Prevent Sun Scald and Frost Crack on Your Trees

Prevent Sun Scald and Frost Crack on Your Trees

Warm sunny weather can be a great break for us during our cold winters, but it can play havoc on your dormant trees.

Sun Scald and Frost Crack are two problems you probably won't see evidence of until spring. Direct sunlight and fluctuating winter temperatures are to blame for both of these unsightly damages—and they can be (and need to be) prevented right now!

 

Sun Scald

Sun Scald is caused by mild day time temperatures and direct sunlight warming the tree bark enough that some cells "wake up" out of dormancy and become active.

They are tricked into thinking it's spring and are not triggered to return to dormancy by the time the sun sets. The much colder night time temperatures kills these active cells, resulting in dead patches of the tree's trunk.

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Frost Crack

Frost Crack is similarly cause by the tree warming during mild and sunny days. When night falls however, the water inside the different layers of the tree can contract at different rates, and when the temperature change is rapid, cracks will form.In spring, the tree will try to heal the damage, but in the winter the tree can re-crack again in the same location. Repeated, healing and cracking forms "frost ribs" on the tree.

While the tree its self can survive sun scald and frost crack damage, they are unsightly and provide a great opportunity for diseases and insects to attack the weaken tree.

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The solution to both is to cover the trunk with tree wrap to prevent direct sunlight on the tree, allowing the tree to have more even and gradual temperature changes. Just make sure to remove the wrap in spring or you can girdle your growing tree!

Dwarf Trees for Small Spaces

By Jim Hole

The trend towards smaller yards, quite literally, narrows the choice of trees that perform well in small spaces. And if you have a skinny house, ipso facto, you will also have a skinny yard. So if you want to grow a tree or two, that means you shouldn’t transplant trees that will become sprawling giants.

The good news is that bigger doesn’t mean better when it comes to trees, and some of the very best varieties have a smaller stature without sacrificing any beauty.

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A bit of science

So, why are some trees much smaller compared to their much larger cousins? Harsh environments are one reason. Hike to the higher elevations in Jasper or Banff and you’ll see dwarf evergreens that are a fraction of the size of the same species growing at lower altitudes thanks to the short growing season, poor soil, and cool temperatures.

But there are also many variants of otherwise large tree species that are naturally dwarf and will not grow too tall or too wide, even in an optimum growing environment. The reason these plants are dwarf is primarily due to a deficiency of specific plant hormones. A group of plant hormones called gibberellins are responsible for elongation of shoots and branches in most plants, but trees are often deficient in gibberellins so they remain relatively small compared to their larger cousins.

Plant breeders are constantly on the lookout for dwarf trees to select and use in their breeding programs. And given the increasing number of ‘postage stamp’ yards that we see today, there is an increasing demand for smaller trees and shrubs

What should you do?

The first thing to do is transplant trees that you like! This sounds simple, but I can’t believe how many times people tell me that they transplanted trees into their yards that they really don’t like. Spend some time doing a bit of research and consult with garden centre professionals before buying any tree.

Keep in mind that dwarf trees still grow. Even though they are classified as dwarf, they still require space to reach their full potential. Therefore, it’s important that you always choose dwarf tree and shrub varieties that fit nicely into your yard and that won’t outgrow their allotted space at maturity.

Also ensure that the dwarf plants are hardy. For example, I commonly see a dwarf spruce called ‘Dwarf Alberta Spruce’ being planted in our region. It’s a beautiful spruce, but ironically it is not hardy in Alberta. It suffers tremendously from winter drying and needle drop, and typically struggles for a few years before dying outright.

If want to plant some dwarfs, here is a shortlist of some great performers for our region:

‘Dakota Pinnacle’ Birch: A columnar birch that is tough and grows quickly and provides a nice privacy screen. It tends to maintain its leaves over winter, adding some additional privacy outside of the growing season

‘Purple Spire’ Flowering Crabapple: Grows to about five metres tall and just over a metre wide. Purple leaves and pink flowers really enhance this crabapple’s ornamental value.

‘Regal Prince’ Oak: This columnar oak grows about eight metres tall but is only about two-and-a-half metres wide. It produces leaves that are rich green on top and silver on the bottom.

Finally, never transplant a “cute” tree in your yard without understanding its true personality. An innocent-looking white spruce seedling will eventually grow into a 20-metre-tall, wide-spreading giant. There will be a dwarfing effect, but it will be due to the illusion that your yard is gradually shrinking as the spruce continues to grow.

Originally published by the Edmonton Journal, May 30, 2019

Planting Root Bound Trees, Shrubs & Perennials

Planting Root Bound Trees, Shrubs & Perennials

You’ve bought a new plant, you have the supplies to start, but do you know how to properly tend to the roots before planting? A common mistake made by many planters is taking their new plant out of the pot they buy it in and plopping it directly into the ground.

Trees, shrubs and perennials bought at greenhouses and nurseries often sit in the same pot for weeks, if not months. As a result of this they become extremely root bound with nowhere for their roots to grow. A root bound plant means that the roots have filled the entire pot, often creating a tangled mess that forms into a hard clump. Planting this compacted root ball will lead to an insufficient uptake of water and nutrients.

Following these steps before planting will ensure that your plant’s young root system will be able to properly establish itself in its new environment. The success and longevity of your new plant is very much determined by the effort you put into planting them!

Preparing Your Plant

1. Water your tree, shrub or perennial, before you take it out of the pot.

2. Remove the plant from the pot.

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3. Brush away excess soil.

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4. Carefully place the plant on its side.

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5. If the plant is heavily root bound (as pictured), more force is required. Take a sharp, clean tool (like a pruner or knife) to roughen up the outer layer of the root ball. The more root bound the plant, the more force is needed.

Planting

6. Dig a hole that is just a little deeper and three times the width of the root ball.

7. Fill the bottom of the hole with a mixture of 80% potting soil and 20% sea soil, to lift the root ball to the right planting level.

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8. The right planting level for a shrub or perennial is the same depth as it is planted in the pot.

The right planting level for a tree (as pictured) is half an inch above the first major root coming from the trunk. The tree might be planted a bit deep in the pot, so ensure you remove excess soil above that level (refer to step 3).

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9. Place plant in the hole and make sure it is on the right level.

10. Fill with remaining soil mixture and firm to remove air pockets.

11. Mix a solution of 2 tsp (9 g) of earthalive™ Soil Activator and 1 tsp (4.5 g) of Root Rescue for every 7.5 litres of water (average watering can size). Water over surrounding area.

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12. Add a shallow layer of mulch, bark or wood chips to help retain soil moisture.

13. Water thoroughly- both around immediate root zone of plant, but also surrounding area to encourage root extension.

14. To establish newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials, our rule of thumb for watering the first growing season is a schedule of twice a week with a gallon of water per foot of growth in height and width. (Adjust accordingly to the weather and your drainage.)

15. Use Nature’s Source fertilizer once a month, with the last application in the beginning of September.

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16. Large trees need to be staked with one or more tree stakes for the first season to prevent the root ball from moving.

Take the Bite Out of Mosquitoes

Take the Bite Out of Mosquitoes

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Pi Active

For safe, personal protection, use DEET-Free Pi Active insect repellent. Pi Active gives up to 12 hours of protection from mosquitos and ticks.

The DEET-free formula is non-scented, not oily or greasy and won't damage plastic or synthetic materials. Suitable for use on children 6 months and older, Pi Active is a safe and effective choice for your whole family.

MOSQUITO-less

Use Mosquito-Less in your backyard to repel mosquitoes. Made of garlic oil, easy-to-use and safe, Mosquito-Less is perfect for your backyard.

Apply a few hours before you want to enjoy your backyard. Liberally spray your lawn, flowers, trees, and shrubs for a naturally mosquito-free yard.

Mosquito Coils

Mosquito coils are an easy way to create an invisible barrier against mosquitos and other insects. Each coil kills mosquitoes for up to 7 hours, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors in peace.

Mosquito Shield's Rechargeable Bug Zapper

This bug zapper is unique in that it does not use a chemical lure, making it safe for use both inside and out, even in enclosed spaces.

The rechargeable battery lasts for up to 8 hours on a full charge and can be hung anywhere with the collapsible hanger. The built in catch tray makes it cleaning the bug zapper a breeze.

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Mosquito Dunks

Have standing water on your property? Use Mosquito dunks to biologically control and kill mosquito larvae before they become adults. The active ingredient is a naturally occurring bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) that is toxic to mosquito larvae and nothing else, making them safe to use around aquatic wildlife.

Malathion Concentrate & Dial n' Spray

For those with larger yards, use Malathion Concentrate in your Dial n' Spray, on a setting of 4. Spray your yard and surrounding bushes a couple hours before you enjoy your yard. Kills aphids, caterpillars, mosquitoes, mealybugs, mites and several other insects.

Weed Control Made Easy

Weed Control Made Easy

It's that time of the year where weed problems start to show. Not only are they an eye sore, but they are a pain to get rid of. Whether it be in the garden bed, near pathways or even in your planters, picking weeds one by one can cause quite the headache. However when weed control is done right, it can be very effective in minimizing or eliminating weed growth altogether.

Stirrup Hoe

A stirrup hoe gets the weeding job done efficiently, effectively and with the least amount of back bending. It is a band of steel attached to a handle and is very proficient at cutting out weeds with much less effort than the conventional big "broad bladed" hoe.

Wait until the top of your soil is dry, and then simply run the stirrup hoe along the top 1-2 centimetres of the soil wherever you see weeds and it will effortlessly pull the weeds out with a gentle tilling of the soil.

The stirrup hoe is easy to manoeuvre around bushes and your perennials, annuals, and vegetables. It is good practice to use the stirrup hoe once a week, when the weeds are still small and easy to pull out of the soil. By staying on top of your weeding and getting them while they're small, you won't even need to bag most small weeds up. Most tiny, pulled-out weeds can be left on top of the soil, where they will quickly dry up and die.

Path Clear

Path Clear is an effective spray for killing annual weed seedlings. You can also use this product for control of grass and weeds on driveways, sidewalks, patios, gravel and more.

Visible effects occur after treatment, and actively growing susceptible weeds are controlled within 1-2 daysPath Clear leaves no harmful residue in the soil. Available in a 709 mL ready-to-use spray bottle, it is convenient and suitable for small problem areas.

Hemp Mulch

Hole's Hemp Mulch will allow water and nutrients into your garden soil, will help you cut down on your watering by keeping the moisture in your soil and it will act as a physical barrier to keep most weeds out of your soil.

  • Keeps your garden neat and tidy.

  • Aids in moisture retention and weed control.

  • Completely biodegradable, till into garden soil in fall.

  • Dust free, light weight and rot resistant.

  • Fast growing renewable resource grown on Canadian prairies.

Watch our video on how to use hemp mulch here.

Selective Herbicides

Selective (Broadleaf) herbicides like Weed B Gon are generally sprayed on and absorbed by the big, broad leaves of weeds like dandelions, and eventually enough herbicide is absorbed by the leaves to kill the whole plant.

This product utilizes the natural power of iron to deliver visible results within hours–tackling dandelions, English daisies and more without harming your grass. This convenient, ready-to-use format is ideal for those not wanting to mix their own weed control solutions. Simply spray, and watch your dandelions go away!

Non-Selective Herbicides

Non-selective herbicides will kill all plants, broadleaf or not. They're good for dandelions, grasses, and chickweed to name a few. While they are great for controlling chickweed or quackgrass, be careful when applying them near lawns or gardens. Because of their non-selectivity, they need to be applied carefully so that none of it drifts via air or water currents onto plants you'd rather keep alive (like your tomatoes or lawn!)

Bye Bye Weed is a great non-selective herbicide. Remember, this will kill any plant, including lawn grass, so use it away from your lawn and only where you need to.

Confusing Beauties

Confusing Beauties

By Jim Hole

If floral beauty is judged by popularity then petunias would surely wear the crown. When I look around the yards and streets of Canadian cities, petunias dominate. Today, they are grown in everything from hanging baskets to patio pots to flowerbeds, with some varieties are even used as annual, quasi-hedges.
 
There is little doubt that the ascent of petunias to the top of the bedding plant world has much to do with their beauty and diversity. But it’s the depth and richness of their genes that has allowed them to reach that lofty height.

Most of the garden petunias that we enjoy today are, primarily, the result of extensive plant breeding of two South American species: Petunia integrifolia (violet petunia) and Petunia axillaris (white moon petunia). The result was Petunia x hybrida, also known as the hybrid petunia. Plant breeders latched on to this hybrid petunia and developed a serious addiction to creating as many new and beautiful varieties as cross breeding would allow.

Part of the reason that petunias and their kin are able to display such a richness - and sometimes weirdness - of floral colours and patterns is because they possess what are known as “jumping genes”. Jumping genes are little ‘packets’ of genetic material that can jump within the plant’s DNA, resulting in some truly fascinating blotch-patterned and stripped flowers. I like to think of these genes as ‘cut and paste’ bits of genetic information that are ‘snipped’ from one variety and ‘glued’ onto another. If you’ve ever seen a flower that looks like it has been splashed with paint, you can be pretty sure that jumping genes were responsible.
 
Clever plant breeders have not only exploited the use of jumping genes but they soon discovered that they could cross-breed petunias with a closely related species called ‘calibracoa’ also known as million bells. So, today not only is there is a plethora of new petunia and calibracoa varieties, there are also many hybrids resulting from crossing petunias with calibracoas.  The name for the resulting cross is ‘petchoa’ – rather unimaginative but at least it’s simple to remember.
 
The toughest job might just be selecting your favourites from the vast number of choices.  
There are four broad flower categories: grandifloras (big flowers), mutlifloras (lots of  good-sized flowers), millifloras (lots and lots of smaller flowers), minifloras (lots a and lots of tiny flowers). They are all great with each category containing some terrific varieties.
 
Once you’ve nailed down the flowers, it’s critical to choose only healthy plants whose growth habit  is best for your yard. For example, a great series called ‘Littletunias’ have a fabulous display of small flowers and a nice, short mounding growth habit making them ideal for smaller yards. At the other end of the spectrum is the ‘supertunias’ series that have lots of big flowers and a very aggressive growth and are great for large flowerbeds.
 
Whether in containers or beds - and without exception – petunias and their relatives grow best with a wet/dry water schedule. In other words, saturating the plants with water, followed by a ‘dry-down’ period, keeps the foliage tight and tough while stimulating the production of blooms. I like to let the petunias dry to the point that there is just a bit of leaf wilt before soaking them once again.
 
All of the varieties are ‘heavy feeders’ so weekly feedings of a water soluble fertilizer like 10-4-3, or a controlled-release granular fertilizer will keep the plants flowering beautifully all season long. Hanging baskets, in particular, need to be fertilized at least once per week. Adding some SeaSoil (compost comprised of fish waste and bark) to the containers keeps the plants in great shape throughout the growing season. And keep in mind that the best floral displays are found in spots where the plants receive six hours or more of direct sunlight per day.
 
Now, if you are still somewhat confused by all of the permutations and combinations of species, categories, series, and crosses, don’t worry. I share your anxiety. For me, it begins the moment that I flip to the petunia section of our stack of seed catalogues and continues as I desperately try to memorize all of the bloody names of the new varieties!
 
If I can remember half of all the new introductions each year, I consider that to be a huge personal victory.

The 'Dirt' on Hydrangeas

The 'Dirt' on Hydrangeas

By Jim Hole


Fact or Fiction?
You can change the colour of your hydrangea flowers by making the soil acidic.’

Hydrangeas are some of our most spectacular flowering shrubs. And while there are over a dozen great varieties that grow beautifully on the prairies, there are those among us who just can’t resist the challenge of changing a pink flowered hydrangea to one that flowers blue or vice versa. Today there are over a dozen varieties that we can grow here successfully.

But can one really change hydrangea flower colour? The answer is yes…well, sort of.

Changing the colour of hydrangea flowers starts with understanding a bit about soil chemistry and then choosing the right varieties. In our greenhouses, I was the guy who was in charge of adding the correct ingredients, in the right proportions to the soil half of the hydrangeas would flower blue while other half would flower pink. But I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t always get it right. More often than I care to admit, I ended up with what are known as ‘blurple’ hydrangeas – mostly blue but with enough red blended in to give the hydrangea flowers a purpley tone. Now, I thought the blurples were rather attractive but, apparently, that sentiment wasn’t shared by everyone!

So how does one get a red, blue or even a blurple hydrangea for that matter? It all begins with choosing hydrangeas that have the capacity to change colour. The vast majority of the hydrangeas that we grow here are incapable of changing colour regardless of what you do. For example, white hydrangeas will remain white regardless of what treatments you provide.

If you have responsive hydrangeas then the next step is to raise or lower the soil pH above a threshold level depending on whether you want blue flowers or pink flowers. If you want a pink hydrangea, the soil must be fairly alkaline (higher pH) but if you want a blue hydrangea the soil must be rather acidic (lower pH).

Diving into soil chemistry just a bit deeper, acidic soils make aluminum (a naturally occurring soil element) more soluble and more readily absorbed by plant roots whereas alkaline soils make aluminum less soluble and thus more difficult for roots to absorb. At the cellular level the aluminum alters the pigments in the hydrangea blooms and, voila, the flower colours change. But the caveat here is that if you don’t tweak the soil correctly, you’ll end up with my blurple colour.

Keep in mind that only a select few hydrangeas are responsive to manipulation of soil pH. In you want to experiment, a variety called Bloomstruck is one variety to have some fun with.

Remember too that once an existing flower is already pink or blue, it won’t change colour. Tweaking soil acidity will only affect the coloration of flowers that have yet to develop.

Also, in the garden, pH manipulation can be very difficult particularly if you have a clay-loam soil with lots of lime in it. Acidifying this type of soil is nearly impossible so just be satisfied with growing a healthy, floriferous hydrangea and enjoy whatever colour you get!

The florist type hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophylla) are the best hydrangeas for having some fun with flower colour transformation. They are only marginally hardy outside but are great for playing around with outside in containers during the summer. They love morning sun but hate intense afternoon sun so place them in a spot where they won’t suffer from sunburn.

Remember that even if you change soil pH beyond certain threshold levels, you won’t get a rainbow colours from your hydrangea flowers. Pink and blue are your only two choices…and blurple, if you weren’t paying attention in your soil chemistry class.

Some great Hole’s Hydrangeas to grow:

  • Annabelle, Bloomstruck, Bobo, Incrediball, Limelight

Tomato 101

Tomato 101

By Jim Hole

There’s no shock as to why tomatoes are so well-loved. Whether it be salsas, sauces or salads, their versatility is unmatched by other garden vegetables. Tomatoes are actually quite simple to grow with the right technique, patience and care. This “Tomato 101” will send you on your way to producing a bountiful yield of this summer favourite.

Varieties

With the vast number of tomato varieties, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. For cherry tomatoes, some of my favourites include Sun Gold, Minimato and Rapunzel. For eating tomatoes, Primo Red, Mortgage Lifter and Stupice. And of course for cooking, be sure to try San Marzano, Mamma Mia and Sunrise Sauce. Stock up on your favourite varieties soon–as many sell out fast!

Soil

Proper soil is crucial for a successful tomato yield. It may be tempting to purchase the “cheap stuff” at your big box stores, but these brands lack the richness needed for tomatoes to thrive. Soils lose organic matter if it is not added back in regularly, so my recommendation is using a 1:1 ratio of Sea Soil and Jim’s Potting Soil. Avoid using manure in your soil as the salt content per bag is inconsistent. More often than not, you will end up scorching your plants and be forced to start over.

Fertilizer

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, which means it is important to fertilize them regularly. I recommend using Garden Pro Tomato Food (5-10-5). This granular fertilizer is also supplemented with calcium to prevent “blossom-end rot”. Simply mix Garden Pro Tomato Food in with your soil and water thoroughly. Another product I like to use on my tomatoes is Epsom Salts. Epsom Salts contain magnesium and can be applied every couple of weeks.

Watering

We often have customers come to the greenhouse with wilted leaves, brittle stems and yellowing tips. After a quick look, I know they aren’t watering enough. I use the analogy of filling up your car with gas to help explain the importance of watering. When you go to the gas station, you don’t put $5 worth in your car, drive till it’s empty, fill up $5 worth again and so on. The same goes for watering your tomato plants. When you water, ensure that you water the entire root zone completely with a good soaking.

Weed Control

There is nothing more frustrating than pouring time and energy into your garden, only to have it scattered with weeds. Not only are they an eye sore, but they also draw the essential nutrients out of your soil, leaving nothing for your tomatoes. Before you plant, I recommend encouraging the weeds to grow–watering like you would for any garden. Once they are a mature size, spray the soil with Bye Bye Weed to kill off any vegetation that is present. Wait 7 days, and plant your garden as you normally would. NEVER APPLY BYE BYE WEED TO YOUR GARDEN PLANTS. IT IS RESTRICTED TO APPLICATION ON WEEDS ONLY. Pulling weeds throughout the summer is an obvious technique for eliminating weeds, but spraying saves you the headache altogether. 

Pruning

Tomatoes come in two growth types–determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes usually grow wider, do not need pruning and grow well in a cage. Whereas indeterminate tomatoes grow tall, require staking and pruning, but usually have higher yields than determinate varieties. Pruning indeterminate tomatoes is quite easy–simply pinch off the shoots or “suckers” that grow out from the stems. This redirects energy to the fruit of the plant rather than the shoots. In turn, this produces much larger, healthier tomatoes. Watch our video on how to prune tomatoes here: www.holesonline.com/blog/how-to-prune-tomato-plants.

 

Still not feeling quite confident on growing your own tomatoes? Be sure to check out our e-book on tomatoes at www.holesonline.com/ebooks/tomato-favourites.

Q: What causes black or brown rotten spots on the bottom of my tomatoes?

A: This condition is called “blossom-end rot” and it is caused by water stress and calcium deficiency due to heavy clay soil or irregular/inadequate watering. Watering regularly is key to preventing blossom-end rot. Even if the soil contains lots of calcium, without sufficient water, the plant cannot absorb essential minerals.

Heirloom vs. Hybrid

Heirloom vs. Hybrid

By Jim Hole

The tomato is the most popular garden vegetable just about everywhere. It can easily be grown organically and there are a huge number of outstanding varieties available. Here is what you need to know to grow juicy, delicious and nutritious tomatoes.

Heirlooms or hybrids?

I love the names of heirloom tomatoes. Mortgage Lifter, for example, conjures up such great imagery. But do awesome sounding heirloom names translate into awesome tasting fruit or are hybrid tomatoes really the best choice for our gardens? To answer that question, it helps to understand what the terms heirloom and hybrid really mean.

The way I like to think about the difference between heirloom and hybrid tomatoes is that heirlooms arose primarily through serendipity whereas hybrids arose by calculated design.

With respect to heirloom varieties the story usually goes something like this. Historically, families - or even entire communities - would grow several tomatoes in their fields or gardens and then collect the seed in the fall to provide seed to sow for the following year. Since all tomato varieties are primarily self-pollinated, the fall harvested tomato seed collected from a specific variety would be pretty much be identical to the plant from which it was harvested. But, occasionally, a tomato might be cross-pollinated by bees, as the pollen was moved from the flower of one variety to the flower of another. The resulting new variety of tomato grown from that cross was often nothing spectacular but, occasionally, a new outstanding variety would  emerge and become a cherished variety that was handed down from generation to generation. Thus a new heirloom was born.

Now, we can’t give all of the credit to the bees for great heirlooms. Some heirloom enthusiasts developed a love of the delicate and tedious task of ‘crossing’ one tomato variety with another in pursuit of the world’s next great heirloom. Today, many of our very best heirloom varieties were the result of passionate, dedicated and patient amateur breeders who crossed many varieties in their gardens before finally creating a new, delicious heirloom.

Hybrids on the other hand, are more like a designer tomato. The journey developing hybrids is one that is more purposeful and carried out by breeders who are specially trained in plant genetics. They have very specific goals in mind like breeding a variety that is resistant to a particular disease or one that has superior storage qualities. If they are successful – which often takes many years of painstaking work - the resulting hybrid tomato will express those traits and still be flavourful. 

What should you do?

Having spoken with many tomato aficionados over the years, the overwhelming majority of gardeners just want to plant great-tasting tomato varieties regardless of whether they are heirlooms or hybrids. Thankfully, there are truly outstanding tomatoes in each category.

When it comes to juicy, meaty, true tomato flavour, I’m a huge fan of heirloom tomatoes like Mortgage Lifter and Stupice. If you have a sunny spot on your deck or in your garden, you should try them.

On the other hand, there are some incredible hybrid tomatoes, particularly in the cherry category. Minimato is a small hybrid bush tomato that I like to call bulletproof. If you plunk it in any old pot, give it water and a bit of fertilizer, it will reward you with fruit all season long

Sungold is another great one. It was one of my Mom’s favourites because it is tasty, sweet and it grows like a weed. The biggest challenge with Sungold is that it is so prolific you’ll need to create some new recipes to deal with the onslaught of fruit!

So let’s go back to the heirloom versus hybrid debate. Frankly, I’ve never felt the two were diametrically opposed. I’ve grown all kinds of heirloom and hybrid varieties over the years and both categories yield some fantastic fruit and both types deserve their place in the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #7

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #7

by Jim Hole

This week, I am beginning a series on CBC radio Edmonton on the life cycle of a single cannabis seed. We will follow it on its journey from sowing to maturity and see what a cannabis seed needs to grow. The seed will even have a name that will be chosen by CBC listeners!

Tune into CBC’s ‘Radioactive’ program every Tuesday at 4:30pm to see how she is doing. And yes, it’s a female seed that I will be growing and there are both female and male cannabis plants!

Keeping Your Soil Healthy

Keeping your Soil Healthy

If you're not blessed with perfect garden soil from the start—and few of us are—you will need to amend the soil and that means adding plenty of organic matter such as organic Sea Soil.

Sea Soil can be added to the soil anytime that the soil is warm enough to work, though the most convenient times are in the early spring, before you've planted your gardens, or in the fall, after the growing season is over.

Amending the soil can take a lot of Sea Soil; generally, you need enough to cover your beds to a thickness of 5-8 cm (or more if your soil is particularly dense with too much clay). Till in the Sea Soil with a rake or rototiller, and you're on your way to a healthier garden!

You can also boost your soil’s health by applying earthalive™ Soil Activator. Composed of a blend of naturally-occurring soil microorganisms, Soil Activator boosts plant health by increasing the availability of nutrients in the soil and also improves soil moisture retention.

Note that amending your soil isn't a one-time affair; since your garden uses the soil year after year, it's only natural that the soil's quality will erode over time. Adding soil amendments such as Sea Soil and Soil Activator once a year is an excellent way to keep your soil fertile.

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #6

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #6

by Jim Hole

For the past number of weeks, the team at Atlas has been aggressively pruning cannabis plants.

Cannabis branches aggressively and unless it’s brought under control, entire grow rooms can become dense jungles of foliage. And foliage that is not exposed to direct sunlight becomes a ‘sink’ rather than a ‘source’ of sugars.

In other words, sink leaves take sugars away from the plants rather than contributing sugars to developing buds. Pruning is simply a way of removing the freeloaders!

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #5

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #5

by Jim Hole

Some plants are weak rooters and some are strong rooters. Cannabis falls into the latter category. In fact, cannabis is one of the most vigorous rooters of any plant that I’ve seen.

As a result, cannabis can easily outgrow a pot unless there is sufficient root space, so to err on the side of a larger container and greater soil volume is the best strategy. A good target is about a 10 litre pot size.

Early Seeding Directly Outdoors

The most common question that I hear at this time of year is: "When is it safe to plant outside?" And the answer is... "It depends."

The first thing to understand is that plants vary in their susceptibility to cold and freezing temperatures. Our hardy trees, shrubs and perennials are, obviously, very cold tolerant—otherwise we would have nothing but something akin to a moonscape in our yards.

So it’s really the bedding plants that most people are concerned about for a safe planting date. But within this category, there is a tremendous variation in cold and frost tolerance.

For example, pansies and parsnips can easily tolerate frost and sub-zero temperatures but watermelon and sweet potatoes are so frost and cold sensitive that they will be damaged if they see you carrying a frosty drink to your deck chair!

On the farm, we usually had our first round of vegetables sown in our fields by the 2nd or 3rd week of April provided the soil was not to wet to work. The first round of vegetables included: peas, beets, lettuce, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and a few potatoes. If it snowed after we sowed we knew that we would have fabulous, even germination as the snow slowly and gently melted into the soil.

Today, I always sow my carrots, beets and other frost tolerant vegetables into my containers in April so that I am eating them in June.

As my mother always said,"For a few dollars-worth of seed, take a chance, sow early and live dangerously!"

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #4

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #4

by Jim Hole

Cannabis has two distinct phases in its lifecycle. The first is the vegetative phase which involves a proliferation of leafy growth followed by the flowering phase.

The trick with growing excellent quality cannabis is to fertilize the crop with the correct quantity of leaf-inducing nitrogen fertilizer and then knowing when to back-off with it so that the plants don’t a mass of dense foliage at the expense of flowers.

Failure to get the formula correct means a lot of extra work trying to prune and train the cannabis plants into a manageable size which is costly and tedious. Given that cannabis can grow 15cm per day at its growth peek means that staying tuned into the best fertilizer formulas for both stages of growth is critical!

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #3

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #3

by Jim Hole

Last week, an entire grow room of cannabis was harvested and, literally, hung-up to dry. Drying is undertaken in a special room that is tightly controlled for humidity and temperature. Cool and slightly humid air is the best environment for proper cannabis drying and curing and it’s a process that can’t be rushed.

Proper drying is critical for two main reasons. The first is to preserve the important ‘phytochemicals’ contained within the leaf and flower tissue. And the second is to provide a poor environment for the growth of mold and bacteria. Both are equally important and tightly managing the drying room environment is critical for top quality medicinal product!

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #2

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #2

by Jim Hole

Cannabis is referred to as a ‘short day’ plant. What this means is that most cannabis varieties require day lengths that are equal to - or shorter than – nights, before they are capable of flowering.

 At the Atlas Controlled Environment facility, plants are grown under long days (18 hrs or more) until they reach sufficient size and then the lighting program is switched to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of continuous darkness right through until harvest.

 When cannabis plants experience short days, flowers are initiated and buds swell, producing a rich mix of medicinal ‘phytochemicals’. The science of short days and flowering is pretty straightforward but the art of knowing the best timing for switching the lighting is variety dependant.

 Switch too early and yield is compromised. But switch too late and cannabis earns its nickname ‘weed’ because the plants become giant masses of stem and foliage and extremely hard to control even with diligent pruning.

 Cannabis varieties remind me of tomato varieties. Some grow slowly and have more of a ‘mounding’ habit while others would grow to the ceiling if you let them!

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #1

Medicinal Cannabis Blog #1

by Jim Hole

As many of you know, I wear two hats when it comes to horticulture.

The first is overseeing ornamental and edible plant production at Hole’s and the second is being in charge of medicinal cannabis cultivation at Atlas Biotechnologies in Lac Ste. Anne county, Alberta.

Naturally, many people are curious about cannabis and how it grows so I thought that it would be great to give some insight into the world of medicinal cannabis and what it takes to get from seed to sale. With this first blog on medicinal cannabis the first place to start is with the Atlas Biotechnologies facility itself.

The requirements for growing medicinal cannabis are very strict with sanitation being at the top of the list. Hallways and grow rooms are spotless and “gowning-up” to enter any grow space becomes second nature. Putting on suits, hair nets, beard nets, booties and gloves are just the minimum standard attire that each employee and visitor must don inside the grow facilities at Atlas.

 Grow rooms are sanitized after each harvest and tested for bacteria and fungi. To say that the facility is more like a hospital than grow space for plants is an understatement. Every plant has its own unique identification number and every bit of plant material is accounted for and documented.

 Medicinal cannabis production is a fascinating endeavour!