Vegetable garden

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

By Lois Hole

If there’s one thing about gardening that I don’t like, it’s the sore knees and back I sometimes get after stooping over my plants for a while. Fortunately, there’s a technique that can take some of the pain out of gardening—and it’s an especially great way to make the joy of gardening more accessible to seniors and the handicapped. It’s called raised-bed gardening, and the idea is simple: plants are grown in beds that are lifted to a height that makes it possible to garden from a seated or standing position.

It’s easy to create a raised bed. First, figure out a comfortable height for the bed. If the gardener uses a wheelchair, the bed should be approximately 76 cm high for ease of access. This is also a good height for gardeners who find it easier to work while seated. If you think you’d like to work standing up, about 90 cm would be a good height. The other dimensions are up to you; width and depth are dependent upon how much space you have in your yard, garden, or greenhouse. Just make sure that you don’t make your beds too wide to reach the middle without straining.

Alternatively, you could combine raised-bed gardening with square-foot gardening. Square-foot gardening is an orderly way of growing plants in a small space. The garden is divided into blocks, 4 feet on a side. Within each block are 16 one foot square areas; a different plant is planted in each square. One square, for example, might contain one tomato plant, while another might be home to 8 carrots.

Once you have decided on the dimensions of your raised bed, you need to select materials. Old tires, wooden blocks, bricks—all would make good walls for a raised bed. Arrange the building blocks in the pattern you’ve decided on (a simple square is the most common, and it’s the obvious choice for square-foot gardening) and fill up the empty space with a light peat moss/soil mixture. It’s important to use potting soil rather than regular garden soil for raised beds; potting soil has better drainage, won’t get packed, and warms up faster than garden soil. It also contains fewer weeds and soil-borne diseases.

The difference between caring for plants in an ordinary garden and caring for those in a raised bed is slight. Water regularly, early in the day; fertilize according to the needs of specific varieties (this is especially important when you use potting soil); and weed when they become a problem. Indeed, one of the nice things about raised beds is that since they are containerized, weeds are less of a problem than they are in traditional gardens. Those that do appear are easily taken care of with that indispensible tool, the garden fork. Raised-beds are just one way of showing that gardening is open to everybody.

Thoughtful Husband

This past weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to sold-out sessions on one of my favourite topics: vegetable gardening.

Given, the large number of people who attended the weekend sessions, I think 2016 will be the "year of vegetable gardening" in Canada. Let’s face it, with vegetable prices sky high in grocery stores, there is a pretty good chance that lawns may be sharing a portion of their real estate with lettuce!

If you missed last weekend’s talks, don’t worry. We are running them again in the upcoming weeks. The sessions are free but you do need to register. And keep in mind that even if you don’t have a penchant for vegetable gardening, I always leave plenty of time at the end for answering any gardening questions from turf to trees. It's always a favourite among attendees. 

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And I must confess here and now that I couldn’t put together an attractive flower arrangement if my life depended on it. I might have peaked early - in grade 1, I think - when I gave my Mom a bouquet of dandelions!

Now-a-days, I rely on our skilled Floral Studio to assemble beautiful Valentine bouquets for my wife, and I’ve even gone one step further. I am on the "Unforgettable Bouquet" program that, essentially means our Floral Studio puts together a floral arrangement for me every month that I can take home. The flowers are spectacular, brighten our home and, for the most part, keep me in the "thoughtful" husband category without me having to remember to bring flowers home. Monthly bouquets are fabulous, but at the very least, they are terrific for the important dates that you can’t afford to miss like birthdays, anniversaries and, of course, Valentine’s Day.  


~Jim Hole

 

For more information on our Unforgettable Bouquet program,
please give us a call at 780 419 6800

Magic Beans

Dependable and easy to cultivate, beans produce rewarding crops in a wide range of climates. Hot, cold, even raw, string beans are versatile in the kitchen and very prolific growing plants in the garden.

Of course, it's the green bean that everyone recognizes as one of the most frequently prepared vegetables. But that's just the tip of the iceberg!  Here are some unique, easy-to-grow and most of all delicious bean varieties for you to try:

Rich-purple-pod-bean-seed-edmonton-alberta

Rich Purple Pod - This cherished heirloom produces a heavy yield of beautiful, deep wine-red pods that are 12 to 17 cm long and about 1cm thick. They are flavourful, high quality, meaty, string-less, and rich in antioxidants.

These crunchy deep purple pods stand out against the green leafy vines, making them fun and easy to pick.

The young pods can be eaten raw or prepared as you would any green bean—we like to stir fry them with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. Or try them the traditional way, steamed and slathered with butter.


scarlet-runner-bean-seeds-edmonton-alberta

Scarlet Runner - Just as quickly as Jack's beanstalk, Scarlet Runner beans grow into showy, full-leafed vines.

This easy-to-grow bean is both an ornamental climber and edible. It grows to 3-3.5 m high, with brillant red flowers followed by 15-30 cm pods that can be enjoyed young as snap peas, or as dry beans when mature.

These beans also do a fantastic job when used as a hedge, or to decorate a patio or trellis.


dwarf-horticultural-bean-edmonton-alberta

Dwarf Horticultural - Also known as "Speckled Bays" or "Cranberry Bean", this pre-1800 heirloom is a great producer!

Dwarf Horticultural is a shell bean with semi-round, 15 cm long, light green pods that turn a beautiful crimson flecked white as they mature.

An excellent dry bean for use in soups and chili, this bean possesses beautiful colour and texture and is a must for any vegetable garden.


golden-wax-bean-edmonton-alberta

Golden Wax - These stringless deep yellow wax beans produce excellent yields, and are  the perfect bean for eating fresh, caning, and freezing.

Golden Wax pods are round, straight, 10-15 cm long, tender and meaty. And are great for Northern climates.

These early producing, dependable bushes produce white seed with purple-brown eyes.


rolande-bean-edmonton-alberta

Rolande - A fine French delicacy, Roland is the very best "filet" or 'haricot vert" variety with deep green, truly gourmet beans of delicate flavour and superb quality.

They are sensational simply steamed to server whole with butter and a sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs.

These beans offer gardeners abundant harvests of long, pencil-slim, rounded 15 cm pods on strong, sturdy, disease resistant plants.




"Amaizing" Corn Varieties

Corn has long been a popular vegetable and all the more so when freshly harvested. The taste will far surpass anything you'll find in a grocery store! 

As you may already know, corn does best in warm climates and soil. But with a few precautions, growing corn in Alberta can be well worth it.

corn- seeds- popcorn-sweet-peaches-edmonton-stalbert-yeg

Corn needs be planted in blocks of 3-4 rows instead of in a single long row, with each plant at least 24" apart. This encourages better corn pollination, because each plant will have at least three neighbors from which it can catch and retain pollen. The more pollen available, the greater the number of kernels on each ear.

Corn is also a heavy feeder - particularly of nitrogen - and may require several side-dressings of fertilizer for best yields.

If you follow these simple rules, you're sure to get a great crop. All there is left to do is decide which variety of corn you'd like to grow! Here are a few suggestions you might enjoy:

peaches-and-cream-corn-seeds-edmonton-stalbert

Peaches & Cream Corn - A perfect blend of luscious, white and yellow kernels that produce two different flavours in every bite! 

Corn on the cob is one of the best, and most highly anticipated summer treats, and is great for grilling with the husks left on. Home-grown corn has amazing flavour and sweetness, so much better than what you find in the grocery stores. This sugary enhanced  hybrid holds its sweet flavor longer after picking.

Peaches and Cream corn produces 20cm long ears with 14 delicious rows of sugar-sweet kernels; an excellent variety for the home garden!


white-corn-sugar-pearl-seeds-edmonton-stalbert-yeg

White Corn - Sugar Pearl - The sweetest, prettiest white corn in the garden—and it arrives super early!

Sugar Pearl's fast-growing, vigorous stalks grow just 5 to 5-1/2 feet tall, producing delicious ears of pearly white sweet kernels with that delicate, meltingly tender flavour that characterizes really delicious white corn.

This trouble-free and reliable variety is ideal for short or early season growing, ripening succulent ears before most other white varieties.


Sweet-corn-kandy-korn-seeds-edmonton-stalbert-yeg

Sweet Corn - Kandy Korn - A sweet corn so delicious it's often requested by name!

Kandy Korn is outstanding not only for its flavour but also for its long, late harvest. It has 16-20 rows of delectable, sweet, golden kernels, and can be harvested just 89 days after planting.

This popular variety grows on tall, vigorous stalks, with plump ears that are fantastic for eating fresh, or freezing and canning.


corn-luscious-seeds-edmonton-stalbert-yeg

Corn - Luscious - If you like your corn sweet, Luscious really lives up to it's name.

With a good balance of sugars and corn taste, the attractive blunt 17-20cm long ears are just what you want in an early mid-season bicolour.

 Luscious is easy to grow, too, with good cold-soil emergence and early vigor.


popcorn-robust-seeds-kernels-edmonton-stalbert-yeg

Popcorn - Robust - When you think of eating healthy, popcorn may not be the first food that comes to mind. But this dent corn relative is one of the best all-around snack foods around, providing almost as much protein, iron and calcium as beef!

A cup of popped, un-buttered popcorn contains fewer calories than half a medium-sized grapefruit. Popcorn, a whole grain, has as much fiber as Bran Flakes or whole wheat toast. Who knew!

 With Robust, you'll enjoy easy-to-digest, hull-less eating quality of crisp, tender popcorn that has a larger popping volume than old open-pollinated varieties.

 

 

 

 

 

Lettuce Grow

Have you ever tasted lettuce fresh from the garden? I mean really fresh. Picked less than 30 minutes ago? The difference in taste is incredible! You will never settle for shop lettuce again after you tasted a truly fresh garden lettuce.

Lettuce-Seeds-Edmonton-stalbert

Well lucky for you, lettuce greens are so easy to grow (indoors now, outdoors later), they grow so fast, they’re so nutritious and so delicious, and growing them is a breeze. If you aren't already planning on planting lettuce, here are a few reasons why you ought to:

Not everyone has a large garden space, but the great thing about lettuce is that it’s a fantastic vegetable for container planting. With enough water, lettuce will thrive in trays as shallow as 4” and pots or containers of any kind. And I do mean any kind. Your grandmother had it figured out when she used those old dresser drawers to plant her lettuce in!

The trick is not to go overboard. The biggest mistake home gardeners make when planting lettuce is planting one big patch at the beginning of summer. Five weeks later they’re swimming in lettuce. I’m sure you love salad as much as the next person, but trust me on this one: The key is planting a small patch where you have a gap in the garden every 2-3 weeks instead. That will give you a steady (and manageable) supply through the summer.

Lettuce is one speedy vegetable. It goes from seed to baby greens in 4 to 6 weeks and from seed to salad bowl in 6-8 weeks. Because it grows so quickly, lettuce is a great short season vegetable to interplant with other long season vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, or eggplants.

With dozens of different lettuce varieties, each with its own unique colour, texture and flavour, home gardeners have some serious choice. Here are a few interesting varieties you might enjoy:

Sea-of-red-lettuce-edmonton-st-albert

Lettuce - Sea of Red – Sea of Red lettuce is a perfect red-wine contrast to your otherwise very green salad. With open loose heads of sword-shaped leaves that colour up to a beautiful and amazingly deep mahogany-red, this lettuce also makes a great addition to planters with ornamentals. And, unlike other red lettuces that fade in the sun, Sea of Red’s colour just becomes more intense.

Harvesting the entire head of Sea of Red lettuce is fine, however if you snip off the young lettuce leaves about ten centimeters above ground instead, it will vigorously re-sprout and provide several more harvests.

Since the leaves grow upright, it makes growing the lettuces tightly together possible. This creates the appearance of a sea of red!


Garden-Babies-Butterhead-lettuce-Edmonton-st-albert

Lettuce - Garden Babies Butterhead – This lettuce is a salad lover’s fantasy: buttery texture and an outstanding sweet taste. But more than that, they are a gardener’s dream. This lettuce is perfect looking!

Garden Babies were originally developed for the Japanese luxury market, where a premium is put on flavour and quality. The cute perfectly formed little butterhead rosettes are ideal for growing in containers. They are slow to bolt, heat tolerant, and make twelve to fifteen centimeter heads at maturity.

This lettuce is perfect for individual servings, which makes them as much fun to eat as they are to grow!


Drunken-woman-lettuce-Edmonton-st-albert

Lettuce - Drunken Woman  The honest truth is I chose this variety because I was tickled by the name. Who could resist having a “Drunken Woman Fringed Headed” in their garden?

The best guess is that this fabulous lettuce’s name refers to its frizzy headed look. The Drunken Woman lettuce boasts emerald green leaves tipped in mahogany red.

Unlike the Butterhead varieties this isn't a melt-in-your-mouth type lettuce. It’s heavy on the crunch! With a nuttier than buttery flavour, Drunken Woman is the perfect vehicle for any number of vinaigrettes or toppings.

Enjoy, and may your salads never be boring again!

Things are Warming Up... with Hot and Sweet Peppers!

pepper-red-cherry-sweet-habanero-golden-calwonder-edmonton-stalbert

Last year, I filled up a Big Bag Bed with 9 different pepper varieties ranging from "Golden Calwonder" (which is a delicious, orange-coloured, bell pepper great for stuffing) to "Red Savina"—the world's hottest habanero pepper.
 
It was the first year I tried the Big Bag Bed, which is a large, round, fabric container that is great for growing plants during the summer. It is also easy to fold up and store for winter. The peppers grew beautifully in the BBB and I had wonderful peppers for fresh eating and cooking during summer and well into the fall.

One of my favorite varieties was called "Red Cherry Sweet." It produced gorgeous, deep-red, 4 cm wide fruit that had a spicy-hot flavour but not so hot that I needed to stick my mouth under the kitchen faucet and pour cold water into my mouth.
 

If you love peppers, and want to start you own indoors, early February is the time to kick things into gear. High quality potting soil, great seed varieties and some grow lights (currently on sale, at 22-24% off regular prices) are the essentials for growing the most vigorous seedlings that will get off to a great start in your garden.

By the way—and this is from personal experience—only plant super spicy peppers like "Red Savina" if you plan on using it sparingly in certain spicy dishes, or perhaps if you have a predilection for masochism!

~Jim Hole

p.s. Our 2015 seed list is now online (click here to view.. we are still adding a handful of seeds to the list from Pacific Northwest Seeds). Come in and get your seeds soon, before they sell out!

You can also phone 780 419 6800 extension 3 to place your mail order. Phone lines are open from 9:00AM-4:30PM MST.