No-Guff Blog

Our No-Guff Blog serves up bite-sized helpings of gardening grow-how.

Donna Balzer and Steven Biggs


Find No Guff Vegetable Gardening

Ordering plants and seeds for the spring? Get No Guff Vegetable Gardening at the same time.

Richters Herbs and Stokes Seeds both carry No Guff Vegetable Gardening.


Looking for Crop Ideas?

Planning your garden? Looking for edible crop ideas?

Make the best use of your space by growing something fun, something unusual -- something that will make your friends and neighbours say, "wow, that's great!"

Watch Steve talk about his favourite Wow crops in this talk, which is inspired by the wow crops featured in No Guff Vegetable Gardening.


Garden Guff from

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening we turn the notion of guff—nonsense and silly talk—into a character, Ernie McGuff, a.k.a. Guff.

Our friend Guff is well-meaning, but he likes pointless products, empty buzzwords, and impractical ideas. So we share Guff’s guff with readers, because guff gets in the way of fun in the garden.

And gardening should be fun!

SO WE ARE STOKED that four fun garden-writing friends have a new blog,, where they talk about neat ideas, cool research, and sensible advice.

In this podcast, bloggers Niki Jabbour, Amy Andrychowicz, Tara Nola, and Jessica Walliser talk about their favourite garden guff with Steve.

Click here for Savvygardening Guff podcast


Crops That Wow

Join Steve for his talk about Wow crops on Sunday March 2, 2014 at the Stratford Garden Festival.

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening, we share our favourite "wow" crops. These are crops that are fun to grow, are different, are likely to make your neighbours say, "wow, that's cool!"

Vegetable gardening should be lots of fun--and growing Wow crops is one of the way to make it fun and get other people excited about vegetable gardening.

Did you know that some gourmet chefs use dahlia tuber as a water chestnut replacement? Do you know how to cook cardoon?

Join Steve for his talk about Wow crops on Sunday March 2, 2014 at the Stratford Garden Festival.


Rooftop Vegetable Gardening

Our friend Johanne Daoust has an amazing rooftop micro-farm in midtown Toronto. Johanne always has tomatoes a couple of weeks before Steve! It's an amazing garden.

IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CONTAINER VEGETABLE GARDENING, hear Johanne speak at Richters Herbs on March 2nd.

Click here for more information about Johanne's talk at Richters.

Click here to read an article Steve wrote about Johanne's garden.


Mystery Apple

Donna has a mystery apple...

“'No apples out of the bags until you get the okay,' announces Salt Spring Island Apple Festival organizer Harry Burton. I am guessing he is worried there is going to be labelling chaos and mistakes made if things don’t happen in the right order, but what do I know? This is my first apple festival and I am carrying around a mystery apple in my pocket, looking to put a name on it.

Click here to read about the rest of Donna's apple adventure on


Pumpkin Pie Crunch

On Niki Jabbour's radio show The Weekend Gardener today, Niki asked Steve about his favourite pumpkin recipe.  (Tomorrow is Canadian Thanksgiving.)

It's Pumpkin Pie Crunch

It's REALLY DELICIOUS... a step up from pumpkin pie. (OK, it's not low fat, and it has store-bought cake mix, but who cares!)

Here it is:

Pumpkin Pie Crunch


  • 1 can (28 oz / 796 mL) pumpkin (Or, use your own garden-grown pumpkin if you have some)
  • 1 ½ cups 10% cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground clove, 1 tsp ground ginger (or, 4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice if that's what you have on hand)
  • pinch salt
  • about ½ pkg yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter, melted

- Combine pumpkin, cream, eggs, sugar, spice, and salt.

- Pour into greased 9x13” pan.

- Sprinkle cake mix over pumpkin mix, sprinkle with pecans.

- Drizzle with melted butter.

- Bake at 350°F for 50-55 minutes.

- Serve chilled. Goes very nicely with whipped cream!



Scatter and Poke Seeding

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening we show readers that there's more than one "right" way to garden. And this applies to seeding too. If you aren't a fan of straight rows, here is another way of seeding: Scatter and poke.

Here's what we say in No Guff Vegetable Gardening:


Here’s a great way for home gardeners to simplify planting peas and beans. It might make market gardeners chuckle, but it’s actually quite practical in the home garden, where, instead of long, well-spaced rows planted for mechanical cultivation, we are dealing with small plots.

Steve’s kids love this method, and can be heard repeatedly saying, “poke” as each seed goes in the ground.

  1. Scatter the seeds on the soil.
  2. Move them around until it looks as if there are approximately 10–15 cm (4–6 inches) between seeds.
  3. Then “poke” them into the earth with a finger, to a depth of 2–4 cm (1–2 inches).
  4. Scatter some soil to fill the holes.


 Beet seeds are good candidates for this too, though they’re a bit harder to see as they’re dark like the soil.


See How We Transplant

If you're growing seedlings indoors, it might be time to move them to bigger pots.

Watch this video, which shows how Donna and Steve approach transplanting.


Summer Squash Powdery Mildew

On Saturday April 13, Steve had the pleasure of joining out-of-control plant person C.L. Fornari on her radio show GardenLine, on WXTK 95.1 out of Massachusetts.

C.L. is stoked about a summer squash called Zephyr.

Zephyr, she explains, is a trooper: It stands up to powdery mildew. She says that well after other summer squash have given up the ghost, Zephyr keeps producing. 

In our book, No-Guff Vegetable Gardening, we dispense with the Latin names and give home vegetable gardeners a practical snapshot of the world of winter and summer squash.




Start Some Veggies Outdoors Now

Start Now

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening we tell readers they can start the veggie garden before the Victoria Day weekend. There's nothing wrong with gardening on the Victoria Day weekend...but you can start much, much earlier with some of the cold-hardy crops.

Here's our list of 10 crops for an early spring start from No Guff Vegetable Gardening:



Radishes. A crop that you can start well before the Victoria Day weekend.For gardeners who are keen to have as long a season of fresh garden veg as possible, here are 10 crops well suited to an early spring start:

  • Arugula 
  • Asparagus 
  • Broad Beans 
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Donna on...Deer in the Garden

My ten day-old pea shoot micro-greens growing under lights are not deer proofWhen I was speaking to the Qualicum Beach Garden club last night I posed a question to the audience at the beginning of the talk.  I didn't rush the process. I knew I was in the company of garden keeners so I thought I would crowd source the question so many of us veggie gardeners want to know. I had them think about what they would grow in a deer prone area.


I started speaking about my New Year's gardening projects. I chatted up my indoor and very successful micro-greens project seeded December 27, 2012. I spoke about already eating three salads of pea shoot micro-greens this week just 7-10 days after seeding.


After a fun 45 minutes describing the Ten Things I Love about Vegetables I reminded the audience I needed their help. I started a straw bale garden on January 1, 2013 outdoors. Part of the garden is outside my deer-proof fence. I still need to wait for the straw to mellow and the season to improve but when the planting time comes I need a list of locally hardy vegetables for this trial area.


The audience bantered back and forth. Many ideas came forward and many were dumped right away. I discovered last year the deer avoided my squash so I put that on my list but others booed that idea. Someone suggested Shitake mushrooms but most of the audience thought no- it just wouldn't be warm enough to grow mushrooms outdoors (more on that in February when I go to a lecture on growing mushrooms outdoors and report back).

Artichoke is a beautiful and deer proof vegetableIn the end we came up with a short list of plants I can try in  my straw bale garden (more on that in a later blog post as the garden evolves). I crowd sourced the answer and together with over 100 people we decided if you are thinking ahead to spring and wondered what might grow in an area likely to be visited by deer,  these vegetables are worth a try:


  • Garlic
  • Artichokes
  • Cardoon
  • Broad Beans
  • Amaranth
  • Corn Salad
  • Squash (a maybe) 

Hey Ontarians

Need a great gardening talk for your club, event, or business lunch-n-learn?

Steve is booking talks for 2013. Click below to see what he's talking about.



Hey Albertans

Need a great gardening talk for your club, event, or business lunch-n-learn?

Donna is booking talks for 2013. Click below to see what she's talking about.



Seed Starting Indoors

In the book No Guff Vegetable Gardening we give our top 3 Seed Starting tips.No Guff Vegetable Gardening 

These are tips for starting "transplants" indoors; plants such as tomatoes, that need to get a head start inside, before being transplanted into the garden.

These tips short and simple--but really make a difference. Here they are:

  1. Good light is the secret to good seedlings.
  2. Speed up germination with heat.
  3. Water gently.

Good light prevents spindly, floppy seedlings that topple over as soon as you put them in the garden.

Heatspeeds up germination. After you sow your seeds, put them on top of a refrigerator (a refrigerator gives off heat), a radiator (if you have hot water heating), or get a heat mat, which is pretty much a waterproof heating pad for plants. Warning: once your seeds have sprouted, remove them from heat--and put them in a cooler spot for growing.

Water gently as it's easy to bowl over your tender young seedlings with too strong a jet of water.


Hey Albertans!

Looking for last-minute gifts?

How about a book by an Alberta author?

Click here for a list of books by Albertans, including No Guff Vegetable Gardening!


Steve's Grow Figs book Makes 2012 Highlight List

Steve's Grow Figs Where You Think You Can't makes the list of 2012 highlights in Sonia Day's Toronto Star Column!

Click here to see the column.


Scaredy-cat Novice Tackles Gardening

Edible Toronto, Summer 2012Self-described scaredy-cat novice gardener Kathleen Mackintosh never had dirt to play in, having come from a condo.

But this year she's harvesting veg from her new garden.

Great work, Kathleen, we're really proud of you!!!

Check out her review of No Guff Vegetable Gardening in the summer edition of Edible Toronto. (If you like food, you'll want to read Edible Toronto cover to cover.)

If you're in the Toronto area, check out Kathleen's great store, Culinarium, which is a gourmet grocery market specializing in locally grown food.



Read Steve's guest post about growing figs on the blog of garden writer and year-round veg growing expert Niki Jabbour.

Niki is our year-round veggie gardening colleague. Click here to listen to our interview with Niki about growing veg year-round.


Welcoming Donna's Cartoon Look-Alike

Feedlot Studios and Donna Balzer present Donna's illustrated counterpart! Stay tuned for more episodes!