3D Pruning: The Basics of Summer Pruning

One of the main reasons that many people avoid summer pruning of trees and shrubs is a deep-seated fear of causing irreparable damage to these woody plants.

But while one should have a basic understanding of the science of summer pruning, there are 3 pruning cuts that can be tackled fairly easily by most gardeners pretty much anytime. It’s called 3D pruning.

3D pruning is simply the removal of stems and branches that fall, roughly, into 1 of 3 categories: Dead, Diseased, or Damaged.

Let’s look at each category:


Dead stems and branches don’t require any in-depth analysis! If they are dead they should be removed and the sooner the better. Dead branches provide plenty of "fuel" for a number of "plant pathogenes" or disease fungi that can attack healthy tree and shrub tissue. 


black knot.jpg

Some stems and branches can harbour some serious diseases and still look quite healthy.

"Black Knot" is a good example. It is a devastating disease that attacks Mayday and Schubert Cherry trees and is easily recognized by black, lumpy-looking growths on a tree’s branches. Removal of the branches the moment the disease is evident is critical to minimize spread of the disease to uninfected branches.


Damaged branches and stems may be diseased, but often they are damaged due to other causes like winterkill, storm breakage, and insect pests. It’s best to remove damaged branches to allow your trees and shrubs to dedicate their precious resources to production of healthy tissue that can contribute to the overall vigour of your plants. 


Summer Pruning Notes

Once you feel confident in tackling 3D pruning there are 3 more things to consider before starting:

  • Use high-quality pruning tools and the right ones for the job. A razortooth pruning saw, secateurs, and loppers are the basics for pruning. Don't make the mistake of using a carpenter's saw as isn't designed for cutting trees—a razortooth pruning saw is what you need to properly cut the wood of your tree.
  • Be aware that Elms cannot be pruned from April to October due to the risk of spreading Dutch Elm Disease. Elms, in our part of the world, can only be legally pruned November to March.
  • Safety. Prune only those branches and stems that you can prune safely. Leave all other pruning for the pros!
razortooth saw.jpg

3 Easy Ways to a Weed-Free Lawn & Garden

dandelions lawn

Contrary to popular belief, keeping a weed-free lawn and garden doesn't have to be a labour-intensive process.

In fact, with a few tips and tricks and some knowledge of why weeds thrive, and how various controls work, keeping weeds out of your garden or your lawn can be as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Weed Prevention

For lawns

The most common problem that we see is weeds in people's front or back lawns. By taking good care of your lawn and understanding why weeds appear in your lawn, you can stop many weeds before they even begin. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

To prevent weeds in your lawn, we recommend a good lawn fertilizer, a good watering program, and some good grass seed. Why is that?


Weeds like clover tend to out-compete grass when the soil is poor in nitrogen. Grass needs lots of nitrogen to thrive, and so if your lawn is poor in nitrogen, clover—which is able to make its own nitrogen—will take over instead.

Dandelions, likewise, out-compete grass because they have long, deep roots that can access water and nutrients that the shallow roots of your grass can't access. By fertilizing your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer like Nitro Boost you can give your lawn a leg up on the competition.


By keeping your lawn well-watered with a high quality sprinkler (and doing less frequent, but deeper waterings), you can help give your lawn deeper roots, which will help it compete with the weeds.


Finally, over-seeding your lawn with a seed that's appropriate to your lawn conditions (sun, shade, drought, etc) will ensure that you have lots of good, healthy grass that will thrive in your lawn's conditions and keep weeds from taking up shop.

 Nitro Boost Fertilizer, Manderley's Drought Tolerant Grass Seeds, and Rapidgrow's Shade Tolerant Grass Seed.

Nitro Boost Fertilizer, Manderley's Drought Tolerant Grass Seeds, and Rapidgrow's Shade Tolerant Grass Seed.

For gardens

Why Not To Use Fabric

Many people lay down a layer of black landscape fabric overtop their garden beds to keep weeds out of their garden. While this was best practice a few decades ago, we know now that it's not the best thing to do today.

Landscape fabric can prevent water and other nutrients from reaching the roots of your garden plants, and it can even cause problems for your large trees. Eventually, the fabric starts to fall apart and look unsightly, and worst of all: it doesn't even do that good a job of keeping out weeds. The weeds simply seed themselves on top of the fabric rather than from underneath it.


What is better if you're looking to prevent weeds in your garden is a good mulch, like Hole's 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 a physical barrier to keep some (but not all) weeds out of your soil.

You can add a new of mulch layer each year, and Hole's Hemp Mulch is a great way to add organic matter to build up the quality of your soil.

2. Non-chemical methods

What do you do about the weeds that are already in your lawn or garden? Before resorting to chemicals, it is a good to explore some easy, non-chemical methods of weed control.

There are traditional "dandelion digging" tools (we like the long handled ones that keep you from having to bend down, these are real back-savers).

Some people also like using a grass whip to cut long grasses growing along edges of fences, yards, or paths. If you're short on time, a grass whip can also be used to quickly knock dandelion flowers off the plant before they turn into seeds (it's great for practicing your golf swing too!) Removing the flowers before they go to seed will at least keep the dandelions from spreading.

Stirrup Hoe

Our favourite non-chemical method of weed control though is the stirrup hoe. Available both with a long and a short handle, the stirrup hoe pulls weeds out of your soil like butter!

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 unbelievably 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.

 Two dandelion diggers, a stirrup hoe, and a grass whip.

Two dandelion diggers, a stirrup hoe, and a grass whip.

3. Chemical Methods

Okay, you've done everything right and you've still got weeds growing between the cracks of your cobblestone path or all over your lawn. What do you use?

Weed killers or herbicides essentially come in 2 styles: broadleaf (or "selective") and non-selective.

Broadleaf Herbicides

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.

For the most part, they won't do much or any harm to the nearby grass so long as you are careful to just spray them on the dandelions.

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, and the larger size comes with a nozzle that lets you easily "shoot" herbicide right onto the weeds you're trying to get rid of. Just point and voila!

 Weed B Gon Broadleaf Herbicide and Bye Bye Weed Non-Selective Weed Killer.

Weed B Gon Broadleaf Herbicide and Bye Bye Weed Non-Selective Weed Killer.

The Importance of Watering and Fertilizing Your Plants

Regular watering and fertilizing is the key to having healthy and lush plants all season long. We very often see long, hot, sunny days in June, July and August which means plants need our support to grow their best. This is especially true of containers and hanging baskets—which can easily dry out—since they can’t draw water from anywhere else but the pot they’re in.

It’s important to water your plants thoroughly and to avoid “baptizing” your plants with a sprinkle of water. Watering only the soil surface encourages shallow, under-developed roots and an unhealthy plant. Plants in a garden can be watered heavily since in well-conditioned soil, excess water will drain away naturally. For your hanging baskets and containers with drainage holes, water deeply until the water runs out the bottom of the pot. A hanging basket will feel almost three times as heavy after being properly watered.

Planters without drainage holes need to be watched more carefully and are not ideal for outside. With nowhere for excess water to escape, this is the one area where it’s easily possible to over water. Outdoor planters should have a way for water to escape, as inevitably we’ll have a heavy rainstorm that could “flood” your container in a matter of hours.

In both your garden and containers, allow the top 2 cm of the soil to dry out before watering again. How often you need to water will depend on the weather. A cool, cloudy week will have you watering every three or four days, but during a week of hot, sunny weather you’ll need to be giving water to your plants every day!

Drought tolerant plants are just that, they’re tolerant of drought but don’t thrive in it. Water drought tolerant plants well until they are established and water during any extended dry periods. They may not like being wet all the time—allow the soil to dry out on the surface—but they do still need water.

Fertilizing is also important for growing those lush plants your neighbours will be jealous of. If sunlight is a plant’s food, then fertilizer is like a plant’s vitamins, allowing the plant to grow bigger, greener and stronger. All plants will benefit from being fertilized, and some, like tomatoes, need regular doses of fertilizer to produce a bountiful crop. Water-soluble fertilizers make it easy to water and fertilize at the same, combining two steps into one. You won’t need to fertilize every time you water, but once a week is generally a good starting point for fertilizing most plants.

A great to time water is in the morning, before the heat of the day. It’s cool enough for moisture to soak into the soil without too much loss from evaporation. Morning watering also allows for the sun to dry any leaves that may have gotten wet, preventing some diseases from growing that love moist foliage, such as powdery mildew.


Our best products for watering and fertilizing:


Dramm Rain Wand

  • Specially designed head breaks up water simulating rain
  • Gentle, full flow won’t wash away soil or harm tender plants
  • Lightweight with foam grip for comfortable watering
  • Handcrafted brass shut off for durable multiyear use
  • Use by professional growers for over 75 years

Dramm Watering Hoses

  • Crush proof, nickel plated brass fittings. Fittings won't pull off hose
  • Hexagonal shape resists kinking
  • coils easily and remains flexible up to -30°C
  • used by professional growers and horticulturlists
  • Durable rubber similar to car tires, won't crack or separate




Dramm Sprinkler Systems

  • Water large areas over a period of time
  • Hand-crafted brass nozzles for durable multiyear use
  • Adjustable for spread and pattern
  • Various styles for different areas and needs
  • Additional timer automatically shuts off water flow




Dramm Soaker Hoses

  • Slow, even release of water along entire length of hose
  • Thoroughly waters using 90% less water
  • Thicker walls prevents “geyser effect” along hose
  • Ideal for watering on a slope, water seeps from hose to ground with little run off
  • Tree ring available for watering newly planted trees



Dramm Watering Cans

  • Extra Long spout allows watering deep into foliage, directing water where you want it
  • Designed to keep its balance, decreasing water spillage
  • Includes detachable sprinkling nozzle
  • Injected molded plastic won't rust or leak



Jim Hole's Hemp Mulch 450x600.jpg

Hemp Mulch

  • Keep your garden neat and tidy, place on bare ground between rows
  • 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






Nature’s Source Fertilizer

  • Natural oilseed extract based formula, GMO and heavy metal free!
  • Easily mixes into cold water with no odour, just water into your plants
  • Won’t burn plants, and is safe to use around children and pets
  • All purpose fertilizer. Can be used for seedlings and mature plants
  • It’s what we use here at Hole’s Greenhouses

Do This Workout Anywhere, Anytime!

Do This Workout Anywhere, Anytime!

Earlier this year on May 1 I launched a free group on Facebook called Andy's Workouts in honour of my grandfather Andy who taught me to value living a healthy lifestyle and to enjoy it. 

Today I wanted to share the original workout that I did many times with my grandfather as a child. 

This workout of 3 exercises can be done anywhere, anytime and can take as little as 2 minutes. In the video I also provide modifications to each exercise so that all levels of ability can participate and learn healthy functional movement. 


If you would like to join the Andy's Workout group simply search on Facebook for Andy's Workout and ask to join and I hope it's a catalyst to help you :) 


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

Jim Hole's Best Tips For Pest Control

Since I was a kid, I was the go to guy in our family for figuring out what was wrong with a particular plant or, for that matter, a whole field of plants.

I’ve seen flea beetles and cutworms destroy huge fields of cabbage and lettuce in just a couple of days, and I’ve also seen equally huge fields of vegetables that weren’t killed by pests but rather by application of the wrong pest control product.

Thankfully, in home gardens, the scale of the pest problems is many orders of magnitude smaller than commercial horticulture businesses. But whether it’s massive fields or small gardens, pests are still pests and must be controlled.

During my time studying pests both in the field and at university, and then, subsequently, becoming a certified pesticide applicator provided me with a more thorough understanding of pests and their interaction with plants.

So to pass on some of the things that I’ve learned during my tenure as the ‘bug guy’ at our greenhouses, here are a few of my tips for helping you to keep the pests under control in your yard:

Start with clean plants and try to keep them clean
Plants that are already infested with plant pests are tough to get back on track. It’s never a good bargain to buy a $10 plant and spend $40 for pest control products

Correctly identify the pest
Insect pests like Scarlet lily beetles are devastating on a wide range of lily species, but many gardeners misidentify the insect as a lady beetle. Often by the time the insect has been correctly identified the lily beetle has levelled the lily patch.

Choose the correct pest control product
BTK is an excellent biological control (bacteria) for caterpillar pests (i.e. cabbage worms and forest tent caterpillars) but has no affect on sawfly larvae even though they look very similar to caterpillars. Similarly, while insecticidal soaps are a good choice for soft-bodied aphids, they work rather poorly on hard-shelled beetles. Matching the pest control product to the pest is critical for success.
Always be proactive with pest control
Don’t wait until you have a major infestation before treatment. Start treatments early in the crop’s life cycle before the pest populations explode. Killing 99% of a 1,000,000 aphids still leaves 10,000 aphids that will return the population to pre-treatment numbers in very short order.

Don’t forget about ‘exclusion’ for controlling pests!
Lightweight, spun fabrics (i.e. ‘Crop Cover’)  provide an excellent physical barrier to insects like moths, flea beetles and aphids thus preventing them from attacking many of your vegetable and fruit crops. The cover still allows excellent penetration of sunlight.

Talk to pest control experts before applying pest control products
Grabbing a bottle of pesticide and applying it to your plants without understanding what the pesticide is, what it controls, and what plants it can be applied to, is a recipe for disaster. 

Supporting Your Plants

Plant Support, Stakes and Ties



 Decorative Flat Trellis

Decorative Flat Trellis

Garden Trellises are made to support climbing vine type plants, from ornamental thunbergia (black-eyed susan) to edibles such as cucumbers or peas. There are vast array of styles and sizes of trellises to suit any garden. 

A flat, decorative trellis is ideal for your showy annual flowering vines either along a fence or wall. There are also obelisks or “trellis towers” that are 3- or 4-sided or circular and come to a point at the top. These are better suited to be a free-standing feature in your garden as the widening base provides stability in wind storms. 

Support you edible vines in your vegetable garden with more plain, more functional trellises. Peas grown on a flat trellis benefit from the extra space and airflow are easy to harvest from both sides. If you’re container gardening, fan-shaped trellises are a great choice. The narrower base fits easily into planters while the wider top gives more room for your cucumbers (and other veggies) to spread.  
No matter the style of trellis, young plants in the first half of the season may need help “finding” and latching onto a trellis. Find the growing tip and gently guide the anchoring vines to the trellis. If plant is too small to reach, wait a couple of days for it to grow and try again. In most cases, once a vine has latched onto the lower part of a trellis, it will continue to grow up it with little help. However, if one decides to go a little sideways, you can always guide it back the same way.


Like Trellises, arches are best used to support vining plants and are an ideal way to make a living entrance to your garden oasis. Choose your favourite annual climbing vine to plant or as a low maintenance option, plant a perennial vine such as clematis for an arch that’ll grow fuller each year!


Pole-style stakes are great for providing support to plants with a main “trunk” or stem with foliage that branches off. Classic examples are indeterminate tomatoes and pepper plants. The stake acts as a reinforcement and guide for the main stem as the plant grows. Stakes can be made of wood, natural bamboo, coated metal or plastic and are available in different heights for your plant’s needs. 

The key with stakes is to insert the stake near the plant but not touching, and to secure the plant to the stake loosely, allowing room for the plant to grow. Keep adding loose ties as the plant gains height, always checking that none of the lower ties have started to choke the plant.

Cages and Towers

 Folded 4-Panel Plant Tower

Folded 4-Panel Plant Tower

For plants that get tall and top heavy while still bushing out, or for plants with multiple stems, a plant cage or tower is best. As an example, determinate tomatoes don’t grow to the same heights as their indeterminate brothers, but instead their branches split creating a “bush” effect that needs to be supported on all sides.

Cages and towers can be used your in vegetable garden rows, raised beds or containers. They should be place around the plant early in the season—when still small—and plants are allowed to grow into the cage. This way the cage gives supports all around the plant as the branches grow where they need to.

Most cages have 2 or 3 tiers of outside rings and are usually made of weather-resistant galvanized or coated metal. As a side note, folding 4-panel towers can be opened flat and instead of being used like a cage, can be used like a flat trellis against a wall to grow peas and other climbing vines.

Peony Rings

 Peony Ring with Grid

Peony Ring with Grid

Similar to cages and towers, peony rings are meant to support multi-stemmed plants such as, you guessed it, peonies. Peony rings are designed a little differently—usually with only 1 ring, sometimes 2—and are generally coloured to be attractive or blend into the plant. There are also Peony rings with a wire grid attached to its ring that provides support to interior stems so that the entire plant stands up right.

Like cages, peony rings should be placed around plants when they are young and allowed to be grown into. For rings with the aforementioned grid, you can guide the stems to different quadrants as they just get to the ring to separate and balance the plant as it grows.

Peony rings of course don’t have to be used just for peonies, they’re great supports for a variety of plants including top heavy poppies.

Path Fencing

Low-to-the-ground path fencing lies in-between garden decor and plant support. While designed to look great along your path, these fences can keep your path clean and plants healthy. They are great bracers for any taller or trailing plants right at the edge of your beds that might otherwise fall over onto your path and be trampled. 

Plants Ties

When you need to secure your plants to your supports, there are a variety of ties to choose from. Traditional garden twine and nylon strips are economical solutions if you have a lot of tying to do, but these also need to be cut off at the end of each season. Soft coat or foam wire and Velcro plants ties are easy and fast to use—no knots—and are reusable season-after-season. In general, most plant ties come in spools or rolls where you can cut lengths to suit your needs. 

Your Questions Answered! May 2018

Your Questions Answered

Over the weekend I had the pleasure to receive some questions about health and fitness from you. 

I have answered them in video form. Enjoy!

Question 1: I'm trying to lose weight, do I need to eat 6 times a day?

Question 2: What core exercises burn the most belly fat?

Question 3: I'm a woman over 50, is lifting weights dangerous for me?

If you have any more questions, I would be happy to answer them. There are no silly questions and you don't have to give me your name if you wish to be anonymous.

Send your questions to rob@rmfit.com  


- Robin Mungall NSCA CPT

Results One Habit At A Time
Robin Mungall Fitness

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 rob@rmfit.com.


- 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. 

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