The Gardener Downs Tools (for the Week)

What to do this week

Michelle Smith is away this week.

She’ll be back at her regularly scheduled time next issue, but in the meantime, feel free to peruse her now quite substantial archive of past columns for some season-appropriate gardening advice.

Chives. Photo by H. Zell [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons.

Chives. Photo by H. Zell CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This time last year, for instance, she was offering tips on potting up herbs for winter:

Chives and parsley both do well overwintering indoors in pots. It is such a treat to mix up a batch of tabbouleh mid-winter with parsley you pick from your windowsill, or to always have fresh chives at arm’s reach. Parsley is biennial, so it will live to flourish another year outdoors too. If you don’t have chive or parsley already in pots, it might not be too late to dig some up and pot it. It is worth a try.

Two years ago, in October 2017, Michelle had some ideas about protecting your trees from threats both animal and meteorological:

Put plastic tree guards around the base of each young tree. That will discourage mice from girdling your fruit trees. In past winters, when we had heavy snow, I have had mice girdle my fruit trees up to three feet above the ground. So, the deeper the snow, the higher the tree guard has to be. I protect most of my trees, even the mature ones, with wire mesh or something to prevent them from being girdled by mice. Some of my trees are very rare. If you have common varieties, you may want to relax a bit about it, but it would be a shame to lose even your common variety tree once you have watched it take root and decide to stay.

The biggest threat to your evergreens is our strong Cape Breton winter winds which can desiccate trees and cause them to die back.

And as always, if you have time for a longer read, Michelle has some reflections on what happens when the stress of making a living as a small farmer becomes too much, organic farming and the price of milk, among other topics. (Just search for “Bean There” on the site to find all her long-form columns.)

And fear not! As promised, she will return next week.

Featured image: En høstarbejder (farmer taking a break) by Danish painter Peter Hansen (1868-1928), oil on canvas. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.



Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.