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FREE Pruning Workshop with Jim Hole!

Over the years, I would say that the main reason people don’t prune their trees and shrubs is due to a fear that pruning of the irreparable damage it cause.
 
But while it’s true, that a bad pruning job can lead to some serious tree and shrub problems, doing nothing can be even worse. That is why I’m putting on a fall pruning workshop.
 
Given that the spring pruning workshops were so popular, and the fact that a lot of pruning can be done in the fall, I’m offering an hour long pruning session on Sunday, September 21st for everyone who would like to know more about the principles of tree and shrub pruning and the equipment required to get the job done safely and effectively. The session is free and all that you need to do is sign-up on line and pop out.
 
And don’t forget to bring along your questions on anything from fall raspberry pruning to pruning huge American Elms.
 
And, no, there won’t be any lessons on how to climb a 20 metre tall Elm with a chainsaw in hand – that’s for certified arborists – but I will talk about all of the pruning jobs that you can comfortably tackle yourselves and the essential tools needed for safe and effective pruning.
 
Looking forward to seeing you on the 21st!


~Jim Hol

Stirring The Soil

Gardening offers many pleasures, but weeding isn’t one of them. Most successful gardeners develop their own special tricks to make the job easier, and if you coax them a bit, they’ll share their secrets with you. The best weeding trick I’ve ever learned, however, didn’t come from a friend or a book.


One spring day, Ted seeded an enormous patch of carrots, with 85 beautifully even rows. A few days later, while we were eating lunch, Ted and I noticed that our pigs seemed a bit noisier than usual. Gradually, a horrible realization sank in: the pigs were loose. Sure enough, when we looked out, we saw the whole bunch of them, rolling around in the soft, moist soil of the carrot patch.


I was just sick. Ted put on his bravest face and said, “Oh, Lois, don’t worry. I’ll re-seed it tomorrow.” Well, of course, the next morning, rain set in and didn’t let up for days. Ted never did get back to re-seeding.


A week later, I walked out to the garden. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were rows of seedlings, as neat and straight as could be. And any place that the pigs had rolled, there were no weeds, while the places they had missed were full of tiny emerging weed seedlings.


I was ready to let the pigs out again!
 
When I thought about it, it made sense. While those pigs had been having their fun, they were exposing thousands of tiny weeds to the elements. Meanwhile, a half inch below the surface, the carrot seeds remained safe and sound.


It’s called “stirring the soil,” and you can use the same approach even if you don’t have pigs. When you plant your garden, say in early April, go out with a rake about two weeks later. Turn the prongs up to the sky and go over the entire area you planted. Just move the surface soil around. You won’t do any harm to your garden, but you’ll kill so much chickweed, you won’t believe it.


When you seed again a couple of weeks later, you should wait only seven or eight days before raking, because the soil has begun to warm up and the seeds will germinate more quickly. By late May, wait only four days. With just a few minutes’ work, you can save yourself literally hours of weeding.


Ted took this trick a step further. He always harrowed the potato field just before the plant emerged, to kill the competing weeds. He’d hitch spring-tooth harrows to the Massey Ferguson and drive along at about ten kilometres an hour, disturbing the soil as much as possible without damaging the crops. It was a great time-saver in the long run.


It goes to show you, if you pay attention, you never know what you might learn, even from pigs.


About fifteen years after the “pig incident”, I gave this tip to a group of farm women. I had always thought it a remarkable pearl of wisdom. But that afternoon, an elderly woman came up to me and said, “Lois, my grandmother did that, my mother did that, and I’ve done that, and it works like a damn.”


-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer

Mark About Town

Mom had a tremendous love not only for gardening but also for politics, current affairs, symphony and opera. As a result, I grew up listening to CBC radio because its programming closely matched Mom’s areas of interest. Even though I had a love for Heavy Metal music – which definitely wasn’t a part of the CBC’s programming - I soon grew to appreciate the programming that CBC offered. I later realized that Mom’s love of CBC radio was coupled with her desire to get me to love Handel as I did Hendrix!

Well she succeeded – for the most part. At home, my radio is always tuned to CBC and I do like classical music, but Hendrix will always be a part of my music library.

This Thursday, October 1st CBC will really be hitting close to home because CBC’s Edmonton AM show will be broadcasting from our Glasshouse Bistro. Host Mark Connolly will be doing his monthly ‘Mark about Town’ right in the bistro and we will be providing free Iconoclast coffee and delicious amandine croissants and cinnamon Brioche buns (sponsored by our friends in the Enjoy Centre – Averton Homes) which will be available from 6am -8:30am so pop on down and say high to Mark Connolly and me. 

There will also be draws for Bob Dale gardening gloves, Mom’s Bulb Books and a complete Microgreen, mini-greenhouse growing kit.  And please join me on a tour of our greenhouses. You can see how we grow poinsettias with water captured from our roof.

See you Thursday!


~Jim Hole 

One Bad Potato

Around mid-September, we would always keep a close eye on the forecast to figure out the best schedule for harvesting our vegetables. Squash, pumpkins and tomatoes had no frost tolerance so there was always a bit of panic to get them out of the field before temperatures dipped below freezing. 

At the other end of the spectrum were vegetables like rutabaga and parsnips that could not only tolerate hard frosts, but actually tasted better when they were hit by a hard frost. These vegetables were always the last to be pulled from the field. However, I do remember a few years when we would get caught by an unseasonably early snowfall and these frost hardy – but not winter hardy vegetables - remained in the field all winter.

The one vegetable that always worried me were our potatoes. A light frost would kill the potato foliage that, in turn, would cause the skins of the tubers to "set". Without the tops being killed, the tuber skins would remain thin and slippery and were only capable of storing for a few weeks rather than throughout the winter. 

But the problem with waiting for a hard frost was that cold air could penetrate down through the cracks in the soil and damage the odd tuber that was near the soil surface. The old adage, "One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch" applied equally well to potatoes.

I remember storing huge piles of potatoes in our barn one year where just a few tubers had been exposed to frost. These small pockets of frost-damaged potatoes did spoil the "whole bunch", and the following spring I remember literally pumping potatoes out of our barn. 

 Imagine wading into the middle of a huge pile of rotting, stinking, "potato soup" and dropping a sump pump in the middle. It’s a vivid memory that sticks with me to this day.

OK, sorry about that imagery! You won’t have to contend with any potato storing disaster like this but keep in mind that garbage-in equals garbage-out. Store only high quality vegetables and use those that don’t quite make the grade within a few weeks. If you don't adopt this strategy, I think it is safe to say that you need to keep your sump pump on standby. 

Perish the thought.

~Jim Hole 

Food For Thought

I believe very strongly in education, so whenever I’m asked to speak at school, I do my best to come—although I must admit, sometimes I leave my preparations until the last minute.


One warm June morning, I visited a grade five and six class. The only topic I could come up with to talk about was “Watering in the Greenhouse”. When I got there and saw how tired the kids looked, my heart sank. “Oh crum,” I thought, “they aren’t going to listen to a word I say.”
Just then, my eye caught a pair of familiar, brightly smiling faces. Two little Italian boys, who often came out to the farm with their parents and grandparents, were sitting in the front row. With a flash of inspiration, I realized I didn’t have to talk about watering after all.


“Let me tell you a little story,” I said. “Years ago on our farm, we didn’t grow very many different kinds of vegetables. We had never grown broccoli or zucchini. Then, one day, some Italian customers came out to our farm and told us how to grow it and even how to cook it. The next year, we planted some. It was wonderful.”


The Italian boys sat there, beaming with pride. I began to look around at the other faces and realized that practically every ethnic group was represented in that classroom. So, I carried on with my strategy.


“We had German customers who taught us about growing big cabbages and making sauerkraut. Lebanese folks told us that vegetable marrow was especially delicious when picked small—they called it kousa. East Indians introduced us to hot peppers and showed us different ways to cook with them.”


I noticed one small boy in the back. I couldn’t see him very well without my glasses, so I tried to guess. “The Chinese people told us about using vegetables in stir-fry.” The boy didn’t bat an eye. “Darn,” I thought, “I made a mistake.” So I tried again. “And the Japanese showed us daikon and all the different ways they cook vegetables.” Still no reaction. Finally, he put up his hand and asked, “Mrs. Hole, what did the Koreans teach you?” Fortunately, I had recently tried kim Chee, Korean pickled cabbage, so I talked about that.


By now, the rest of the kids were jumping up and down, their hands waving in the air. “What about the Yugoslavians? What about the Hungarians?” Of course, I didn’t have an example to give each and every one of them, so when I was stumped, I simply asked, “What did you have for dinner last night?” When the child answered, I replied, “That’s it!” and made a mental note to add those dishes to my vegetable repertoire.


When I tell this story, I always add a fictional kid who asks me, “What did the English teach you?” I say, “Not much!” My husband, who’s of English descent, gets a big kick out of that!
But you know, those kids made me realize something. If it hadn’t been for new Canadians introducing us to all kinds of different, wonderful vegetables, our business wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. Because we were able to offer so many kinds of produce, people came from miles around to shop at our place.


I like to think of that phenomenon as a reflection of Canada’s success. Our diversity is our greatest strength.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer

Black Thumbs

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I have many people who tell me that they have black thumbs. Now, I don’t really believe that anyone truly has a black thumb, but if you are one of those people who is convinced that there isn’t a plant on this planet that you can keep alive, I have the answer: they’re called microgreens. Basically, if you can spill seeds out of package, then you can grow microgreens.
 
Microgreens are simply edible plants that are grown from seed to the seedling stage and then eaten in salads, sandwiches, or soups. The seeds are scattered onto a damp mat sitting in a plastic tray, covered with a transparent plastic hood, and then lit with a growlight nestled on top of the cover. In as little as 4 days, you can go from seed to edible microgreens!
 
I’m offering a workshop on microgreens on Tuesday, September 22nd which will include a “Nanodome” kit which has everything to get you from seed to seedlings very quickly (including a mini greenhouse and growlight).
 
If you arrive with a black thumb, I guarantee that you will leave with one that is a lot more verdant!

  
~Jim Hole 

If you're interested in learning about how easy and fun growing microgreens can be, and can't make the full workshop,, I'll be doing a free talk this Thursday the 17th at 6:30 inside Hole's. Feel free to stop by!

Now available on eBook: Jim and Lois Hole's Canadian Vegetable Garden Favourites!

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Written by renowned market gardeners and greenhouse owners Jim and Lois Hole, this eBook goes over how and when to plant some of the most popular garden vegetables.


From asparagus to zucchini and everything in between, this guide includes harvesting and storage info, as well as fixes to common edible plant problems. Also included are some of the most popular vegetables such as kale, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet potatoes—and even garden fruits such as strawberries.


A handy resource for any gardener, the advice in this book can also be applied to square foot gardening, raised bed gardening, container gardening and even market gardening.


Available in our online shop for only $4.99!

Career Day

One spring morning, years ago, I got a phone call from a friend who taught junior high school in nearby Bon Accord. “Lois,” she said, “we’re having a career day. Could you come and talk to our grade sevens, eights, and nines?”

“What career are you asking me to talk about, exactly?” I inquired. And she said, “Well, market gardening, of course.”

“Who else is coming?” I asked, trying to sound casual. She recited the guest list: a doctor, a nurse, a fireman, a police officer, a photographer, a university drama professor – the array of glamorous professions went on and on.

“Margaret,” I asked, “what teenager in her right mind would want a career in market gardening? With all those wonderful people, the kids will never come to hear me.”

“Oh yes they will, Lois,” she replied. “They have to.”

Well, before I knew it, there I was walking down the school hallway. I still hadn’t the slightest idea what I was going to tell these kids. Just then, two girls passed me, and I overheard one of them saying, “If I can just find a way to earn twenty more dollars, I’ll finally be able to buy that dress.” I snapped my fingers and thought, “Now I know what to say.”

As I walked into the room, a very nervous little grade seven girl was introducing me. She said, “ We’re so glad to have Mrs. Holey here today.”

I could tell by looking at the kids that they were already thinking ahead to the fireman. So I turned to them and said, “Hey kids, do you want to make some money this summer?” Every kid was suddenly paying close attention.

I told them, “Go home and ask your mother for half of her vegetable garden. In that half garden, you’re going to plant peas. And make sure you plant those peas nice and thick! And then you’re going to get up in the morning and pick those peas.”

You might notice I left a few details out between the planting and picking. But I had their attention and didn’t want to lose it.

I said, “You’ll pick a great, big bag of peas. Your mother will drive you to the nearest supermarket. When you get there, you’ll march up to the first staff person you see and tell them, ‘I’d like to see the produce manager, please.’ When he comes out, you’ll say, ‘I have this bag of peas I’d like to sell you.’

“He’ll reach over and grab a pod. The peas will be so shiny and squeaky; he’ll know you picked them that morning. He’ll want them so badly. And when he asks you, ‘How much do you want for your bag of peas?’, you will say, ‘TWENTY DOLLARS’.”

I thought the little girl was going to fall off her chair.

I told the kids, “You can sell fresh peas anywhere. Put them in big bags, put them in little bags, go to the City Market, go door to door. People will die for fresh peas.”

Well, the room absolutely erupted. The kids began talking all at once, excitedly throwing out suggestions. Just then the bell rang and I had to move on to the next class. I thanked the kids for their enthusiasm and began gathering my things.

A little girl in the front row raised her hand. “Mrs. Hole,” she begged, “don’t tell the other kids about the peas!”


-Lois Hole, I'll Never Marry A Farmer

Unconventional Packaging

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On average, during a typical day in June, I will about half a dozen  ‘plant diagnostics’ sheets will land on my desk. Most queries are about identification of a particular bug that is attacking a garden plant followed by recommendations on how to control them.

I find the world of bugs fascinating, and I’m not repulsed by zip lock bags full of writhing caterpillars. But some of the bug samples do arrive in some unconventional ‘packaging’.

Just this past week, bugs were delivered to me in a blue surgical glove, a vodka bottle and Credit Card receipt with the bugs smashed onto the paper.

I don’t mind the different ‘containment’ devices that gardeners use for their pest samples, although bugs that are smeared on paper are rather tough to identify!

However, live bug samples wrapped in Saran wrap or enclosed in paper have a history of occasionally escaping and wandering about my office. As I mentioned, I don’t get creeped-out by bugs, but some people who pop into my office aren’t big fans of these ‘free range’ critters.

Now, if you are curious about a particular bug or disease pest in your yard, proper identification of the critical first step. 


Just remember that if you are submitting a bug sample to us through our Professional Diagnostics Service, an empty Vodka bottle makes a better vessel than does a few layers of Saran wrap…although drinking an entire bottle of Vodka to make room for a bug is NOT a good idea.


~Jim Hole

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!
 

Planting for Pollinators

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Cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins were vegetables that we always grew on the farm. We had two main strategies that we used to increase our chances of maximizing our yields:
 
First, we only planted these heat-loving crops near our shelterbelts. The trees in the shelterbelts reduced wind speeds and provided a warm microclimate that these vegetables loved. Open fields were always cooler than fields protected by shelterbelts; plus, delicate, heat-loving crops like cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins tended to get beat-up in windy spots.
 
Secondly, we always had local beekeepers place their hives adjacent to these crops to ensure that they would visit the flowers and pollinate the plants. These cucurbit crops (as they are referred to) must have their pollen transferred from male to female flowers in order to fruit andas we all knowbees are terrific at this task.
 
In our own urban yards, encouraging bees and other pollinators to visit is not difficult if you choose the flowers that they like. Plants like...

Sunflowers – During blooming season sunflowers offer a rich pollen and nectar source for foraging honey bees, native bees, and any other garden pollinators.


At maturity, when the centre disk florets have dried up, these black-seeded sunflowers provide particularly oil-rich kernels with somewhat softer shells than others, yielding an abundance of nutritious feasts for birds of all sorts.


Zinnias & Cosmos – These two types of flowers are favourites of butterflies. Butterflies are attracted to blossom shapes and colours, so plantings should be made in mass blocks rather than a few isolated plants here and there.


Planting these flowers behind each other produces an ideal combination of flowers at differing heights, offering your visitors a choice of where to feed and rest.


Scarlet Runner Beans & Nasturtiums – Low, mounding, Summer Charm nasturtiums and tall, climbing, Scarlet Runner Beans are a sure fit for hummingbirds’ nectar-seeking bills.


These flowers offer an ideal combination of different blossoms and vegetation at varying height levels, providing your intended visitors with a choice of where to feed, rest, and roost.


Hummingbirds expend an enormous amount of energy for their size, and require an enormous amount of food—you can’t have too many flowers! After locating convenient nectar sources, these intelligent little creatures follow a foraging routine in a relatively small area (despite their ability to roam) and will return for ongoing meals from your garden.


Finally, asclepias (or "milkweed") is a plant that we get a lot of questions about from people look for a butterfly-friendly flower. Most known as a nectar source for monarch butterflies (a rare sight in Edmonton), milkweed is a favourite of other pollinators as well.

The Butterfly Mixture from Aimers Seeds is a good mix of flowers that attracts butterflies as well.  This mix contains a bit of everything for pollinators, including: alyssum, African daisy, bachelor buttons, milkweed, candy tuft, columbine, purple and Prairie coneflowers, plains coreopsis, cosmos, flax, California poppy, and Siberian wallflower.

~Jim Hole

Brassica Oleracea

Brassica oleracea is a remarkable species. You may not know it, but members of this single species all-star team include: cabbage, cauliflower, kale and collards, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.

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These cool-weather loving plants are perfect for our Alberta climate. Here are a few of our favourites to grow:

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Cabbage – Charmant (Brassica oleracea F1) – If you love to eat heathy (and who doesn’t?) then this is the vegetable for you! Cabbage holds the esteemed position of the vegetable that contains the least amount of fat per serving. And, as an excellent source of vitamin C and antioxidant phytonutrients, cabbage is a great defender against cancer.


Charmant Cabbage is a sweet and flavourful summer harvest cabbage. The 15-20cm dense heads are blue-green in colour, and weigh 1.5-3kg.


Cabbage is a hardy cool-season crop that does best under cool, moist conditions. It can be direct sown or grown as a transplant, with most heads being ready to harvest in 66 days.


Excellent for home-made slaws and sauerkrauts!


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Cauliflower – Cheddar Hybrid (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) – While this cauliflower doesn't actually contain any cheese, it does have 25 times the beta carotene of regular white Cauliflower, for extra nutrition in every bite!


The eye-catching orange colour intensifies when cooked, adding fantastic colour and bold flavour to any dish it’s added to. And are also great  cut raw for snack trays and salads.


Cheddar Cauliflower is just as easy to grow as its white variety, and grows from seed to plate in 5 weeks.  It prefers moist soil, lots of sun, and is great in Alberta summers since the cooling temperatures enhance the flavor of this vegetable.


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Broccoli - Waltham 29 (Brassica oleracea  var.  italica) – Broccoli is one of the great treats of summer.  Known for producing large heads and long stalks, this long-time favourite is excellent for cooking fresh, frozen, raw or steamed.

The vitamin-rich head is actually a cluster of of tiny flower buds. After the head is harvested, it "sprouts" numerous smaller heads.

This cool-weather relative to cabbage is easy to grow, producing a large head filled with tightly packed florets. It grows best in mostly sunny locations during the cooler parts of the growing season, and prefers rich soil kept fairly moist.



Summer Blooming Flower Bulbs

If you’re looking for stunning blooms in your garden this year, now is the time to plant those bulbs!

There are lots of fantastic options to choose from, such as such as gladioli, callas, dahlias, lilium, tuberous begonias, and crocosmias. When it comes to summer blooming bulbs, you've got choice!


Here are a few of our favourites. Each of these will bloom at slightly different times and complement each other, giving you a gorgeous display all the way from early to late summer:

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 Lilium – Mysterious Blend (Liliaceae)  – An early-summer bloomer, this is a great new mix on an old favourite. “Mysterious Blend” is a stunning mix of Asiatic lilies with flowers of the purest white mixed with flowers of the deepest purples and reds.

 
The flowers feature glossy petals that are firm and long-lasting in cut flower arrangements, or as a surefire way to add dramatic colour to your garden.


Lilium prefer full-sun to partial-shade, and grow 90-150cm tall.


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Calla – Royal Majesty (Zantedeschia aethiopica) –  A mid-summer bloomer, Callas have a certain air of elegance like no other flower. Their unique cup- shape, upright sword-like leaves, and vivid colours are a favourite for both gardeners and florists alike! 


The “Royal Majesty” mix is a gorgeous blend of whites, pinks and purples. These cool tones will certainly be the focal highlight of your garden.


Perfect for container gardening, or used as a border in your garden, Callas are surprisingly easy to grow. Enjoying full sun to partial shade and growing 30-91cm tall.


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Dahlia – Myrtle’s Folly (Dahlia fimbriata) A late-summer bloomer, it’s hard to imagine a flower more eye-popping than this enormous burst of narrow, twisted, and vibrantly colored petals. 


Each dinner-plate blossom is massive and an absolute bonfire of hot colors. From gold to peach to hot pink, the Myrtle’s Folly Dahlia is a beautiful one-of-a-kind bouquet all on its own!


 Myrtle's Folly Dahlia is a large plant, and will grow to be about 122cm tall at maturity, with a spread of 76cm. Since the blooms are so massive, the flower stalks can be weak and may require staking in exposed sites or excessively rich soils.

 

 

A-peeling Potato Varieties

Delicious and nutritious! Nothing beats the taste of your own home-grown "spuds". There are hundreds of potato varieties to choose from but here are a few great choices:

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A) Yukon Gold Potato (Solanum tuberosum) - Plant these in your garden and you will have a goldmine of yellow-skinned, yellow-fleshed potatoes ready to harvest in 100 days. Yukon Gold is widely acclaimed as the star of golden-fleshed potatoes, and for good reason! Sporting a thin golden skin, it is renowned for its outstanding flavor and dry texture. These potatoes are excellent for baking, boiling, roasting, and frying.


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B) Purple Magic Potato (Solanum andigenum) - Here’s one of my favourites. These potatoes feature dark purple skin with an attractive, deeper purple flesh. “Purple Magic” has the same flavour and nutritional value as regular potatoes, and as a bonus, they contain as much antioxidants as spinach or kale! A real gourmet treat! The potato is a high-yield variety and these multi-purpose tubers are ideal for chips, roasting, frying, or in potato salad.


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C) Rosemarie Potato (Solanum tuberosum cv.) - What a colourful potato! This mid-season fingerling has bright red skin and deep red flesh. These gourmet, nutritious fingerlings are ideal for baking, boiling, or potato salad.


D) Potato Rake - Yes, there’s a tool for that! The potato rake is more versatile than its name implies. Its tines are sturdy and ideal for digging or harvesting potatoes and similar types of vegetables. It can also be used to transfer manure and loose material or even for general garden clean-up. The potato rake is great as it allows you to dig into the soil and harvest your potatoes without accidentally cutting your potatoes in half (as sometimes happens with a shovel).


E) Potato Bag - Not many people seem to know this, but potatoes are great for growing in containers! If you’re looking to give it a try, Smart Pot containers are a fantastic choice. The Smart Pot is porous fabric aeration container that releases heat and promotes fibrous root growth. The result is a better root structure and better potatoes!

 

You Can Grow Those Here?

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This past week, a teacher from Slave Lake, Alberta told me about the peanut plant that she’d grown in her garden last year.

Granted, she harvested just a single peanut from her plant, but considering that peanuts are heat loving, long-season plants that are more at home in the deep Southern states like Georgia and Alabama, I consider her first foray growing these plants to be a great success.
 
I remember growing another heat loving crop–okra–years ago in our garden. While I didn't get a massive yield, I did manage to harvest a couple of fruit, and they were fun to try. I was also surprised by how gorgeous the okra flowers were.
 
So this year, if you have a nice, sunny, warm spot in your yard try a few "cotton belt" plants like peanuts and okra. And who knows, with global warming, this could be your breakthrough year. Edamame beans (you might have tried them at a Japanese restaurant), I think, will be another fun one to try.

We've actually got all 3 plants growing on our on-display "Big Bag Bed" garden in the greenhouse. They should be popping up in a couple of weeks, and by the end of the season we're hoping for a nice crop of beans, peanuts, and okra.

~Jim Hole

p.s. We have even more seeds in this week, including a large shipment from Pacific Northwest (they have a huge variety of non-GMO seeds). So come on down, pick out some seeds, and start sketching out your garden for this summer.

This is a great time to pick up some of the more interesting and unusual seeds before certain varieties start selling out. This warm sunny weather is also, we find, very inspiring.

Starting Seeds Indoors: 9 Things You Need!

All the tools you need to get your seeds started indoors.

All the tools you need to get your seeds started indoors.

1. Seeds - First of all: you'll want to pick out your seeds (click here for our complete seed list).

Some of my favourites to start indoors are peppers and tomatoes.

While you're shopping, you can also pick up the seeds that are to be planted directly outdoors like carrots, peas, and beans. This way you can make sure you have them before they sell out in April and May.

Next: check when is the best time to plant your indoor seeds (click here for our Zone 3 Seeding Calendar).

Finally, if you're using seeds from 2014, remember that some seeds such as onions or parsley lose their viability after a year and should be replaced while some seeds remain viable for many years. Check the expiry date on your seed packets to be sure, or check with the staff of the greenhouse if some seed packets don't have an expiry date listed. 

2. Seed Starting Mix - A good quality seed starting mix is key. The grind or particle-size should be nice and small, not big and chunky. A mix with big particles is not ideal for small seeds or seedlings as many will fall through the gaps, plant themselves too deeply into the mixture, and never manage to make it to the surface.

It is also a good idea to buy pasteurized seed-starting mixes to ensure there are no insects in your soil. Pasteurized seed starting mixes will usually say right on the bag that they have been pasteurized (or "sterilized"). In the greenhouse, we sell a 100% organic brand called Pots and Plants.

3. Clean Plastic Flats - These will be the flats into which you'll put your seed starting mix and into which you'll plant your seeds. Ensure that they are well cleaned to ensure that no fungi or insects are introduced into your growing environment. Wiping your flats clean and spraying them with a mild bleach solution will work if you're reusing flats from last year.

4. Plant Tags - Alright, so you've planted your seeds in a good seed starting mix in clean plastic flats. Now you have to remember what's where. Tag your rows of seeds or your flats of plants so that you can remember what's planted where.

5. A Misting Bottle - is the perfect way to moisten your seeds and soil. I like to give everything a good thorough misting on Day 1. 

A couple of days later, if you notice the top of the soil drying out, just give it another quick mist to keep the soil moist. This ensures that your seeds will germinate.

I find that a mister is much better than a watering can for starting seeds because a mister keeps your seeds evenly moist rather than unevenly soggy.

6. A Germination Mat - Placed underneath your plastic flats, a germination mat creates warmth that simulates the Earth's natural ground heat. This stimulates your seeds to grow and increases their germination rate dramatically. 

A germination mat is a complete game changer for most home gardeners, bringing their gardening game and success rate up a full level. We have a variety of different sizes of germination mats here in the greenhouse, and many of our seed starting kits even come with a germination mat included.

7. Cover It Up! - A good plastic cover will keep moisture and heat in for the plants. Personally, my favourite type of covers are the big tall Nanodomes we sell here in the store because they keep moisture from escaping, can accommodate larger plants, and can even have a Sunblaster growlight incorporated right into them.

8. Let There Be Light - Speaking of growlights, you'll want some growlights to ensure that your plants grow vigorously, with strong stems, and lots of leafy growth.

If you start your plants indoors without a growlight, they can become very tall and stretched out, without many leaves. This is because they are searching for the sun.

9. Soil Thermometer - A soil thermometer is one last great tool. This will let you check on your soil temperature, and let you know if your soil is warm enough for ideal germination rates.  Most seeds will germinate anywhere between 5 to 32°C (and even 43°C in a few exceptional cases), but the ideal soil temperature for most seeds to germinate is in a much narrower ranger of between 21-28°C. To maximize your germination rates, a soil thermometer is invaluable.


~Jim Hole

Gladiolus, gladioli!

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When I was growing up on the farm, Mom always planted a single row of gladioli in her vegetable patch. She just loved the beautiful flowers and would often head out to the garden in the summer and gather up a bunch of gladioli stalks to stick straight into a tall, clear, glass vase. The large flowers set on the tall straight spikes were always spectacular and looked incredible all on their own, without the addition of any other flowers or greenery. 

I was always amazed that these little brown corms could grow so quickly and produce such tall, magnificent spikes in such short order. Gladiolus grows best in rich, loamy soil and we had plenty of them by our old farmhouse.

For 2015, it’s exciting to see so many wonderful gladioli varieties available to plant in our yards. Everything from purples, blues and greens, to colourful mixed varieties like "Tutti Frutti", "Tropical Blend" or "Chocolate & Banana Blend".

If you haven’t planted gladiolus before, give it a try. It is unsurpassed as an outstanding cutflower for summer weddings, backyard BBQs, or simply to liven-up the kitchen or livingroom. And don’t be afraid to put a row in your vegetable patch if you have the space. Just remember to place the row of glads to the east side of the patch so that the tall spikes don’t block the sunlight for the vegetables.

The north to south row on the east side of the garden always worked out great in Mom’s garden.

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~Jim Hole

p.s. There are still a few spots left for my tomato workshop on Saturday, April 18th. You can sign up by clicking here or using the button below.

 


Popular Poppies

When it comes to describing poppies “popular” is an understatement. The Poppy family includes a gigantic selection of species, and are native to many parts of the world, including Central and Southern Europe, China, India, and other parts of Asia. The flowers are attractive to pollinators like honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. As an added bonus, the home gardener can choose from almost any colour in the rainbow, including black. 

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Since poppies produce seeds so effortlessly, ensuring a continuous supply is easy. Once the flower is finished blooming, each poppy provides hundreds of seeds you can use the following year to keep your garden colourful without spending extra money.


Whether you want large blousy blooms, small delicate dwarf varieties, or elegant flowers that will make a statement, there is always a poppy to suit! Here are a few varieties you might enjoy:

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Hungarian Breadseed Poppy (Papaver spp.) – Baking with poppy seeds is a centuries old tradition. If you’re looking to harvest seeds from your poppies, the Hungarian Breadseed is a great choice.


Hungarian Breadseed flowers will bloom in spring and early summer, and then drop their petals to form fat seed capsule pods. Once the pods get brown and hard, they can cracked open to remove a surprising number of blue-black seeds you can use in your breads, cakes, or muffins.


But seeds aren’t the only thing this poppy is good for. This heirloom strain also has beautiful white or pale lavender-pink petals with contrasting dark centres, perfect for planting in rock gardens, windowsill planters, or in containers on your patio or deck.


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Oriental Brilliant Scarlet Poppy (Papaver orientale) - Oriental poppies are the most striking of the perennial poppies. With eye-catching cup-shaped flowers, textured like crêpe paper, these flowers are guaranteed to be the focal point in your garden this summer. 


The plant's huge flowers can grow up to 6 inches across on stems up to 4 feet tall! It’s no wonder these poppies are a favourite subject with so many artists and gardeners alike.


Once planted, they require no special care and will last for many years. Their original vibrant red-orange colour is still the most popular for growing, though oriental poppies come in a variety of colours that will match or blend any garden’s color scheme.


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California Orange Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) - California poppies are a perfect choice for hot, dry areas but will grow almost anywhere without a fuss. These golden-orange poppies are perfect for covering a neglected or hard-to-cultivate area, or for a memorable display in a large garden space. 


California poppies boast a single, cup-shaped bloom that, in the wild, range from clear yellow to golden orange through to bronze. The flowers close at night and open as the sun touches them each morning.


These annuals are easy-to-grow and drought-tolerant, providing a carefree spring carpet of bloom in all climate zones. 


With such ease and simplicity, poppies are a welcome plant to all gardens. Once a gardener includes poppies in their garden, they will find it hard to remember a time without them!

 

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.

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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:

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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!


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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!


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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!

When to Prune Your Fruit Trees

Now is a great time to prune those long neglected apple, cherry, apricot, pear, and plum trees. 

I know that a lot of people become stressed-out about pruning fruit trees, fearing that they will irreparably harm them.

While it’s true that bad pruning can harm trees, no pruning is often just as bad if not worse.

Here are a few simple rules for pruning your fruit trees:


•    Don’t remove more than a quarter of the branches in any one year
•    Ensure that every branch is attached to the tree at a wide angle. Narrow "V-shaped" branch attachments are weak and can split
•    Remove broken branches
•    Remove crossing branches
•    Never leave a "stub" but never "flush cut" a branch, always leave a "collar" that is a few millimeters deep 

If you are still a little apprehensive about pruning, pop on down to Hole’s, and we can show you how!

~Jim Hole

Now fully stocked on all Corona pruning shears, loppers, saws, pole pruners, and hand pruners.

Now fully stocked on all Corona pruning shears, loppers, saws, pole pruners, and hand pruners.