Nitrogen Fertilizing your Lawn

I think most people are aware of the role of nitrogen for crop growth. It is the nutrient that plants need in great quantity and is responsible for lush, leafy growth.
But, I suspect, that most people who fertilize their lawns with nitrogen don’t realize that half of the nitrogen fertilizer that they apply can be lost to the air!
While this may seem a little hard to believe, it has a lot to do with the type of nitrogen fertilizer that you buy and it boils down to a bit of soil chemistry. Yes, I know, you don’t subscribe to this newsletter to read about chemistry but if you read on you might save yourself a few dollars and have a better looking lawn to boot!
For lawns, nitrogen often comes in the form of compound called "Urea". Urea readily breaks down in soil and releases nitrogen that your grass can use. However, when it is applied to the lawn surface it is broken down by soil microbes who "break apart" the urea which is then released as a nitrogen containing gas called "ammonia". Up to 50% of the surface applied urea can float away into the atmosphere.
Part of the solution to the prevention of the loss of this ammonia is to incorporate an "enzyme inhibitor" with the urea which dramatically reduces the amount of your nitrogen floating away into space.
At Hole's Greenhouses, we have a lawn fertilizer with the highest concentration of nitrogen available anywhere, and it comes with an enzyme inhibitor to keep your nitrogen in the ground where it should be. It’s called Nitro Boost 46-0-0.

When Should I Fertilize?

Stay off your lawn in the spring until it is dry.

Mowing: Mow your lawn between 2.5” and 3”. Mow your lawn often, never cutting too much at a time as this causes shallow roots. Thick deep roots will make your lawn greener longer. And NEVER cut your grass stems in half.

Thatch: Thatch is the dead grass on top of the soil. Stick your finger into the soil to measure. A healthy amount of thatch is around ½”. Too much thatch prevents fertilizer from doing its job and you will need to dethatch. If you have too little thatch, stop bagging your clippings for a while to build up a thatch base of ½”.

Watering: Never water over ¾”, especially when you fertilize. Do not water in the evenings as this promotes fungus.

Fertilize: Fertilize on moist soil, not before a heavy rain. Fertilize after a rain or during a light drizzle for best results. Fertilize sometime after May long weekend if you are only doing one application a year.

SPRING: Once lawn is dry, rake, aerate and apply fertilizer.

SUMMER: Apply fertilizer every 30 days until mid-August.

FALL: Final application of fertilizer after first frost.

The NEAT Secret to Fat Loss

I hope you had a NEAT weekend! I know I did and I’m happy I did. Now you may have noticed that I used the word NEAT in all caps. No, no it’s not because I think it’s the greatest word to say in the English language, that word is boing (seriously you can’t say it without thinking about something fun) but I digress.

In fact NEAT is an acronym for possibly the most underrated element in your fitness and healthy lifestyle repertoire. It is also one of the most important ones.

NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

Basically NEAT is the energy you burn through activities in the day that aren’t associated with formal exercise sessions. Yes going for walks, moving furniture, mowing the lawn, chasing after a 19month old son… running as fast as you can to the change table after his diaper gets… well you know; are all good forms of NEAT. Now before you roll your eyes and brush off yet another “active living” article, think about the impact of NEAT on your lifestyle and your waistline.

NEAT can account for a large amount of calories burned day in and day out, year in and year out with painless effort.

We know that these days high intensity interval training is all the rage, and for good reason, it burns lots of calories in a relative short amount of time. The problem is that you have to work your fitness level up to a point where high intensity interval training is effective enough to produce a desired effect. The other downside is that it can exhaust you so much that you actually move less through the day basically nullifying the calorie burning effects of the workout. While NEAT when applied can painlessly increase the amount of energy your burn, and of course if you can do both you have a super burn tandem.

One other thing that NEAT does better than any other form of exercise is that it seems to have very little effect on hunger compared to high intensity interval training which is important if you are eating less calories in order to lose fat.

For the next two weeks be aware of just how NEAT you are and look for ways to improve so you can burn more calories and gain more stamina day in and day out and have your health and your waist line thank you for it.

Here is an example of a High NEAT day.

Wake up in the am. Have breakfast; take the dog for a short walk (10minutes)

Take 4-minute stretch break at work every hour (set a reminder on your phone, do it with a work mate)

Every “smoke” break your co-workers have, give yourself a “health” break and move

I know working through lunch seems like a good idea, (maybe today will finally be the day that working through lunch = getting caught up…. HAHAHAHAHAHA) Instead make lunch time, mobility time or walk and laugh time with co-workers

Take the stairs, not the elevator

Learn to dance, go out on a mini “city adventure or hike” Learn to garden, every commercial break or break between binging on Netflix, get up and MOVE.

And on the weekend, you have plenty that you can do to move more especially during these summer months.

If you are a numbers person get yourself a fitibit® pedometer and aim for 8,000+ steps a day.

There are so many ways to be NEAT. It’s easy to do and when done consistently in a way that’s mostly fun for you, the more effective it will be.


Next week I'm busting some myths about fitness and health. I have room to fit in two more questions, if you would like me to "clear the air" on a particular subject, send me an email


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness 

Is it Warm Enough for My Veggies?

The May long weekend is coming! This is the traditional weekend for getting everything in the garden. 

I think that many gardeners still tend to lump all vegetables into one category when it comes to temperatures. The prevailing sentiment is that cold and frost is devastating for all varieties of vegetables. But nothing could be further from the truth. 


Vegetables are truly individuals and they run the spectrum when it comes to ideal and injurious temperatures. To illustrate this point, I’ve included my vegetable/temperature chart.

The temperatures in the chart list the baseline temperatures that plants require to grow. For example, eggplant essentially stops growing at 15.6 celsius while at the other end of the spectrum, onions will grow at temperatures above a chilly 1.7 celsius! Onions can also tolerate several degrees of frost without sustaining damage. 

The ‘heat unit’ component of the chart is particularly important for commercial growers especially in our region. For example, different varieties of sweet corn will require varying amounts of heat to develop mature cobs. Growers look at the average high temperatures and average low temperatures, for their region, then calculate the average heat units. If the calculation shows that they are growing in a ‘2200 corn heat units’ zone, then they would be pretty safe growing 2200 heat unit corn varieties. 2800 heat unit corn varieties would be very risky and likely not mature before the first fall frost.

So if you follow the chart data, you can pretty much plant all of your vegetables, but you may want to hold-off on the eggplant and okra for a few more days. 

– Jim Hole

Stay Hydrated, Lose Inches (5 Tips)

Stay Hydrated, Lose Inches (5 Tips)

Finally it seems that summer is upon us. The time for sipping on a cold drink on a patio, BBQ’s with friends and family and more outdoor activity is going to be a big part of life for the next 4 and maybe even 5 months. 

This time of year also calls for more awareness around staying hydrated while out and about. I always tell my clients, “master hydration and you get a winning situation for your health and your waistline. 

Here is the laundry list of benefits from getting enough fluids in:

  • Regulates Body Temperature
  • Lubricates Joints
  • Moistens Mouth Nose & Eyes
  • Protects Organs & Tissues
  • Helps With Bowel Movements
  • Key Component To Kidney & Liver Function
  • Carries Nutrients & Oxygen to blood cells
  • Helps to dissolve vitamins and minerals so the body can absorb them
  • Help manage appetite

Naturally you can see there are plenty of great health benefits to getting in the right amount of fluids. But how does that help your waistline?

For starters, drinking more zero calorie fluids helps you to feel more full between meals making you less likely to snack. Also sipping on fluids during a meal makes you more likely to eat less. 

It’s pretty simple, but I also give my clients a guideline to strive for and defined a protocol for mastering hydration. Here it is:

  • Drink enough water each day so your urine is pale yellow to nearly clear most days. (Usually 8-14cups for most people, but it varies from person to person and day to day based on activity level, how much fruits and vegetables you eat, having soup and cereal etc.  So work on finding your optimal level, mine is 14-16 cups a day.
  • Consume 4 or less total cups of calorie containing drinks in the week.

Note: If you normally have 1-2 cups of coffee or tea with 1 sugar and 1 cream or less, you can count that as a non-calorie drink.

And finally, if you need some strategies to get more fluids in the day here are 5 battle tested tips:


1. Have 1-2 cups with each meal

With each meal take sips in between bites. This also helps with slowing down your meal. Or simply start or end your meal with a big glass

2. Set an alarm

Set your alarm to go off at certain intervals in the day as a reminder to drink 1⁄2cup to 2 cups of water. Popular times in the past are: 9:30am, 1:45pm, 3:30pm

3. Carry A Water Bottle Around

Get yourself an eco-friendly water bottle that you can sip on during the day. Depending on the size, tie some elastic bands over the bottle and remove an elastic each time you drank all the water and had to refill. This reminds you of how much you had and how much more you need to drink.

4. Add Flavor For Variety

Adding citrus, fruit or cucumber and mint to your water is a great way to add some variety and give you an extra kick of nutrients at the same time.

5. Weed Out The Liquid Calories

If 4 Cups or less of calorie drinks is too hard, start with weeding out a little at a time. A “Tall instead of a Grande, 1⁄2 a can instead of a full one etc.

Start tracking how many cups of fluids you have in a day and how many of those are from calories and look to improve how many zero calorie drinks you have and lower the calorie containing beverages and enjoy the summer. 

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 

Rockin' the Garden

Plan a
rock garden
that’s a hit

Made to look as though time sculpted the landscape, a rock garden is a classic hit. Part of a rock garden’s appeal is the way it takes care of itself. With nary an annual
in sight, it’s a perennial lover’s paradise. And although it does require some effort and thoughtfulness to compose, a rock garden will provide years of satisfaction with minimal maintenance. A reasonable investment for an ample reward. It’s not hard to understand why this type of garden rocks.

Brilliantly coloured and perfectly poised, a cyclamen’s petals are impossible to resist. Heart-shaped leaves with silver markings add to this plant’s charm. Cyclamen coum is low growing, blooms from late summer to fall and does best in partial shade. Apply deep, loose mulch for winter. 
If you’ve got a natural slope with ample sunlight, you’ve got the perfect place for a rock garden. Here are some tips to get you started.

Getting it Right
Start small. It takes lots of material and energy to create a large rock garden, so start with a bed just over one metre wide and two metres long (4x8). You can pack a lot of plants into a space that size, especially if they’re smaller alpines. It will still be labour intensive, but on a smaller scale.
Prepare the soil properly. Most alpine and rock garden plants need good drainage and, therefore, require gritty soil. To create the perfect mix, add at least one part coarse, sharp sand or finely crushed rock to each part organically rich soil. Supplemental grit can also be added to the planting holes.
Choose the right plants. Rock gardens are primarily comprised of perennial plants that thrive in good drainage. Most contain alpines, other low-growing perennials, dwarf bulbs, dwarf conifers and miniature shrubs. Some of our favourites are profiled in this article.
Place rocks thoughtfully. Combine small, medium and large rocks to create a natural-looking landscape. Seat rocks into the soil by one-third to one-half their width or height—this mimics natural stone outcrops and provides stability. Also place rocks so their grains run parallel to each other. Ideally, cover 20–40 percent of the area with rock, keeping
in mind that a medium-to- large-sized rock will weigh about 45 kg (100 lb).
Top-dress. Top-dressing with crushed limestone or pea gravel isn’t done only for esthetic reasons. It also reduces erosion and compaction, retards evaporation and keeps roots cool. Deep collars of top-dressing around plants are also helpful in preventing what is called winter wet—moisture that sits at a plant’s crown, causing roots to break during freeze-thaw cycles.

Create a container rock garden. A miniature landscape contained within a stone (or faux stone) trough is a lesslabour-intensive way to enjoy rock gardening. Provided your container is placed on the ground, has good drainage andis thoroughly watered before freeze-up, you can successfully overwinter plants—even in colder climates, such as ours. Of course, you will need to be selective with your plant material. Try hens and chicks, low-growing sedum, mountain avens, sandwort, moss campion, alpine willow or miniature spruce.



Alpine Sandwort

Arenaria obtusiloba

Sandworts are eminently popular choices for rock gardens, wall crevices or between paving stones. This one sports white flowers in summer. Mat-forming and evergreen. Avoid winter wet. Height: 10–15 cm; width: 30 cm. Sun.



Gentiana sino-ornata

Dramatic cobalt-blue flowers are what attract people to gentian. This one is also a late-summer to fall bloomer, which makes it a valued addition to a rock garden. Shiny needle-like foliage is semi-evergreen. Height: 5–10 cm; width: 30–40cm. Shade to A.M. sun.


Alpine Thyme

Thymus comosus

No rock garden would be complete without at least one kind of thyme. Pretty pink flowers shine above the greyish foliage of this species. Height: 2–5 cm; width 15–30 cm. Sun to P.M. sun.


Golden Primrose

Vitaliana primuliflora ssp. Praetutiana

Evergreen foliage provides its own stunning show after the bright-yellow spring blooms of this primrose have faded. It has rosettes of grey-green leaves with frosted edges, which arrange themselves into attractive looking cushions. Avoid winter wet. Height: 2–5 cm; width: 15+ cm. Sun to P.M. sun.


Favourite Herbs: Sorrel


Rumex acetosa

Hardy perennial

Height 30 cm to 1.5 m; spread 25 to 45 cm.

Distinguished by pale-green stems and thick, long-stalked leaves.

Try these!

Rumex acetosa (common sorrel):

Rumex scutatus (true French sorrel):


Seed sorrel directly into the garden as soon as the ground is workable or, to get a jump on the season, set out young plants purchased from a garden centre.

How much: Two or three plants.

When: Around the date of average last spring frost.

Where: Full sun. Prefers moist, well-drained soil. Space plants 60 cm apart.

Care and Nurture

Sorrel is very easy to grow! Once established, water during periods of dry weather. Remove flower spikes as soon as they appear to encourage leaf production. Divide and replant sorrel every 3 to 4 years, or when the plants get crowded. Early spring is the best time to do this, just as the plants are emerging. Sorrel requires little fertilizer.


Once sorrel is established, you can harvest leaves right through to autumn: sorrel is quite frost tolerant. To keep the leaves mild and tender, remove any flowers before they open. The leaves get very bitter after the plant has flowered.

For best flavour: Harvest young, tender, juicy leaves: older leaves can have a sharp, sometimes bitter, flavour.

Leaves: Clip leaf stalks where they attach to the main plant; discard any tough stems.

Flowers: Edible, but not normally eaten.

Preserving the Harvest

Dried sorrel has little flavour. Use it fresh or freeze it.


  • Pick a few leaves from each plant as soon as they are big enough to use. For one thing, small leaves taste much better than big leaves; for another, removing leaves regularly encourages the plant to produce bushier growth and many more small, tender leaves
  • Sorrel contains oxalic acid, which should be avoided by individuals with gout, rheumatism, and kidney problems.
  • Sorrel requires minimal care and attention beyond watering. I like to give my plants a good shot of 20-20-20 after I cut them back severely. This creates a fresh flush of tender, young leaves.

To Note:

  • Sorrel is high in vitamins A and C.
  • In Lapland, the juice of sorrel is used in place of rennet to curdle milk.
  • The name sorrel comes from an old Teutonic word meaning, "sour."
  • In Scotland, sorrel is known as "Gowkemeat."
  • The sorrel plant is also called “Cuckoo's meate" from the old belief that the bird cleared its voice by eating sorrel.
  • Farmers harvesting their crops on a hot day would often take a few leaves of sorrel to chew to quench their thirst.
  • Sorrel was eaten in Egypt and by the Romans, who liked sorrel because it offset the effects of eating too much rich food.
  • The sorrel plant was held in high repute in the court of Henry VIII—until the introduction of French sorrel.


All About Ferns - From Boston to Crispy Wave to Staghorn and more!

We often have people coming into the greenhouse here in Alberta asking for recommendations of houseplants to grow in Edmonton or St Albert.

One of the top choices—especially for the high humidity and filtered light of bathrooms and kitchens—are ferns. Ferns look so tropical and lush during our dark, cold, dry winters. The humid, clean air that these plants bring into our homes is quite literally a breath of fresh air!

There are so many different types and styles of ferns that can be grown indoors as houseplants—some easier to grow than others. Leaf shape varies, as does size (some are as small as 5 centimetres while others are as big as 2 metres!), but most ferns prefer high levels of humidity and bright indirect light.

A tip for keeping your fern in tip-top condition: keep the soil of your ferns consistently moist but not soggy and make a habit of removing dry, dead foliage to maintain your fern's beautiful appearance. 

Ferns are also great for removing indoor pollution from the air, and Boston Ferns are one of the top 10 indoor plants recommended by NASA for improving indoor air quality. 

Ferns also look great in pots—or in hanging baskets!—and are generally easy-to-care-for plants.

Boston Ferns are one of the top 10 plants recommended by NASA for improving indoor air quality.

As mentioned, there are many different varieties of ferns to choose from. If you are looking for a Fern that is the easiest to care for, you may want to look into:

  • Asparagus Fern
  • Foxtail Fern
  • Maidenhair Fern
  • Staghorn Fern
  • Boston Fern (Including varieties like "Macho," "Little Ruffles," and more!)
  • Rabbit's Foot Fern
  • Crispy Wave Fern

These Ferns require fertilizer every 2 weeks from February to October, prefer bright indirect light, and typically require a good watering once a week.

The Crispy Wave Fern, also known as Japanese Asplenium nidus is a very popular choice right now due to its modern, neat appearance and the fact that it is a great natural air purifier. The fact that this fern can grow endlessly if put in a larger container means that its air purifying properties will only improve the longer you have it!

A Crispy Wave Fern has a few big leaves instead of lots of little ones, and is the perfect addition to your kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room, or any place needing a breath of fresh air!

The Crispy Wave Fern is low maintenance plant that also has one of the longest life span due to uniquely strong fronds, hardiness, and adaptability.

No matter what kind of fern you pick for your home (and there are lots of kinds of ferns), it will soon become one of your favourite plants!

A tip for keeping your fern in tip-top condition: keep the soil of your ferns consistently moist but not soggy and make a habit of removing dry, dead foliage to maintain your fern’s beautiful appearance. 

The Helpful Planter


Forgot to water your plants? Heading out of town for the weekend? Fear not – this planter works for you. With a built-in water reservoir, the eco-friendly Vondom planters slowly release water to ensure your plants are never thirsty. Imported directly from Spain, these elegant planters will transform any interior or exterior space. The semi-opaque planters contain LED lights with a variety of settings, making them versatile for multiuse. Plant your favourite flowers, repurpose as a mini-bar for special events, or simply use as a modern light feature to create atmosphere. Boasting a 100-year warranty and UV protection, Vondom planters are durable enough for Edmonton's cold winters and hot, dry summers. 

Find your Vondom planters, on sale now, at Hole's Greenhouse.

Farm Fresh Dividends

Closing the gap from farm to plate

There's nothing better in summer than a fresh, vine-ripened tomato grown on your own
deck or a juicy peach at a fruit stand on your way through the Okanagan. We've all
enjoyed the flavourful fruits and vegetables that only farm fresh can provide. We've
supplemented our grocery store buys with trips to the farmers' market. We've tried to
eke out a crop of vegetables from our backyard. But what if we took it a step further and
actually knew the land where our produce is grown, met the enterprising farmers, and
shared in the yield of the crops? Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been
cropping up across Canada, and this year, Alberta has more choice than ever when it
comes to locally-produced fare. 

Community-Shared Agriculture is a simple concept and one so strikingly obvious, you’ll
soon be asking yourself why you haven’t been doing this all your life. Think of it as
buying futures in a crop. The farmer asks for a year’s investment up front, then plants
and tends a variety of crops, harvests and processes them, and finally delivers the
bounty once a week to a pre-determined location for pick up. Most farmers will ask that
you help weed and harvest a few times over the summer as part of the deal. It all goes
back to seeing where your food comes from and how it’s grown and getting your hands
dirty. Making a living off the land is hard work, and the farmers who run CSAs are
passionate about what they do.

“I see what we do here as reconnecting people to their food and to the land,” says
Yolande Stark, owner of Tipi Creek Farm, near Villeneuve, Alberta. “We are the
instrument that allows that connection.”

Tipi Creek Farm is a CSA pioneer in Alberta, having operated since 1993. Over the years,
Stark has coached other Alberta farmers in starting their own direct-to- consumer
ventures, passing on what she has learned. Some have floundered and some have
flourished. But the time seems ripe for CSAs to come into their own in Alberta.

“Things have really picked up the past couple of years. I have 2 or 3 emails a week asking
about the CSA—and I have to turn most of them away!” Stark says.

The increased attention is likely due to our renewed interest in where our food comes
from. Recent films such as Food, Inc. and books such as Michael Pollan’s In Defense of
Food highlight just how complex our food sources have become. Couple that with recent
food scares such as contaminated baby formula from China and the lysteriosis outbreak
brought on by tainted Maple Leaf Foods meat, and it’s no wonder we’re questioning
how our food’s been handled and how many miles it’s travelled before it reaches our

“People are concerned about food security, and this farm provides that. They see for
themselves what goes into the land and what comes out. They don’t have to worry
about where their food comes from,” says Stark.

Aside from providing healthy food, Stark is adamant about maintaining a sense of
community at Tipi Creek. Entire families are encouraged to help weed and harvest, and
there’s even a small patch where children can dig and play. She also keeps the number
of CSA members under 45. Any more, she says, and it becomes unwieldy. On harvest
day in October, all members are invited to harvest whatever is left in the field and
afterwards join in an open-air potluck. Friendships are formed naturally and many CSA
members visit outside of farm time.

It pays to do some research as each CSA is run a little differently, and you want to
ensure a good fit. Sparrow’s Nest Organics another Edmonton-area CSA, farmed by
Graham Sparrow on a piece of land near Opal, Alberta. Sparrow spent many years at
market gardens and CSAs in BC (where these have a lot more traction) and moved back
home to Alberta to set up. Sparrow’s Nest Organics is certified organic and this year
served 83 shares. Sparrow has also seen a spike in interest and has a long waiting list,
but an expansion may be in the works.

Once you’ve decided to sign up, talk to the farmer and ask questions about what to
expect. A working share can runs from $600–$700 for 12 weeks of fresh produce, grown
with sustainable, low-impact methods. Starting in spring, the farmer will send out a list
of that year’s plantings, which will consist of standbys like carrots, broccoli, cabbage,
and onions, but may also include lesser known veggies like kale, kohlrabi, or garlic
scapes. At the beginning of the season, be prepared for smaller batches containing lots
of lettuce with radishes, and by the end of the season be prepared for a bounty of
assorted root vegetables. Farmers also like to experiment every year with new things, so
you may be getting purple carrots or orange cauliflower the year you sign up. If a crop
just doesn’t work, it won’t be repeated the following year. “We never compromise
quality for the look,” says Sparrow.

Often, the complaint is too much produce rather than too little. Each share feeds a
family of four or a pair of vegetarians, so if you’re not used to eating a lot of vegetables,
prepared for a crash course in roughage. Consider whether you have time to prepare
more fresh food each week and whether your family is open to experimenting with new
tastes. Tipi Creek Farm has a host of recipes on their website to help members make the
best of a vegetable-rich diet. Members are encouraged to send it their own recipes as
well. Either way, prepare for a cooking adventure.

Most often, adjusting to extra veggies is an easy change. With a fridge full of seasonal
produce, you stop asking, “What should we have for dinner tonight?” and instead open
the fridge and think, “What can I make with these ingredients?” Part of the guesswork is taken out of dinner. Some members also plan to give away their excess to friends and
family, or the food bank. Families can also sign up together and plan to divide a share.

And just what kind of person signs up for a CSA? “That’s a good question,” says
Sparrow. “It’s so diverse—it’s amazing. This year we have a couple that are surgeons
and then we have people who are struggling artists. It just depends where people are at
in terms of what they’ve heard about local food initiatives. Once they figure it out, it
seems to really be a match. You know, the farmer’s market is nice, but this gives that
connection, a farm for people to come out to.”

If you’re ready to take the plunge, pick up the phone and talk to a farmer. It’s a
relationship that’s bound to grow through the seasons.

Side Bar
Eating Seasonally
Eating seasonally means eating food at its freshest. Most of the food we eat has
travelled from various parts of the world for over a week to reach our grocery shelves.
By that time, its sugars are turning into starches, and the food is losing taste and vitality.
Eating what is produced close to home and in season is simply better for you.
Whether participating in a CSA or seeking out local produce, become familiar with
what’s in season:
In the spring, the leaves and stalks are ready first. This may include lettuce, green
onions, spinach, and, of course, the quick-growing radish.
In summer, fruit parts dominate and may include beans, beets, bok choy, broccoli,
cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, kohlrabi, mushrooms,
peas, peppers, potatoes, radish, scallions, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, and zucchini.
In fall, look for roots in items such as beets, carrots, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, kale,
onions, potatoes, pumpkin, rutabaga, squash, and turnips.

If some of these vegetables sound unfamiliar, have no fear. Here are a few things to
keep in mind when preparing seasonal food:
Cooking Greens. Bok Choy, Spinach, Chard, Collards, Beet Greens, Kale. These hardy
greens can be bitter or spicy when eaten raw. Cooking reduces bitterness, and whether
they’re blanched, braised, or sautéed, they’ll add depth to your dishes. Pair with garlic,
lemon, hot chilies, olive oil and smoked meat (think spinach salad with bacon dressing).
Root Vegetables. Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Carrots, Turnips, Rutabagas, Celery root,
Beets. Roots are the energy storehouses of a plant, rich in sugars, starches, and
vitamins. Roasting root vegetables will bring out their sweet flavour, but these versatile
veggies can also be grilled, made into chips, hashbrowns, or gratin. Combine unfamiliar
root veggies with your potato dishes for a more complex flavour.
Cabbages. Summer cabbage, Red cabbage, Green cabbage, Savoy cabbage. If you don’t
have Eastern European roots, you may be at a loss as to how to use this vitamin-rich
vegetable. Cabbage can be baked, braised, sauteed or stirfried, just until tender.

Complimentary herbs and spices for cabbage include celery seed, mustard seed, garlic,
caraway seed, dill weed, black pepper, and thyme. It pairs well with corned beef, bacon,
and sausage (think Reuben sandwiches).


Microgreens: the small but mighty                                                                                              Good vegetables in small packages

There’s a new veg in town! Microgreens aren’t just turning heads in the
grocery stores; they’re turning never-before gardeners into green thumbs. As you’ll soon
discover, growing your own is a quick and easy the way to take fresh and local to a new
level. These miniature greens are relative newcomers on the culinary scene and an even
newer trend in grow-it- yourself realm. Brilliant colours and surprisingly intense flavours
have made microgreens a hit, but so too has the novelty of eating parts of vegetables only
palatable when young. Corn plants, for example, are deliciously sweet as shoots but when
mature should only be eaten in a pasture. Tired of waiting ’til fall for the nutty taste of
sunflower seeds? How does 14 days suit you? That’s all it takes to grow a shoot from start
to plate. It’s that fast turn around that’ll get you hooked on growing. To get started, here’s
what you need to know.

The Basics

By definition, microgreens are simply vegetables or a mix of vegetables
grown to the seedling stage. They were once exclusive to high-end restaurants where they
garnished plates. Today, their culinary use has expanded, and it’s commonplace to find
them in salads, on a sandwich, in soup or even a stir-fry. If you’re fortunate, you may
have access to a grocer who carries microgreens or be able to find them at your local
farmers’ market. If not, you’re still in luck. Demand has grown so much that garden
centres sell microgreens as seeds packs. You can try individual varieties or mixes of
sweet, colourful or spicy blends. Bought or homegrown, it’s a tasty trend that everyone
can enjoy.

Greens 101

Although the terms get used interchangeably, “sprout”, “microgreen” and “baby green”
each refer to different stages of plant growth. Here’s a guide to understanding what
you’re eating.
Sprout: Synonymous with germination, a sprout is the first stage of development. Grown
in moist environments without soil, they can be eaten as soon as the sown seeds develop
—you guessed it—visible sprouts. The familiar grocery-store alfalfa, mung bean and
radish sprouts are slightly more mature and sport their first set of leaves, called
cotyledons. These sprouts are usually slightly opaque and have a crunchy texture.
Microgreen: Microgreens have stronger, more developed flavours than sprouts, as well
as more colour. Plants at this second stage of development establish roots and develop
their first set of true leaves. Consequently, they look and taste more like salad greens than
sprouts do. Microgreens are usually grown in soil and in brightly lit conditions with
relatively low humidity.
Baby green: Baby greens are allowed to develop past the true leaf stage but are
harvested before they fully mature. You’ll find these tender leaves available as mesclun
and spring mix greens. Baby greens are grown in conditions very similar to microgreens
but are sown less thickly to give them room to grow to a larger size.


Looking at the tiny, first set of leaves, it’s difficult to distinguish one brassica plant from
another. Broccoli, cabbage, arugula and other plants in this family have similar heart-
shaped cotyledons, and it isn’t until their next set of true leaves develop that they’re
readily identifiable.

Did You Know?

Hundreds of vegetables can and are grown as microgreens. Amaranth, arugula, beet,
broccoli, cabbage, cress, mustard, and radish are among the most common—in part
because they’re quick and easy to grow. Herbs such as chervil, cilantro and chives are
great-tasting but can take more than 14 days to germinate. Yield is also a factor to
consider when choosing what to grow. Basil and celery, for instance, both take 18 to 26
days to grow to size but yeild only half as well as arugula or cress (which also mature
much faster). In the world of microgreens, big yielders include Asian greens (such as pac
choi) and peas. So be adventurous and experiment! Your new favourite is only 14 days

Get Growing

A minimal investment in time and money. That’s all it takes to grow your
own microgreens. That’s what makes it attractive to both first-time growers and
experienced growers. Unlike growing full-sized vegetables, plants only need to be kept
alive for a few weeks, and it doesn’t matter if they get a bit stretched in the process. To
begin with try easy-to- germinate and quick-to- grow crops such as arugula, broccoli,
purple cabbage, peas or radish. Here’s how to get started.

Getting It Right
Choose a proper container. You’ll need trays or shallow pots to grow your
microgreens. Seedling starter trays with domed lids or similarly covered bakery or deli
trays (make sure to cut drainage holes into the bottoms) are great choices.
Fill ’er up. Fill the trays with a good-quality soilless potting mixture to a depth of 2.5–4
cm. Keep the soil about 1 cm from the lip of the tray so that seeds and soil don’t wash out
when you water. Then level and smooth the surface without compacting the soil.
Sow your seeds. Thickly scatter seeds over the surface, and cover (topdress) with more
soil or vermiculite. As a general rule, the topdressing should be no deeper than the
thickness of the seed. Alternatively, cover the seeds with a cotton or paper towel, which
will need to be removed once the seeds have sprouted, for a cleaner end product. Note:
larger seeds, such as peas, will germinate more successfully if covered with soil. Next,
shower them gently but thoroughly with water. Pop on the dome, place in a relatively
warm spot (12–24°C) and keep consistently moist to ensure germination (a spray bottle
works great). At this stage, the seeds don’t need light to sprout, so the tray doesn’t have
to be in a sunny location.

Manage your crop. Once the majority of the seeds have germinated, remove the dome
(and the towel if you used one). Next, if the tray’s not already in a bright sunlit spot,

now’s the time to move it to a windowsill or outside if the weather’s suitable. Grow lights
are also an option if you haven’t a spot that receives at least four hours of direct sunlight
per day. How often you need to water will depend on temperature, tray size and soil
depth. To assess, dig your finger into the soil. It should feel moist like a wrung-out
sponge but not soaking wet. Note: microgreens are delicate and can become matted if
they’re not showered gently when watered.
Harvest your greens. Most microgreens are ready to eat seven to fourteen days after
they’ve sprouted, depending on the plants and the stage at which you chose to eat them.
Your crop can be harvested just after the first set of leaves (cotyledons) open, or you can
wait until the second set of leaves develops. If you plan to let your greens grow any
bigger, seed them slightly thinner so they don’t become too leggy, turn yellow or rot from
crowding. To harvest, gently grasp a handful of greens and cut above the soil level with a
pair of scissors. Use immediately or store in the fridge. They will last up to one week in a
sealed plastic bag or container.

Quick Tips
• Buy untreated seeds (free of fungicides). You may even prefer to buy organic.
• Reuse the soil if there were no problems with disease or pests. Compost thereafter.
• If you don’t want to fuss with soil, invest in grow pads. They’re specifically designed
for microgreen production and readily available at garden centres.
• Start a second tray after the first has sprouted for a continuous supply.

Mighty Good and Good for You

Small or large, vegetables are plain-old good for you. Vitamin and
antioxidant-rich microgreens are no exception. However, claims that microgreens have
more nutritional value than their full-grown counterparts haven’t been proven. As relative
newbies on the culinary scene, they haven’t been the focus of many scientific studies.
There are studies on sprouts, but because the finding include the seed in the nutritional
findings, the information isn’t directly comparable to microgreens. Another issue is the
nutritional profiles don’t necessarily match that of the mature vegetables. For example,
with microgreen radishes, corn and carrots, it’s a completely different part of the plant
that’s eaten. But don’t get hung up on the nutritional analysis, or lack of it. There’s no
doubt freshly grown and picked produce, regardless of size, is always a healthy choice.
Here are some of our favourites.

‘Sugar Sprint’ Snap Pea

These attractive shoots with raw pea flavour make a great addition to stir-
fries. As a green, harvest when about 10 cm tall. As a full-grown plant, ‘Sugar Sprint’ is a
bush-type pea that grows well in pots or small spaces. Mature pods are 7–8 cm long and
abundant. Shoots in 14 days; peas in 60.

‘Spicy Mix’ Microgreens

This seed blend lives up to its name, adding a gorgeous, spicy flavour to
any meal. Contains sawtooth mustard, peppergrass cress, ‘Red Ace’ cabbage, ‘Red Giant’
mustard and ‘China Rose’ radish. Harvest when plants have at least two true leaves orwhen they are 2.5–5 cm tall. Seed less densely to grow to baby green stage. Microgreens
in 10–14 days.

‘Liquid Sunshine’ Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum) is a mainstay in health drinks. Grow your
own to guarantee product control and freshness. As a bonus, varieties such as ‘Liquid
Sunshine’ not only grow like a weed but also look great as a table centerpiece. You can
also opt to just sprout the wheat berries. When sprouts are about 2.5 cm, use them in
salads or bread recipes, or grind them to make veggie burgers. Shoots in 7 days.

eg Science & Technology

Certain seeds develop white fuzz on their stems when they start to grow. It’s a natural
part of the process as seedlings set roots and shouldn’t be mistaken for mould. That said,
if you’re growing microgreens without soil, make sure to start with a sterile container to
deter the growth of unwanted organisms. Note that mould or rot can also develop when
using soil, especially if conditions are too moist or there isn’t good air circulation.

eg Quick Tips

Grow several types of plants in one container for a variety of tastes and textures.
To create your own spicy mix, pick your favourite varieties of these plants and use the
following proportions:
3 parts radish seed
3 parts mustard seed
2 parts cress seed
2 part red cabbage seed

Did You Know?
It’s definitely cheaper to grow your own microgreens than to buy them. Prices will vary,
but often range from $7–9 per 100 gm.

Urban Buzz

A Place for bees in the city

Why would anyone invite bees into her garden? Birds—oh, yes.
Butterflies—the more the better. But bees? These fuzzy garden visitors don’t have a great
reputation. But bees don’t wait in hiding for the moment to sting us. They are happy
enough to bumble from flower to flower undisturbed, all the while providing a valuable
service—pollination. The majority of flowering plants and a third of our food depend on
pollinators, mostly bees. But with urban sprawl and the common use of pesticides, natural
and safe habitat can be hard to come by, and pollinator numbers are declining the world
over. Thankfully, part of the solution is right in our backyard. The right plants and an
undisturbed patch of garden is all you need to create a pollinators’ paradise.

The Humble Bee
First things first: bees have gotten a bad rap. In fact, even the good things
we hear about bees aren’t always accurate. For instance, did you know that most bees
don’t produce honey, and those that do, produce only enough to feed the hive? Well, it’s
time to dispel some myths. Here’s an introduction to get you started.

Bees’ nesting habits vary from bee to bee. Because of our familiarity with the
European honeybee, it’s easy to assume that most bees live in colonies. However, most
are solitary and build their own nests for laying eggs. This is good news for us because,
without an instinctive need to protect the hive, native bees are happiest when left alone
and will sting only when trapped, squished or stepped on.
The majority of native bees build their nests in the ground. The others use holes in
dead trees, hollowed-out stems and even old walls. Bumblebees, the only other social
bee, make their colonies underground, usually in abandoned mouse burrows. They have
also been known to use undisturbed compost piles!
Native bees are as varied as the plants they feed on. Mason bees, for example, are
slightly smaller than honeybees and often have metallic-blue bodies. Look for them in
orchards where they are increasingly being used for pollinating. The tiny masked bee, a
mere 4 to 9 mm in length, has distinctive yellow or white markings on its face and a
black body. The large long-horned bee has a velvety fur, and the males sport very long

Did You Know?
Contrary to popular belief, honeybees are not native to North America, but were
introduced by Europeans some 400 years ago. The ones we see in the wild have escaped
domestic bee farms to build new colonies.

Bees vs. Wasps 101
One of the reasons bees have a bad reputation is because they’re often
associated with their cousin, the wasp. They can be difficult to distinguish, and but
knowing a few key features will help you tell them apart.

Vegetarian vs. Carnivorous
Bees feed on a cocktail of pollen and nectar, while wasps feed largely on small insects
and supplement their diet with nectar (or a sweet drink left out on the patio). When a
wasp is spotted on a flower, it is usually searching for its next meal.

Fuzzy vs. Sleek
Bees’ hair-covered bodies help them collect pollen to bring back to their nests. This
feature is what causes pollination, as well. Wasps’ bodies are usually more elongated,
sleek and hairless. However, a few bees collect pollen internally, and are virtually
hairless. The cuckoo bee, for example, lays her eggs in the nests of other bees, and
doesn’t collect pollen at all.

Docile vs. Aggressive
Due to their predatory nature, wasps are much more aggressive than bees and can be
easily provoked. Both bees and wasps can sting multiple times in a row, but bees will
sting only when truly threatened. It can be easy to enjoy these little fuzzballs without ever
being stung.

Did You Know?
Only female bees have stingers (which are also used to lay eggs), and only honey bees
die when they sting. Honeybees release part of their abdomen with their stinger, which
keeps pumping venom after detaching, and die shortly thereafter.

Habitat loss is the number one cause of declining native bee populations.
Bees have evolved with the land they live on, and once it has been turned into farmland,
pasture, or urban space, bees can struggle to find a home. Providing a habitat in the city is
the first step to welcoming bees in your garden.

The vast majority of bees build their nests in the ground and look for an undisturbed
patch of soil to make their home. The female bee will excavate a channel and line it with
leaves, petals, mud or her own secretions. She will then collect pollen and nectar and
pack in into a ball at the bottom of the cavity and lay an egg on it. Once she seals this egg
cell, she’ll continue building the next chamber and the next, until she has reached the top
of the channel. Having built several nests this way, the female bee will die, and the eggs
will be left to hatch on their own.

An undisturbed piece of garden is essential for a bee to feel safe in the garden. Bees
won’t burrow through groundcover, so if you prefer to mulch your garden, leave a bare
spot. The soil should be well-drained, even sandy, and in a sunny spot. If you have
humus-rich soil, fill an old oak barrel with sand and soil and get ready to watch bees set
up house.

For bees that nest in hollows, providing a home can be as easy as drilling holes into a
snag or thick log. If it comes with beetle tunnels, all the better. Drill holes 3 mm–10 mm
in diameter, about 10 cm deep, and at a right angle to protect the nest from rain. Make
sure the entrance of each hole is smooth and free of splinters.

Rigid stems from raspberry bushes, sunflowers, and even reeds can also serve as bee
bungalows. Bundle the stems together and hang them horizontally in a sheltered spot,
away from rain and direct sun.

To help bees pass the winter, leave parts of your garden unkempt during fall clean up.
Favorite overwintering sites include wild patches of grasses, weeds, wildflowers, logs,
brush, leaf litter, and bush stems.

Did You Know?
Roughly 20,000 species of bees in the world, and 800 call Canada home.

Mason Bee House 101
While there are ready-made mason bee houses on the market, making one
of your own is very easy. All you need is some untreated scrap lumber (an old fence post
or a 4x4 are good choices), a router bit drill and a 5/16 router bit.
1. First, cut our scrap lumber into a 15 cm length.
2. Being carful not to drill all the way through the blocks, begin drilling holes distanced 2
cm apart until the block is covered with holes.
3. Cap the block with a shingle to protect the holes from rain, and hang your mason bee
house at least one metre above the ground and facing east (bees are cold-blooded and
depend on the sun to get going in the morning). During dry times, create a patch of moist
soil near the nest for mason bees to use for sealing their egg chambers.

Bees start emerging from hibernation in early spring and reduce their
activity by mid September. Because of their close relationship with native plants, each
bee species emerges in time with their favourite flower. Feeding habits also vary from
bee to bee; some are specialists, choosing only one type of plant to feed on, while others
are generalists. When designing your garden to attract the greatest variety of bees, focus
on native plants with various blooming periods. In no time you’ll enjoy watching these
furry and gentle foragers circling the flowers in your garden.

Getting it Right
Choose native plants full of nectar and pollen. Native plants and bees have evolved
together and are well suited to meet each other’s needs. Avoid exotic flowers that have
been bred for showiness; they often have diminished nectar and pollen production in
exchange for layers of petals. Generally, plants of the Asteracea and Lamiaceae family
are full of both nectar and pollen. Ask your local nursery to point you in the right
Plant large patches of each flower. Bees are attracted by colour and scent, and a large
patch of a single flower is especially welcoming. The proximity of multiple flowers also
means that bees can forage in one area for a longer time (they will have to make dozens
of trips each day). A patch that is at least one metre squared is best.
Choose an array of plants that will bloom throughout the season. A garden should
contain at least ten varieties to attract bees all season long. A range of flower shapes and sizes will accommodate the different tongue lengths of bees, and different blooming
times will ensure there is always something to eat.

Nectar & Pollen Plants for Every Season
Spring: Shrubs and trees will provide nectar in early in the season when food is scarce.
Crabapple, cherry, lilac, dogwood, willow, and wild geranium are good choices.
Summer: Meadowsweet, coneflower, meadow blazing star, cosmos, verbena, milkweed,
salvia, basil, and tomatoes.
Late Summer; Fall: joe pye-weed, goldenrod, black-eyed susan, great blue lobelia,
native sunflowers, asters, squash and pumpkin.

Quick Tip
Once your garden is ready to house and feed bees, keep it pesticide-free. Even small
amounts of pesticide will kill small critters like bees. If you have to use pesticide, make
sure it’s organic, apply sparingly and in the evening when bees have finished their

Did You Know?
Bees are red-colourblind, so choose flowers that are blue, yellow and purple.

Moon Garden

Create a Nighttime Garden for the Senses

A nighttime garden is a magical place filled with unfamiliar murmurs and inviting
fragrances—the perfect place for rest and retreat. At the end of a workday, there
may be little time to spend in the yard before dusk, so it just makes sense to plan
a garden that comes alive in the evening. The best of these gardens play to our
sense of sight, scent and sound. Softly lit shadows, fragrant night air, musical
dark water. With a few thoughtful choices, you too can create a space that
functions as well in the evening as it does in the day—all it takes is a little night

See the Night
Many of the features that turn a garden into a place of nighttime splendour will
also improve its daytime beauty. Luminous whites, silvers and creams reflect the
moonlight and contrast dark foliage, giving your eyes a reprieve from the pinks,
blues and yellows that populate most flowerbeds. Two perfect examples are
‘Incrediball’ hydrangea and ‘Affinis White’ nicotiana. Both have striking blossoms
and architecture that would enhance any garden, but at night, they stand out
from the shadows and create luminous points of interest.

The lemon yellow blossoms of this evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa)
open at dusk, making this perennial an ideal choice for a nighttime garden. For
best results, give this plant a home in a sunny rock garden with good drainage.
Height: 15–30 cm; width: 30–50 cm. Sun. 
Incredibly large ball-shaped flowers are the hallmark of this new variety of
hydrangea arborescens. ‘Incrediball’ is a hardy hydrangea bred to have sturdier
stems and larger blooms than the similar-looking and ever-popular ‘Annabelle.’
Spectacular, late-summer blooms emerge lime green, mature to white and then
age to a darker green. Given sufficient moisture, this shrub will tolerate full sun.
Height: 60–100+ cm; width: up to 1 m. Shade to A.M. sun.

Nicotiana is known for its
jasmine-like scent, but it’s this
variety’s white flowers that will
capture your attention in the
moonlight. ‘Affinis White’ blooms
continuously throughout the                                                                                                summer, providing a plethora of
trumpet-shaped flowers with which
to tempt the senses of both
gardeners and hummingbirds.
Height: 90–100 cm; spacing:
25–30 cm. Sun to P.M. sun.

Lighting Made Easy
There are numerous ways to supplement moonlight in the garden. Here are a
few of our favourite options.
• Solar lighting: A few well-placed solar lights will cast a subtle luminescence on
your garden. Because of its recent popularity, solar lighting can be found in
every style from path lights that oscillate a kaleidoscope of colours to
traditional carriage lights and whimsical paper lanterns. All are fantastic
• Electrical lights: String lights are ideal for adding a twinkle to evergreens or the
rooflines of gazebos. Spotlights are ideal for highlighting a central garden
feature, such as a fountain, pond or statue.
• Candlelight: Little else can compete with the flickering glow of candlelight.
However, to keep your garden safe as well as beautiful, you should house
your candles in lanterns or other lidded vessels.

Quick tip
Create a nighttime focal point that’s visible from your window. This way, you can
enjoy your garden even on nights when the weather keeps you in.

Breathe the Fragrance
Our senses come alive at night, so there’s no better time to experience the sweet
fragrance of flowers and the pungent scent of evergreens. Evening scented stock
are traditionally a favourite, but more unusual options, such as brugmansia
(Angel’s trumpet), should not be overlooked. To bring those fragrances indoors,
simply plant aromatic annuals near a frequented doorway or an open window.

The gorgeous fragrance of evening scented stock more than makes up for
this plant’s unassuming nature. Pale mauve flowers fill the night air with a vanilla
and nutmeg scent that can best be described as irresistible. Their airy
and unkempt growth habit is best suited to mass plantings or the middle of
borders where shorter plants can disguise their bases. Height: 35–40 cm;
spacing: 10–15 cm. Sun.
If vanilla-scented mounds of lacy flowers are your thing, then heliotrope is your
plant. Its upright habit makes this annual perfect for framing the edges of borders
or filling out pots and window boxes. Height: 30–35 cm; spacing: 25–35 cm. Sun.

Merely brush past a container of petunias in the evening, and you’ll instantly
know why they belong in a nighttime garden. Few other plants perform as
exceptionally as petunias, but it’s their heady fragrance that makes these
annuals stand out in the evening. ‘Midnight’ (from the Madness series) is a
particularly beautiful shade of purple. An old favourite for good reasons. Height:
25–30 cm; spacing: 15–20 cm. Sun to P.M. sun. 

Take an evening stroll through a
patch of woolly thyme (Thymus
pseudolanuginosus) and be
instantly refreshed by the earthy,
herbal notes it releases. And
don’t worry about the thyme
because it can withstand light
foot traffic. The grey-green
foliage of this perennial is
covered in bright-pink blooms from
late spring to early summer.
Drought tolerant. Mat forming.
Height: 1–2 cm; width: 30–45+ cm.
Sun to P.M. sun. 

For a sense of drama that’ll keep you smiling, add brugmansia to your patio or
garden. This massive annual has impressive trumpet-like flowers that are up to
30 cm long. During the day, the large leaves of this towering plant do a great job
of filtering light. During the night, the fragrance from its sweet-scented flowers fills
the air. Height: 1–2 m. Sun. 

Hear the Night Music
Each fountain, brook or waterfall has a sound and charm unique to itself.
Selecting a fountain that’s music to your ears will often mean finding a
fountainhead that generates the sound you like. Fortunately, there are almost as
many styles as there are gardeners. 
Whispering in the softest breeze, the elegant blades and seed heads of feather
reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) will create sound and movement in your
nighttime garden. ‘Avalanche’ is a particular favourite on the prairies for the
interest its towering blades add to the wintery landscape. This clump-forming
grass tolerates poor soils but performs best with good moisture. Height:
90–150 cm; width: 30–45 cm. Su
Finding wind chimes you’ll want to listen to on a regular basis can be as
difficult as finding a radio station for your daily commute. However, when you do
find the right fit, you don’t want to be without it. 

Garden Frogs 101
Frog calls have their own magic. With diminishing global frog populations, many conservation groups are encouraging gardeners to create urban frog habitats.
• If you wish to attract frogs to your garden, you’ll need a body of water with
sloping sides. At least part of the water should be shallow; frogs prefer shallow
water for laying eggs.
• Algae is a vital food source for tadpoles, so a frog pond should be partly
shaded (to keep the soil moist) and partly sunny (to increase algae production).
• Frogs do not mix well with fish, so if you have Koi or Gold Fish, you’ll have
difficulty attracting frogs.
• Provide shelter and shaded areas in the form of rocks, shrubs and low-
growing plants.
• Be aware that, although enchanting at a distance, frog calls can become quite loud during breeding season. You may not be popular if your frog habitat is located close to your neighbour's bedroom window.

Did you know?
Frogs are nature’s pest control experts. Frogs eat slugs, cutworms, mosquitoes, earwigs and various beetles.

Spacing Your Vegetable Seeds

Spacing Your Vegetable Seeds

I remember the year that Dad purchased a 4-row Stanhay Seeder. It was miraculous!

Our old seeder would sow seed into the ground very imprecisely and often, clusters of cabbage, carrots would emerge from the soil with large gaps in between. 

The result was that our crops were not all that uniform and we spent hours trying to ‘thin’ the rows of vegetables so that they enough room to grow to their full potential.

The Stanhay seeder was a precision seeder that came with punched rubber belts allowing the seed to fall into the soil at just the right spacing. The result was crops that were more uniform and thinning was, never again, a dreaded job.

Now Stanhay seeders are not available for home gardeners, because they cost thousands of dollars and besides you need a large tractor to pull it!

So since a Stanhay is out of the question for urban gardens, getting the correct spacing for vegetable seed requires a steady hand. 

Keep in mind that most of us tend to sow too thickly so here is a guide for the distance between seeds.

Carrots   2.5 cm
Onions  2.5 cm
Lettuce 10 cm
Cabbage  25 cm
Rutabaga  25 cm

Some vegetable seeds come prespaced (carrots, beets) by being impregnated into a strip of cloth. For those with a less steady hand this is the way to go!

- Jim Hole

Also read about: Early Spring Sowing


I know "Knot" what to do!

Black Knot

 Tree heavily infected with black knot in Edmonton, Alberta

Tree heavily infected with black knot in Edmonton, Alberta

“What is that gross, black stuff on my tree?!”

Invariably, that gross, black stuff is a fungal disease called "Black Knot" that is caused by a fungus known as Apiosporina morbosa. The disease appears as conspicuous, 2 to 25 centimetre long, black knotty swellings on branches. The knots can be several times wider than the limbs and look quite grotesque

Black Knot spores are spread by wind and rain and can penetrate injured and healthy tissue of the current season’s growth. The first year of infection, the branches swell somewhat but aren’t black. The second year, the swollen branches burst with masses of black spores.
Trees and shrubs that are infected by Black Knot are limited to members of the "Prunus" family that includes: plum, edible cherry, ornamental cherry (Schubert and chokecherry), and Mayday.

The best way to control Black Knot is by pruning the infected branches and then bagging or burning them. Recognizing and removing first year infections is the best strategy.
- Jim Hole

 black knot fungus

black knot fungus

Taking Care of Your Grass

Taking Care of Your Grass

There are two types of grasses that gardeners often have questions about at this time of year: turf and ornamental.
When it comes to our lawns it’s fine to rake them lightly now to remove last year’s leaves and other debris provided the ground has dried sufficiently. If your lawn is wet and soggy, leave it for a bit, otherwise you risk compacting the soil and injuring grass crowns (region between roots and stems) and roots.
Use a broad, flexible, plastic rake that will remove debris but not dig deep into the turf and soil. The Corona Big Load leaf rake is the best tool for the job – it’s my favourite when it comes to cleaning up lawns in a hurry without damaging the grass.
Core aeration (removal of cores of turf to allow greater water, air and nutrient penetration) can also be undertaken in within the next couple of weeks when the soil is dry. Target timing of application of controlled release fertilizers like NitroBoost Stabilized Nitrogen within the next couple of weeks as well.
Taking care of your ornamental grasses is very easy. Simply cut the dead and dry grass stems and leaves to the ground. New growth emerges from the crown so removal of dead grass tissue won’t cause any harm to the grasses. You may see some new, green, grass blades poking through the mass of old dead leaves. Don’t worry about cutting them off. New blades will emerge quickly and replace any leaves that you cut-off.

— Jim Hole

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.