From the fall issue of Dalhousie magazine:
Nova Scotia wouldn’t strike many as the kind of place where you could grow vegetables 12 months of the year, but Niki Jabbour (BA’95) hasn’t let that stop her. In the thick of winter, she heads out her back door to pick from as many as 30 different vegetable varieties.
“I just enjoy growing food,” she explains. “And I love the cold season. I don’t have a greenhouse, but I use lots of mulch for protection as well as cold frames and mini hoop tunnels.” Her 2,000-square-foot garden just outside Halifax offers up hundreds of pounds of bounty that feeds her family of four, with lots of overflow for her extended family to savour and enjoy.
She’s chronicled her adventures in the award-winning book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, published by Thomas Allen & Sons. Writing about gardening is a pretty perfect way to make a living for the 39-year-old Dalhousie graduate. In 1995 she received her Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie, the same year she was wrapping up her studies at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, where she received a diploma in horticulture.
Her NSAC diploma fed her interest in gardening – “I learned all about plant propagation, weed science and disease,” says Jabbour – and her BA, with a focus on literature and history, fed her desire to write.
“Dalhousie really helped prepare me for the writing life,” says Jabbour. “By going to both schools I’ve been able to combine both of my loves into this incredibly viable career as a gardening writer.”
A passion for gardening
Hers wasn’t a career she planned from the outset, but once she began to dig in deep on the gardening front, writing about it was a natural offshoot. Today she also hosts a popular gardening show, The Weekend Gardener, on Rogers’ News 95.7 station in Halifax.
“The type of vegetable gardening I do has been around for years, but the interest in it has really grown in the last few years,” she says.
That interest in winter gardening has been fostered by the grow-your-own and local food movement, and Jabbour is thrilled to see more people – especially children – take an interest in where the food on their plates comes from.
With a 12-month approach to gardening, Jabbour doesn’t need to do a lot in the way of preserving her vegetables, since there’s a steady supply of fresh food always being harvested, but she does try to freeze batches of corn and peas for a taste of summer when the winter winds are blowing.
“The more people who learn to grow through the year, the less dependent we are on transporting and storage,” she explains. Especially when that bounty is right at your back door.
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