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Gayla Trail with a box of freshly harvested currant tomatoes

Gardening How-to

I’m slowly creating mini-pages that pull in all of the articles on popular gardening topics.

  • Seed Starting 101: Everything you need to know to get started growing seeds in a small space and on a budget!
  • Lettuce and Salad Greens Growing Guide: Growing resources (including lots of containers), plus ingredients to grow, recipes, and more.
  • Tomato Growing Guide: Tips for growing tomatoes in containers, raised beds, and in the ground as well as great varieties worth growing, and delicious ways to preserve and eat this favourite summer crop.
  • Herbs and Edible Flowers Growing Guide: Growing resources (in pots and in the soil), plus a comprehensive list of plants to grow, ways to preserve, cook with, and use herbs, and a whole lot more.
  • Pepper Growing Guide: Tips for growing both hot and sweet peppers in containers, over-wintering indoors, as well as delicious varieties that I have had success with over the years.
  • Canning and Preserving Guide: These resources will get you started canning and preserving your produce at home.

Garden Tools, Soil Amendments & Fertilizers

We can make our own fertilizers and compost to nourish our garden, but I also realize that not everyone has access to certain nutrients, especially when starting in a new space. There are times when it is worth it to buy a good organic fertilizer or mineral from a reliable source.

Potting Soil: Unfortunately, not all potting soils are created equal, and if there is one place you should put your money as a container gardener, it’s into good quality soil. The best mixes contain organic matter such as compost, rice hulls, wood chips, and/or worm castings to provide nutrients; perlite, vermiculite, and/or sand to prevent compaction and increase drainage, and coir or peat to absorb water.

I had the good fortune of trying out Organic Mechanic potting soil on a trip to Pennsylvania and it is an incredible, peat-free mix. If I had access to it here in Toronto, I would be a very happy container gardener.

Sea Kelp: I use sea kelp regularly through the growing season. It’s high in Potassium, which is helpful in growing resilient plants that can withstand periods of stress; an essential if you’re container gardening.

For outdoor gardens and pots, I like the versatility of dried kelp meal. You can add it straight to the soil or brew it into a tea to be added when you water.

I prefer concentrated sea kelp liquid when fertilizing indoor plants because there is no chance for me to forget about the brew and produce a vile-smelling tea.

Of course, you can also make your own potassium-rich fertilizer using comfrey harvested from your own garden. It stinks to high heaven, but is worth the suffering.

[Links: Urban Harvest Kelp Meal]


People often ask about the camera equipment I use to take the photos featured on this site and in my books. Well, if I had my choice it would be all film, all the time. I am a film lover through and through. I especially love medium format; square please.

Unfortunately, this is neither affordable nor practical, so these days I save the film for personal work. Now and again there is cross over and a film or Polaroid photo will show up here. Perhaps I should post those images more often…

Thankfully technology has improved over the years, especially at the consumer level, and I have come to better appreciate digital. Know this: you can take a good picture with a crappy camera. I’ve used a wide assortment of incredibly cheap, bargain basement, practically falling apart cameras (I once had a camera pretty much explode during a shoot) over the years and you know what? I can include some of the photos taken with those camera in my list of personal favourites.

The Nikon D90 is the camera I use most often. It’s pretty good for the price and even shoots decent video, although I will admit I use that feature most for lazy note taking. It’s my secret for remembering new plant names and varieties! We’re Nikon users around here, not because we think it’s better than the competition (okay, maybe it is) but because my partner Davin got a Nikon film camera first and the brand stuck. That and the fact that my first digital SLR, the was the best consumer grade model for its price point at the time I was looking, way back when.

Save yourself the heartache and buy the body only when you purchase a digital SLR. The kit lens is… not great. I recommend a macro lens for botanical close-ups such as the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Medium Telephoto Macro Lens or the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens when you want to get a little more into the shot. This one is a peach for food photos, too. Yes, there are much nicer macro lenses out there, but the Sigmas are affordable and I’ve never had any trouble with them. I used to shoot super-wide garden photos with the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC until I dropped it on pavement while changing lenses at a Botanical Garden last fall. That sucked.

I’m currently enjoying this fixed lens Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX for both garden and food photography.

If you’d like to see the sorts of pictures I take when I am not photographing gardens or food, see here (note: this is an old site I no longer update) and here.


Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I LOVE books, oh yes I do. I don’t really review books on this site so much as recommend the ones that are really inspiring me. I generally stick to the topics of gardening and cooking here, but occasionally veer off into other areas when a book is just too good to disregard. If you’re curious about the fiction books I am reading or plan to read, I have a personal Good Reads account that I keep fairly up-to-date. You can also search for books that are mentioned on this site via the Books tag.


Disclosure: Some of the above links lead to sites that I have affiliate relationships with (i.e. What that means is that when you link through to the site AND make a purchase, I collect a small fee. Please know that this has no bearing on the items I promote. I would use and DO use all of these products myself, and only recommend products that I have had a very positive experience using.