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Playing in the Garden October 15 – 21

by | Oct 16, 2018 | Food | 0 comments

Playing in the Garden: What do you love to do?

This week Tony was interviewing me for a podcast she was prepping. She wondered how long I had been gardening and I didn’t want to answer that question. This is partly because I have been playing in the garden a long time and – well – I might seem old if I start throwing out numbers.

Some of the food from my garden this week made a nice supper. Fresh Nantes carrots, boiled Sieglinde Potatoes, saute Delinel beans and sliced Marketmore cucumbers.

I am not new to gardening but there is one thing I know for sure. I will never be as smart as the day I graduated with my degree in Agriculture. That spring I spoke to 300+ women and told them how to grow food for their families. I was 21 and had worked at the University farm for two years. At the time, I was still getting home-grown food from my mom and room-mate’s family’s large farm gardens and yet I was “lecturing” women who had been feeding their own food to their families for years.

When I realized what was happening I was humbled and terrified. But I still had to go on stage with a  “fake it till I make it” approach. Lesson learned? I have been cautious about presuming I know more than my audience ever since. I don’t lecture anymore. Today I share garden wisdom I’ve gained from my CBC and FB followers, from seminars I’ve given and taken and from questions asked and answered. In good news I am still learning, but today I mostly learn by doing.

In bad News? I realize I will never know everything about food or food gardening. I am still learning new things every day and in some ways I  need more time to learn what is most vital to share. I just learned – for instance – that pigs like tomatoes and they will happily gobble the whole plant if it is offered to them in the fall. (My friend Jeannine has a pink pet pig Arnold and she taught me that.) Arnold also eats the apples too bruised to make into pies  (but the really squishy ones go in my compost.)

Arnold taught inquiring minds that kids really do have a love of all animals large and small. And that pigs do have curly tails – a question Rupert particularly wanted answered when we net Arnold.  This is something I would never have thought to tell him.


I also learned recently that having access to fresh food is a basic human right. I learned that in Winnipeg this summer when I toured the fabulous Human Rights Museum. I just assumed everyone could grow their own food if they had an interest but if you are displaced or living in a small space you need to develop special systems like Global buckets. I learned about the Global Bucket system from Joanne, a rooftop gardener in Toronto.  She learned about this system and discovered it allows people who only possess two (hopefully FOODSAFE) buckets a place to grow food. It is a system developed first by the people who live in temporary housing without soil but is now used widely on rooftops and by apartment gardeners.

And so, it occurred to me that you, dear readers, might have specific things to teach me or questions to ask. Would you be interested in a private facebook group where we meet and chat about everything gardening? Do you want a new book from me? Do you want me to travel to your town to meet on your turf?  I personally love touring garden clubs as much as working in my own garden and watching what others are doing in their farms and gardens inspires me.

City parks in NYC include honeybees and these seem to have replaced native insects as pollinators. If there is a bee in your sweet drink in any park it is probably a honeybee, not a native bee.

I was in NYC recently and my only regret is that I didn’t get to any of the rooftop farms in the city while I was there. But I did see a lot of honeybees landing on my food and drinks as I toured public parks and as I sat in outdoor cafes so I know wasps have been replaced by this introduced insect as the main pollinator in at least one part of North America. Did you know that Honeybees have largely replaced native bees and wasps? Luckily I still have native wasps and bumblebees in my own yard and I have noticed they eat the problem bugs on cabbage. Dr. Ken Fry laments in a recent twitter post  that native insects are under so much pressure they shouldn’t be taken for granted.

A few of my 55 pound (25,000 gram) harvest of butternut squash ready to cure in a sunny window this week came from only three plants.


I have not been defeated by my ignorance. Last year I lined up classes and lectures and visited communities to speak and run workshops. But this year, before I jump into the planning frenzy, I want to know what you want. I want this to be a two-way dialog.

I eventually told Tony during her interview that I celebrated my 40th year since graduation from Agriculture at the U of A  this fall. It does seem like a long time  because I love what I do and am always thinking about it and playing it forward in my garden. Not everyone gets to feed her end-of-season tomatoes and apples to a pig! And how many of us get to show their grandkids that pigs really do have a curl in their tail? How are you playing in your garden this week? And how can I help you play more? Let me know by replying in the comment section below.

PS Do you have questions about Gardening? Join in the conversation on my facebook live event every Monday by clicking right HERE.

 Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.

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