No Space, No Problem! University of Alberta Students Build Sustainable Growroom

A group of University of Alberta students, lead by Hayley Wasylycia, are gaining attention after building an Urban Growroom on campus, based on Space10 Growroom’s open-sourced design. In fact, the University of Alberta’s Growroom is the first ever Space10 Growroom to be built outside of Denmark.

The Space10 Growroom is a multi-tiered, spherical garden, designed to alleviate the issues of available space that often arise when trying to integrate food and gardens into the urban landscape.

Hole’s Greenhouses is pleased to have been involved in the outstanding project, through the donation of greenery. Beyond urban growing and sustainability awareness, there are tremendous benefits on-campus Growrooms and plants have for students. With their air cleaning and oxygen producing capabilities, studies show that plants boost attention spans and increase productivity. A Growroom on campus provides students with a tranquil space to catch a breath of fresh air between classes, studying and exams.

The University of Alberta’s Urban Week event took place March 20th-24th, 2017, during which time the Space10 Growroom was on display. It will soon find a permanent home in Edmonton, and a permanent one on the University of Alberta campus is being explored.

Visit for more information and upcoming Space10 Growroom locations.

Study Better... Just Add Plants!

With final exams quickly approaching, Hole's Greenhouses is now offering students a 10% discount on indoor plants. With their air cleaning and oxygen producing capabilities, studies show that plants boost attention spans and increase productivity – making them your best study-buddy yet!

Check out these articles for more information on the benefits of plants:

House Plants Make You Smarter -Scientific American

Plants In Offices Increase Happiness & Productivity -The Guardian

Study better than every before... just add plants!

DIY: Build Your Own Terrarium!

Because a terrarium is a self-contained ecosystem, you must set it up properly the first time, using proper materials. Be sure to buy a high-quality potting mix and select the appropriate plants. 


Supplies needed:

  • One terrarium with air holes or a glass jar without a lid
  • Small gravel, pea rock or coloured glass
  • Jim Hole’s Potting Soil
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Decorative accessories (stones, drift wood, wtc.)
  • Plants (two or three for every 3L of space; avoid fuzzy-leaved plants – they hold water and are susceptible to rotting)

Preparing the soil

 Start by creating a 1 cm base of gravel at the bottom of the terrarium. The gravel provides proper drainage, which is important because the container has no holes. 

Next, cover the gravel with a layer of potting mix. At least 5 cm of mix is required, but the mix can come up as high as half the height of the terrarium. 

Note: Charcoal is not necessary. The common belief is that charcoal will ‘filter’ the soil and keep it clean, but activated charcoal becomes inactive as soon as it is exposed to carbon in the air. 


Space plants according to the mature height and spread listed on their tags. 

Prepare holes in the soil where the plants will go by gently scooping away enough potting mix to bury the roots to the same depth as they were growing in their pots. 

Remove plants from containers and examine the roots. Packed and tangled (rootbound) rootballs can be gently teased loose. Don’t worry if the soil falls off plants while transplanting. Losing some is fine. 

Place plants in prepared holes and gently firm the soil, being careful not to pack it. Remove any damaged leaves. 

Trimming the terrarium

Decorate the soil with bits of moss or add other finishing touches such as driftwood or decorative stones. You’re creating your own little world, so let your imagination guide you. 


Give plants a thorough watering, but don’t over water. A terrarium sustains itself, so the first watering is essential to establishing the correct moisture level. 

Watching it grow

Placing a terrarium in a direct sun might seem like a nice treat for your plants, but it’s the equivalent of steaming vegetables in a pot! 

If you didn’t use a container with air holes, don’t cover your terrarium with a lid. Although it’s possible to grow plants in a self-contained environment, it’s incredibly difficult and requires perfect light, temperature and humidity conditions. 

Visit Hole's today and find everything you need to create your own custom terrarium! 

What Lies Below

Over the years, I’ve received thousands of leaf, stem, and soil samples from gardeners who need help figuring out why their plants aren’t growing the way they should, and how to get them back on track.

Often, the diagnostics are pretty straight-forward and simple. If the problem is a large insect - like a cabbageworm - identification is pretty easy and there are a number of good products available for control. 

But many plant problems are more complex than voracious cabbageworms, and a lot of background information is critical when performing the "Plant Forensics”. Good samples of plant parts, lots of good photographs, soil samples, and historical data are really valuable tools for solving the really difficult plant problems. 

Since trees are some of most high-priced and expensive garden plants, they comprise the majority of the plant samples that I receive and they are often the toughest problems to solve. 

The one tip that I will offer those who have tree problems is to spend as much time looking "down" as you do looking "up". Trees are analogous to icebergs in a way. Just as about 90% of an iceberg’s mass is below the sea surface, 90% of the serious problems that I see with trees originate below the soil surface.

And neither ships nor trees fare well when due consideration is not given to what lies below.

~Jim Hole

Early Sowing

The earliest that we ever sowed seed in our field on our vegetable farm was March 18th. As you know, for our Canadian Prairie location, this date was extremely early!

We were under the influence of an abnormally warm weather phenomena called "El Nino" back then, which provided us with a very mild winter and early spring thaw.

Our decision was to sow a field of Nantes carrots because carrots are frost tolerant, plus they were one of our most popular crops. Now, we knew it would be quite likely to see a good dump of snow after we sowed the carrots, but we weren’t worried because snow melts slowly and provides beautifully even moisture for the seeds.

The snow did come but the biggest challenge we faced was that the soil was desperately dry for weeks before the snow came in early April, resulting in some pretty spotty germination – about a quarter of what it normally would have been. On the positive side, we were eating those spotty, fresh, carrots by late May!

So was the early sewing worth it? Absolutely. The cost of the lost seed was more than offset by an early harvest. Of course, we sowed several more plantings of Nantes carrots in April and May and had much better germination and ended up with a bumper crop.

The lesson that I learned, that year, was that when Mother Nature tosses you an El Nino and allows you to gamble with a bit of early sowing of cold tolerant vegetables – go for it.

 2016 may or may not allow for an exceptionally early sowing. But if the opportunity arises, I always remember that one March along with my Mother’s advice to gardeners concerned about early sowing in general.

She would always say, “The seed costs a few dollars, take a chance and live dangerously!” I could not have said it better.


~Jim Hole

Almost Perfect

I remember a particular lettuce crop that Dad had planted on the crest of the hill on our market garden in early May. It was sown with a "4-row Stanhay" seeder and the germination was near perfect and a lettuce seedling popped up every 15 centimeters thanks to the precision spacing that the seeder provided.


I liked to drive by the 4 acre field of lettuce a couple of times a day, when I had the time, just to admire how great the long, straight rows of perfectly-planted, rich-green iceberg lettuce looked against the black soil.

But it seemed with each passing day, that the lettuce field just didn't look quite as good as the day before. After about four or five days, I finally got out of the truck and made a closer inspection of the field. Much to my chagrin, cutworms were thoroughly enjoying the perfect field of lettuce, and before I had time to spray the field, half of the field had been chewed-up.

The take home lesson here for gardeners is to be vigilant. Inspect your plants on a daily basis and note anything that looks a bit odd. We have a diagnostic service here if you can’t solve the problem yourself. 

And by the way it… ahem, pays to get out of the truck now and then.

~Jim Hole



You Can Grow Those Here?


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.

The Time to Plant Begonias is Now!


If you've got a shady spot in your garden, begonias are a great flowers to consider. 

Begonias come in 2 distinctly different types: fibrous or tuberous. Fibrous begonias are small, compact plants with small flowers. The seeds for those will be planted in the greenhouse near the end of this month.

Tuberous begonias, on the other hand, are showy, large-flowered plants and we're planting our own begonias tubers here in the greenhouse right now. Tuberous begonias were also one of my mother's favourite flowers.

If you'd like to start your own tuberous begonias, now is the time to visit us. Come in and browse our selection of begonia tubers, and bring home some of your favourites.

Generally, we recommend starting tuberous begonias indoors 12-14 weeks before you plan on transplanting them outside. This means that February is the ideal time to be planting them inside for them to be ready in the spring.

When starting your begonias inside, heat and light are essential. My father used to start our begonias in the house on top of the hot water register beside a south window. He added an 8 foot fluorescent light that was on 24 hours a day. These days, I recommend a heating mat and some full spectrum grow lights (sold here in the greenhouse).

This heat and light will allow your the begonias to grow thick and vigorously before the spring. They will be a sight to see in your garden, and—if given plenty of light now—will survive in even the shadiest of spots in the summer.

~Jim Hole

p.s. An updated, complete list of all of our organic, heirloom, and/or non-GMO seeds is now available on our website. Click here to see it and to start planning your garden.

Grafted Cacti


There are a lot of cool looking plants that I like, but grafted cacti are some of my favourites.
A grafted cactus, in its simplest form, is taking a top of one cactus and sticking it on top of another cactus. After a few weeks, the tissues of the two cacti knit together and a new, and unique plant is born.
A type of grafted cactus that many people love is one that involves placing an unusual, but colourful, cactus called "moon cactus" on top of another similar sized "base" cactus that has had its top removed. Moon cacti lack chlorophyll (the stuff that most plants need to harvest sunlight) thus allowing the bright red and yellow pigments to shine through.
The result is red or yellow-capped cacti with green stems, that create an unusual and beautifully striking plant. Since the moon cacti have no sunlight harvesting chlorophyll, they rely on the green stems of the base plant to provide the nutrients for survival.
Now just remember these cacti require plenty of sunlight and hate "wet feet" so err on the side of less rather than more water. Other than that, sit back and enjoy these strange, but very pretty, grafted cacti!

We recently received a whole bunch of other very interesting cacti (see below!)

~Jim Hole