Senator Donald Oliver
Nova Scotia's Senator
It is utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about gardening. You have got to love your garden whether you like it or not. ~W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman, Garden Rubbish, 1936
When I am not spending time in my kitchen at my farm in Pleasant River, Nova Scotia, I love to spend time outside enjoying my gardens.
We have three main gardens on the farm. Our first garden, which is surrounded by decorative fencing, is full of rows of beautiful flowers, including lilies, gerbera, sweet Williams, columbines, irises, day lilies, daisies, roses and poppies.
Our vegetable garden, however, is surrounded by a six foot fence, in order to protect our plants from some of our uninvited guests: wild deer. Deer love to eat our peas and beans, and we often see them from our kitchen window eyeing our latest crop. And while I have always wanted to plant hostas in our flower garden, we have been warned that this is a deer’s favourite treat.
Finally, we also have an herb garden, which surrounds an old dug well. The garden is full of chives, lemon balm, sage, rosemary, summer savory, cilantro, parsley, and three different types of thyme.
When guests arrive at our farm, I love take them for tours of the property. I lead them around our
hayfields, and then guide them through our woodlands, where we grow Christmas trees. I walk with them alongside the Pleasant River, which runs through our property, and I show them our many plots of fruits, vegetables, and spectacular flowers.
Understandably, my love for gardening compliments, rather than competes, with my love for cooking. An advantage for any cook is to have fresh ingredients budding right on their own property. From spring until fall, my property is always full of fresh berries, fruits and vegetables. Each month brings a new plant into season, and a new recipe into our kitchen.
As soon as the spring frost is gone, the spring rains comes and the ground becomes warm, the rhubarb starts to push its nose the through the earth. And two weeks later we are probably eating our first spring rhubarb pie. Next comes the asparagus, followed by the chives, which bloom beautiful purple buds, and signals that my favourite time of the year has arrived.
Beginning in May, I am always thrilled to have the first harvest from our gardens, normally our lettuce, peas, spinach, greens and beans. As the summer progresses we are flooded with delicious and succulent blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and later zucchinis and cucumbers. With the late summer brings cranberries, onions, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, potatoes, and tomatoes.
Throughout this time of year, when I am working on my latest recipes in the kitchen, I can simply take the short walk out and cut ingredients straight from the source.
I love spending time weeding and hoeing in the gardens because for me this is not work. In addition to constantly pulling weeds, hoeing, pruning, trenching and creating new flower beds, I put a lot of time into improving our soil with compost.
Soil is the foundation from which a healthy garden is built. If you do not have a strong foundation, the time and effort you spend on all other aspects is to no avail. Simple aspects of the soil, such as its acidity and pH, can make a big impact as some plants flourish only under certain conditions. For instance, a lot of herbs do not like soil with high pH. To keep our soil well-conditioned and to maintain the pH levels, I like to use a lot of compost. Compost can improve the soil structure, increase pore volume and improve the water-holding capacity of the soil.
I always advise new gardeners, who are dedicated and willing to put in the effort, that keeping compost and using it in your garden, will make a world of difference.