you having heat? What’s going on up there? Just so we have the temperature. [Laughter.]
Niki: Yeah. It’s been weird. We had early, early heat, which is kind of unusual for Nova Scotia, and then it morphed to cool. But we had about six weeks where I had maybe not even a quarter-inch of rain and I had to deep water a lot, but last night, the heavens opened. We got probably an inch and a bit of rain, massive thunderstorms. So, I feel like we’re getting back to balanced. It’s getting nice and hot again, so it’s a perfect time to get out in the garden.
Margaret: Good, good, good. Well, I’m waiting for that heavens-to-open thunder thing over here, myself.
Niki: Fingers crossed.
Margaret: Yeah. So, I bet you’re madly taking advantage of every square inch of your garden that becomes available as things are harvested. I sort of picture you up there, if she sees a square foot or 2 square feet or a linear foot come available, she tucks something in madly. So, are you into multiple successions already up there?
Niki: Oh, yeah. I mean, in some beds I’m probably in our third succession crop and I think that’s a pretty accurate description of me right now. [Laughter.] I was eyeing some of the lettuce earlier today going, “I think you’re to bolt so I’m going to harvest you today or tomorrow,” and then in goes some carrots and some beets. And of course, I’m also thinking ahead for later in the season, too.
So yeah, there’s no empty space in my food garden right now. It’s a very looking very lush, even if everything isn’t quite in full production yet, at least it looks very green.
Margaret: Yeah. When do you get your first tomato?
state-by-state, region-by-region calendars and charts and so forth, so that people in other areas can adapt this, get a little guidance to adapt this, so I’ll do that with the transcript.
And also that we’re going to have a book give away of your earlier hit book, “The Year-round Vegetable Gardener,” and the subhead of that is, “How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year No Matter Where You Live.” So, there you go. [Laughter.]
Niki: Yeah. And they know it’s really very easy. I think all people really need to know is their first expected fall frost date. And then, when you’re looking at seed packs, the days to maturity. So, it’s easy math. If I can do it, anybody can do it.
Margaret: Now the math, do you add in what some seed people call “the fall factor,” because days are shorter and temperatures are generally cooler in the second half of the season, as opposed to lengthening hours of light in the spring sowings? Do you add a couple of weeks for the sort of fall factor of diminished light and heat?
Niki: I do. I add about seven to 10 days, and I mean, I just kind of tack an extra week on as I’m calculating and that seems to work really well. I don’t add more than that, because at that point then things become ready too early, and then they might be harvested before winter or late fall, when I don’t want them at that point. So one week works for me.
Margaret: So, here we are, I’m waiting for my first ripe tomato as well, poly-tunnel or no poly-tunnel because I don’t have one. [Laughter.] But I know I need to start fresh with some other crops, for instance, I put in another row of bush beans the other day. So, what are some of the food crops?
And a lot of people who are listening are probably new listeners, new readers of the website, a lot of people who have gotten into the throes of gardening this year in great numbers. And even some experienced gardeners have expanded what they’re doing because of the sort of situation out there. So, if we haven’t stretched the season before really, if we haven’t grown the second or third sowing of this and that, what are the things that you would want us to try our hand out most of all?
carrots and the beets. And of course, cabbages, cauliflowers, all of those cabbage-cousin crops, broccoli. I’m starting them indoors right now under my grow lights so that I can put them in the garden in about four weeks, because if I direct sow those in the garden, it’s going to be hard to keep those little seeds and seedlings happy in the intense hot heat and sun of summer.
Plus the slugs, even though it’s been dry, they have been just brutal, is the best way to describe them this year. I mean, it’ll be hot and sunny and I’m out there handpicking slugs. I can’t even explain it but they’re multiplying like crazy. I’m picking teeny-tiny ones, giant fat ones. I’ve had the point where all of a handful of slimy slugs, I don’t even care anymore. I’ll just keep on picking them.
So, I do like to start some things indoors under grow lights, because it’s a little easier than trying to nurture them along in the garden when the soil is hot and dry.
my sauce, that’s not coming till August, September cusp really, in big amounts. And so, I might do some more basil. Do you do herbs as well again?
Niki: I actually do. I had gotten some seeds from Johnny’s not that long ago, including a new downy mildew-resistant basil. And so, I started them about a month ago and they’re now about an inch-and-a-half tall so I have about, don’t ask me why, but about 40 basil seedlings I need to find more space for in my garden. So I do, I usually plant basil twice for the exact reasons you mentioned. The tomatoes come on much later. They’ll start to flower; I do pinch the plants back during the growing season for a while, but of course it’s not as effective forever. It’s best to have a second crop.
So, these guys are going to go in the garden in the next week or so, and then they’ll be ready late August, early September into late September, or whenever that first frost comes.
Margaret: One of the things I love the most in the second crop is the peas. I love edible-podded peas and shelling peas. And then, it almost feels like they’re sweeter in the second, the fall, harvest because they’re not bumping into that heat of July. My first sowing bumps… is around now. It comes to harvest around early July, late June, early July. So, it kind of gets fried.
Niki: It’s true, totally true. And you know, the summer peas, because they’re planted so early, a lot of people think they need cold temperatures to germinate but they don’t. They germinate really quickly and just fine as long as you keep the soil moist in early to mid-summer. So, the ‘Sugar Snap’ peas are my absolute favorite, and I’m going to be sowing a very heavy crop of those. And we’ll probably start harvesting those early to mid-September, but they’ll take us through for about three to four weeks. And I mean, peas in September, what a treat. You can never have enough.
water to encourage plenty of deep roots. And then I mulch, I mulch my tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, any longterm crops that are in the garden. They’re mulched with straw or shredded leaves to lock that soil moisture in.
And then of course, you’ve got the side benefit of fewer weeds because there’s a mulch on the soil, and as the mulch breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil. But also around things like tomatoes, it helps prevent the spread of soil-borne diseases like tomato blight. So, there’s many benefits to mulching your crops so I’m big on mulch.
Margaret: Yeah, exactly.
Niki: I can send you some, it’s no problem. [Laughter.]
BugGuide.net or some people just use like iNaturalist.org or one of the other citizen-science apps and just upload that picture and get a crowdsourced ID pretty quick, if they know what the plant is and what the region is and the date and the picture—that usually helps someone say, “Oh, that’s such and such,” which is great.
But I think there’s no substitute for vigilance in the organic garden really, is there?
Niki: No, I mean, it’s an incredibly important, and my province is organic so you can’t go buy weed-and-feed for your lawn. You can’t use these chemicals anymore, and we haven’t been able to for, I think, 19, 20 years now. So, you have to learn what these things are, and a morning cup of tea in the garden, as you’re looking for slugs and looking for cabbage worms, it’s kind of a ritual. I love it out there early in the morning.
Margaret: Yeah. So, in the last few minutes I wanted to ask you: I don’t know what kind of projects you’ve been up to. I know you have been working on a new book that will come out, when is the new book coming in the fall?
Niki: It was supposed to be next year, but actually they pushed it up. So, it’ll be coming out in December of 2020, so sooner than later.
Margaret: Great. So besides that, I wondered any new project in the garden? Any new crop that, the last book, “Veggie Garden Remix,” I think was the last one—so many new crops that even I had never heard of.
I put in a whole new asparagus plot because my 30-year-old one just was petering out and I decided for my old age here, I wanted the rest of my life to have plenty of asparagus every year. So, that’s what I did. So, anything that you’ve done this year that you know is different?
straw bales, so I’ve been growing these huge gardens of potatoes in straw bales [above], where I’ve loosened the straw everywhere so the potato plants will produce the potatoes within the straw, so they stay really clean. So, I’ve got probably 200 seed potatoes planted in a loose straw.
Niki: I know, listen, I don’t even know what to say to myself anymore.
So, anywhere I could plant more food this year, I did. Mainly because everybody I know said, “We’re coming to your garden this year if the grocery stores start to close.” [Laughter.] So I was like, “I better expand my plantings.”
And I am planting more fun things for myself, but because this was a year where the seed companies, oh my gosh, they were overwhelmed. It was hard to get stuff. I did get some things early, but certain things I never did get.
So, I’ve got a few new types of cucumber melons this year, sort of like along the lines of Armenian cucumbers, which I grow because my husband’s Lebanese, and I have seeds from his village from many years ago. And so, I grow a lot of cucumber melons but I’m growing lots of new tomatoes. There’s a 14-, 15-year-old tomato expert from Toronto, Emma Biggs. And so, she sends me tomato seeds and I send her other seeds and I’m growing some of her amazing varieties. So, I’ve got a lot of fun little things I’m growing, but unfortunately, because of the lack of seeds and the pressure of the spring, I didn’t get as much as I would’ve liked to try this year.
links for other people in other regions as promised. Thank you so much for making the time today.
Niki: Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a joy. Take care Margaret.
more succession-sowing help
- Margaret’s list of possible July and August crops to sow, plus regional links for what to sow elsewhere
(Photos, except of peas and cabbage worms, from Niki Jabbour, used with permission.)
enter to win niki’s year-round book
“The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year No Matter Where You Live,” for one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is answer this question in the comments box by scrolling all the way down the page, after the last reader comment:
Do you grow any edibles in the “offseason,” whether indoors or under cover or in a greenhouse–even if just a few extra weeks before or after frost?
No answer, or feeling shy? Just say something like “count me in,” and I will. But an answer is even better. I’ll select a random winner after entries close at midnight Tuesday July 21, 2020. Good luck to all.
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“extend your vegetable garden season, with niki jabbour” was first posted here