Study Better... Just Add Plants!

With final exams quickly approaching, Hole's Greenhouses is now offering students a 10% discount on indoor plants. With their air cleaning and oxygen producing capabilities, studies show that plants boost attention spans and increase productivity – making them your best study-buddy yet!

Check out these articles for more information on the benefits of plants:

House Plants Make You Smarter -Scientific American

Plants In Offices Increase Happiness & Productivity -The Guardian

Study better than every before... just add plants!

The Geranium Grower, By Jim Hole

A number of years ago, I talked to a fellow who was a passionate geranium grower. He kept geranium "mother plants" in his solarium during winter. In February, he would snip-off close to a hundred cuttings and grow them into well-rooted transplants for his garden.

I could tell that he had a lot of experience with geraniums and that he knew what he was doing because he always had good success with his crop—well, almost always. The day that he talked to me he was exasperated because all of his cuttings were dying and he couldn’t figure why.

When I asked him if used the same growing protocol every year, he said yes—except for one thing. The one difference was that his son-in-law had given him some bags of “professional potting soil” that he had used to root the cuttings. In the past, he had blended his own mixture, but thought that the professional mixture should be just as good.

When I asked this fellow to provide me with a sample of his mixture for testing, the reasons why his cuttings were dying were very clear. The “professional potting soil” had an extremely low pH and an extremely high level of salt. The geraniums simply couldn’t survive in this toxic blend.

Once he got rid of the bad soil mixture, he was able to salvage quite a few cuttings although he had no where near his usual number of good cuttings.

The take home lesson with soils is this: with some experience, you can judge the physical quality of a mixture by looking at it, but you can’t judge the chemical quality visually. Only a soil test will reveal whether or not a soil’s chemistry is up to snuff.

In my "Soil: It's Not Dirt!" Workshop, I reveal all that you need to know about the physical and chemical properties of soils. Once you understand the basics you will know what to look for in a great quality soil.

- Jim Hole

NEW: Terrarium Workshop!

March 30th, 2-3PM in the Floral Studio

Interested in starting a terrarium? Looking for a fun activity to do with a friend or family member? Love crafting? You're in luck! The Floral Studio at Hole's is offering a Terrarium Workshop Thursday, March 30th from 2-3pm. Let our experts guide you through the proper terrarium building techniques, providing tips and tricks to ensure your terrarium will remain healthy and long-lasting. Everything you need to start a terrarium is included in this workshop, so you're guaranteed to leave the studio with a terrarium you can show off!

  • $79/person
  • All workshop supplies included

Spots are limited, so book today! Call 780-419-6800 (9am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday) to reserve your spot.

DIY: Build Your Own Terrarium!

Because a terrarium is a self-contained ecosystem, you must set it up properly the first time, using proper materials. Be sure to buy a high-quality potting mix and select the appropriate plants. 

Materials

Supplies needed:

  • One terrarium with air holes or a glass jar without a lid
  • Small gravel, pea rock or coloured glass
  • Jim Hole’s Potting Soil
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Decorative accessories (stones, drift wood, wtc.)
  • Plants (two or three for every 3L of space; avoid fuzzy-leaved plants – they hold water and are susceptible to rotting)

Preparing the soil

 Start by creating a 1 cm base of gravel at the bottom of the terrarium. The gravel provides proper drainage, which is important because the container has no holes. 

Next, cover the gravel with a layer of potting mix. At least 5 cm of mix is required, but the mix can come up as high as half the height of the terrarium. 

Note: Charcoal is not necessary. The common belief is that charcoal will ‘filter’ the soil and keep it clean, but activated charcoal becomes inactive as soon as it is exposed to carbon in the air. 

Transplanting

Space plants according to the mature height and spread listed on their tags. 

Prepare holes in the soil where the plants will go by gently scooping away enough potting mix to bury the roots to the same depth as they were growing in their pots. 

Remove plants from containers and examine the roots. Packed and tangled (rootbound) rootballs can be gently teased loose. Don’t worry if the soil falls off plants while transplanting. Losing some is fine. 

Place plants in prepared holes and gently firm the soil, being careful not to pack it. Remove any damaged leaves. 

Trimming the terrarium

Decorate the soil with bits of moss or add other finishing touches such as driftwood or decorative stones. You’re creating your own little world, so let your imagination guide you. 

Watering

Give plants a thorough watering, but don’t over water. A terrarium sustains itself, so the first watering is essential to establishing the correct moisture level. 

Watching it grow

Placing a terrarium in a direct sun might seem like a nice treat for your plants, but it’s the equivalent of steaming vegetables in a pot! 

If you didn’t use a container with air holes, don’t cover your terrarium with a lid. Although it’s possible to grow plants in a self-contained environment, it’s incredibly difficult and requires perfect light, temperature and humidity conditions. 

Visit Hole's today and find everything you need to create your own custom terrarium! 

Dig In: St. Albert's Horticulinary Festival!

Dig-In, St. Albert’s Horticulinary Festival, is an exciting weekend of culinary adventure that will excite you with the possibilities and benefits of eating locally grown food.

Through celebrity hosted meals, along with a series of demonstrations and hands-on workshops, participants will learn how to grow food in an urban setting and to prepare and preserve their own produce. Additionally, those who take part will discover the delicious joy of food they've grown themselves.

Chef Desiree Nielsen, star of the Gusto TV show The Urban Vegetarian, teams up with the Glasshouse Bistro to prepare a special one-time brunch menu. Filled with healthy options and lots of fresh ingredients, this interactive multi-course brunch will allow you to put the finishing touches on some of your dishes and taste some amazing health-boosting brunch options.

Chef Corbin Tomaszeski, star of HGTV's Restaurant Makeover and The Food Network's Dinner Party Wars, teams up with the Glasshouse Bistro to prepare a special, one-time brunch and dinner menu. Flavourful, organic, and locally sourced, these interactive multi-course meals will allow you to taste some recipes right out of Chef Corbin’s kitchen.

Get your tickets today at: www.diginstalbert.ca

Food For Thought, By Lois Hole

I believe very strongly in education, so whenever I’m asked to speak at school, I do my best to come—although I must admit, sometimes I leave my preparations until the last minute.


One warm June morning, I visited a grade five and six class. The only topic I could come up with to talk about was “Watering in the Greenhouse”. When I got there and saw how tired the kids looked, my heart sank. “Oh crum,” I thought, “they aren’t going to listen to a word I say.”
Just then, my eye caught a pair of familiar, brightly smiling faces. Two little Italian boys, who often came out to the farm with their parents and grandparents, were sitting in the front row. With a flash of inspiration, I realized I didn’t have to talk about watering after all.


“Let me tell you a little story,” I said. “Years ago on our farm, we didn’t grow very many different kinds of vegetables. We had never grown broccoli or zucchini. Then, one day, some Italian customers came out to our farm and told us how to grow it and even how to cook it. The next year, we planted some. It was wonderful.”


The Italian boys sat there, beaming with pride. I began to look around at the other faces and realized that practically every ethnic group was represented in that classroom. So, I carried on with my strategy.


“We had German customers who taught us about growing big cabbages and making sauerkraut. Lebanese folks told us that vegetable marrow was especially delicious when picked small—they called it kousa. East Indians introduced us to hot peppers and showed us different ways to cook with them.”


I noticed one small boy in the back. I couldn’t see him very well without my glasses, so I tried to guess. “The Chinese people told us about using vegetables in stir-fry.” The boy didn’t bat an eye. “Darn,” I thought, “I made a mistake.” So I tried again. “And the Japanese showed us daikon and all the different ways they cook vegetables.” Still no reaction. Finally, he put up his hand and asked, “Mrs. Hole, what did the Koreans teach you?” Fortunately, I had recently tried kim Chee, Korean pickled cabbage, so I talked about that.


By now, the rest of the kids were jumping up and down, their hands waving in the air. “What about the Yugoslavians? What about the Hungarians?” Of course, I didn’t have an example to give each and every one of them, so when I was stumped, I simply asked, “What did you have for dinner last night?” When the child answered, I replied, “That’s it!” and made a mental note to add those dishes to my vegetable repertoire.


When I tell this story, I always add a fictional kid who asks me, “What did the English teach you?” I say, “Not much!” My husband, who’s of English descent, gets a big kick out of that!
But you know, those kids made me realize something. If it hadn’t been for new Canadians introducing us to all kinds of different, wonderful vegetables, our business wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. Because we were able to offer so many kinds of produce, people came from miles around to shop at our place.


I like to think of that phenomenon as a reflection of Canada’s success. Our diversity is our greatest strength.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer

Stop Talking, Start Sprouting

Sure, we all want to create less waste, reduce our ecological footprint and use sustainable resources, but such a large task can be daunting. Sprouting Kits are a great place to start! At Hole’s Greenhouses, we believe that Urban Farming is a critical component of sustainable communities. "Food Deserts" (areas where nutritious food is difficult to access) are becoming increasingly common. Using a sprouting kit at home is one way of bridging the gap by putting nutritious, fresh food within arm’s reach.

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With the Biosta Sprouting Kit you can:

  • Grow shoots and sprouts that aren’t available at your local grocery store
  • Grow GMO and pesticide-free produce
  • Grow nutrient-dense produce; rich in natural vitamins, minerals, proteins, and enzymes
  • Harvest fresh sprouts in as little as 3 days!
  • Grow a variety of different seeds, year-round in the comfort of your own home
  • Use your fresh sprouts to make simple, tasty, and attractive gourmet dishes
  • Hide the sprouts and shoots in a smoothie for the kids!
  • Save money—each serving costs a few pennies
  • Reduce your ecological footprint with the "0 mile" diet!
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Stop talking and start sprouting today! Pick up your Biosta Sprouting Kit at Hole’s Greenhouses.

FREE Pruning Workshop This Weekend!

You know spring can’t be too far away when I’m talking about pruning! My first pruning workshop for 2017 is this coming Saturday (February 25th).
 
I thought as a bit of a teaser to the workshop, I would throw in a half dozen true or false pruning questions. Let’s see how you do.
 

  1. Birch and maple trees should only be pruned in late spring so that they don’t "bleed".
  2. When trees are threatening to grow into power lines "topping" the tree is the best strategy.
  3. Nice, clean, cuts close to the trunk are best to ensure the wound heals properly.
  4. Apple trees should only be pruned in the early spring.
  5. Don’t prune roses because you will cut-off the flower buds.
  6. Always remove top growth on a tree to balance root growth when transplanting.

 
If you answered False to all of these questions, you are correct. There are many myths surrounding tree pruning and I will explain the truth behind pruning so that you know how to tackle the pruning jobs in your yard, and also when it is best to leave it to the pros.
 
Pruning is one of my most popular workshops so be sure to register early. See you on Saturday!

~Jim Hole

Fashionistas Rejoice!

Beautifully chic with a touch of elegance, we are now carrying tops and purses by Simply Noelle!

Whether you need a top for that dinner party, or something more relaxed for that walk along the Sturgeon—whatever the occasion—Simply Noelle will have the look for you.

All tops are made of either cotton or polyester, which feel soft to the touch and beautiful quality finish.

Purses are also available in different sizes and colors and are all made of vegan leather and offer beautiful inside lining. Great for any occasion!

All items are available for purchase at Hole’s Greenhouses near the checkouts.

So come on over and visit us while items are still available!

Simply beautiful, simply affordable, Simply Noelle.

simple-noelle-purse

Gardening For The Complete Novice

When I was a kid growing up on the farm, Dad would send me in to town to pick up parts for our equipment. I hated that job.
 
It’s not that I didn’t like mechanical things, because I did, but whenever I picked-up a part, I dreaded the conversation with the parts guy. Nine times out of ten, I felt stupid and embarrassed because I didn’t have a clue about what all the "parts lingo" meant.
 
Once I got older and gained some experience and knowledge with mechanical things, I could hold my own at the parts desk, but I learned a valuable lesson on how to treat people who are novices in a particular field.
 
For those who are new to the world of plants I know that Latin names, fertilizer ratios, and bugs are just some of the things that scare people who have never gardened. As a result, I will be offering workshops for those who feel a bit intimidated about trying to grow plants for the first time.
 
So, if you don’t know the first thing about a seed, soil or fertilizer, my plan is to help you feel comfortable with entering into the plant world.
 
So if you have ever felt like I did at the parts department make sure that you sign up for "Gardening For Complete Novices".

Who knows, it could be a stepping stone to a career in horticulture!


~Jim Hole

Starting Seeds Indoors

I’ve had a few questions from people who are coming to this weekend’s workshop on "Starting Seeds Indoors".  It seems that the two most common questions everyone wants answered are:
 
"When do I start my seeds indoors?" and "How do I keep my seedlings from getting stretched and floppy?"
 
The simple answer to these questions is that you need to understand a bit about the growth habits of the seed that you are sowing and how temperature, light, and water affect the seeds and seedlings.
 
This weekend we are going to get into the "minds" of seed and I’m going to explain how seeds perceive their growing environment and how they react to it. Once you understand what makes seed "tick" it is pretty easy to start seeds indoors and grow great seedlings.
 
I like the step by step approach for starting seeds indoors so my game plan is to lay out all of the steps and materials required to get from the start line (seeds in a package) to the finish line (healthy, vibrant seedlings).
 
At last count we had close to 3000 seed varieties in our garden centre – the largest selection in the region – so I won’t be going through the idiosyncrasies of every variety but I will tackle many of the most popular types of seed.
 
Hope to see you this weekend!


~Jim Hole

Starting Seeds

February 4th is the kick-off for my first seminar of the season! In fact, we are listing all of the Free Gardening Talks for the next 3 months.
 
This year, I’ve increased the number of sessions that I am offering due to the popularity of last year’s sessions. The first session on the 4th is all about getting seeds started indoors for the spring season that is approaching quickly.
 
I’m going to cover all of the basics for ensuring that you get your plants off to a great start and answer burning questions like:

  • Which are the best containers – plastic or fibre?
  • What is the best seedling soil mix?
  • Can I use garden soil?
  • What are heat mats and how do I use them?
  • What are the best grow lights for my seedlings?
  • Do I need to add fertilizer to my mix?
  • When do I start sowing seed indoors?

 
Now, if you have never grown a thing in your life, don’t worry about it. I will take you through all the steps to ensure that you have success. If you have any specific questions about seeds, sowing or anything else for that matter, I’ll be happy to answer all of them.
 
 January is almost gone…spring is only a few snow drifts away!

~Jim Hole
 

Spring Is Here!

OK, I might have jumped the gun just a bit, but I can’t help but get excited about spring because all of our garden seed has arrived and is on the floor. And there is nothing quite like shelves full of colourful seed packages for inciting a good dose of spring fever.
 
Now if you think that it is too early to buy seeds, you’re correct – well, sort of. True, there are only a select few varieties that should be started indoors in January, but the main problem with not buying seeds early is that some sell-out very quickly.

Every year, I talk to many gardeners who don’t start buying their seeds until March and April and are disappointed that some of their favourites are already sold-out.
 
And it seems that sold-out vegetables and fruits cause the greatest disappointment. For example, specific varieties of tomatoes like Mortgage Lifter, Stupice and Black Krim or "superfoods" like Kale or novelty vegetables like golden beets and corn salad (mache) top the list.

The strategy for avoiding disappointment is simple: Get the seeds early and hang on to them until you are ready to sow. All types of seed will store just fine provided you keep them in a dry spot that is not excessively warm.
 
I often get questions about whether or not seed is damaged if it is frozen. The quick answer is that seed – even seeds of hot weather crops like squash, cucumbers and melons – is not damaged by subzero temperatures.  But never store any seed in your refrigerator. It’s not cold that is a problem, rather it’s moisture inside the fridge that is not good for longevity and viability.
 
One last word on storing seed. Watch for rodents. Mice absolutely love corn and cucumber seed.
 
Years ago we overwintered a 50lb bag of corn seed and a 20lb bag of cucumber seed in our shed. Come spring, there wasn’t a single seed of either vegetable left to plant. We assumed the shed was well sealed and rodent-proof but the mice managed to ‘break-in’ and enjoy a delicious feast.
 
I’ve since learned to never underestimate the ingenuity and adaptability of hungry mice. Keep all of your seed in sealed containers wherever you are planning on storing it.

~Jim Hole

Half Empty/Half Full

Next week is the "glass half full – glass half empty" time of the year for plants.

This year, December 21st is the day with the least amount of sunlight that can find its way into your home – the day being sunny, of course.
 
 But by the 22nd, the days start getting longer and your houseplants can begin to enjoy a few extra "photons" of light with each advancing day. Granted, the journey to longer days is measured in seconds and minutes during December and January but the days do get longer.
 
That’s the glass half full part of the equation. The glass half empty side is that we are faced with a couple of months of days with very little sunlight.
 
So what do you do? There are a couple of strategies. First, move your plants closer to the window, if at all possible. You need to be aware of heat vents that pump-out leaf-dessicating, desert-dry air that will turn leaves from green to brown in no time at all.
 
But even if you manage to dance around the heat vents, the amount of sunlight that hits your plants, at this time of year, is still miserably low.
 
Grow lights are the solution to offsetting any deficiencies in sunlight. Heck, with enough grow lights you could grow coconuts in your house! Granted, you’d need an incredibly tall house, a huge pot, and a blinding array of grow lights but at least the science is solid.
 
Coming back down to earth, a more pragmatic approach would be to choose plants that can endure the shortest days of winter in good shape. Here is my list of tropical plants that are the toughest of the bunch: Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), ZZ Plant, Sanseveria, and Cast Iron Plant.

All of these plants will grow better with more light (indirect) but they hold their own remarkably well during the short days of winter. Chinese evergreen and Sanseveria have beautiful variegated foliage, whereas both ZZ and Cast Iron are solid green.
 
The toughest of the tough is the Cast Iron plant followed very closely by the ZZ and Sanseveria.
 
Given that it is the holiday season, you might wonder where the venerable poinsettia fits into the low light days of winter scenario. Pretty darn good, in fact. A poinsettia must have high light levels during production, but once it has flowered, it doesn’t need to generate any additional growth. All that it requires – light wise – is some sunlight during the day to keep its green leaves from falling off. If your poinsettia is near a window during the day, it will look fabulous for weeks to come.
 
To be honest, I’m neither a glass half full nor a glass half empty kind of guy during Christmas.
 
 On Christmas day, I prefer my glass completely full, thank-you very much.

~Jim Hole

More Than A Gift

A nurse from the U of A Hospital came to see me about her orchid. This orchid was particularly special because it was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law one Christmas to thank her for the wonderful care my 3-year old grandson had received when he was in the hospital.
 
This same orchid, still thriving 15 years later, was growing well but desperately needed to be repotted. She was terrified to transplant it herself because she didn’t want to kill it.
As we talked some more, she told me that she cherished this particular plant because it was a reminder of the good she tries to do every day.
 
I remember a woman who brought in a tired looking peace lily that she wanted us to help her repot and clean up.  She had given it to her mother many years ago when her mom was moved into an assisted living home. Her mother had diligently cared for it every day. When mom passed away that peace lily became the one living memory of her mom and she desperately wanted to keep it.
 
Plants are unique gifts. They don't get put in closets, or eaten, or forgotten.
They can remain in a home or office for years, requiring only simple, regular care.
 
Plants can be more than just a gift. They can be symbols of love, affection and gratitude. They respond to care and nurture, and over the years, plants can become a cherished reminder of those special people that gave them to us, and the memories we associate with them.


-Lois Hole

A Healthy New Year

I remember receiving an invitation to the home of one of my favourite customers.
 
She invited me to her house after she had decorated her entire home for Christmas because she was so excited for me to see it. When I walked in the door, I was overwhelmed with Christmas decorations in every room, on every wall, shelf, ledge and door. There was a fully decorated, themed Christmas tree in each room of the house. Christmas baking was in small dishes beautifully displayed on her dining room table.
 
Everything was neat, clean, carefully arranged and immaculate which must have taken her weeks to complete. But despite her beautifully decorated home, what immediately caught my attention was the air in the room. It was stuffy, stale and felt very dry. When I looked around the rooms, there was not a single live plant anywhere.
 
I’ve never decorated my home even close to this extent, but I always had poinsettias and many green plants throughout my house. It was not until I visited her home that I realized how poor the air quality was without plants.
 
We can’t live without plants. Plants produce oxygen, clean and retain water and plants form the basis of our entire food chain. They do this very silently and continuously which is often why we tend to forget that pretty little houseplant in the corner of the room is working very hard for us indeed.

Humans use the O2 (oxygen) in the air to breathe and produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) as waste. A plant does the exact opposite. Plants derive their energy from CO2 and produce O2 as waste.
 
Humans also produce other waste, volumes of chemical waste from modern building materials, rugs and fabrics also “breathe” out toxins. Plants also process this waste very effectively, converting our particulate toxins to harmless, usable nutrients for themselves, while simultaneously cleaning the air. What most people don’t know is that, on average, our indoor climate is 5 to 10 times more polluted then the outdoor climate.
 
Plants work in silence, so we tend to forget how valuable they are to our air quality and quality of life. We do not appreciate these quiet, calm plants enough. We would not survive 10 minutes on earth without plants.
 
Our home never felt dry or stuff. My sons did not get many colds or illnesses and the air inside our house always smelled fresh and clean.
 
As soon as I got home I went directly to the greenhouse and picked out the largest poinsettia we had and sent it to her.
 
My Christmas card simply read "Enjoy Christmas and have a HEALTHY and Happy New Year." I also sent some simple care information about plants!

-Lois Hole

Poinsettia Combos

In the "good old days" a poinsettia plant would pretty much stand on its own. You could choose a particular size or colour and, perhaps, dress it up with a bow or a few other "bells and whistles" but the poinsettia was, of course, the dominant feature.
 
Today, individual poinsettias are still popular, but there now there is a trend to partnering poinsettias with other houseplants – typically tropicals – in a larger container. When Christmas is over, the poinsettias are simply pulled from the container and replaced with other houseplants. The result is containers that look fabulous both during Christmas and long after the last snowflake has melted outside.
 
I know, at the greenhouses, we have a hard time keeping up with the demand for these tropical – poinsettia combinations that include ferns, colorful coleus, miniature evergreens, and spider plants that provide a nice "waterfall" effect.
 
Of course, the same care rules apply to these combos as they would to any other houseplant containers. Provide as much bright sunlight as possible during the winter and as much bright, indirect sunlight the rest of the year. Keep the soil moist and provide some 10-4-3 fertilizer when the plants are actively growing. Other than that enjoy the transition from the Christmas season, through spring, summer, fall and right back to Christmas next year – and, hopefully, for years to come!


~Jim Hole

Cleaner Air At Home

Many people are aware of the study that came out of NASA, a number of years ago, about the extraordinary ability of houseplants to clean the air by removing "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs) like formaldehyde and benzene.
 
The research demonstrated that many varieties of houseplants were capable of absorbing and detoxifying a wide range of VOCs. Some houseplants were a bit more efficient at absorbing specific VOCs than were others, but the take home message was that having lots of plants in ones home, would be a great way to reduce VOCs.
 
One interesting outcome of the research on air purifying plants is that the plants couldn’t take all the credit for helping to rid the ones home of VOCs. The potting soil, itself, played a large roll in VOC removal thanks to the millions of beneficial soil microbes – bacteria in particular - contained in each mixture. When the toxins were absorbed by the potting soil, bacteria would dine on the toxins and break them down into harmless compounds.
 
Plants like ferns, draecena, spider plants, and even poinsettias, all do their part to clean the air but they do it in conjunction with good quality potting soil that harbours a healthy population of microbes.
 
At home, next to my kitchen window, I have my Meyer’s lemon tree sitting in a large pot with Boston ferns adorning the soil beneath. I can’t say that I’ve ever measured the VOCs in my kitchen but I know the lemon, ferns and soil are doing their part to keep my air just a bit cleaner.
 
 But to be honest, I didn’t place the lemon/fern combo in my kitchen to combat VOCs. I put it there for its beauty and the joy of watching a tiny green lemon slowly grow into a gorgeous yellow fruit.
 
The fact that the plants and soil are also VOC fighters is just icing on the lemon cake.


~Jim Hole