Author busts gardening myths

[attach]3991[/attach]He’s a gardening maverick, a veggie-growing myth buster who calls himself a guff spotter.

Don’t worry: we’re not in the land of make-believe gardens where gnome-like characters called guffs hide in the pumpkin patch. But we are in the gardening reality of Steven Biggs, replete with imaginary Guff persona lingering in the background. Believe it or not, this world is rooted in realness.

Biggs, a Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue resident, has just launched his first gardening book, No Guff Vegetable Gardening at Canada Blooms with his co-author, Calgary-based Donna Balzer.

The whole idea behind the book is to myth-bust the assumptions about vegetable gardening. Guff is a persona in the book that spouts out entrenched gardening beliefs that the authors in turn respond to as the “Guffawers,” usually in fun, “he-said, she-said” banter.

One such rule is that people should always test their soil before planting a garden.

“That’s garbage,” Biggs says, adding that myth was the seed for the whole idea of Guff.

Biggs says the blunt approach works as opinionated writing can have an impact — even if it’s annoying.

“You shouldn’t be wimpy,” he says.“You shouldn’t let doctrine get in the way of common sense.”

Biggs grew up on Willowdale Avenue and says his parents taught him to appreciate gardening by giving him his own corner in the backyard garden — something he does today for his children.

His folks always had a no-nonsense approach to gardening, he says, that rubbed off on him.

“None of my family gardened with gadgets.”

Trained as a horticulturalist, Biggs earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture with horticulture as his science major before selling horticultural supplies commercially.

But when his daughter, now six, was a baby, he became a stay-at-home dad and recreated himself, doing some magazine writing and launching his [url=]website[/url].

After joining some gardening associations he met co-author Balzer at an association meeting, and they kept in touch. He says they both had an idea of a book in the back of their minds. The idea of Guff evolved from there.

Some have described the book as graphic novel meets gardening book, he says. They’re referring to the colourful illustrations and non-traditional layout of the book.

Even industry folk who they showed the cover design to told them to change it, he says.

Self published through No Guff Press, the book may have cost thousands to print, but Biggs says it was worth it to maintain control over the brand.

Biggs is selling the book in Toronto to independent book retailers. It is also available at Sheridan Nurseries.

In the spring and summer months he’ll be promoting the book by giving educational talks in the city and beyond. One such talk is May 19 at the Downsview Library, where he was invited after the librarian there discovered his book and invited him to speak, he says.

“That’s the sort of energy I’m hoping to get more of.”

He’s also just launched his No Guff Gardening newsletter, which people can subscribe to by emailing [email][/email].

He and Balzer are in the process of trademarking “No Guff” as it’s key to the brand and they can see potential for it.

“We felt good enough about that concept that we better leave it open for the future,” he says.

And that’s no guff.