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An Interview with Niki Jabbour: Groundbreaking Food Gardens

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Source: Amazon

I am very excited to introduce you to Niki Jabbour today.

A native of Nova Scotia she's overcome the challenges of gardening in cold weather and snow. Her first book is The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live.

In her newest book Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change the Way You Grow Your Garden she shares garden plans that can fit just about any personality or space, there is literally a garden plan for everyone. I'm looking forward to trying the Wildlife-Friendly garden that was designed by Tammi Hartung.

Niki's work has also appeared in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Heirloom Gardener, Gardens East, Garden Making and Canadian Gardening and you can hear her on the radio as the host of

The Weekend Gardener Sunday's from 11 to 1 pm Atlantic time on News 95.7 FM, New 91.9 FM or News 88.9 FM or you can listen live online at

Interview with Niki Jabbour by Bonnie Diczhazy

In your book Groundbreaking Food Gardens you've showcased 73 master gardeners, making this book a fantastic "who's who" of gardening. How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Groundbreaking Food Gardens is a result of me being a curious gardener. I always want to know what other gardeners are up to - what they like to grow, how they organize their gardens, what techniques they use to increase productivity, their favourite varieties, and so on. I then approached 72 of my favourite gardeners across North America and the UK and asked them to share their garden plans, ideas, tips and techniques in hopes that others may also find it inspiring and useful.

I love that there are 73 garden choices. I love them all. How can a home gardener choose which one is right for them?

The great thing about the 73 plans (72 contributors, plus a plan from me!) is that there is a very diverse range of ideas for every sized space - from tiny balconies to huge homesteads. In my own landscaping, I'm incorporating about a dozen of the plans - Charlie Nardozzi's edible hedge, Renee Shepherd and Beth Benjamin's gourmet containers, which will jazz up my back deck, Dan Jason's power foods ideas, Jessica Walliser's 'Good Bug' garden, for example. You can pick and choose elements from the many plans and adapt them to your own back - or front yards.

In your first book The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live you share secrets on gardening year round which I'm guessing could be a challenge in Canada. Can you share one of those secrets now?

It's so easy and rewarding to stretch the harvest season into late autumn and winter. I think for most homeowners, the best way to attempt year round veggie gardening is to start with a cold frame. It's such a versatile structure and makes a great weekend project. Ours are made from untreated local hemlock, measure 3 by 6 feet and are topped with a sheet of Lexan. Lexan is a twin wall polycarbonate that is durable and insulating, but also allows light to pass through to the plants. I start seeding for fall/winter in mid to late summer and we enjoy a selection of cold tolerant veggies throughout winter. Cold frame favourites include tatsoi, spinach, arugula, parsley, thyme, scallions, carrots and baby kale.

As host of The Weekend Gardener which broadcasts on News 95.7 FM in Halifax, News 91.9 FM in Moncton and News 88.9 FM in Saint John you cover a wide range of gardening topics. Do you have a favorite to share?

The Weekend Gardener is now celebrating 8 years! We really do cover a wide range of topics - from edibles to ornamentals to bees and butterflies. And of course, no show would be complete without a little complaining about garden pests like deer, slugs or goutweed! Over the past eight years, I have really seen the shift in interest from ornamental to edible gardening and I'm always on the lookout for new guests or topics to feature.

How did you get your start in gardening?

Like many gardeners, I grew up with a garden. Both of my grandmothers were avid gardeners and grew many ornamental plants - peonies, roses, lilacs and lilies. My family also had a summer veggie garden which introduced me to the wonder of growing food. When I was a teenager I read the excellent book The Harrowsmith Guide to Herbs by Patrick Lima, which inspired me to take over about half of the garden to grow herbs - I was amazed that I could actually growthe green bits that my mother had in her spice cupboard - parsley, basil, thyme and more! I never looked back.

I have to ask. Favorite vegetable? Can you even have just one favorite?

Favourite vegetable - no fair! So hard to pick one, but I'll have to go with the unromantic bean. I just love growing pole beans - yellow, green and purple varieties. They're my favourite summer treat - a big plate of lightly steamed beans drizzled in butter and salt. Heavenly! My top picks are 'Emerite,' 'Fortex' and 'Purple Podded Pole'. I'm also a bit obsessed with heirloom onions this year.. and always heirloom tomatoes.

You can find Niki Jabbour online right here:





Photos are from Niki Jabbour's personal collection and used with permission from the author. All rights reserved.

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 Last updated on September 3, 2014

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Guestbook 22 comments

Ruthi 4 months ago

I really need this book, as I really do want to start growing my own vegetables ASAP as the fresh produce availability here is limited and Lord only knows from whence it came!

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 4 months ago from Arkansas USA Level 7 Commenter

Great interview, very inspiring! Even though I live in the south, I'm sure I could put many of these tips into action.

RobertConnorIII profile image

RobertConnorIII 4 months ago from Michigan

With the price of fresh food we are working towards growing all year and canning!

Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret Schindel 4 months ago from Massachusetts Level 6 Commenter

Fabulous interview! Niki comes across as fun as well as knowledgeable. I love the approach she took for this book!

Merrci profile image

Merrci 4 months ago from Oregon's Southern Coast Level 8 Commenter

Wonderful interview for an invaluable book! We all need to do more of this. I'm anxious to explore it further.

Rhonda Lytle profile image

Rhonda Lytle 4 months ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie Level 6 Commenter

This sounds like a great resource. I've never even heard of an edible hedge but now I want one :).

Diana Wenzel profile image

Diana Wenzel 4 months ago from Colorado Level 6 Commenter

Really looking forward to reading this book. Thanks for the introduction. Of course, it is blizzarding here this very second. I might have to install triple wall polycarbonate on my cold frames (and use them for spring and winter gardening). Excellent interview choice.

GrammieOlivia profile image

GrammieOlivia 4 months ago from Toronto Level 7 Commenter

I think this is a great review, I will bump up my gardening a notch or two.....,.,..

MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 4 months ago from Washington State Level 4 Commenter

An edible hedge would be awesome! Great garden ideas, I am certainly sharing them.

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sallemange 4 months ago

This is brilliant. We created a Forest Garden here in the UK in the village of Upper Saxondale. I believe one of the pioneers of forest gardening was Robert Hart of Shropshire (my home county). Our forest garden has an edible hedge too (mainly to keep animals out because we have muntjack and roe deer around). All of our residents are free to help themselves to any of the produce.

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favored 4 months ago from USA Level 7 Commenter

Looks like a book I need in my library. I've actually seen this post 2 other places before here. Doing something right Bonnie :)

Heidi Vincent profile image

Heidi Vincent 4 months ago from GRENADA Level 7 Commenter

Great interview Bonnie! Interesting garden collection.

EmmaGraceEllis LM profile image

EmmaGraceEllis LM 4 months ago Level 2 Commenter

I've not had much luck with my less than green thumb, this interview makes me feel that there IS hope <3

Ruthi 4 months ago

Guess what i received in the Saturday morning mail? Groundbreaking Food Gardens! It is an awesome book and is on my coffee table so every time I sit on the sofa, I read some more! Review forthcoming, as soon as I pick a project to learn and apply from Niki's book! Again, thank you both!

Bonnie_Diczhazy 4 months ago

@Ruthi: You're very welcome! Glad you like the book.

Ruthi 4 months ago

@Bonnie_Diczhazy: It is awesome! By this time next year I will have a real garden plan, just like those in the book!

CalobrenaOmai 4 months ago

I wouldn't mind having this book to browse through. I have a little garden going that consists of kale and a tomato plant; it was bigger but the others didn't fair well. I also have some morning glory seeds that are growing like crazy. Gardening is very relaxing and my nephew even has a garden of his own that contains 2 tomato plants, zinnias and sunflowers. My mom's garden has cabbage, beans and marigolds; there were turnips but those were harvested last weekend for dinner.

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BestRatedStuff 4 months ago

We are just moving to a place with a bit more ground, that we could use for a garden. This looks like a great book to look through as we decide which type of garden makes the most sense for a rented place.

SteveKaye profile image

SteveKaye 3 months ago from Placentia, CA, USA Level 5 Commenter

Conducting an interview like this is a brilliant way to create interest in a book. Fantastic!

Marten22 profile image

Marten22 3 months ago

Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic interview! It was really interesting and funny reading.

keishatronbay 2 months ago

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dnwaokocha 2 months ago

very informative information I can use immediately.

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