Hardening off Bedding Plants

Hardening off Bedding Plants

Hardening off simply means to gradually acclimatize bedding plants from indoor to outdoor temperatures over a period of several days before planting. The result is a “tougher” more hardy plant in the garden.

Plants that have been hardened off are usually sturdier, bushier and better able to withstand all types of weather, then those that have not been through this process.

To harden off your own seedlings, all you need to do is place the pots or packs outdoors in a sunny area at least a week prior to planting. Don’t forget to water everyday, because plants that dry out in the pack usually do not fully recover.

If there is a risk of frost, cover the flats or containers with an old sheet, towel or blanket, a roll or burlap, sheets of newspaper or a cardboard box. Never use plastic, because it has virtually no insulation value.

If bringing the plants indoors overnight is more convenient, then do so, but remember to return them to there sunny location outdoors the next morning, after the temperature has risen above freezing.

After seven to ten days of this treatment, the plants will have hardened off and are ready to be planted into the garden.

- an excerpt from Lois Hole's Bedding Plant Favourites


Andy's Workouts, Beta Edition

Andy's Workouts, Beta Edition

"Today we are going to do an Andy's Workout." 

Those were the words that drew curious expressions on every clients face this week as I had something special in store for each of them. 

"Who's Andy?" my clients would ask.

I would direct there attention to the three bronzed photo's hanging in my studio. 


"This is Andy... My grandfather and a man who serves as a constant inspiration in my life." 

The photo's were taken back in the mid 1930's (1934 I believe). They show my grandfather (Andy) and his friend during one of the athletic shows they performed back in the day. 

They would paint themselves in gold and put on a display of athleticism, strength and grace. It wasn't about bodybuilding or being sexy it was about being fit and healthy. 

Aside from being very fit, he was also a charitable family man with great integrity, an entrepreneur and recipient of Canada's Citizenship Award 13 times, and he loved chocolate even more than me. Not one day went by where a half eaten chocolate bar couldn't be found in his pocket. 

Growing up, he was my biggest role model. One of the things that he impressed on me was the importance of fitness, and through example I learned a few simple things to stay fit. 

When I would visit my grandparents in the summer I would wake up in the morning and catch my grandfather doing a little bit of exercise in the morning. 3 exercises to be exact. Before doing anything else he would get a little something done. It took 5 minutes maybe. Then some days he would do those exercises again just before lunch and I would do it with him. He would tell me that it's important to do some exercise everyday and make your muscles move. 

Nowadays as a fitness professional I reflect on those times with more thought than just a fond memory, it's something that I should be sharing with the world. Especially for anyone who is feeling stuck or struggling with getting something going. But mostly for anyone who wants to live a healthy lifestyle. 

So over this past week with clients I took them through a series of simple to do exercises that they could do anywhere, anytime. You could use these workouts to just do a little something in the morning, and repeat them (if you wanted) at lunch and when you get home from work and before bed without it being "gruelling". You could do it just once a day to supplement your gym workouts, or as part of an active and healthy lifestyle where things like bone density and muscle tone are important to you. You can also use the same movements in the gym and add dumbbells to them and make it a full workout. 

I loved sharing these workouts and seeing the look of satisfaction on my clients faces as a solution to some roadblocks around being consistent with exercise. 

So I'm going to continue sharing that feeling with you by opening up the opportunity to do Andy's Workouts for Free. 

- Feeling stuck and not doing any exercise? Andy's Workout is For You

- Want a supplement to your current workouts? Andy's Workout is For You

- Concerned with maintaining mobility, bone density or muscle tone? Andy's Workout is For You

- Having a hard time getting motivated to make lasting changes in health and fitness? Andy's Workouts is for you! 

So here is what I propose:

Starting First Week of May 1st Thru September 30th I would like to take some people in a private online (and possibly in person workshop) and teach you the Andy's Workout System (Beta Edition) complete with healthy lifestyle coaching doing things the way Andy did them. 

Here is what to expect:

- Complete an Andy's workout everyday (minimum 1 set of 3 exercises) 

- Private Facebook Group (This is how I can deliver instruction to everyone in the group)

- Lessons in eating healthier

- Lessons in active living

- Lessons in healthier mindset for confidence and self esteem

- Lessons in better sleep

- Lessons in self-motivation

- Support and Accountability

- Your health and fitness questions answered

- Chance to win prizes (random draws plus grand prize)

Now I am literally just throwing this group together, which is why it's going to be free, but as with everything I do, I will be bringing my coaching skills to you online. 

This is not for you if you don't want to put in any work, don't want to make changes in your health, are expecting some strange fad diet or are expect to be perfect. 

You have to be prepared to take small action, feel good and embrace the progress mindset over the "perfectionist" mindset. 

You have to be reasonably injury free (we all have that one wonky knee or stiff back) and if you have any health issues you must always get the ok from your doctor that it's ok to participate in any exercise program. 

You have to be under the age of 80 and have a Facebook profile to participate currently.

Let me know if you want to be put on the list to join the Beta Edition of Andy's Workout Program!

One more thing:

If you document your workouts and stay accountable to the program for at least 129 of the 153 total days you will be entered into a draw for a special prize! 

Thank you and I look forward to helping everyone who joins live a healthier lifestyle.


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

How To Have Better Skin, Lose Weight And Gain Energy

How To Have Better Skin, Lose Weight And Gain Energy.

Here’s a hint: It makes up 60% of your bodyweight. And you need to keep replenishing it!

It’s no secret that you MUST drink a fair amount of water every day.

Since you also lose large amounts of water every day through urination, bowel movements, perspiration, skin evaporation, and breathing, you need to replenish what’s lost or you’ll become dehydrated. In fact, your brain triggers your thirst mechanism if you don’t replace water quickly enough.

PS - Even though it’s a liquid, if you drink alcohol, it interferes with the communication between your brain and your kidneys, sometimes causing you to excrete too much fluid. That’s why you may feel thirsty, even if you’ve drank alcohol.

Many people like the idea that drinking a lot of water can help you lose weight. Be aware though, that drinking water doesn’t directly lead to losing weight, but it’s often a side benefit.

Indirectly, when you drink more water, you’re less likely to eat more calories. Fewer calories also usually means eating less sodium, saturated fat, bad cholesterol, and sugar. In fact, according to WebMD, one extra cup of water a day will save you 68 calories. Three extra cups will save you 205 calories, which is as many calories as you would burn by walking 5 KM.

However, don’t think you can eat more, or sit on your butt more, just because you’re drinking more water. It simply means you’re filling up on water instead of on food.

Another way to help you lose weight as a result of increased water intake is to choose foods with higher water content - such as fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans - that are healthier and more filling.

When you’re exercising, you have to be intentional about replacing lost fluids with water. In addition to slaking your thirst, you also energize your muscles. Strenuous exercise can deplete the electrolytes in your cells, which leads to muscle fatigue. To perform at your best, drink more water!

Want to keep looking young? Your skin contains a lot of water and will begin to look dry and wrinkled if you don’t stay hydrated.

And let’s get “down and dirty” to talk about how important water is for removing waste products from your body.

Your kidneys need plenty of water in order to clean out and eliminate toxins and waste. When you don’t have enough water in your system, urine concentration, colour, and odour increase because the kidneys hold onto it longer. And kidney stones are often a result of not drinking enough water.

Feeling constipated? If you’re not drinking enough water, your colon pulls water from your stool to remain hydrated… and you end up with constipation. Drink water and eat fibre to keep things moving!

In addition, adequate hydration:

●      Keeps your temperature normal

●      Protects all your tissues and organs

●      Lubricates your joints

But not everyone loves to drink water. So how do you make sure you drink enough?

 ●      Squeeze in a little fresh lemon, lime, strawberry, or cucumber. Mix up the flavors in your water bottle and add variety to your life!

●      Drink water with every meal

●      In fact, drink water BEFORE every meal and fill up your belly before sitting down

●      Carry around a refillable bottle of water - keep one in your car, in your bag, at your desk, etc. - and refill it with fresh whatever whenever you get a chance. (Side note: washable refillable bottles not only save you money, but are also MUCH better for the environment than disposable plastic bottles…)

●      Eat more fruits and vegetables that are high in water content

If you’d like to know how to make sure you drink more water, especially to help you achieve your fitness and weight goals, I have created a special 1 page hydration tip sheet for you.

If you would like to have it, simply click here to download.


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Sore After A Workout? Here’s What To Do About It.

Sore After A Workout? Here’s What To Do About It.


Have you ever been sore after a workout before? Ha, who am I kidding, of course you have. I’m sure many of us have felt that kind of muscles soreness after an bout of physical exercise that was above our normal tolerance level. This effect that tends to happen the next day or even a few days later (why is always worse 2 days after?) is known as “Delayed Onset Of Muscle Soreness” or DOMS for short.

While it’s not entirely known why this soreness happens, it’s widely thought that it is part of the repair process to micro-trauma in the muscles and is made especially worse when we perform a lot of eccentric muscle actions (lengthening of the muscle contraction, i.e. lowering the dumbbell in a bicep curl exercise).

I can remember a conversation I had with a new client of mine a few years back, she said something along the lines of “Oh sweet joseph! My legs are sore from last workout shouldn’t w just stretch… for the love of Pete let’s just stretch… or nap.” Of course she was kidding about the nap (or was she?). I explained to her that while the DOMS effect might make you think you should just stretch or do nothing, the opposite can actually help to alleviate the soreness. Exercising can actually help to reduce the DOMS effect.

So before you throw in the towel on your workout know that showing up again for another training session might just be the very thing you need to get the blood moving and the DOMS taken care of.

Here are a few other tips to relieve sore muscles:
– Get a massage (I recommend everyone get a massage at least once a month)
– Stay hydrated
– Eat plenty of nutritious fruits and veggies
– And while I have no scientific evidence, a low sodium diet seems to help me or at least when I have more salt in my diet after a hard workout I am “hobbled” sore.

Having said that, there are a few caveats when it comes to DOMS and working out.

The first caveat is that you soreness should only last 24-72 hours at most and 72 is the high end. If you are still sore after that you can rest assured you likely over did it in your last workout, think about taking it easy for a few workouts.

The second caveat is that it’s important to know the difference between muscle soreness and something worse like a strain or a pull. Pain = NO GAIN and you should take time off and perhaps see your physician if it worsens.

The third and final caveat is that it’s important to know that being sore after a workout shouldn’t be the goal. Your purpose for working out is to get better at something and to improve your health. While most of us sometimes wear the soreness as confirmation of a workout (I’m guilty of this sometimes as well) there is no science behind performance and health improvement and muscle soreness. Chase progress not soreness.


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Starting Your Seeds Indoors

  All the tools you need to get your seeds started indoors.

All the tools you need to get your seeds started indoors.

1. Seeds - First of all: you'll want to pick out your seeds (check out our complete seed list).

Some of my favourites to start indoors are peppers, begonias, and tomatoes.

While you're shopping, you can also pick up the seeds that are to be planted directly outdoors like carrots, peas, and beans. This way you can make sure you have them before they sell out in April and May.

Next: check when is the best time to plant your indoor seeds (get our Edmonton and Area Zone 4A Seeding Calendar).

Finally, if you're using seeds from previous years, remember that some seeds such as onions or parsley lose their viability after a year and should be replaced while some seeds remain viable for many years. Check the expiry date on your seed packets to be sure, or check with the staff at the greenhouse if some seed packets don't have an expiry date listed. 

2. Seedling Starter Mix - A good quality seed starting mix is key. The grind or particle-size should be nice and small, not big and chunky. A mix with big particles is not ideal for small seeds or seedlings as many will fall through the gaps, plant themselves too deeply into the mixture, and never manage to make it to the surface.


It is also a good idea to buy pasteurized seed-starting mixes to ensure there are no insects in your soil. Pasteurized seed starting mixes will usually say right on the bag that they have been pasteurized (or "sterilized"). In the greenhouse, we sell a 100% organic brand called Pots and Plants.

3. Earth Alive Soil Activator - This "pro-biotic" for your soil is excellent to add to your seedling mix before planting, resulting is healthier plants and seedlings.

4. Clean Plastic Flats - These will be the flats into which you'll put your seed starting mix and into which you'll plant your seeds. Ensure that they are well cleaned to ensure that no fungi or insects are introduced into your growing environment. Wiping your flats clean and spraying them with a mild bleach solution will work if you're reusing flats from last year.

5. Cover It Up! - A good plastic cover will keep moisture and heat in for the plants. Personally, my favourite type of covers are the big tall greenhouse domes we sell here in the store because they keep moisture from escaping, can accommodate larger plants, and can even have a growlight incorporated right into them.

6. Let There Be Light - Speaking of growlights, you'll want some growlights to ensure that your plants grow vigorously, with strong stems, and lots of leafy growth. If you start your plants indoors without a growlight, they can become very tall and stretched out, without many leaves. This is because they are searching for the sun.


Pro-tip: Cover numbers 4, 5 & 6 with a Nandome: Mini Greenhouse. This kit includes your seeding flat, plastic greenhouse dome with vents and a Sunblaster growlight that fits perfectly on the dome. Simple!

(note: plant thermometer shown not included)

7. Plant Tags - Alright, so you've planted your seeds in a good seed starting mix in clean plastic flats. Now you have to remember what's where. Tag your rows of seeds or your flats of plants so that you can remember what's planted where.

8. A Misting Bottle - is the perfect way to moisten your seeds and soil. I like to give everything a good thorough misting on Day 1. 

A couple of days later, if you notice the top of the soil drying out, just give it another quick mist to keep the soil moist. This ensures that your seeds will germinate.

I find that a mister is much better than a watering can for starting seeds because a mister keeps your seeds evenly moist rather than unevenly soggy.

9. A Germination Mat - Placed underneath your plastic flats, a germination mat creates warmth that simulates the Earth's natural ground heat. This stimulates your seeds to grow and increases their germination rate dramatically. 


A germination mat is a complete game changer for most home gardeners, bringing their gardening game and success rate up a full level. We have a variety of different sizes of germination mats here in the greenhouse, and many of our seed starting kits even come with a germination mat included.

10. Soil Thermometer - A soil thermometer is one last great tool. This will let you check on your soil temperature, and let you know if your soil is warm enough for ideal germination rates.  Most seeds will germinate anywhere between 5 to 32°C (and even 43°C in a few exceptional cases), but the ideal soil temperature for most seeds to germinate is in a much narrower ranger of between 21-28°C. To maximize your germination rates, a soil thermometer is invaluable.

It’s pretty sneaky. Here’s how to protect yourself.

I want to tell you a riddle today, about DHMO.

It causes death if you accidentally inhale it, even in small quantities. Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage. It’s a major component of acid rain. In a gas form, it can cause severe burns. It contributes to soil erosion...

It’s sometimes called Dihydrogen Monoxide. But it’s also known as… H20! :-)

There’s a whole website created about DHMO (http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html ), written by a college professor who wanted his students to learn to think critically about what they read, and not just take things at face value.

School librarians around the world use this website to “trick” their students into doing research about this compound, only to watch their eyes open wide when they realize it’s just water! When this happens, the students are at first pleased with themselves for figuring it out, and then a little sheepish, as they realize how gullible they often are.

This lesson is just as relevant when you’re reading information about health and fitness.

You have to read everything with a critical eye, asking yourself, “Does this make sense? Where did they get their information? Who ran the studies behind this idea? Are they reputable?”

Just like students are learning to read and think critically in their school libraries, adults - many of whom didn’t grow up with the internet at their fingertips, so aren’t used to the flood of information currently available - must also read carefully and consider the source!

Every new “fad diet” that comes out may be based on proven scientific information… or it may simply be based on some new theory that a charismatic leader has decided to push out to the public as a way to make money.

Besides, some diets are right for some people, and other diets are right for other people. So deciding if something is not only accurate and research-based, but also relevant to YOU, is critical.

One place where you really have to read carefully is the grocery store. All those food labels can be pretty misleading!

For instance, if it says, “made with whole grains”, you may think it’s ALL whole grains, when in actuality, it might be just a pinch! It may also say, “multi-grain”, and you think it’s literally that: made with a variety of grains. But it could simply be a variety of refined grains.

If it says, “no cholesterol”, you think it’s specially formulated for a healthier version. The truth is, only animal products ever have cholesterol in them! So “cholesterol-free tomato sauce” is misleading; it never had cholesterol in the first place.

If it says, “natural” it means… nothing. No official organization verifies this claim.

I also caution you about what is NOT listed: sugar. No company wants to list sugar as a top ingredient, even if it is. So they list the various FORMS of sugar, which allows them to show up later in the list (the lists are always arranged so the ingredients with the highest percentage are listed first). Look for high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, isomalt, maltodextrin, inversol, hexitol, malt syrup… There are lots of them!

Because it can be so tricky to understand both labels, and what the latest fad trends are, I encourage you to get professional advice. I’ve spent years in the health industry, and I make it my business to stay on top of all the most recent - and relevant - scientific studies about what works, and for whom it works best.

I know you don’t have time to sort it all out; that’s my job! If you have any questions about something of this nature, let me know :) rob@rmfit.com


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Is "Why" You Eat Causing Weight Gain? Here's what to do

Is "Why" You Eat Causing Weight Gain? Here's what to do:

Note: This article is a bit longer than my normal ones, so—like an average Canadian—sorry about that... But this important topic includes a confession, an educational component, and will give you the right tools to overcome the common reasons "why" you eat—reasons that contribute to weight gain.

I remember it clear as a bell. It was curling night with the boys, the late draw and already past my bedtime. It was the final end and I have the last shot to win the game. Not only that, it’s a shot I have actually practiced the most. I lunge out and release the curling stone and watch… and yell, there is lots of yelling “HURRY HARD!” My heart starts racing, I see the stone curl more and more and my stomach falls to the floor, with a quarter of the way to go before the rock arrives at its destination I know I missed the shot horribly.

And with the game in my hand I lost. Feeling defeated in yet another loss in my first year of curling in the mixed “fun league” I was furious with myself.

A quick hand shake and I got out of dodge in about 3 seconds flat. Angry with myself for letting my team down, on my way home I was bound and determined to do some damage. My aim was the Dairy Queen close by and a Peanut Buster Parfait. Sadly the DQ was already closed, but did that stop me from my “quest?” Oh heck no, I hit the brakes hard, cut across a lane and drove into the parking lot of the gas station convenience store.

It was there I purchased 4 king sized chocolate bars. In the 800 meter drive from there to my house I had already eaten one of them. The other three had no chance either and in about 10 minutes from time of purchase I had consumed all 4 king size chocolate bars. That’s nearly 1700 calories.

Moments later I had calmed down and was “ok” with what I had just done and got back to healthier eating the next morning. Lucky for me.

But if this had been several years ago I would have not been “ok” I would have (on top of being angry with myself) been disappointed that I did that and felt really guilty. I would also only known how to deal with that guilt by…. You guessed it, eating more chocolate.  And the cycle would have continued beyond just one eating episode.

I’m sure you have been there in some form or another. Eating food that you didn’t really need to eat, or overeating meals not because you were hungry but because of some other reason that has nothing to do with nourishment.

We’ve all been there.

We will all be there again at some point.

But why does this happen? And what can we do about it?

Well let me first start off by guessing you are a smart person. You basically know what to eat, the problem isn’t that. The problem you have to deal with is “WHY” you eat.

You see knowing what to eat and even how much to eat won’t make a lick of difference if you don’t address why you eat.

I have a nice little acronym for common reasons why we eat that cause many of us to gain weight.

It’s called B.E.A.S.T. eating.

And if the “BEAST” is getting you more than twice per week, it’s something I recommend you deal with if you want to be healthier. The great part about dealing with it isn’t just weight loss, it’s also a way of improving your stress management skills, and who wouldn’t want that?

B.E.A.S.T. stands for


Are any (or all) of these reasons above causing you to overeat or buy 4 king sized chocolate bars to crush in the blink of an eye? Then it’s time to put an end to that habit and take control… most of the time.

Why You Do This … It’s The Elephants Fault

When addressing “why” you eat. It’s important to recognize and understand what is going on with your brain at the time. There is no better way to talk about it than to use the way Dan and Chip Heath talk about it in their book “Switch”.

Think of your brain as two parts. The first part is your very large instinctual brain. It is emotional, irrational and has no capacity for language or foresight. Think of it as a large elephant.

The second part is a jockey on top of the elephant. This jockey represents your logical brain. The jockey is the one who has capacity for language, can rationalize things and has foresight.

When everything is content the little jockey can steer the elephant wherever it wants to go. But when the elephant is stressed enough to stampede, the logical thinking jockey has no hope of stopping this enormous animal. It’s just along for the ride.

Have you ever eaten too much or you keep eating chips at night while watching TV knowing you shouldn’t be doing that and yet it’s rewarding in the moment, and yet feel like you just can’t help yourself only to feel guilty about it after the moment is over?

When I purchased and rapidly consumed 4 king sized chocolate bars can you guess what part of my brain was in control at the time?

That whole cycle can be damaging. When these things happen you can now recognize that it’s the elephant that is in control. It’s also why you feel guilty afterwards, the logical brain knows better but just isn’t strong enough to stop it.

Here’s the real kick in the pants. When the jockey realizes that what just happened and starts to feel guilty, that guilt is an emotion, which can put the elephant right back in control and the cycle continues and your waist line continues to grow with each cycle.

The key is to first become aware of what part of your brain is taking control. The second key is the learn how to calm the elephant down just before the stampede occurs and keep the jockey in control.

Of course this is going to take practice, which means you won’t be good at it right away, and that’s ok. You will also not be able to control the elephant all the time, that’s ok too. I’m going to give you some battle tested solutions to practice if you are a consistent “BEAST” eater.

Hint: willpower alone won’t work, the elephant is too strong for that.

Solutions To “Why” You Eat—Battle Tested

With everything mentioned so far you’ve learned about common reasons why you eat that cause weight gain (BEAST) and how your brain works around stress which makes it very hard to control. (Elephant & The Jockey)

Here are key solutions in order:

Step 1: Record

Start keeping a record of times you overeat or eat foods when you are not physically hungry. Write down why you did that. Write a B for boredom, E for emotional A for anxious etc. Notice any patterns and triggers that set you off.

Step 2: 3D Effect

The first physiological response in your body to stress is a change in your breathing. It sets off a cascade of muscle tension and heart rate changes that signal the brain to activate your adrenal glands. This is how the elephant brain knows how to take over. Among the hormones that get secreted in this process is Cortisol and it also aids in fat storing (BOO!). Great for our stone age ancestors… not so great for you who wants to fit into a smaller size pair of jeans.

To stop this cascade effect you want to practice catching that breath change and follow the 3D effect which is:

  • Deep Breathe - STOP! Take 5 deep belly breaths and calm that elephant down.

  • Drink Water - Practice making your next action to drink water, an action that has no ill-effects

  • Distract - Distract yourself with something that will make you smile or stimulate you logical brain with an activity that requires focus.

The last 2 “D’s” actually create a nice time gap between an initial stressful thought and taking action which stops the elephant and puts the jockey in control.

For me I practice this every time before I check my email because the thought of checking my email makes me anxious which in the past has caused my to reach for a chocolate bar or overeat at lunch if I’m thinking about it as it’s my first task after lunch typically.

Step 3: Test The Jockey

Finally test the jockey using the 5-5-5-5 method and F.O.G.

5-5-5-5 method is a simple one that often reduces the severity of why you eat.

Simply ask yourself “is what ever bothering me going to matter…”

  • 5 minutes from now

  • 5 hours from now

  • 5 days from now

  • 5 month from now

You might find the level of severity be within the first 3 “5’s” and something you can laugh off and take a different action that your logical mind can come up with instead of eating.

F.O.G. is a simple acronym that is particularly effective at what’s causing you to want to stress eat.

Is what’s causing me stress based on a:


I make it a practice not to get worked up about anything until I have established the facts. It’s easy to create an irrational and fearful mindset with guess’s or opinions without the actual facts. That allows the elephant to take control.

So I hope this article provides actionable steps for you to take control of why you eat and help you to stop gaining weight for reasons that are now in your control.

If you want more help you are welcome to contact me rob@rmfit.com and I am happy to learn more about you and help you in any way I can.


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

You don’t even know this is happening...

You don’t even know this is happening...

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to.

Sometimes you forget the eggs at the grocery store.
Sometimes the FedEx package arrives a day later than it should have.
Sometimes you eat “healthy” and still gain weight.

And sometimes your body does what it thinks is “right”... but it actually betrays you. Like when you develop inflammation.

You may have heard about inflammation, but not know too much about it. Since it’s really important for your overall health, let’s talk about it a little today. In the simplest of terms, inflammation is your body’s response to stress. It could be from your environment, your lifestyle, or your diet.

Your immune system is supposed to protect you from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. It cleans out damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens, and starts to heal any infections or wounds you may get.

When you see inflammation on your skin, you notice that it produces swelling, due to an increase in fluid to the affected area. This is especially painful, due to the release of chemicals that stimulate nerve endings. It may also look red and feel hot, because the capillaries in that area are filled with more blood than usual.

When you catch a cold, you get a fever as your body heats up to eliminate the invading virus.

These types of acute - temporary - inflammation episodes result from an injury or illness (bronchitis, appendicitis, a cut, sinusitis, etc.)

But there is also chronic inflammation - it lingers on and on, sometimes for years - especially of the internal organs. Although your organs may not have sensory nerve endings, you may still experience chronic symptoms such as:

●      Fatigue
●      Mouth sores
●      Chest or abdominal pain
●      Fever
●      Rash
●      Joint pain
●      Visible signs of aging, like wrinkles
●      Acid reflux
●      Susceptibility to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections

If you suffer from certain chronic diseases or conditions - like asthma, peptic ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and a few others - it means your damaged cells and tissues are trying to heal, but are unable to eliminate whatever irritant or invader is causing the inflammation.

In fact, even some major diseases - like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s - have been linked to chronic inflammation.

There are a number of reasons you may suffer from chronic inflammation.

You may have food allergies or sensitivities. Or an imbalance of bacteria and fungi in your GI tract. You may live in a toxic environment. You may be experiencing high levels of continual stress. Or your diet and lifestyle can lead to inflammation.

If you are suffering from inflammation, you have several different treatment options, in consultation with your physician. You can relieve pain through modified activities or medications. You can work with a physical therapist. And you can evaluate your diet, and make some changes.

Some of the foods that contribute to inflammation include sodas, refined sugars, and red meat as well as processed meats.

As you might guess, by focusing more on plant-based foods as the foundation for your diet, not only will you reduce inflammation and all the side effects, but you’ll also look and feel much better.

Some foods that especially help to reduce inflammation are:

●      Tomatoes
●      Olive oil
●      Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collards
●      Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts
●      Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines
●      Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Researchers now see that a diet consisting of high levels of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils helps reduce inflammation inside your body.

I don’t know if you’re suffering from chronic inflammation right now, but I find many of my clients struggle with several of the symptoms.  Getting healthy and fit is not just about a number on the scale.  It’s about how you feel and how your body functions – especially as you age.

Do you have some possible signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation? 

Start making changes in your lifestyle today, it could add years and quality to your life.


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Translating Seed Labels

Translating Seed Labels

By Jim Hole

Most of the information on seed labels is pretty straightforward. But there is certain terminology that can cause more than a little chin scratching. Here is a list of some of the more common.

GMO and GEO free seed.

GMO is an acronym for Genetically Modified Organism. GEO is similar except that the ‘E’ refers to engineered. “Non-GMO/GEO” and “GMO/GEO Free” both allude to the fact that there haven’t been any genes from a different species inserted into the DNA of the seed that you are buying.

Really, the scientifically correct term for the insertion of DNA into another organism is called ‘Recombinant DNA technology’ not GMO nor GEO. But suffice to say that NO seed can be sold here in Canadian Garden Centres that has had DNA from a different species inserted into it. 

F1 Hybrid

Hybrid can mean different things when it comes to seed but an example that, I think, works for most gardeners are corn hybrids.

Plant breeders might be trying to breed a corn with sweet kernels and early maturing. One variety might be sweet but late. The other variety might be starchy  but early. So breeders will inbreed each variety (no outside pollination) for several years and then bring together the two highly uniform varieties that are subsequently ‘cross pollinated’. 

If everything goes well then—voila—a new hybrid variety that is sweet and early!

Germination Percentage

Some, but not all, seed companies include the percentage germination of each batch of a particular seed variety. Seed germination percentages are often into the 80’s and high 90’s but don’t be surprised to find some seeds down into the 50% range. I’ve seen a number of pepper varieties that have a rather large number of non-viable seeds so don’t be surprised when only about a half of your seeds germinate. It’s just the nature of the beast!


Sometimes – like is often the case with tomato varieties – letters like ‘VFN’ will appear on the label. 

These letters are really geared to professional growers but they still apply to home gardeners. VFN means Verticillium, Fusarium and Nematodes .

Yes, I would say that these names are headache inducing for many gardeners! But the letters just allude to the fact that a particular tomato variety, with these letters on its package are resistant to two specific plant diseases and a worm-like root attacking pest.  

10 Awesome Reasons To Workout & 1 Terrible Reason

10 Awesome Reasons To Workout & 1 Terrible Reason

I was having a conversation with a group of people the other day, talking about exercise and why it's important. In our discussion we started listing of reasons why you workout. From that discussion I have plucked out 10 awesome reasons and one reason that isn't so good. 

10 Awesome Reasons

1. Because you enjoy doing it

2. You enjoy being stronger

3. You like having toned muscles

4. You want to support your weight loss goals with the metabolism boosting effects of exercise

5. Because it gives you confidence 

6. Because it helps you sleep better

7. Because of it's "anti-aging effects"

8. To be a role model for your children

9. To improve athletic performance 

10. Because it reduces risk of injury 

These are great reasons to workout, and it's important that when you embark on a plan to workout consistently that you acknowledge the reasons why and the benefits that have meaning to you. 

There is one reason to workout however that isn't so good. That reason is:

To punish yourself for overeating or eating "junk food".

Working out or movement in general can be and should be a joy. It's something that you do for yourself to feel better, look better, and perform better in which ever capacity that suits you.

It's something that allows you to get the most out your body so you can live a high quality of life for a long time. 

But when you start on the path of exercising because you were "bad" you associate exercise in a negative context making it darn near impossible to be consistent with... (unless self punishment is what you're into.)

You don't have to "earn" that family outing by brutal workouts that you do to offset your food choices, you can't win that game physically or mentally. It's a recipe for stress, anxiety and depression. 

Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate. 

I'll write that again:

Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.

So what are your reasons to exercise? Send me an email I would love to find out and if you are struggling or exercising for the wrong reason, let me know I can help. 


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Why this childhood habit is bad for you as an adult

You’ve heard of siblings like this, right?

Three brothers, all within about 6 years of each other. Everything is a competition. Even eating. Whoever gets the food onto their plate first gets to eat it, but it had better be gone fast or it could get stolen.

If the serving dish on the table only has one piece of chicken left, you can be sure someone will be stabbed with a fork as everyone grabs for it at the same time. Blood everywhere… Tears… Pointing fingers…Whining…

And that’s NOTHING compared to when they were kids! ;-)

Seriously, it’s not just males who eat quickly, without thinking. Many people have developed the habit of eating as fast as possible. Often it’s because you developed the habit while in elementary school, when lunch breaks were short.

And then you continued when you got home from school, wolfing down dinner in order to get to some rehearsal, or practice, or study session on time.

Then as an adult, you work long hours, rush home through painful traffic or on overly-crowded public transportation, only to rush through eating again, because there are bills to pay, bathrooms to clean, kids to shuttle….

Our fast-paced society includes fast-paced eating.

Yet, there are plenty of reasons to eat slowly.

If you eat slowly, it helps your digestion, you stay hydrated more easily, it’s easier to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, and you enjoy your food more. If eating slowly creates these benefits, eating too quickly obviously causes the opposite effects.

One of the most important reasons to eat more slowly is it allows your brain to catch up with your stomach. It takes about 20 minutes from the time you begin eating for the brain to recognize when you are satiated, that is, full.

Many people eat so fast, their brain doesn’t have time to tell them they are done eating, and they end up consuming more calories than they need!

In addition, if you eat slowly, you help your digestion. Like any system, digestion has to go from step 1 to step 2 to step 3, etc. But it takes time to get ready for each step.

Here’s what I mean. When you think about eating, you start to salivate. Saliva contains enzymes that break down your food and moisten your mouth for easier swallowing.

While this is happening, your stomach starts to secrete more acid in order to digest the food completely. In addition, your small and large intestines begin to get ready to do their jobs. Etc.

When you eat too fast, you send food into this relatively fragile system before it’s ready. This is especially true if you don’t take time to chew your food sufficiently; it lands as a lump in your stomach without having been as well processed as it should be.

So if you suffer from indigestion or other GI problems, you might want to evaluate how quickly you eat your food.

Let’s take a look at a study done by the University of Rhode Island in which they brought in 30 women of “normal” weight, for two visits.

The women were told to eat until full (satiated), but one time they were told to eat quickly, and the other time they were told to put down their fork after each bite.

When they ate quickly, they consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes. When eating slowly, they consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes. That’s 67 fewer calories in 20 more minutes! In addition, when they ate slowly, the women drank 209 grams of water (fast) vs. 410 grams (slow).

Finally, when they ate quickly, the women felt hungry sooner than when they ate the same amount of food slowly.

If you imagine these kinds of results three times a day, seven days a week, week after week, you can see how quickly these women would eat more calories and drink less water, when eating fast.

OK, so I hope I’ve convinced you that eating slowly is much better for you than wolfing down your food. So how do you do that?

There is actually a mindful eating movement afoot. This is when people count their bites, or how often they chew each bite. To do mindful eating very thoroughly, people first sit and look at their food, experiencing it with as many senses as possible - sight, smell, touch - just thinking about what it’s going to taste like and feel like. After five or more minutes of this, THEN they begin to eat their food… slowly.

So sitting and looking at your food for five minutes doesn’t fit your particular lifestyle, here are a few suggestions you can consider incorporating. Even doing a few of them each day will make a big difference in how quickly or slowly you consume your food, and give you the attending health benefits:

●      Eat more high-fiber foods (like fruits and vegetables) that take longer to digest.

●      Cut your bites smaller before putting them in your mouth. Then actually count how many times you chew before swallowing.

●      Drink a glass of water before you sit down to eat - and during the meal - as this will make you feel more full, and less desperate to get the food into your mouth.

●      Use smaller plates for smaller portions.

●      If you usually use a fork, try using chopsticks! (If you’re not familiar with them, this will definitely slow you down.)

●      Give yourself at least 20 to 30 minutes to eat…. Not the usual 5 to 10.

●      Eat with others and engage in witty, engaging conversation. ;-) 

●      Put down your utensil after each bite to savor both the flavors and the company

●      Don’t eat when you’re bored; only when you’re truly hungry

●      Don’t multitask while you eat; pay attention to the experience of eating

●      Eat on a schedule, not all day long

●      Pause to consider where your food came from. The people who harvested it, transported it, stocked the shelves with it, and prepared it; maybe even the animals that were raised for your sustenance. Consider the cultural traditions that brought you to that table, and the recipes shared among family and friends. When you stop to consider all this, it may slow you down and help you make wise choices about sustainability and healthy food.

If you’re like most people I know, you probably lead a pretty busy, hectic life. But when you mindfully, intentionally slow down during your mealtime, you will feel healthier, have more control over your weight, and feel more connected to your food and to those at the table with you. 

- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Seed Basics: A Q&A with Lois and Jim Hole

Is it better to grow my annuals from seeds, or should I just buy bedding plants?

Lois—Let your interests be your guide! Growing annuals from seed is a great pastime, especially if you’re eager to start gardening while there’s still snow on the ground. However, some varieties are easier to start from seed than others. We had a heck of a time growing bells of Ireland from seed until we discovered, quite by accident, that they require a cold treatment before they will germinate. If they hadn’t been set down on a cold concrete floor, we never would have discovered what were doing wrong!

Jim—Mom’s right. There’s nothing more frustrating than planting a tray full of seeds only to be faced with a barren pack even after weeks of care. To avoid disappointment, choose easy-to-germinate seed like marigolds and nasturtiums, and buy bedding plants if you want to grow the more demanding annuals like begonias and alyssum. Of course, if you like the challenge of growing the picky species from seed, by all means, give them a try. Just take the time to learn a little about their needs.


When should I start my seeds?

Lois—It depends on when you’re going to transplant your seedlings outdoors. For example, here in St. Albert the average last spring-frost date is May 6. We transplant our pansies outside 3 weeks before that in mid-April. Pansy seedlings take about 14 weeks to grow from seed, so we start the seeds in mid-February. It takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth it. By May last year, I had pots filled with pansies on my deck, and they received rave reviews.

Jim—People spend a lot of time worrying about frost. They don’t realize that many annuals need to be outside and growing in the early part of the growing season. More plants are finished off by heat and drought in the summer than by frost in May! In our experience is actually better to put annuals like pansies outside and cover them than to leave them indoors and have them stretch out from being too hot. There’s really no substitute for planning. Read your seed packets carefully, check on the average last spring-frost date for your area, and do the math for yourself.


What are the easiest annuals to start from seed?

Lois—By and large, the bigger the seed is, the easier it is to grow. If you start off with larger seeds such as sweet peas, nasturtiums, and marigolds, you’re almost guaranteed success. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can move on to smaller seeds, which tend to be more challenging to grow.

Jim—The sweet pea is the easiest annual to grow from seed. Not only is a sweet pea seed big, it’s nearly indestructible! It doesn’t mind if you give it too much water or too little. It’s disease resistant and easy to handle because it’s so big.  On the other hand, tuberous and fibrous begonias are among the trickiest annuals to seed.  The seeds are almost as small as dust particles. You can barely see them, let alone pick them up with your fingers. These seeds require consistently warm soil, and just the right amount of fertilizer; otherwise they starve. Raising begonias from seed is definitely a challenge compared to the easygoing sweet pea!


What do I need to grow my own plants from seed?

Lois—First you need the very best-quality seeds. My mother-in-law, Grandma Hole, always said, “Only the rich can afford to buy cheap things!” If you start off with inferior seed, you might as well not even bother. Also, you’ll want to give those seeds a good home, so be sure to buy a professional seedling mixture.

Jim—You can start with as little as seeds, potting soil, flats, and a sunny window. If you’re ready to get a bit more serious, though, it’s worth investing in the right equipment

Basic equipment checklist
• the best available seed
• the best-quality soilless mix (Seedling Starter Mix)
• a mister bottle
• clean plastic flats
• grow lights
• covers (plastic or fabric)
• fine-textured vermiculite to cover your seedlings
• a thermometer with a probe (an oven meat-thermometer works well)
• heating cables/mats
• fungicides (optional)
• Earth Alive Soil Activator
• tags to label the different varieties


Do I need a special kind of soil for my seedlings?

Lois—Yes! Even though you can get reasonably good results from regular potting soil, you’ll have better luck if you use a special mix for your seedlings. I always use Seedling Starter Mix. It has just the right components for healthy seedlings.

Jim—I agree wholeheartedly. For the best seedlings, you should always start off with the best soil. Spend the few extra dollars and invest in a professional seedling soil. Regular potting soil is too coarse and variable to risk using on your seedlings.


What are hybrid seeds?

Lois—There are many different kinds of hybrid seeds. One hybrid seed tends to be very similar to the next, unlike non-hybrid seeds, which sometimes surprise you when they bloom! Hybrid seeds are more expensive than their non-hybrid cousins, but the extra pennies are worth
it! Plants that grow from hybrid seeds tend to have all kinds of bonuses, like bigger and more colourful blooms, greater disease resistance, and better growth habit.

Jim—Development of hybrid plants is a complex procedure that ultimately, if everything goes right, results in very uniform varieties.


Can I plant the seeds collected from hybrid plants?

Lois—You can, but only if you’re prepared for unpredictable (and often downright unsuccessful) results. Hybrid plants don’t make good parents!

Jim—Seeds taken from hybrid plants don’t grow “true to type.” You can collect and sow hybrid seeds, but only half of the resulting plants will look like the variety that you collected the seed from. The other half will be divided evenly—the two quarters resembling the two parents that gave rise to the hybrid.


What other factors are important for good germination?

Lois—Even though I always emphasize the importance of watering, oxygen is just as important for your seeds. If you keep your flats saturated with water, your seeds will drown. You also need to check your seed packets to see if your seeds require special conditions to germinate.

Jim—Oxygen and moisture must penetrate a seed’s coat in order for it to germinate.  Apart from that, different seeds have their own requirements. For example, the smallest seeds (like alyssum, begonia, coleus, and petunia) generally require light in order to germinate. Other seeds, such as larkspur, phlox, and verbena, prefer to germinate in the dark.

Some seeds actually need a little abuse to get started! In one process, scarification, the seed coats are cut or abraded in order to allow water and oxygen to penetrate. In another process, stratification, the seeds are stored in a cold, moist environment for several weeks or months, to simulate the passing of winter.


What things can contaminate my seedlings?

Lois—Take the time to practice good sanitation. You must be careful to work in a clean space with clean tools. And wash your hands, too!

Jim—Disease can enter the picture at several points.

• Containers or other tools. Rinse your tools, plus any previously used flats or trays, in a 10%-bleach solution.

• Improper sanitation. Listen to Mom! Always wash your hands before working with your seedlings. Tobacco carries the mosaic virus, while certain foods like lettuce carry damping-off diseases.

• Unpasteurized soil.

• The seeds themselves. Some diseases live in the seed or on the seed coat itself. Buy only the best-quality seeds.

• Dirty water or dirty watering cans (tap water is fine, provided it’s not high in salts—sodium in particular).


Do I need to use pesticides to grow seedlings?

Lois—No. Pesticides are not the answer. Ted and I used to grow our seedlings without using pesticides, and to this day, we still do. The key is sanitation, sanitation, sanitation! If you keep everything perfectly clean, you won’t have to rely on chemicals.

Jim—I agree. You don’t need pesticides to grow your seedlings, especially if you use a professional seedling mixture. This is the key—garden soil introduces many unwanted potential problems for seedlings. Fungicides, on the other hand, can be an important investment. Even with the best sanitation, fungal diseases can occasionally find their way to your seedlings.


2018 Fitness Resolution Top 5 Tips

2018 Fitness Resolution Top 5 Tips

I would like nothing more than to hear you tell me in 2019 that your New Years Resolution is to be more charitable or something noble like that and not to get into shape... again.


Because this year I want your “Get into shape” resolution to be something that becomes a sustainable practice and in 2019 you already ARE in shape. 

If you would like that as well here are my top 5 Tips to follow: 

1. Pause and Write Down Why

How will getting into shape be it weight loss or better endurance etc. do for you? What are the deep and meaningful benefits to you? Don’t just think about it, write it down and review it every single morning. 

2. Create a Smart Strategy

 Don’t fall for the hype. The “6 pack in 6 weeks, 3 day belly be gone detox and the magic supplements that promise the results right now.... they all prey on your current fragile emotional state but they very rarely deliver on any sort of sustainable change. Once your willpower is all used up you are left more tired and hating fitness for the rest of the year. 

Instead create a strategy that focuses on practicing one or two changes at a time for 2-4 weeks that you can confidently do. Here are three key questions you need

A: What do you have to do differently?
B: How will you do it?
C: What roadblocks are there and how will you overcome them? 


A: Get 3 workouts in a week
B: Schedule it in at 4pm Mon-Wed-Fri
C: Work stuff — Be flexible with a lunch time and/or Saturday 9am workout option 

3. Be Compassionate

Getting into shape requires healthy lifestyle changes, that’s not easy to do and you will make mistakes. There is no room for perfectionist mindsets. Where most people quit after the first slip up or when life gets hard, this is where I want to see you practice being compassionate with yourself. You will make mistakes, that’s called being human and that’s a great time to laugh and learn not cry and quit. Keep going that’s how sustainable change is done. 


I have been helping people get into shape since 2003. I can count the number of people who have done it alone with no support on one hand. 

Getting support is key to getting you through that stage when motivation dissipates but your actions are not quite a habit just yet. 

Think of support as a sporting event. You have fans in the stands, teammates and a coach all helping you win. Fans will cheer you on but won’t help you take action. They still want to see you win. This is the bulk of your friends and family. 

Teammates are taking action with you, all moving toward the same goal. A group of likeminded people like in my semi-private training program are going to war with you. They will help you stay consistent when times are tough.

Coaching will help you with an effective game plan and accountability for the best chance at winning. 

5. Keep A Record

No matter what you try, write down what you are doing. Your chances of fully succeeding DOUBLE when you write it down. No one can do this for you and deliver the same effect. YOU need to take responsibility for recording your actions, reviewing them and making progress. There is nothing worse than when I hear “I think I am doing it”. By recording your actions you can confirm your actions and know exactly how you are doing.


Have a healthy and happy New Year!

- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Favourite Herbs: Lemon Verbena


Lemon Verbena

Aloysia triphylla [aka A. citriodora, Lippia triphylla]

Tender perennial; grown as an annual in most parts of Canada

Height 1 to 2 m; spread 45 cm to 1 m.

Herb with stiff, apple-green, willowy leaves and small, pale-lilac flowers in pyramid-shaped clusters.

Try these!

Only Aloysia triphylla is readily available in North America.


Lemon verbena is best grown from young plants purchased from a garden centre.

How much: At least two plants.

When: One to two weeks after the average date of last spring frost in your area.

Where: Full sun, sheltered; a south facing wall is ideal. Prefers rich, well-drained soil. Space plants at least 30 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Lemon verbena is easy to grow! It loves heat, but don’t let it dry out.


Harvest leaves throughout the growing season. The flowers are also edible and tasty, but verbena rarely blooms in Canada’s short growing season.

For best flavour: Harvest mature plants: the lemon fragrance and flavour grow stronger with age.

Leaves: Strip leaves from the woody stems with your fingers; discard any tough stalks.

Flowers: Harvest as they appear; clip from stem and use whole.

Preserving the Harvest

Lemon verbena leaves will retain their flavour for years. Dry and place immediately in an airtight jar, and keep the jar in a cool, dark place. You can also freeze the chopped leaves and flowers; use the ice-cube method (see page XXX).


  • Give lemon verbena the sunniest location you can. The plants respond well to warmth and light.
  • Lemon verbena usually grows best when it is free of competition. However, I like to plant lemon verbena in a pot with 'Dark Opal' basil: the plant's contrasting leaf colours look fantastic together, they like the same growing conditions, and one never overgrows the other.

To Note:

  • Put lemon verbena leaves in the vacuum cleaner bag to freshen the house while you clean.
  • Infuse sprigs of lemon verbena for use in finger bowls.
  • Lemon verbena's essential oils are used in soft drinks, liqueurs, and perfumes. The dried leaves are good for potpourris.
  • Lemon verbena is native to South America. The Latin Aloysia comes from Maria Louisa, wife of Charles IV of Spain.
  • In the film Gone With the Wind (1939), lemon verbena is one of the favourite fragrances of Scarlet O'Hara's mother.



Favourite Herbs: Thyme



Thymus spp.

Tender perennial; ornamental varieties are hardy.

Height 15 to 50 cm; spread 15 to 30 cm.

Herb with small, dark-green or variegated leaves with hairy undersides and tiny, tubular, lavender, mauve, pink, purple, or white flowers borne in loose whorls.

Try these!

Thymus vulgaris (English thyme, German thyme, Winter thyme, Common thyme): Most common variety; broad-leaf variety; grows vigorously, with a full, strong flavour

Thymus vulgaris (French thyme, Summer thyme): Narrow-leaf variety; greyer and sweeter than English thyme

Thymus x citriodorus (Lemon thyme): Best for tea; less pungent, with a citrus flavour, and thus better used in desserts and custards


Thyme is best grown from young plants purchased from a garden centre.

How much: One plant of each type you enjoy.

When: As soon as the ground can be worked; quite frost-tolerant.

Where: Full sun. Grows well in containers. Prefers light, sandy, well-drained soil; will grow in poor soil. Space plants 45 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Thyme is easy to grow! Trim lightly after flowering to encourage compact, bushy growth. Fertilize only lightly for best leaf flavour. Thyme does not like to dry out, but overwatering and excessive fertilizer make the leaves taste bland. To ensure continued vigour in perennial varieties, divide the plants every 3 to 4 years.


When gathering wild thyme, taste and smell the plants as you pick to find those that are the most aromatic. For maximum leaf production, don’t let the plant flower.

For best flavour: If you’re harvesting leaves, pick them just before the plants bloom; if you’re harvesting flowers, pick them just as they open.

Leaves: Harvest throughout the season, as needed. Thyme leaves are too small to pick individually. Clip upper stems; use whole or strip leaves from tougher stems. Throw stems on the BBQ.

Flowers: Pick flowers as they appear. Flowers grow in clusters; clip cluster from growing stem and gently separate into individual florets.

Preserving the Harvest

In milder climates, thyme is an evergreen, so fresh leaves can be picked year-round. Thyme leaves dry well (see page XXX for methods) and can also be preserved by the ice-cube method (see page XXX). Thyme flowers should be used fresh.


  • Culinary varieties will generally over winter if you are careful about the location. Find a sheltered spot with good snow cover and light sandy soil.
  • Although we have listed only a few common varieties, there are more than 120 varieties of thyme, some from Europe, western Asia, North Africa, and the Canary Islands. Here are some other edible varieties you may want to try.
    • Golden lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus 'Aureas') has a bright lemon flavour; its leaves have scattered yellow edges.
    • The unique aroma of caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona) is a cross between sweet caraway and pine.
    • Orange balsam thyme (Thymus x Orange Balsam)has a wonderful orange fragrance and flavour.
    • Nutmeg thyme (Thymus praecox ssp. articus) is a small-leafed trailing species with the scent and flavour of nutmeg.
    • Oregano thyme (Thymus sp.) bears a hint of oregano in its scent and flavour.
    • Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum), also known as mother of thyme or broad-leaved thyme, can be used for cooking, but makes a better groundcover. It exudes a lovely scent when stepped on. Woolly mother-of-thyme or woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) is another ornamental variety with a superb scent, but is not recommended for cooking. Try growing it around patio stones or in a rock garden.
  • In most areas of Canada, perennial thymes require mulching and protection to survive the winter.

To Note:

  • Thyme's essential oil, thymol, can be used to preserve meat. Thymol is also used as the fungicidal ingredient in mildew control products, and serves as an important component of many mouthwashes, lozenges, cough syrups, colognes, detergents, and toothpaste.
  • Dried thyme flowers are used in sachets to repel moths from clothing.
  • Thyme grown in and around Grasse, in southern France, is used in perfumeries. The thyme also supplies bees with pollen, yielding the thyme-flavoured honey that is sold in district markets.
  • Scottish highlanders drank wild thyme tea to give them strength and courage and to prevent nightmares. Similarly, a sprig of thyme in a bed pillow is said to repel nightmares.
  • One of the most important herbs in human civilization, thyme was cultivated in Sumeria as early as 3000 BC. Indeed, an ancient Sumerian stone tablet mentions thyme in what could be the world's oldest prescription: "After grinding together the seeds of saffron and thyme and putting them in beer, the patient shall drink."
  • The preserving properties of thyme were well known to the Egyptians, who used it for embalming.


Favourite Herbs: French Tarragon

French Tarragon


Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Tender perennial

Height 60 to 120 cm; spread 30 to 45 cm.

Branching herb with smooth, shiny, dark-green, lobe-shaped leaves.

Try these!

Artemisia dracunculus sativa (French tarragon, True tarragon) is the only variety worth growing: the flavour is distinctive, with a slight hint of anise—wonderful!


Grow from young plants purchased from a garden centre. French tarragon cannot be grown from seed.

How much: At least two plants.

When: Around the date of the date of average last spring frost.

Where: Full sun. Demands light, well-drained soil; cannot tolerate wet or poorly drained soil. Space plants at least 60 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Tarragon requires some care to grow well. Water regularly to keep plant lush and full. Tarragon doesn’t require much fertilizer. Tarragon spreads, like mint, by underground runners, but is not nearly as invasive or hard to control. Tarragon tends to die back or get woody in the centre; it requires regular division and should be renewed every 3 or 4 years. Because tarragon is not completely hardy, it requires mulching in the fall for winter protection.


The leaves can be harvested from early spring until fall.

For best flavour: Choose tender growth; harvest only as much as you need immediately.

Leaves: Harvest individual leaves by clipping the leaf stalk where it attaches to the stem. Cut sprigs where they attach to the main growing stem; use whole or strip the leaves. Discard tough stalks or use on BBQ.

Flowers: Edible, but not normally eaten.

Preserving the Harvest

Tarragon is best used fresh, but can be preserved by freezing. Tarragon is also commonly preserved in white vinegar—tarragon vinegar is a typical gourmet product. Don’t bother drying tarragon: it loses its essential oils when dried.


  • Never buy Russian tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus dracunculoides)! Its flavour is poor—in fact, it’s almost tasteless. If you see tarragon seed for sale, it will definitely be the inferior Russian tarragon, so don’t buy it. The true French variety can only be propagated vegetatively.
  • Tarragon prefers warm but not hot locations in full sun. I like to plant mine in a sunny location that is protected from the hot late-afternoon sun.

To Note:

  • Tarragon contains high amounts of calcium and potassium.
  • Tarragon has been used to reduce swellings, alleviate toothaches, and to freshen breath.
  • Tarragon is related to wormwood, southernwood, and mugwort.
  • Hippocrates used tarragon to draw venom from snakebites.
  • The Okanagan, Shuswap, Kootenay, and Blackfoot peoples all used tarragon as an insect-repelling smudge. Several tribes would bake tarragon leaves between two hot stones and eat the leaves with salt water.
  • The Mongols and the Crusaders introduced tarragon into Europe.
  • Tarragon gets its species name from a strange superstition recorded by Pliny, the famous Roman author and scientist. He wrote that anyone carrying a twig of the plant would be protected against snakes and dragons. The species came to be known as Dracunculus or “little dragon."



Favourite Herbs: Sunflowers



Helianthus annuus


Height 30 cm to 2 m (some varieties can grow to heights of 6 m or more); spread 15 to 45 cm.

Huge flower heads sport bright-yellow petals around a centre of black seeds.

Try these!

Helianthus annuus (sunflower):

Helianthus annuus giganteus (giant sunflower):


Seed sunflowers directly into the garden or, to get a jump on the season, set out young plants purchased from a garden centre. If you use young plants, be sure they come in individually celled containers: sunflowers don’t like to have their roots disturbed.

How much: Two to three plants; more for ornamental use.

When: Seed as soon as the soil can be worked. Set out young plants one week after the average date of last frost in your area.

Where: Full sun. Prefers rich, well-drained soil; will grow in any soil. Space tall varieties 60 cm apart; space short varieties 45 to 50 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Sunflowers are very easy to grow! Rain generally provides all the moisture they require, but if conditions are dry, additional watering will produce larger, lusher plants and bigger flowers. Sunflowers self-sow readily, so don’t be surprised if a few plants keep turning up year after year, either in your own yard or your neighbour's.


The flower buds, ray petals, and dried seeds can be eaten If you’re growing sunflowers for the flower buds, choose a perennial or multi-stemmed annual variety, rather than a single-stem annual variety: they produce lots of flower heads. If you’re growing them for the seeds, choose a single-stem variety and don’t harvest petals from the flower heads.

For best flavour: Pampered sunflowers will produce the best growth.

Leaves: Not harvested.

Flowers: Harvest buds as they appear. Clip buds cleanly from stem. Once the flower opens, use only the petals. Pull individual ray petals from growing flower heads, or cut whole flowers and strip the ray petals. Discard the central disc florets.

Seeds: Cut the mature flower heads of sunflowers when they droop, the back of the head is dry and brown, and the seeds are dark and dry. Brush off any remaining petals with your fingers.

Preserving the Harvest

Use the petals and flower buds fresh—they do not store well. I like to tie the mature sunflower heads to the beams of my garage until I’m ready to use them. It’s cool and dry there, and the heads get lots of air movement, preventing decay.


  • Grow small varieties in containers. Ikarus and Soraya look great in large containers; you can also try Pacino, Big Smile, and Teddy Bear (my favourite, since its flowers looks like those in the Van Gogh painting).
  • Perennial sunflowers tend to deplete the soil where they grow; they should be replanted in a new site every few years, with plenty of well-rotted manure and compost added to the new spot. I prefer to add lots of well-rotted manure and compost each fall so I don’t have to move my plants. Instead, I divide the plant every 3 or 4 years.
  • One year, some people who lived down the road from us planted sunflowers close to their corn. Unfortunately, crows swooped down and devastated both crops. To prevent birds from eating all the seeds before you harvest them, cover the flower heads with brown paper bags as soon as they mature.
  • The best fertilizers for sunflowers contain twice as much potassium as nitrogen, e.g., 15-15-30.
  • Perennial sunflowers tolerate poor soil but they don’t like to dry out.

To Note:

  • Sunflowers are wonderful in backgrounds, borders, and hedges. They’re also a great choice for children's gardens because the seeds are large enough for little fingers to handles and the plants come up quickly and are easily maintained.
  • The name Helianthus is derived from the Greek words helios (sun) and anthos (flower). Sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning that they follow the sun. The flowers and leaves turn to the rising sun in the east and follow it across the sky.
  • Tall Mammoth sunflowers have heads with a width of up to 40 cm, containing 2000 seeds.
  • Each day, a large sunflower uses 17 times as much water as a person does!
  • It is purported that chickens will increase their egg laying if they are fed sunflower seeds.
  • Sunflower pith is one of the least dense substances known, and is used in many scientific experiments and laboratories.
  • In China, sunflowers have been cultivated and used for making delicate silks and cobise ropes.
  • Sunflowers have an incredible ability to absorb water from soil. They have been used in the reclamation of marshland in the Netherlands.
  • Dried sunflower stems are very hard and make an excellent fuel. Scatter the ashes as a potash fertilizer.
  • Boil sunflower petals to make a yellow dye. Sunflower is a good bee plant as it gives the hives large quantities of wax and nectar.
  • Sunflower oil has an incredible variety of uses. The oil cake, when warm pressed, yields a less valuable oil used for soap making, candle making, and the art of wool dressing. This cheaper oil is used as a drying oil for mixing paint and is an excellent lubricant.
  • The common sunflower is a native of Mexico and Peru. It was cultivated by American Indians 3000 years ago. In the Aztec culture, sunflowers were symbolic of the sun and Aztec sun priestesses were crowned with sunflowers. They carried them in their hands and wore gold jewelry decorated with sunflower emblems. Sunflowers were introduced into Europe in the 16th century by returning Spanish explorers.


Favourite Herbs: Savory

savory (1).png


Satureia hortensis (summer savory)

Satureia montana (winter savory)

Summer savory: Annual

Winter savory: Hardy evergreen perennial

Summer savory: Height 30 to 45 cm; spread 30 to 60 cm. Large, widely branched bush with long, lance-shaped leaves and pink or white flowers.

Winter savory: Height 15 to 40 cm; spread 15 to 30 cm. Compact, low-growing bush with lance-shaped leaves and white or pink flowers.

Try these!

Satureia hortensis (summer savory): Easiest to grow; delicate flavour

Satureia montana (winter savory): Strong, pungent flavour

Satureia biflora (lemon savory): Tender perennial with an intense lemon scent and flavour; rare, often difficult to locate


Savory can be started indoors from seed, grown from young plants purchased from a garden centre, or split from a established plant early in the spring.

How much: At least two plants.

When: Two weeks after the date of average last spring frost.

Where: Full sun to light shade. Prefers light, well-drained soil. Space plants 30 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Savory is easy to grow! Let the soil surface dry before you water, then soak thoroughly. Feed lightly. Winter savory should be divided and replanted every 2 or 3 years. Do this in the early spring by digging up the clump and removing any of the old, tough growth in the centre. Then split the balance of the plant into smaller clumps and replant.


Summer savory tends to get leggy, so don’t hesitate to cut it back hard (by up to a third) to keep it producing. Harvest winter savory regularly to keep it looking bushy and full.

For best flavour: Harvest Summer savory in late spring or early summer, before the plants flower—later than that, the taste gets a bit bitter. Winter savory can be harvested all season, but young leaves taste best.

Leaves: Harvest individual leaves by clipping the leaf stalk where it attaches to the plant stem. Cut sprigs and use whole, or strip the leaves. Discard tough stalks.

Flowers: Edible, but not normally eaten; collect in late summer.

Preserving the Harvest

Summer savory is best preserved by drying. Winter savory can be dried or frozen.


  • The leaves should be gathered before the plant flowers. I like to cut my plants back by about two-thirds after flowering and use the new, fresh, sweet shoots.
  • I like to trim my winter savory back in the spring to encourage new growth.
  • I also like to prune my summer savory in the spring, about a month after I set the young plants into the garden. Summer savory grows vigorously and can get quite lanky. Pruning soon after the plants are established encourages, bushy, more compact plants.

To Note:

  • In ancient times, savories were thought to belong to the Satyrs, hence the genus name Satureia.
  • The Romans introduced savory when they invaded England some 2000 years ago. The Romans used savory and other aromatic herbs in vinegar in much the same way we use mint sauce.
  • In Shakespeare's time, savory was a common herb. It is mentioned, along with mint, marjoram, and lavender, in The Winter’s Tale.
  • Summer savory was one of the herbs brought to the New World by the pilgrims. John Josselyn, one of the early American settlers, compiled a list of plants introduced by the English colonists to remind them of their gardens in England. He mentioned both winter and summer savory.


Favourite Herbs: Sage



Salvia officinalis

Hardy perennial

45 to 60 cm; spread to 1 m.

Herb with woolly, pebbled, oval grey-green or variegated leaves and blue, purple, pink or white flowers.

Try these!

Salvia officinalis (garden sage): Most commonly grown; the main culinary variety

Salvia officinalis purpurea (purple sage): Very aromatic purple foliage; excellent in stuffings, omelettes, soups, and stews; requires winter protection to survive

Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’ (tricolour sage): Aromatic foliage; mild flavour; very decorative; tender perennial—requires winter protection to survive

Salvia elegans [aka S. rutilans] (pineapple sage): Tender perennial; very sweet, vibrant red flowers


Sage is best grown from young plants purchased from a garden centre.

How much: At least two plants.

When: Two weeks after the date of the average last spring frost.

Where: Full sun, sheltered. Will tolerate light shade. Grows well in containers. Prefers rich, well-drained soil. Space plants 30 to 45 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Sage requires some care to grow well. Do not overwater. Prune lightly in July, after flowering, to encourage new growth. Sage bushes are short-lived perennials; they get woody, produce less foliage, and begin to die out after 3 or 4 years. I like to replace my plant with new stock after 3 years. In cooler climates, mulch lightly in the fall to protect plants from winter's chill.


Harvest leaves regularly to encourage new growth. The younger leaves have a better flavour.

For best flavour: Harvest leaves before the flowers open.

Leaves: Harvest S. officinalis throughout the season, up to early fall. Harvest individual leaves by clipping the leaf stalk where it attaches to the plant stem. Cut sprigs and use whole, or strip the leaves. Discard tough stalks.

Flowers: Harvest S. elegans flowers as they open. Clip cleanly from the stem. Remove any green bits before eating.

Preserving the Harvest

Dry sage leaves slowly to preserve their flavour; they take a long time to dry, but once they are thoroughly dry, they will keep for about a year. Use flowers fresh or preserve in vinegar. Pineapple sage flowers are best crystallized—the red flowers are very pretty.


  • Here are some other edible sage varieties you may want to try.
    • Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’: Low-growing plant with extra-large leaves; one of the best-known choice strains
    • Salvia officinalis aurea (golden sage): Very pretty chartreuse yellow leaves; same flavour as standard sage.
    • Salvia officinalis ‘Holt's Mammoth’: Tall plant with extra-large leaves; a well-known choice strain
  • Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), an annual sage grown for its aromatic flowers, which may be blue, purple, mauve, or cream-coloured, has great ornamental value. We sell it as a bedding plant, and although it’s not our most popular annual, there are customers who ask for it year after year to plant in their flower beds.

To Note:

  • Put dried sage leaves in the linen drawer to discourage insects.
  • Sage was first cultivated by the ancient Greeks, who valued it as a medicinal plant. Sage has long been purported to possess great healing properties; a proverb from the Middle Ages goes, "Why should a man die if sage flourishes in his garden?"
  • Sage was so valued by the Chinese in the 17th century that Dutch merchants found the Chinese would trade three chests of China Tea for one chest of sage.
  • The Romans considered sage a sacred herb and gathered it with ceremony. A sacrifice of bread and wine was made, and the gatherer wore a white tunic, feet bared and washed. The sage was never cut with an iron tool—a good idea, since iron salts are not compatible with sage.
  • There is a superstition that sage grows at its best when the wife rules the house! It is also said that the sage plant will thrive if all is well with its owner and will droop when fortunes fall.
  • In medieval times, sage was believe to have magical properties. Here is a typical sage charm: Make three holes in a sage leaf. Thread them with a hair from your head as well as one from the woman you desire. Bury the leaf under her doorstep. The woman of your dreams will love you forever.


Favourite Herbs: Roses



Rosa spp.

Perennial of variable hardiness

Height and spread vary widely, depending on species.

Shrub, featuring fragrant blossoms on graceful green stems with dark-green leaves.

Try these!

Species roses (Rosa rugosa) are best for crops of rosehips, because they produce lots of edible pulp. Old garden roses or antique roses (Rosa alba, Rosa damascena, Rosa gallica) are known for their beautiful, fragrant flowers. Please see Lois Hole’s Rose Favorites for specific variety recommendations.


Plant large, well-rooted, container-grown roses from the garden centre.

How much: One plant of each type you enjoy.

When: Anytime during the growing season—from early spring to just before freeze-up.

Where: Full sun. Demands rich, well-drained soil. Space variable, depending on variety.

Care and Nurture

Roses are easy to grow! Try this basic advice: water once a week, fertilize once a month, prune once a year, and deadhead once in a while. Roses need more water than most plants. As a rule of thumb, give each rose 5 L of water per week for every 30 cm of height. Water only around the plant bases to reduce the incidence of powdery mildew and moisture loss through evaporation. Cut off damaged or diseased branches whenever you spot them. Fertilize once a month with 28-14-14 rose food. Use a fertilizer with chelated iron added to avoid veiny leaves. Ensure that the plants are well watered before freeze-up. For detailed care and nurture instructions, see Lois Hole's Rose Favorites.


For a lovely blend of flavours, pull a few petals from several different types of roses and combine. The darkest petals are said to be most flavourful.

For best flavour: Harvest mid-morning, after the dew has evaporated and before the day gets too hot.

Leaves: Not harvested.

Flowers: Just as the flowers open fully, well before they start to fade. Cut stem ten to twelve centimetres from base of flower; remove stem and greenery when you’re ready to use the petals.

Hips: Pick when they are red and plump, but not soft and overripe. Pull cleanly from the plant.

Preserving the Harvest

Petals should be used fresh. Wash the petals and remove the green or white heel at the base of each one. The petals may be preserved in butter, syrup, vinegar or crystallized. Prepare hips quickly after harvesting by slicing off the stem and blossom ends, cutting the hips in half, and scooping out the fibres and seeds with a spoon. The halves can be eaten fresh or dried on a screen in a shady, well-ventilated room.


  • I like to plant several varieties that bloom at different time of the season, so I have a continuous supply of flower petals.

To Note:

  • There are more than 10,000 varieties of rose. Three types of scents are recognized: old rose, tea rose, and myrrh. The Rosa centifolia varieties of roses have less scent than the Rosa gallica group. The best of all the roses for scent is the old cabbage rose.
  • Fossil records indicate that roses have existed for much longer than man—40,000,000 years! Roses were first cultivated in northern Persia. Cultivation then spread to Greece, and from there to Italy.
  • The word Rosa comes from the Greek word rodon, meaning red.
  • Cultivated roses to be used in perfumes are grown mostly in Bulgaria, Persia, and India.
  • The juice of the burnet rose has been used as a dye to colour muslin and silk a peach colour. When mixed with alum, it gives a violet colour.
  • It was once a custom to hang a rose over the dinner table to signify that all discussions were to remain confidential.
  • The national flower of Britain, the rose is a common insignia used in heraldry and in the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Bath, and many other Orders.
  • During World War II, soldiers and children alike ate rosehips for their high vitamin C content.
  • Shakespeare and his contemporaries ate rose petals in everything from teas to jellies.
  • The dog rose was probably named dagwood from the many thorns, or daggers, it produces. Another theory holds that the name comes from the plants supposed ability to cure rabies or mad-dog bites.
  • The ancients describe roses as having a deep crimson colour, which may be the origin of the fable that the colour came from the blood of Adonis.
  • Rose oil is very expensive. It is sometimes adulterated with palmarosa, or rose geranium oil. Oil of rose is light. The oil congeals at a temperature between 17 to 21° C.
  • In the late 16th and early 17th century, the oil Attar of Roses was discovered. There are records of Attar of Roses being imported and sold at great cost in 1694. It was an important perfume in those times. Rose cultivation in the Grasse area produces rosewater and French Attar. It takes the distillation of 10,000 pounds of roses to obtain 1 pound of oil.