Hole's Greenhouse

Edmonton Frost Warning - What to Harvest, What to Cover, and What to Leave Alone

Edmonton Frost Warning: What to Harvest, What to Cover, and What to Leave Alone

A frost warning is in effect and we've received a lot of phone calls and emails from people asking about what can stay outside and what needs to come in.
Here's our quick guide:

 

  • Apples: A light frost will not affect the apples and may even make them sweeter. Barring a severe September storm, leave your apples on the tree until they are ripe (mid- to late- September for most late bearing apples).

  • Beans and Peas: Will not tolerate frost. Harvest these guys and eat them up!

  • Beets, Carrots, Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes: Protected underground, these vegetables do fine in a light frost and their flavour will likely improve with the cold. That said, harvest them before the ground freezes.

  • Chard, Kale, and Cabbage: These plants should all survive a light frost. Cold temperatures will even intensify the colour and flavour of chard, and may sweeten cabbage.

  • Corn: Corn is frost sensitive. If your corn is ready, pick it now. If it is not yet ready to harvest, cross your fingers and hope for the best. A hard frost will reduce the shelf life of corn to 3 to 4 days.

  • Lettuce and Salad Greens: Cold will affect the look and texture of lettuce and salad greens, but they can survive a light frost. If you’d like, harvest the tops of the lettuce and see if they come back afterwards.

  • Strawberries: If they're ready: harvest them, if not: cover them. Frost can affect the texture of the berries.

  • Tomatoes and Peppers: Harvest any ripe tomatoes and all peppers. Unripe tomatoes are bit more complicated. If you’re feeling cautious and would rather not deal with any stress, harvest them all now—ripe or not.

    If your tomatoes are in containers and you’re feeling daring (and if the forecast cooperates), you may be able to get away with moving and covering your tomatoes. Bring the tomato vines close to the house (preferably on the south side of the house) and cover them with some light fabric to protect them from the frost.

    However, if the forecast dips below -2°C, the tomatoes will probably end up covered in frost anyways even with these precautions. Keep an eye on your local temperature, and harvest the unripe tomatoes if necessary. Green tomatoes can be ripened inside on sheets of newspaper.

  • Pumpkins, Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers: Cucumbers, zucchini, and summer varieties of pumpkin and squash should be harvested now, wiped dry, and cured in a hot, dry room for a few days to improve shelf life.

    Properly cured, they may store for a few weeks. Avoid storing these fruits on concrete or metal surfaces as it can cause them to rot.

    Thin skinned cucumbers will not store as well and should be eaten within a few days.

    Some pumpkins and squash are "winter varieties" and can store very well if properly cured. Harvest any mature “winter variety” gourds before a frost (they will have a nice tough skin when mature) and do your best to protect the immature ones by covering them with a sheet. Immature gourds will not ripen off the vine or once the vine has died, so protecting them and hoping for the best is the best strategy. Be careful not to crush the vines.

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For protecting your plants, our best product recommendation is frost protection blankets. NuVue's Insulating Winter Blanket is great for long garden rows as it is already cut at 42 inches by 25 feet.

For square & rectangular gardens, use DeWitt's N-Sulate Frost Protection Blanket which is 12 feet by 10 feet. 

You can also use Crop Cover Fabric to protect sensitive plants. While lighter weight, Crop Cover Fabric protects against insects, freezing rain, frost and snow damage, while allowing air and moisture to reach the crop.

Container Gardening

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Not that long ago, virtually all the plant pots you could buy were either made of clay, ceramic, or cheap plastic.
 
The clay pots were durable and attractive but exceedingly heavy and very difficult to move because of their weight. They also had a nasty habit of chipping unless they were handled carefully. Sometimes, they would also crack during the winter if water accumulated in the pot and turned to clay-splitting ice. 
 
Back then, plastic pots eliminated the weight and ice splitting issue common to clay, but they were quite ugly and became brittle and faded from the summer sun.
 
Today, those poor quality plastic pots have been replaced by high-quality, UV-resistant, lightweight, plastic pots that are also attractive. I have two gigantic, black pots in my yard that look as good as the day I bought them 7 years ago. One of our lines of pots, from Crescent Garden, even comes with a 10 year warranty! They remain outside 365 days a year without any protection and I plant them up with bedding plants in the spring and small evergreens and boughs for Christmas.
 
I think that the advances in pot durability and aesthetics are fabulous. Gardeners are embracing the idea that beautiful and durable pots go hand-in-hand with beautiful bedding plants. By investing in high quality pots now, you can enjoy them for years to come.
 

~Jim Hole

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P.S. We still have a few spots left for my tomato gardening workshop on May 9th. Click here to purchase tickets. Our last couple workshops sold out, and I'm sure this one will too, so get your tickets soon!

For the rest of the summer, I will also be on Alberta@Noon on CBC Radio the first Friday of every month (starting May 1st at 12:30pm). The phone lines will be open from 12:30-1pm, so if you have any gardening questions, please call in!
 

A Lasagna Garden for the Lazy Gardener

Last weekend I made a Lasagna Bed in my garden. No, this is not something to sleep in or eat, but you can certainly grow food in it!

A Lasagna Bed is actually the way for lazy gardeners to make a new garden bed. The best thing about it is that you don't even have to dig up the lawn!

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The basic idea of a lasagna bed is to put down layers of carbon-rich materials (e.g. dried leaves, straw, cardboard, newspaper), alternated with layers of nitrogen-rich materials ( e.g. grass clippings, green material from your perennial beds and your vegetable garden, uncooked vegetable peels, coffee grinds, manure).

Combined with moisture, this carbon-nitrogen mix will feed the micro-organisms and fungi that decompose material and turn it into a nutrient-rich, growing medium.

The other bonus is that it allows you to make good use of the leaves that are all over your lawn right now and you'll also be able to use up all the green clippings you have from cutting down your perennials and mowing your lawn at the end of the year.

Here is the "recipe" I used for my lasagna bed this year:

  1. Wherever you'd like to start your garden bed, start with a thin layer of material high in nitrogen, to activate the decomposers (e.g. the fungi and micro-organisms). I used steer manure as my starter.  Then add water.
  2. Add a layer of overlapping cardboard or newspaper, to act as a carbon layer and as a weed/grass barrier, until the composting process is well on its way. Add water again!
  3. Add another thin layer of nitrogen rich material. I used clippings from my perennial beds and the green shells of the beans that I had grown this summer. Water!
  4. Add leaves. Water!
  5. More nitrogen, again. Here, I added the contents of my pots and planters. This is actually a mix of carbon (potting soil) and nitrogen (plants). Water!
  6. I still had more leaves to get rid of, so I did another layer. Plus more water!
  7. Finally, I finished things off with a layer of half-composted material from the compost pile I made last year.
  8. You can start the bed right on the lawn, but you should end up with a pile that is at least 1.5 to 2 feet high. As the material decomposes only a few inches will be left.

Now let the snow, winter, and the decomposers do their work.

In the spring, you can dig small trenches into your lasagna bed. By adding just a little bit of light potting soil for your transplants or seeds, you'll be able to plant your fruits, vegetables, and flowers right into these trenches and into your bed.

In such a rich growing medium, they'll grow amazingly!

 

Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers this fall and we will give you a FREE $25 gift certificate for our Glasshouse Bistro.

Fall Gardening: Moving Perennials and Planting Trees in the Fall

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At this time of the year, I get asked everyday if this is still a good time to plant.

The fact is that for many plants fall it is actually THE BEST time to plant! It's also a great time to get deals on perennials, trees, and shrubs too!

Why is it the best time to plant? Well, with plants preparing for winter, there is no energy being used for new growth. Soon leaves will start to drop and the sap stream will stop. All the plant's energy will go to root development and the soil is still warm enough for plants to settle in.

That said, plants that you buy in a garden centre will probably be "root-bound" after growing in a pot for a whole season.  For this reason, it is really important to break up that rootball at planting time, to give the plant a chance to develop new roots. Massaging the rootball lightly will likely not be enough. If necessary, take a knife to loosen the roots and really roughen them up. Make sure you have watered the plant before you do this.

  • Fall is also a good time to plant, move, or split most perennials.You can still see what is growing where and it is easy to remember what was not working well.
  • Most perennials can be split and re-located in fall or spring, but for Peonies, Bearded Irises, and Lilies, fall is the very best time.
  • Tender perennials and grasses are better relocated in spring. Shrubs and most evergreens can be re-located till mid-October.
  • I would not plant or relocate cedars any later than the end of September. 
  • All other trees can be planted or transplanted for as long as the ground is soft.
  • If you have any hardy perennials or shrubs in a pot or planter that you would like to survive winter, then this is the time to plant them in the ground. In our harsh Alberta winters plants will almost never survive in a pot.

When transplanting, mix in some Sea Soil into the new hole that you've dug.Sea Soil is our best compost here at Hole’s. It is made from composted forest fibres and composted fish. It works well for just about any plant and I love the smell of it that reminds me of forest in fall.

Finally, remember to water your plants during fall and soak everything really well before the ground freezes, usually towards the end of October.

 
~Maria Beers
 

 

Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Interested in booking a landscape consultation with Maria? Click here.

Frost Warning: What to Harvest, What to Cover, and What to Leave Alone

One of our customers woke up to this today! Did you get snow in your area?

One of our customers woke up to this today! Did you get snow in your area?

A frost warning is in effect and we've received a lot of phone calls from people asking about what can stay outside and what needs to come in. Here's our quick guide:

  • Apples: A light frost will not affect the apples and may even make them sweeter. Barring a severe September storm, leave your apples on the tree until they are ripe (mid- to late- September for most late bearing apples).
     
  • Beans and Peas: Will not tolerate frost. Harvest these guys and eat them up!
     
  • Beets, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes: Protected underground, these vegetables do fine in a light frost and their flavour may even improve with the cold. That said, harvest them before the ground freezes. 
     
  • Chard, Kale, and Cabbage: These plants should all survive a light frost. Cold temperatures will even intensify the colour and flavour of chard, and may sweeten cabbage.
     
  • Corn: Corn is frost sensitive. If your corn is ready, pick it now. If it is not yet ready to harvest, cross your fingers and hope for the best. A hard frost will reduce the shelf life of corn to 3 to 4 days.
     
  • Lettuce and Salad Greens: Cold will affect the look and texture of lettuce and salad greens, but they can survive a light frost. If you’d like, harvest the tops of the lettuce and see if they come back afterwards.
     
  • Tomatoes and Peppers: Harvest any ripe tomatoes and all peppers. Unripe tomatoes are bit more complicated. If you’re feeling cautious and would rather not deal with any stress, harvest them all now—ripe or not.

    If you’re feeling daring and if the forecast cooperates for the next day or two, you may be able to get away with bringing the tomato vines close to the house (preferably on the south side of the house) and covering them with some light bed sheets to protect them from the frost.

    However, if the forecast dips below -2°C, the tomatoes will probably end up covered in frost anyways even with these precautions. Keep an eye on your local temperature, and harvest the unripe tomatoes if necessary. Green tomatoes can be ripened inside on sheets of newspaper.
     
  • Pumpkins, Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers: Cucumbers, zucchini, and summer varieties of pumpkin and squash should be harvested now, wiped dry, and cured in a hot, dry room for a few days to improve shelf life.

    Properly cured, they may store for a few weeks. Avoid storing these fruits on concrete or metal surfaces as it can cause them to rot.

    Thin skinned cucumbers will not store as well and should be eaten within a few days.

    Some pumpkins and squash are "winter varieties" and can store very well if properly cured. Harvest any mature “winter variety”  gourds before a frost (they will have a nice tough skin when mature) and do your best to protect the immature ones by covering them with a sheet. Immature gourds will not ripen off the vine or once the vine has died, so protecting them and hoping for the best is the best strategy. Be careful not to crush the vines.