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Local gardeners turn to 'the go-to guy'

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Lai Chin Fook
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Joined: 05 May 2009
Posts: 192
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:01 am    Post subject: Local gardeners turn to 'the go-to guy' Reply with quote

Dear Friends,

Here is an interesting article from Edmonton , Canada about a friend of mine with whom I am in regular e'mail contact. Pheh Thean Teik ( from Penang ) was one year my junior at the College of Agriculture, Serdang back in 1965.

Frustrated with his work as an Agricultural Officer with Jabatan Pertanian ,
Malaysia, he packed up and took his passion to Canada in 1982 and he has not been back since. He is almost philosophical about living with nature in Canada where he is allowed all the freedom to practice his trade. Read on.


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Local gardeners turn to 'the go-to guy'

Life's paths brought Thean Pheh from Malaysia to top spot in Edmonton's
garden patches

By Jennifer Fong, September 8, 2010

Thean Pheh, grew up in Malaysia, emigrated to Canada and worked for 25 years for Alberta Agriculture. Thean is now retired and grows over 30 different varities of apples in his backyard orchard.

Photograph by: Brian Gavriloff,

Thean Pheh can tell you what the Internet can't.

Pheh is the expert local green thumbs go-to for advice, because they know
that Googling a topic might net you "I don't know how many thousand hits," says Pheh, "but none of them are specific to Alberta."

But after having spent more than a quarter-century perfecting his gardening technique here, Pheh "has become the go-to guy in our cold-climate growers group for cultural information on fruit growing, disease and pest control," says Wayne Fuhr of the Devonian Botanic Garden's Fruit Growers Association.

"Those attempting to set up an orchard or U-pick operation often seek his
wise counsel."

Pheh worked first as a gardener, then as a technologist with Alberta
Agriculture. He built his own urban orchard lush with fruits and vegetables
in Beverly and self-published three gardening books after his retirement in

He seems to know our prairie soil so well, it can only be a glitch of the
universe that he wasn't born and raised on it, too.

A native of Malaysia, Pheh spent almost 15 years working for that country's department of agriculture before he emigrated to Edmonton in 1982.

"I decided to have a change from the hot, humid equatorial country to a
really cold one," Pheh says.

He doesn't appear to be joking. In fact, he says, adjusting to ice and snow
was nothing compared to figuring out how to cross North American streets.

In Malaysia, he says, pedestrians have no rights. "When we first came, we
didn't know how to cross the road, so we stood on the curb," he says. "What the heck is happening? All these cars are stopping!"

Gardening in the harsh prairie came much more naturally.

"The basic horticultural principles are the same - it's just a matter of
adjusting the timing and the type of crops that can be grown," Pheh says.

"In Malaysia, we have 365 days a year that we can grow things, whereas here, it's only 100 days."

To make the most out of the short growing season, Pheh learned to stretch
the boundaries by "not (being) willing to accept what others say until I try
it myself" - a philosophy that is key to Pheh's way with plants.

"They say you can't grow good eating apples in Alberta. That is hogwash.
Alberta grows one of the best eating apples.

"They say you cannot grow good plums. You can taste my plums, and you tell me."

Pheh's plums are sweet, juicy and plentiful, as is the rest of his backyard
bounty of blueberries, gooseberries, pears, squash, melons, beans and
ginseng. Along with 33 varieties of garlic and 26 varieties of potatoes,
Pheh also grows some 20 varieties of apples through breeding and grafting.

Pheh and his wife sell some of the produce from their city home and their
farm near Tofield at the downtown farmers market on Saturdays.

At home, they often prepare fruit chips, made of dehydrated pears, plums,
apples, bananas and a touch of honey, for delighted guests. The bananas are the only ingredient that isn't sourced locally.

When Pheh speaks about horticulture, he speaks of something spiritual. He's recently taken to growing fruit trees in containers like bonsai. It's
therapeutic, he says.

"When you play with those miniature trees, it takes your mind away from your problems, and then it also gives you, I don't know, at least for me, it
gives me the feeling that I am big," he says. "When you work with regular
trees, you're just a small guy."

Big trees or small trees, Pheh is a giant in Edmonton's horticultural scene
and will be taking part in the Devonian's annual fruit festival Sept. 19
from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pheh will be on hand to show off some of his harvest, and, of course, field questions.

Horticulture "feeds me," he says. "With other professions, you have to get
your money and then buy your food, whereas this is something that feeds me directly, both physically and spiritually."

The top three things a gardener should know:

"Keep your eyes, ears and mouth open - eyes and ears to see and hear what others have to say, especially those who have been here for a long time, and mouth open (to) ask questions."

"Don't accept everything that people say. Gardeners are not out to harm
another gardener or mislead another gardener, but their situation could be
different from yours. Their philosophy could be different from yours. So
hear, see, ask questions and then try to work around it and come up with
your own solutions."

"Try to expand the growing season," he says. In the northern United States, gardeners are working to extend the growing season by two months in the spring and two months in the fall with high tunnels, which are basically unheated greenhouses.

"By doing that, they can grow crops that they didn't used to," Pheh says.

(c) Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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Lai Chin Fook
Site Admin

Joined: 05 May 2009
Posts: 192
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:09 am    Post subject: An e-mail from Poh Kok Kian to us in Malaysia.... Reply with quote

Check this out, our good old Pheh making news in Edmonton, Canada.

Subject: A Giant Malaysian or in Malaysia Boleh lingo "Towering Malaysian"
To:Date: Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 5:52 PM

Dear All,

Wanna see how a Malaysian from Penang becomes a good farmer in Alberta, click on to the site below:


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Lai Chin Fook
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Joined: 05 May 2009
Posts: 192
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Pheh

Congratulations! You are in the news!

Your mates are so proud of you that they are e-mailing around all over the place of your achievements!

Malaysia boleh! One more example of brain drain?? Laughing
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Thean Teik
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Joined: 11 May 2009
Posts: 197

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Morning Habibur, Kim Lian, Chin Fook,
Thank you. Aiya, all this talk make me blush sambil rasa segan-lah. The reporter could easily go to any gardener in Edmonton and get equally if not better story. She just happen to pick me as I just happen to be in the right spot at the right time. In actual fact I'm a renegade gardener who does not believe in working up the soil and the yard is the most untidy in the entire city if not the Province. I break so many rules that Serdang would withdraw my paper if she can. Trust me, every thing is a fluke. How long will the Almighty continues to grace me and let me get away I don't know.
Thean Teik
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