FREE How-to Holiday Demonstrations

I’m really excited about our Christmas-themed "How-to" demonstrations.
 
If you want to know how to assemble gorgeous wreaths, centerpieces, spectacular "winterscape" planters, or how to make delicious holiday dishes, you don’t want to miss our Dec 3rd and 4th events.
 
Now, I have to confess that I am not the most artistic guy around, so I am leaving the demonstrations to our wonderful design team that includes Dana from Hole’s Floral Studio, Joyce who merchandises all of our beautiful décor items, and Chef Enrique Toldeo from our Glasshouse Bistro.
 
But, I will still be around to do what I think I do best which is to talk about plants – Christmas plants, in particular. I am going to cover the basic "how-tos" of the big four Christmas plants: poinsettias, Christmas cactus, amaryllis, and paperwhites. I’ll discuss what to look for when you purchase these plants and how to keep them looking beautiful in your home or office. And, yes, if you still have those burning questions on tomato plants or apples, I’ll be happy to answer your questions.
 
Here is a sample of common questions that I receive on Christmas plants and that I will talk about on Dec 3rd and 4th:
 

  • Can I get Christmas plants to re-bloom?
  • Is it true that Christmas cactus can live to be 100 years old?
  • How do I keep paperwhites from becoming floppy?
  • What do I do will amaryllis once it quits blooming?
  • What is the best location to place Christmas plants in my home or office?
  • Are poinsettias poisonous?
  • Do I need to apply fertilizer?
  • How much light do these plants need?

 
Don’t forget to register online as soon as possible. These are very popular sessions and last weekend's sessions sold out very quickly!
 
 See you on the 3rd and 4th!

~Jim Hole

Rodents

On the farm we were often plagued with mice. It seemed they were everywhere , and they always found our old wooden barn to be particularly inviting. They also loved our potato patch, and often dug into the hills and dined on the tender tubers. I can remember many years when we had to grade-out hundreds of pounds of tubers thanks to mouse damage.
 
Mice (and their close relatives voles) can also cause severe damage to young trees and shrubs. Tender fruit trees like apples and plums are a favourite food for these rodents. Trees that become "girdled" by rodents invariably die and must be replaced with new transplants.
 
So what does one do to control these critters? Essentially, there are three control strategies: exclusion, repellents and traps/rodenticides.
 
Exclusion should always be at the top of the list. Providing solid physical barriers is the most important first step. Tough, plastic tree wraps provide excellent protection, and well-sealed homes will keep rodents from coming indoors. Just remember that exclusion always goes hand in hand with cleaning up the yard and removing places for rodents to inhabit and hide.

Repellents can be reasonably effective against mice and voles but are not designed to eliminate rodents from your property. Rodents are surprisingly smart and highly adaptive and while some repellents have some short-term affect they often provide poor protection unless applied regularly. Sometimes blood meal fertilizer is recommended as a rodent repellent but I have never found that it works. However, blood containing products like "Plantskydd" are fairly effect for repelling deer and elk.

One important thing to keep in mind that repellents come under Canada’s Pest Control Products Act. What that means, among other things, is that if a product is not labeled as a repellent with a "PCP" number on the label it cannot be sold as such. Thus, a product like blood meal is labeled for sale only as a fertilizer but not as a repellent. 
 
Rodenticides are another tool for rodent control. Today’s best mouse killers are superior to the old "toss and scatter" baits and, instead, are secured in bait stations. Typically, a bait station includes a solid block of rodenticide that is sealed in a plastic container that has a clear plastic lid and, for safety’s sake, the bait can only be accessed via a mouse-sized entry hole.  One feeding is all it takes to kill small rodents.
 
Still, there are a couple of other strategies that can be employed if the above three don’t appeal to you. Some people prefer to employ a feline or two to keep rodents in checkwhile others simply shrug their shoulders and tolerate some rodent damage by adopting a "live and let live" philosophy.
 
As always, the choice is yours.

~Jim Hole

"Bulb Empowering"

When I hear the term "forcing" bulbs, I usually envision someone holding a flower bulb over a compost bin and yelling, "This is your last chance dammit! Bloom or I’m dropping you in."
 
But the term "bulb forcing" really hasn’t arisen out of any ill feelings towards bulbs. It’s used simply to describe a technique where one schedules flower bulbs to bloom within a particular time frame.
 
Amaryllis, Narcissus and Hyacinth are examples of forced bulbs that are commonly grown in our homes. At the greenhouses, we have a bunch that are quite content to sit dormant in boxes on our store shelves and wait patiently for customers to pot them for forcing indoors.
 
Each variety of forcing bulbs has its own "weeks to flower" schedule, based largely on its genetic make-up. Bulbs like Narcissus bloom quickly once potted-up, while Hyacinth and Amaryllis take a bit longer to display their gorgeous flowers.
 
Flowering times can be sped-up or slowed-down, somewhat, by manipulating temperatures. Cool temperatures delay flowering while warm temperatures reduce the time to flower.

Beyond their beauty, what I really like about forced bulbs is that they require so little care. The growers who have carefully nurtured them have already done most of the work. All I that I have to do is drop them into pots, add water, and enjoy.
 
Come to think of it, given that potting up a bulb is such a gentle and nurturing activity, coupled with our modern sensitivity to labeling things, perhaps its time to replace the harsh term "bulb forcing" with something like "bulb empowering".
 
Maybe "bulb emancipation" is an even better phrase, since we liberate the bulbs from their dry packages and transplant them into warm, moist, potting soil. Or perhaps consider "Manipulation of florogenesis of geophytes" if plant science is your thing.
 
Hmm… with some sober second thought, I think "bulb forcing" sounds just fine.

~Jim Hole
 

Marvelous Mums

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Fall mums are some of the most spectacular plants for our gardens. No other fall-flowering plant can match the colour of mums and they always arrive just when our gardens are looking a little brown and need a little brightening-up.
 
When it comes to fall mums there are roughly three categories based on flowering period: early, mid-season and late. Early varieties start blooming in August and into mid-September. Mid-season varieties bloom from late September and well into October, while the late varieties are for late October and November.
 
By now, anyone who purchased the early varieties (August-September bloomers) can see that they are well past their prime and have more dead blossoms than they do vibrant flowers. But, the mid-season types are just beginning to bloom. Mid-season types are, usually, bigger and more floriferous than their early season cousins and with cooler October temperatures, will last much longer than the early maturing varieties.
 
While garden mums won’t be killed by hard frosts, the blossoms can be damaged. What I like to do is leave the mums in their plastic pots and then just drop them into a slightly-larger, decorative pot so that they can be pulled out and placed in the garage should the night temperatures get really cold. Beyond giving them shelter when needed, mid-season mums just require some watering to keep them looking spectacular often until Halloween, and sometimes beyond.
 
If you are wondering about the late season mums keep in mind that, by November, we often get some pretty cold temperatures. Having said that, I have seen years where late season mums looked incredible well into the third week of November.

For me, the reward of seeing spectacular mums blooming in November outweighs the risk of damage from deep cold or heavy snowfalls!
 
Who knows, could this be the year of blooming garden mums in early December? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened!
 
Risk versus reward – everyone has their own formula.

~Jim Hole

Second Pruning Workshop Added!

Thanks to everyone who attended last weekend’s pruning workshop. With close to 400 people attending, it was a little crowded and I thank everyone for their patience and a special thanks to those who helped move additional chairs into the greenhouse!
 
I apologize that I was unable to answer everyone’s questions on Sunday, so I thought it would be wise to have another pruning session on Saturday, October 15th at 1pm here at the greenhouses. If you missed last Sunday’s pruning workshop, or if you didn’t get your questions answered, please feel free to sign-up online or by phone for the workshop.
 
Also, thanks for so many great questions from the audience members. There was a lot of territory covered; everything from pruning raspberries and grapes to training apple trees into an espalier form. I suspect the next workshop will be a little smaller and a bit more intimate, however, it will be the last pruning event until early next year.
 
Now I know that some of you are probably thinking that I need to space out my pruning workshops for safety’s sake. This past spring I talked about the incredible sharpness of the "Corona Razortooth Pruning Saw" and no sooner had the words come out of my mouth, I then proceeded to cut my left index finger. On Sunday I, once again, talked about the sharpness of the pruning saw and managed to cut my left index finger in the same spot.
 

So whether you are coming to workshop to learn about pruning or just want to see if I will have a "threepeat" I look forward to seeing you on the 15th !


~Jim Hole

Autumn Tomatoes

The end of the 2016 tomato season is rapidly approaching. That doesn’t mean that you need to run out to the garden and strip every last fruit of off each plant, but you do want to keep a close eye on the weather. If frost threatens, keep some "Cloud Cover" fabric handy and drape it over the tomatoes. The fabric will provide a few degrees of frost protection for the foliage and fruit.
 
When it comes time for the final harvest both ripe and green fruit can be gathered. Green tomatoes will ripen inside your home provided it has reached the "breaker" stage. The breaker stage is the point where the fruit has reached sufficient maturity so that it will change colour once indoors. Fruit that hasn’t reached the breaker stage–indicated by a deep green colour–will not mature inside regardless of what treatments you provide. Light green tomatoes have excellent flavour but the deep green ones are, typically, inedible.
 
One technique that a lot of people love, is to cut-off the entire tomato plant at ground level–fruit intact–and hang the plants upside down in a heated shed or garage. The tomato plants continue to send sugars to the fruit–if only for a short period of time–allowing some of the fruit on the "fringe" to ripen. The other good thing is that hung tomatoes are less inclined to rot while hanging because of better air movement.


~Jim Hole

FREE Pruning Workshop with Jim Hole!

Over the years, I would say that the main reason people don’t prune their trees and shrubs is due to a fear that pruning of the irreparable damage it cause.
 
But while it’s true, that a bad pruning job can lead to some serious tree and shrub problems, doing nothing can be even worse. That is why I’m putting on a fall pruning workshop.
 
Given that the spring pruning workshops were so popular, and the fact that a lot of pruning can be done in the fall, I’m offering an hour long pruning session on Sunday, September 21st for everyone who would like to know more about the principles of tree and shrub pruning and the equipment required to get the job done safely and effectively. The session is free and all that you need to do is sign-up on line and pop out.
 
And don’t forget to bring along your questions on anything from fall raspberry pruning to pruning huge American Elms.
 
And, no, there won’t be any lessons on how to climb a 20 metre tall Elm with a chainsaw in hand – that’s for certified arborists – but I will talk about all of the pruning jobs that you can comfortably tackle yourselves and the essential tools needed for safe and effective pruning.
 
Looking forward to seeing you on the 21st!


~Jim Hol

Growing Fall Bulbs In Pots

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When it comes fall planting, most people think of planting tulips into flowerbeds around the house or in the garden.
 
But here is something a bit different that you might want to try with your tulips this fall. Rather than planting your tulip bulbs into the ground, plant them into pots. I’ve done this for years because it is simple as can be, plus I have a blaze of colourful flowers long before anything else is transplanted outside.
 
Now, not everyone can put tulips into pots because one needs some free space and a cold storage area. But if you have garage or storage shed that is cold during winter (anything around the freezing mark but not down into the minus 20s!) and a bit of extra space, then you’re set. You’ll have tulips poking through the soil in March.
 

Here are the step by step instructions for very early spring tulips:

  • Choose a pot. I like bigger pots but smaller are just fine.
  • Add good quality potting soil to the pot. Garden soil is too heavy and dense, plus it often contains too many weed seeds.
  • Fill the pot to within about 15 cm of the top of the rim.
  • Place the tulip bulbs on the potting soil with the "pointy part up". Put lots of bulbs into the pot for a really good spring show. I like to plant the bulbs about 3cm apart.
  • Cover the bulbs completely with potting soil leaving a few centimeters of space below the rim so that the pot can be easily watered.
  • Water the pot thoroughly and then place it in a warm spot for at least 2 weeks to allow roots to develop. The rooted bulbs will not bloom, after rooting, until their "chilling requirement" has been met, which is equivalent to about a month or so of freezing to near freezing temperatures.
  • Once the bulbs have received their chilling requirement, they are ready to bloom. The trick at this point is to keep the tulips cold until you are ready to place them outside. If you warm the bulbs too early, the shoots will pop out of the potting soil and become floppy and die. I keep my tulips cold until about the 3rd week of March and then I place them on my deck and give them a good shot of water. If it does freeze outside even after the tulip shoots have emerged they won’t be harmed.


Usually, this pot planting technique allows me to enjoy tulips in early April - a good month before the regular garden tulips begin to bloom.
 
So if you have some extra cold space in your garage or cellar, give potted tulips a try. It really is a thrill to see tulips popping out of pots when there is still a foot of snow on the ground.

~Jim Hole

Harvesting Tomatoes

  • I think tomatoes have the best flavour when they are picked just before they’ve reached their colour peak. At this stage, they are still firm and will last several days on your kitchen counter. Tomatoes that are already slightly soft will be at their best for only a day or two after picking.
  • Red tomatoes left hanging on the vine will not taste as good as those harvested earlier, because the primary flavour components, sugar and acid, start to decrease.
  • I always recommend that gardeners write on their garden calendars which varieties they like best. This certainly helps me out, because I sometimes find it tough to remember from year to year which of the new varieties are best.
  • Harvest ripe tomatoes by gently breaking the stem just above the fruit at the knuckle. Always try to keep this bit of stem attached so that tomatoes will keep longer after picking.
  • If you plant has an entire truss (branch-full) of ripe tomatoes, cut the whole thing off with scissors. An intact truss of tomatoes lasts longest of all!
  • Pick often to encourage the production of more fruit.
  • If any of your tomatoes have developed blossom-end rot, pick them anyhow. Just cut off the rotten parts after harvesting—the remainder of the tomato is fine for eating.
  • A good friend told me of a “harvesting” method which allowed her to keep on picking ripe tomatoes until early December. Try this if your container-grown plants are still bearing fruit at the end of the season. Move the entire pot into the garage, soil plant and all, and don’t do anything else to it, other than pick off ripe tomato as you need them. Don’t worry about water or light. The plant will soon begin to look terrible, but tomatoes will continue to ripen on the vine.

Only 131 Days Left Until Christmas!

This week, our growing team is – wait for it – pinching poinsettias for the Christmas season!
 
This time of year, I much prefer thinking about summer barbeques and cycling, but poinsettias have their own agenda. They need a good four months in our growing range to attain their full glorious colour in time for the beginning of the holiday season, so scheduling them correctly is critical. Poinsettias need to "bulk up" before the nights become longer than the days in late September. Once the short days start, poinsettias are triggered to initiate flowers and there is little that can be done to increase their final size.

Now, while I have you thinking Christmas, however fleeting that thought is, now is the time to at least give your Christmas office party some thought. Danny Hooper and his gang are returning to Hole’s this December for their annual "Deck the Hall Ball" multi-company Christmas party. It’s a party that is not to be missed and was so popular last year that it Danny has added additional nights on the schedule (December 9th , 10th ,16th and 17th).

It’s easy to buy tickets online by going to Dannyhooper.com and clicking on events. There will be great food from our Glasshouse Bistro and the wonderful down home fun that only Danny can deliver.
 
 And, of course, there will be poinsettias adorning the tables if we stick to the schedule!

Healthy "Pest Controlled" Plants

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Over the years I have answered thousands of gardening questions. I enjoy helping people out with their "plant issues" and I know that they appreciate the advice.
 
Most of the questions are pretty straightforward and revolve around insect and disease pests.
 
Once I identify a particular plant pest for a gardener, the question that often follows shortly after is, "How do I get rid of them?" Now this is a pretty logical question to ask but "getting rid of them" is really not an option. The correct strategy is not so much  getting "rid" of, but rather figuring out how to control them.
 
One of the biggest differences between home gardens and commercial horticultural businesses (other than size, of course!) are the strategies for dealing with pests. Commercial horticulture deals with pest problems proactively while home garden pests are, largely, treated reactively.
 
In commercial horticultural, each operation has a list of pests that are virtually guaranteed to show up each year. A particular crop can be kept pest free in a particular growing but every grower knows full well that the battle will begin again the following year.

In home gardens, being proactive is just as critical to success as it is in commercial horticulture, but I know that it is often tough for gardeners to achieve. Recognizing some pests is relatively easy while others are darn near impossible to identify without a lot of training and the right diagnostic equipment. Still, getting on the problem early by monitoring the plants is the key to success.

So, here is my shortlist for having a garden full of healthy "pest controlled" plants:

Start with healthy plants

Sounds simple, but it’s tough to turn around a plant that has pests on it already. It’s always a lot easier to keep clean plants clean rather than to try and clean up "dirty" plants…and a lot cheaper!

Provide a healthy growing environment for each plant

Plants can’t run away but must stand and fight pests. An excellent growing environment means that plants can produce stronger structures and chemicals to fight-off pests.

Ensure that pests are correctly identified

Applying a fungicide for insect control or an insecticide for a disease simply won’t work. I can’t begin to count the number of times that a disease has been mistaken for an insect or vise versa.

Monitor your plants regularly for pests

If you inspect your plants every few days, you can often catch pests before their populations explode. Let’s face it, if you find 10 aphids on your plant and get 90% control with a pest control product you are left with 1 aphid. If your plant has 10,000 aphids and you achieve 90% control, that still leaves 1000 aphids. Battles can be lost before they even start.

Use only registered pest control products

I know that the web offers a myriad of concoctions that will control pests. But whether they are so called "organic" or "chemical" remember that are a number of things to consider before applying either. Approved pest control products have been thoroughly tested and approved by Health Canada.  Correct rates, pests controlled and minimum number of days from application to harvest are just some of the critical information on each registered pest control product. Each label must have a PCP (Pest Control Products Act) number on the label that assures the end user that it has been government tested and approved. Look for it on the label and don’t use anything with a PCP number.

Know when to concede

I’ve seen many examples of dead and dying trees that should be removed because they are severely decayed from fungal diseases. If a tree is precariously leaning over a house or playground it should be removed because of safety concerns. Sometimes, with the correct pruning tools, you can remove a diseased limb or tree but if you cannot prune or remove the tree safely, call in a professional arborist.


~Jim Hole

10 Helpful Houseplant Tips

Here is my 10 point checklist for those who have never grown a houseplant…well, to be honest, it really applies to everyone who is growing plants indoors.
 
1/ Choose plants that you like. This seems rather obvious but sometimes in the haste to buy an indoor plant, it really wasn’t the right match for you. Fortunately, there are many choices in houseplants. Do a little shopping before you settle on a plant or plants.
 
2/ Know your sunlight. Sunlight duration and intensity decline in intensity from summer to winter in different spots in your home. Some plants can endure the change while others can’t. For example, an orange tree might look great in the living room during the summer only to, literally, fall apart in the same spot in the winter.  
 
3/ Keep grow lights handy. Grow lights are the great equalizer if you have very little sunlight. They are also great for getting houseplants through the short, dark days of winter. Good grow lights are one of the best investments you can make.
 
4/ Select the best potting soils. The additional few dollars spent on high quality potting soils are worth it. The correct blend of coarse-fibred peatmoss, coarse perlite, lime, wetting agent and fertilizer will help to keep the plants in great shape. Never skimp on potting soils.
 
5/ Choose only pest free plants. A $10 "bargain" plant that requires $40 worth of sprays to control insect pests really isn’t much of a bargain. In fact, some of the nastier pests are not only extremely difficult to control on the bargain plant, but they can often spread to others in your home.
 
6/ Choose the right pot. Pot sizes and shape have a large impact on plant health. Shallow pots drain poorly. Tall pots drain best. It’s pure science. Water is held in shallow pots due to capillary action of the mix on water, whereas water in tall pots is less affected by capillary action and is pulled down and out of the pot by gravity.
 
7/ Ensure pots have drainage. Water must move out of the soil mixture to prevent roots from drowning and to allow movement of excessive salts out of the root zone.
 
8/ Pick an attractive pot. There’s no point in buying an expensive dress and then wearing rubber boots to the ball. A gorgeous houseplant in a poor-quality plastic pot is no different so always choose attractive pots to complement your plants.

9/ Fertilize - but only when necessary. A little fertilizer is great but more is not better. I use nothing but Nature’s Source 10-4-3 on all of my houseplants. Its oilseed based and won’t burn provided the soil is not really overdosed. Fertilizer should only be applied when houseplants are actively producing new foliage.

10/ Don’t expect a houseplant to last forever.  You don’t expect your car to last forever so don’t expect every houseplant to last forever.  I know of one person who has a Christmas cacti that is over 100 years old, but each plant is different and when they lose their aesthetic value, it’s time to replace them. When your fig tree is down to a handful of leaves, it’s time for it to hit the compost heap.


~Jim Hole

Lessons In Weeding

When I was growing up, weeding was the job that required more time than did any other job on the farm. Some of the “tricks” that I learned over the years sound very simple and straightforward but are sometimes forgotten in the battle against tough weeds. Here are a few:
 
Lesson #1
Remove the weeds from the garden before you plant.
This sounds rather obvious, but sometimes we get so engrossed in sowing seeds and transplanting that we fail to notice the weed seedlings and shoots popping up.
 
Lesson #2
Have the right tools on hand.
I wouldn’t be without a long-handled and short-handled stirrup hoe. These tools are indispensible for the war on weeds, and the thin blade on these makes weeding so easy.
 
Lesson #3
Have the tools sharp and ready to go.
A good file is just as important as a good hoe. If your tools are dull, they will not work as well.
 
Lesson #4
Never let tough perennial weeds like thistle and quackgrass get the upper hand.
Once these tough weeds get established, eradication is nearly impossible with chopping and pulling.
 
Lesson #5
Keep some good weedkillers like “Bye Bye Weeds” on hand when you forget
 
Lesson #4
Judicious use of weedkillers can be really valuable when tough perennial weeds get out-of-hand. Understanding how and when to use them properly is critical for control.
 
Lesson #7
Don’t let weeds “go to seed.”
 A single, mature Red Root Pigweed can produce well over 200,000 seeds! Timely removal of weeds like pigweed can save a lot of work in the future.

Also, keep in mind that some weeds can be eaten. Mom would occasionally steam Lambsquarters leaves for supper. Lambquarters is a member of the beet and Swiss Chard family and the leaves have a similar taste.
 
I prefer eating beet and Swiss Chard leaves but, hey, lambsquarters are free and I’ll stick my neck out and say that they will never be on the endangered species list!

~Jim Hole

Fast Fruit Drive-Through

One of my greatest childhood memories of growing up on the farm was "grazing for fruit".
 
It worked something like this: If I was riding in the back of our ½ ton truck, and my brother was driving, I would get him to slow down and swerve close to the chokecherry and pincherry trees in the shelterbelt, to hit the "fast fruit drive-through"...so to speak. It wasn’t a particularly dangerous maneuver, however, getting slapped in the face by branches was often the price one paid for these "mobile" snacks.
 
But while chokeberries and pincherries were fun to grab from the truck or seat of the tractor, they were still at their tastiest in jams and jellies. The best grazing fruit we had came from the bushes that surrounded our vegetable garden. When Mom would send me out to the garden for a head of cabbage or some beets for supper, I would always take the circuitous path, which usually involved a quick visit to the Nanking cherries, followed by a walk through the raspberry patch, and with a final stop at the Saskatoons. On the way back to the house, I would always grab an apple and finish it before I left the field and then toss the core into the corn patch.

Yes, Mom did have plenty of bowls filled with fresh garden fruit on the table during the summer, but I think that the majority of my fresh fruit consumption during the summer occurred while walking, or while in the back of a truck, or on the tractor.
 
Today my fruit consumption is much more civilized…but a lot less fun!

~Jim Hole

Benefits of a Healthy Lawn

Turfgrass is vilified, on occasion, because it is deemed to be a bit of a water hog. Some people, who know, have undertaken the drastic measure of removing their lawns entirely and replacing them with landscape fabric and rock. Of course, water isn’t the only thing they save when they rip up their turf. I’m sure that getting rid of the lawn mower might have a lot to do with it.
 
But while it’s true that the pursuit of the "perfect" lawn demands a fair bit of water, the newer grass varieties use much less water and are amazingly drought tolerant. They look pretty darn good even after fairly long bouts of dry weather.
 
Beyond mower and water concerns, grasses provide a surprisingly large number of benefits that we often don’t think about.

Here is a partial list:
 

Recreational

  • Tough to play catch on a marigold patch. Turf solves that problem like no other category of plants.

Ornamental

  • Lawns are attractive and provide a nice "frame" for flowerbeds. Curving swaths of grass can be amazingly beautiful

Erosion Control

  • Grass roots hold soil in place drastically reducing soil movement into rivers, lakes and ponds. Soil is one of our most precious resources and it needs to stay put

Water Purification

  • Well-managed lawns purify water almost equivalent to that of tap water

Oxygen

  • A well-maintained lawn of 250 square metres provides sufficient oxygen for a family of four during the growing season.

Dust, mud and air pollution

  • Mud and dust problems are reduced by grassed areas around homes, factories, schools and businesses
  • Grass blades also absorb many different air pollutants

Cooling

  • Water evaporating from grass blades acts as nature’s air conditioner on hot days. On a hot day when sidewalk temperatures rise above 40°C, the surface of the grass remains around 24°C.

Soil quality

  • Grass adds organic matter to the soil as roots, stems, and leaves breakdown. Soil "structure" is improved dramatically as grass roots penetrate soil and eventually breakdown.

 
Lawns certainly aren’t a substitute for a vegetable garden, fruiting shrubs and trees, nor ornamental beds. But given the many benefits of lawn grasses, I’d say that they deserve their place in the sun.

~Jim Hole

Eight Varieties, Two Trees

If you’re a bit indecisive or simply like the idea of having a number of different apple varieties on one tree, multi-grafted apples are the answer. 

Just by planting two multi-grafted apples you can harvest 8 different apple varieties and have a continuous supply of fruit beginning in August and continuing right through into October – weather permitting, of course.

One suggestion that I would make is to use metal tags to label the trees, or at the very least, take some notes and photographs of your apples so that you know which apple varieties are which. Most of us believe that we will remember the names of the apples and where they are located on the tree, but – if you are like me – your memory might not be quite as sharp as you think it is from one year to the next!

Multigraft Tree #1


Parkland
•    Compact variety with yellowish-green fruit that is washed with red. Good for both fresh eating and cooking. Usually ready to eat in August.
Collett
•    Light green fruit with red stripes. Discovered in Manitoba and super cold hardy. Great fresh and cooked.
Battleford
•    Smaller fruit. Pale green striped with red. Good for fresh eating and cooking. From Battleford Saskatchewan
Harcourt
•    Yellowish-green skin with bright red blush and stripes. Mildly sweet fruit. Very good for fresh eating. Matures in late August.
 

Multigraft Tree #2


Honeycrisp
•    One of the very best tasting apples. Honeycrisp are juicy, crispy and grown commercially. They are often found on grocery store shelves.
Hardi-mac
•    This is a hardier cousin of the venerable ‘MacIntosh’ apple. It shares much of the same delicious flavour of the MacIntosh but is tends to be smaller.
Parkland
•    See above!
Norkent
•    One of my favourite apples, Norkent is crispy with a great balance of sugar and tartness and is one of the best dessert apples for the prairies.
Heyer 12
•    Heyer 12 originated as a seedling from Russia and serves as the rootstock. It is very tough and produces yellow fruit that is a bit. Excellent for juice and sauce but its main attribute is cold hardiness.

Nature's Best Pollinators

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When I was growing-up, we had thousands of tomatoes growing in containers in our greenhouses. One job that had to be done daily was to grab the electric pollinators and pollinate the tomatoes.

Electric pollinators were like a glorified toothbrush. A small motor was attached to a battery and when the machine was turned-on, a long metal probe would vibrate. The probe was placed beneath a truss or cluster of flowers, for about a second, to shake the yellow pollen from the anthers and onto the stigma.

Tomatoes are, by and large, self-pollinating, but if the pollen isn’t transferred thoroughly within the flowers, the fruit will often be a bit misshapen. 

But while these electric pollinators were pretty much standard greenhouse equipment, some clever people eventually turned to nature to eliminate the tedious and time-consuming job of hand pollinating.

Today, bumblebees are released into tomato greenhouses and they visit tomato flowers and transfer pollen within and between tomato flowers. Bumblebees are some of nature’s best pollinators and are extraordinarily good at "working" the flowers. 

All that I can say is, "Where were the tomato-loving greenhouse bumblebees when I was growing up?"

I suppose that one could argue that they were always around, but no one was clever enough to invite them in

~Jim Hole

How To Prune Tomato Plants

A funny thing happens when you prune an entire greenhouse full of tomato plants: you become a green thumb—literally. You will also have a couple green fingers, and they will remain green for a few days despite lots of soap and water. Home gardeners, however, do not have the “green thumb” problem because it happens only after pruning more than a few tomato plants. Digit discolouration aside, I like everything about pruning tomato plants, from the distinctive smell of the plants to the hands-on work, and the thought that this was a small effort—a moment or two per plant—will result in an earlier harvest or larger tomatoes.

Which Tomato Plants to Prune

  • Prune only indeterminate varieties—the ones that grow tall and usually need staking. If you do not prune an indeterminate variety, you will have large, sprawling plants with smaller tomatoes that mature slightly later in the season.
  • Never prune a semi-determinate or determinate tomato plant. Pruning them will result in distorted plants with very few tomatoes.

 

How to Prune Tomato Plants

 

  • Pruning tomato plants simply means pinching off the shoots or “suckers” that grow out from the stems, in the joint right above a leaf branch. If you catch shoots when they have just formed, you can simply rub them out with your thumb.
  • Small suckers can usually be pinched off with your fingers; with ones that are a little larger you should use scissors or a sharp knife.
  • If you leave a sucker to grow, it becomes another big stem and takes energy away from fruit production. Tomatoes usually ripen slightly earlier on pruned plants.
  • Tomato plants grow very quickly when the weather is warm. New suckers are produced constantly. Prune at least twice a week during the peak of the growing season.
  • Never prune above the top blossom cluster to avoid accidentally pruning out the “leader” (main growing stem). Removing the leader prevents the plant from adding height and limits the potential yield. This is called “topping” and is useful later in the season, but it is not something you want to do early on.
  • If you accidentally break off the leader or main stem while your tomato plant is still small, get a new plant, because the broken one will never amount to much. When a leader is broken off an indeterminate plant that is already a good size, you can choose one of the suckers nearest the top and let that side-shoot become the new leader. Determinate plants with broken leaders will simply bush sideways.
  • Do not prune foliage, except to remove yellowing or brown leaves at the plant’s base. Tomatoes do not need to be exposed to the sun in order to ripen; rather, it is the sun on the plant’s leaves that leads to ripened fruit.

 

What Lies Below

Over the years, I’ve received thousands of leaf, stem, and soil samples from gardeners who need help figuring out why their plants aren’t growing the way they should, and how to get them back on track.

Often, the diagnostics are pretty straight-forward and simple. If the problem is a large insect - like a cabbageworm - identification is pretty easy and there are a number of good products available for control. 

But many plant problems are more complex than voracious cabbageworms, and a lot of background information is critical when performing the "Plant Forensics”. Good samples of plant parts, lots of good photographs, soil samples, and historical data are really valuable tools for solving the really difficult plant problems. 

Since trees are some of most high-priced and expensive garden plants, they comprise the majority of the plant samples that I receive and they are often the toughest problems to solve. 

The one tip that I will offer those who have tree problems is to spend as much time looking "down" as you do looking "up". Trees are analogous to icebergs in a way. Just as about 90% of an iceberg’s mass is below the sea surface, 90% of the serious problems that I see with trees originate below the soil surface.

And neither ships nor trees fare well when due consideration is not given to what lies below.

~Jim Hole

How To Get Rid Of Apple Maggots For Good

What's worse than finding half a worm in your apple?

For a number of homeowners in the Edmonton area, the answer could be discovering that apples from their trees are infested with Apple Maggots.

Apple Maggots are a type of small fruit fly that attacks apples, blueberries, hawthorn, plums, pears, and cherries, causing extensive fruit damage that renders fruit useless.

Here is what you need to get rid out Apple Maggots for good:

Apple Maggot Traps The Protector Dial N' Spray hose attachment

Apple Maggot Traps

The Protector

Dial N' Spray hose attachment

Step 1: Assemble apple maggot trap red spheres.

Step 1: Assemble apple maggot trap red spheres.

Step 2: Hang apple maggot trap in your fruit tree.

Step 2: Hang apple maggot trap in your fruit tree.

Step 3: Apply warm, slightly melted glue to the entire outside of the sphere with spreader. Spread a roughly 1/16" thick layer.

Step 3: Apply warm, slightly melted glue to the entire outside of the sphere with spreader. Spread a roughly 1/16" thick layer.

Step 4: Open lure pouch. (Do not open the plastic vial, as attractant is released through the plastic) Attach the lure to the hanger using a twist tie.

Step 4: Open lure pouch. (Do not open the plastic vial, as attractant is released through the plastic) Attach the lure to the hanger using a twist tie.

Step 5: Monitor traps for apple maggots.

Step 5: Monitor traps for apple maggots.

Step 6: Once apple maggot have been caught, add Garden Protector to your Dial N' Spray container and attach to your garden hose. Set to number 20.

Step 6: Once apple maggot have been caught, add Garden Protector to your Dial N' Spray container and attach to your garden hose. Set to number 20.

Step 7: Thoroughly spray tree using Dial N' Spray.

Step 7: Thoroughly spray tree using Dial N' Spray.

If needed, reapply steps in 7-10 days.