No-Guff Blog

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

Donna Balzer and Steven Biggs


Transplanting Tips

Transplanting your seedlings? Want to see how it's done? Watch to see how Steve and Donna do it.


Live a little...and plant some beans now


We often hear people say, "You mustn't plant bean seeds until after the last spring frost."

We don't agree!

Don't be a garden perfectionist. Live a little--take a little risk. We're not talking about vast sums of money in the stock market...we're talking about a few bean seeds. 

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

If you wait until a after the last frost date, you’re losing potential yield.

Plant a “cheater” row of seeds a week or two before the last frost date. If the seeds germinate and poke up without being nipped by frost, you’re ahead of the game. If they are hit by frost, you’ve lost nothing more than some seed, and simply reseed.


This Sunday

This Sunday at 1pm come to Chapters Bayview Villlage in Toronto with your veggie gardening questions as Steve signs copies of No Guff Vegetable Gardening.


Scatter and Poke

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening we share a simple planting method for beans and peas, the Scatter and Poke method. Here's what we say:


If you grow peas, try the scatter and poke method of planting. It's simple, and fun for kids.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.



Steve says:

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


Spot Guff for a Free Book at Canada Blooms

Win a free copy of the book No Guff Vegetable Gardening at the Sheridan Nurseries booth at Canada Blooms.

At 3 p.m. on March 16, 19, and 22, find the Guff postcard marked “winner” and give it to author Steven Biggs.

To see what Guff looks like, explore  or look in the book at the Sheridan booth.

No Guff Vegetable Gardening


Illustrator Mariko on CBC Radio

We love the work of our illustrator Mariko McCrae! You might think of those naughty rabbits that keep popping up in the book when you see Mariko's name.  Or maybe the worm sitting on a toilet.

But Mariko's great imagination isn't limited to illustration: She's also a professional ceramics artist.

So we were really proud to hear Mariko on CBC radio talking about her ceramics work.

You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

 Bryan McCrae and Mariko McCrae


Scour the Recycling Bin

In the book we explain to readers that when it comes to containers for starting seeds, they might just have what they need in the recycling bin. Here's what we say:

While we recommend new gardeners start with commercially prepared soilless mixes for starting seeds, we don’t recommend the same for containers.

Be creative and don’t feel you have to buy the combo packs of trays, cell packs, and clear covers that are stocked by garden centres. They’re nice, but unnecessary.

Here are household items that you can use to start seeds:

  • Toilet-paper rolls snipped in two, giving small pots. 
  • Cardboard pint and half-pint containers used to sell fruit.
  • Cardboard tissue boxes with the top cut off.
  • Plastic trays and foam trays in which produce is sold (if at least a couple of inches deep).
  • Newspaper rolled into small pots. Click here for instructions.
  • Yogurt and margarine tubs with holes poked in the bottom.
  • Old cell packs. (The plastic four- and six-pack squares in which annual bedding plants are sold.)


Donna says: Personally, I am not starting seed in toilet paper rolls!





Steve says: I don’t use egg cartons because I find they’re too shallow.


Thank you Callan Books

Thank you Callan Books for putting No Guff Vegetable Gardening front and centre during the recent Stratford Garden Festival.

If you're in the town of Stratford, drop in to Callan Books. John Callan loves books, and has a great selection of gardening books. 15 York St, Stratford. (519) 273-5767


Year-Round Vegetable Gardening

Have you ever wondered if you could grow vegetables to harvest all year long? You can! Listen to Steve and Donna as they chat with their colleague Niki Jabbour to learn about her approach to year-round vegetable gardening.

Cold-Weather Carrot Caper

Read our new page about harvesting carrots in the winter! you didn't know you could put carrots in the washing machine!


Mark Cullen: When the written word moves you

“No guff. Lots of fun” is the subtitle on this all-Canadian book. The expression on the faces of the two authors tells you that they mean it before you open the book. My friend, from our HGTV days, Donna Balzer, signed up with first-time author Steven Biggs to create a book that addresses the fastest growing trend in gardening today: food gardening.

Click here to read the rest of Mark's column in the Toronto Star.

Thank you, Mark, for what you said.


An Edible for Late Fall Interest

An underrated edible for late fall interest in the garden is the humble raspberry. Poor plant: it’s treated by many gardeners with scorn. Why the scorn? The plant does what we should want it to do—spread.

Raspberry clan members stay dressed up in their leaves far longer than most other plants.

Tomatoes will be toast, lettuce will be limp, but raspberries retain their leaves right into winter.

When the first snow falls, raspberry leaves wear it like a fur coat. That’s a No Guff plant!


FREE Book in Time for Holiday Shopping

FREE BOOK. If you’re shopping online for gift books, but want to see them first, then check out the complete digital version of No Guff Vegetable Gardening for FREE.

Send an e-mail to with (1) “sampler” in subject line, and (2) your first name and last initial in the body of the e-mail.

We’ll email you back with login details to view our great browser-based digital version for 1 month. No strings attached, and no unsolicited e-mail afterwards. We just hope you love the book enough to buy the print version as a gift!


Veg Garden Doesn't Need to Shut Down for Winter

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening we talk about ways to extend veggie growing into the spring and fall.

In Toronto, Steve uses a cold frame for early spring greens and for a fall crop of greens that will last into the winter.

Pictured here is a cold frame containing mizuna. Not bad for December in Toronto!

Mizuna growing in Steven Biggs' cold frame in Toronto.


Edging Garden Beds

In No Guff Vegetable Gardening we say that a raised bed is not always necessary.

But where a raised bed is necessary for drainage or to provide warmer soil in the spring, you can still make it tie in with the rest of your landscaping. You don't need to make your garden look like a graveyard with wooden planking everywhere!

Pictured here is a low stone wall.

The simplest solution of all is to do without any edging at all--just slope the soil.


If you live east of Toronto...

We're happy to have Avid Reader Magazines & Books in Cobourg, Ontario selling No Guff Vegetable Gardening.

On the gardening front, Avid Reader has more than the regular selection of magazines. We saw The Garden, which is a great British gardening mag put out by the RHS.


McFayden For Veggies

We're really excited that No Guff Vegetable Gardening is in the McFayden catalogue this year!!

If you're growing fruit and veg, McFayden has a great selection of seeds and plants. Steve's fav from last year's catalogue is the purple asparagus.

Donna with her McFayden catalogue


Freaking Amazing Art

A book review by Carrie Mumford: "freaking amazing art" and "down-to-earth, frank, friendly gardening advice" are two the things she likes about the book.


In Toronto Libraries

If you're in Toronto and haven't yet read No Guff Vegetable Gardening, you can now find it in the Toronto Public Library system.


Garden Tour in TO this Sunday

This Sunday: Gardens of the Beach Garden Tour in Toronto.

It's your chance to see beautiful private gardens that you otherwise couldn't. Steve will be at one of the gardens signing copies of No Guff Vegetable Gardening.