Saying that she’s “only been gardening for 30 years” might be Joan Saunders’s modesty talking—but on the other hand, that “only” hints at plans to keep on going for many more years to come!  Joan has tremendous expertise in growing and harvesting her own food, and she is excited to learn even more. 

As Joan told Labrador Institute summer student Frankie Leonard, she now has her sights set on her ultimate goal of growing asparagus.


A Little Bit of Everything

This is my first year growing cucumbers, and they are doing great. The tomatoes are doing great as well.

This is my second year doing my own strawberry plants.  I take them out of the pot and put them over by my compost for the winter. In early June, I noticed they were growing and put them in hanging pots, so that’s why I have so many this year. Most of these plants are the ones I salvaged from last year. I find the birds are at them less when they are hanging as well.

I put pumpkins in for the first time this year. I have dill and turnip and beets and peas; the peas grow really well. Squash. Beans. Brussels sprouts are new as well. Garlic is relatively new to me too. I had success with it last year, so I’m trying it again. Lettuce. Raspberries. I also grow spinach, basil, and parsley.

My favourite things to grow are carrots because they’re easy to grow and minimal work. Potatoes are also good for the same reason.


Garden Pests

This year I have tried a few things I haven’t grown before, such as purple mizuna—which is an Asian green—and collard greens. We haven’t been able to try them yet, since I started them from seed in the garden, so hopefully in the fall they will be more mature, and we can eat them then.

I try to do organic gardening and companion planting. My biggest challenge this year is the bugs! Particularly the root maggots this year in turnip and radish have been difficult.  It looks perfect up top, then you pull it and the bulb is empty because the maggots ate everything inside.


Joan Saunders has a beautiful, tidy backyard garden, all in neatly fenced rows.  In this photo, her strawberries are temporarily covered to keep off the birds!


Experience and Goals

I’ve only been gardening since I moved to this house, so probably only 30 years.  I struggled with asparagus, so that is my goal. I have tried for about 20 years and I have tried different crops at different locations and I finally gave up, but my goal is to eventually grow asparagus.


Northern Challenges

The short season. By the time some of your crops are getting ready to harvest such as tomatoes, it is normally August, and then by September frost is coming again. It is not easy to have a second crop; our season is very short.


Gardening doesn’t only happen in the ground!  Cucumbers and tomatoes are among several crops that Joan Saunders grows in her greenhouse space.


Gardening Benefits

You know what you’re eating, and you know exactly what you’re getting. You know what pesticides were used and how it was grown. My potatoes take me almost from one year to the next. I may have to buy one 10-pound bag in the spring—that is it.


Tips and Tricks

I have always had a problem with root maggot in turnips, so I tried something this year. I tried putting ash from my woodstove in the hole before I planted the turnip. So, by this time they would normally be having root maggot but last night I checked and there is no root maggot so far. I haven’t changed or added anything to the soil besides the ash so I don’t know if it will work or not, but we will see.

Another thing is beans.  It is hit or miss, because I have been planting them in the ground to start, but they have not been successful.  So this year I started them in the house for two weeks first, and I have had way more success with them this year.


As cute and innocuous as they seem to many of us, slugs like this one found in Happy Valley this September can do a lot of damage to some garden plants.


I’ve only been gardening since I moved to this house, so probably only 30 years.  I struggled with asparagus, so that is my goal. I have tried for about 20 years and I have tried different crops at different locations and I finally gave up, but my goal is to eventually grow asparagus.


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