seeds

Microgreens

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.

Technology


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
away.

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.

Seed Basics: A Q&A with Lois and Jim Hole

Is it better to grow my annuals from seeds, or should I just buy bedding plants?

Lois—Let your interests be your guide! Growing annuals from seed is a great pastime, especially if you’re eager to start gardening while there’s still snow on the ground. However, some varieties are easier to start from seed than others. We had a heck of a time growing bells of Ireland from seed until we discovered, quite by accident, that they require a cold treatment before they will germinate. If they hadn’t been set down on a cold concrete floor, we never would have discovered what were doing wrong!

Jim—Mom’s right. There’s nothing more frustrating than planting a tray full of seeds only to be faced with a barren pack even after weeks of care. To avoid disappointment, choose easy-to-germinate seed like marigolds and nasturtiums, and buy bedding plants if you want to grow the more demanding annuals like begonias and alyssum. Of course, if you like the challenge of growing the picky species from seed, by all means, give them a try. Just take the time to learn a little about their needs.

 

When should I start my seeds?

Lois—It depends on when you’re going to transplant your seedlings outdoors. For example, here in St. Albert the average last spring-frost date is May 6. We transplant our pansies outside 3 weeks before that in mid-April. Pansy seedlings take about 14 weeks to grow from seed, so we start the seeds in mid-February. It takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth it. By May last year, I had pots filled with pansies on my deck, and they received rave reviews.

Jim—People spend a lot of time worrying about frost. They don’t realize that many annuals need to be outside and growing in the early part of the growing season. More plants are finished off by heat and drought in the summer than by frost in May! In our experience is actually better to put annuals like pansies outside and cover them than to leave them indoors and have them stretch out from being too hot. There’s really no substitute for planning. Read your seed packets carefully, check on the average last spring-frost date for your area, and do the math for yourself.

 

What are the easiest annuals to start from seed?

Lois—By and large, the bigger the seed is, the easier it is to grow. If you start off with larger seeds such as sweet peas, nasturtiums, and marigolds, you’re almost guaranteed success. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can move on to smaller seeds, which tend to be more challenging to grow.

Jim—The sweet pea is the easiest annual to grow from seed. Not only is a sweet pea seed big, it’s nearly indestructible! It doesn’t mind if you give it too much water or too little. It’s disease resistant and easy to handle because it’s so big.  On the other hand, tuberous and fibrous begonias are among the trickiest annuals to seed.  The seeds are almost as small as dust particles. You can barely see them, let alone pick them up with your fingers. These seeds require consistently warm soil, and just the right amount of fertilizer; otherwise they starve. Raising begonias from seed is definitely a challenge compared to the easygoing sweet pea!

 

What do I need to grow my own plants from seed?

Lois—First you need the very best-quality seeds. My mother-in-law, Grandma Hole, always said, “Only the rich can afford to buy cheap things!” If you start off with inferior seed, you might as well not even bother. Also, you’ll want to give those seeds a good home, so be sure to buy a professional seedling mixture.

Jim—You can start with as little as seeds, potting soil, flats, and a sunny window. If you’re ready to get a bit more serious, though, it’s worth investing in the right equipment

Basic equipment checklist
• the best available seed
• the best-quality soilless mix (Seedling Starter Mix)
• a mister bottle
• clean plastic flats
• grow lights
• covers (plastic or fabric)
• fine-textured vermiculite to cover your seedlings
• a thermometer with a probe (an oven meat-thermometer works well)
• heating cables/mats
• fungicides (optional)
• Earth Alive Soil Activator
• tags to label the different varieties

 

Do I need a special kind of soil for my seedlings?

Lois—Yes! Even though you can get reasonably good results from regular potting soil, you’ll have better luck if you use a special mix for your seedlings. I always use Seedling Starter Mix. It has just the right components for healthy seedlings.

Jim—I agree wholeheartedly. For the best seedlings, you should always start off with the best soil. Spend the few extra dollars and invest in a professional seedling soil. Regular potting soil is too coarse and variable to risk using on your seedlings.

 

What are hybrid seeds?

Lois—There are many different kinds of hybrid seeds. One hybrid seed tends to be very similar to the next, unlike non-hybrid seeds, which sometimes surprise you when they bloom! Hybrid seeds are more expensive than their non-hybrid cousins, but the extra pennies are worth
it! Plants that grow from hybrid seeds tend to have all kinds of bonuses, like bigger and more colourful blooms, greater disease resistance, and better growth habit.

Jim—Development of hybrid plants is a complex procedure that ultimately, if everything goes right, results in very uniform varieties.

 

Can I plant the seeds collected from hybrid plants?

Lois—You can, but only if you’re prepared for unpredictable (and often downright unsuccessful) results. Hybrid plants don’t make good parents!

Jim—Seeds taken from hybrid plants don’t grow “true to type.” You can collect and sow hybrid seeds, but only half of the resulting plants will look like the variety that you collected the seed from. The other half will be divided evenly—the two quarters resembling the two parents that gave rise to the hybrid.

 

What other factors are important for good germination?

Lois—Even though I always emphasize the importance of watering, oxygen is just as important for your seeds. If you keep your flats saturated with water, your seeds will drown. You also need to check your seed packets to see if your seeds require special conditions to germinate.

Jim—Oxygen and moisture must penetrate a seed’s coat in order for it to germinate.  Apart from that, different seeds have their own requirements. For example, the smallest seeds (like alyssum, begonia, coleus, and petunia) generally require light in order to germinate. Other seeds, such as larkspur, phlox, and verbena, prefer to germinate in the dark.

Some seeds actually need a little abuse to get started! In one process, scarification, the seed coats are cut or abraded in order to allow water and oxygen to penetrate. In another process, stratification, the seeds are stored in a cold, moist environment for several weeks or months, to simulate the passing of winter.

 

What things can contaminate my seedlings?

Lois—Take the time to practice good sanitation. You must be careful to work in a clean space with clean tools. And wash your hands, too!

Jim—Disease can enter the picture at several points.

• Containers or other tools. Rinse your tools, plus any previously used flats or trays, in a 10%-bleach solution.

• Improper sanitation. Listen to Mom! Always wash your hands before working with your seedlings. Tobacco carries the mosaic virus, while certain foods like lettuce carry damping-off diseases.

• Unpasteurized soil.

• The seeds themselves. Some diseases live in the seed or on the seed coat itself. Buy only the best-quality seeds.

• Dirty water or dirty watering cans (tap water is fine, provided it’s not high in salts—sodium in particular).

 

Do I need to use pesticides to grow seedlings?

Lois—No. Pesticides are not the answer. Ted and I used to grow our seedlings without using pesticides, and to this day, we still do. The key is sanitation, sanitation, sanitation! If you keep everything perfectly clean, you won’t have to rely on chemicals.

Jim—I agree. You don’t need pesticides to grow your seedlings, especially if you use a professional seedling mixture. This is the key—garden soil introduces many unwanted potential problems for seedlings. Fungicides, on the other hand, can be an important investment. Even with the best sanitation, fungal diseases can occasionally find their way to your seedlings.

 

Not All Grass Seed Is Created Equally By Jim Hole

Many people believe all lawn grasses are created equally. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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For example, many packages of lawn grass seeds come as a mixture of different species and varieties. Two types of grass seed that dominate these blends are perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. Perennial ryegrass grows quickly, but is not particularly hardy; nor is it long lived on the prairies, but it germinates rapidly and emerges quickly from the soil. Kentucky bluegrass is the premium lawn grass for our region, but it is much slower to pop out of the soil.
 
Still, perennial ryegrass is good as a “nurse” grass to protect Kentucky bluegrass until it gets established. You just don’t want too much perennial ryegrass in a blend. Perennial ryegrass seeds are also much larger than Kentucky bluegrass seeds. In fact, a kilogram of perennial ryegrass contains about 500,000 seeds, whereas a kilogram of Kentucky bluegrass contains a whopping 3,000,000 seeds! Therefore, you can see that buying lawn seed strictly by weight is not a great strategy.
 
The bottom line is that a bit of perennial ryegrass is good for helping to protect your Kentucky bluegrass, but a lot of perennial ryegrass is a waste of money.
 
September is a great month for sowing lawn grass seeds, so choose your grass seed carefully! We recommend Manderley Seed. Find it here, at Hole's Greenhouses.

Starting Seeds

February 4th is the kick-off for my first seminar of the season! In fact, we are listing all of the Free Gardening Talks for the next 3 months.
 
This year, I’ve increased the number of sessions that I am offering due to the popularity of last year’s sessions. The first session on the 4th is all about getting seeds started indoors for the spring season that is approaching quickly.
 
I’m going to cover all of the basics for ensuring that you get your plants off to a great start and answer burning questions like:

  • Which are the best containers – plastic or fibre?
  • What is the best seedling soil mix?
  • Can I use garden soil?
  • What are heat mats and how do I use them?
  • What are the best grow lights for my seedlings?
  • Do I need to add fertilizer to my mix?
  • When do I start sowing seed indoors?

 
Now, if you have never grown a thing in your life, don’t worry about it. I will take you through all the steps to ensure that you have success. If you have any specific questions about seeds, sowing or anything else for that matter, I’ll be happy to answer all of them.
 
 January is almost gone…spring is only a few snow drifts away!

~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

Grow It From Seed!

written by Lois Hole. Originally published February 1, 1999

Quick, which would you rather have: an ounce of gold or an ounce of begonia seed? Gold at it’s current market price of around $300 [sic] an ounce is mere pocket change compared to a series of tuberous begonia seed called “Charisma” that rings in at an astounding $200,000 [sic] an ounce.

Mind you, an ounce of begonia seed does contain anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million seeds and, in all fairness, only the world’s largest plant propagators would ever buy an ounce.

Thankfully for home gardeners, growing your own plants from seed is substantially less expensive. It can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, but at other times it can be downright frustrating.

I remember when my husband Ted and I first got started in market gardening back in the early 1960s. We needed a large number of tomato transplants and obviously that required a greenhouse, so we built one—a small, plastic-covered, wood-framed structure.

Having very little seed experience, I rationalized that if I sowed double the recommended number of tomato seeds I should, at the very least, get half to grow and therefore be pretty darn close to my target.

After about a month, not one seedling had emerged. Of course, I blamed everything and everyone, including my husband, for this abysmal failure, but it wasn’t until Ted decided to check the soil temperature that he was finally exonerated. The soil temperature was a rather frigid 50°F (that was in the pre-metric days) and tomatoes, being warm season plants, prefer a nice warm 70°F, or 20°C to germinate properly. Installation of some heating cable solved that problem for us, but for many gardeners, poor control of soil temperature is still the primary reason for poor results.

Each year more and more gardeners are starting their own seeds, which I’m sure has been fuelled in part by the tremendous satisfaction derived from successfully nurturing a plant from seed to maturity.

Undoubtedly, the adventure of trying the new, the improved, and the unusual is a strong motivator as well, and never before has there been such an extensive selection of seeds.
Yet for many gardeners, there still exists an unwarranted fear of growing seedlings. So to minimize the trauma of starting seed, here is the seed starter’s primer in one highly condensed, non-technical paragraph.

The first thing to do is purchase only high-quality seed (which is typically a little more expensive). Place the seed in a tray on top of pre-moistened soilless seedling mixture. Cover the seed lightly with horticultural grade vermiculite (that’s the small stuff). Mist the seed tray several times with a pump bottle. Cover the tray with a clear or opaque plastic cover and place the whole apparatus on a heat register or heating cables as close as possible to a south-facing window. Inspect the seed daily and mist as required.

That’s all there is to it. Most seed fits rather neatly within these parameters, although, of course, there are those seeds that deviate somewhat. Some like the soil a little warmer or a little cooler, some like a little more or a little less moisture, but the same basic principles still apply.

Still, there are some plant species, particularly a few perennials, that can be rather obstinate. Some perennial seeds require a treatment in moist soil to break the seeds’ self-imposed dormancy. Other perennial seeds must be scarified, which is essentially a delicate cutting or etching of the seed coat to allow germination, allowing water to be drawn in.

I remember a few particularly stubborn perennial seeds that I’ve tried to germinate in the greenhouse. One in particular was the Himalayan Blue Poppy.

After my disappointing experience with tomato seed, I must admit that I leaned on the warm side for starting all other seedlings, including poppies. After about six weeks of tender care, the poppies, like the tomatoes, had failed to emerge. So in frustration I just pulled the trays off the heating cables, left them on the cold floor, and forgot about them. Inadvertently,  I had provided exactly what the poppies wanted—a nice, cool spot—and within days the tiny seedlings were popping up.

If you have seed left over when all of the spring seeding is said and done and you’re wondering just what is the best way to store it, just remember the rule of 100. Any combination of relative humidity percentage and air temperature that exceeds 100 will reduce seed storage life. For example, if the air is 60°F (sorry, this rule only works in Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and the relative humidity is 40%, you’re in the correct range. However, if the relative humidity climbs to 60%, then the air temperature shouldn’t exceed 40°F to maintain the 100 rule. The lower the number drops below 100, the better.

If you have a bright window, some heat, and a little patience, give starting your own seed a try. Remember, all that glistens is not gold.

– Lois Hole The Best Of Lois Hole

 

One Big Brother On The Roof, One Little Brother On The Ground.

When I was a teenager, my older brother bet that I couldn’t catch a 30lb pumpkin if he lobbed it from the roof of our farmhouse. I took the bet, and I did, in fact, catch it – sort of. The pumpkin split in two right across my knee, and I was splattered with rind, seeds, and pulp. My brother, naturally, nearly laughed himself off the roof.

Having survived that ordeal, I retired from pumpkin catching but I still think that of all the vegetables pumpkins are the most fun to grow and the seeds are a true delicacy. 

Pumpkin seeds are surrounded by pulp but are fairly easy to extract if you put the pulp in a large water filled bowl and slosh the mixture around. Pumpkin seeds will float to the top and can then be transferred to a bowl. Toss in a bit of oil, swirl and then lay the seeds on a cookie sheet and bake. Few things are as tasty and nutritious as baked pumpkin seeds!

One word of caution. It’s better to remove the top of a pumpkin and scoop out the pulp to get to the seeds. The "one big brother on the roof and one little brother on the ground" technique is largely frowned upon today due to safety concerns.


~Jim Hole 

Let Kids Be Kids

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Child labour is a hot topic these days, as well it should be. All over the world, young people are robbed of their childhoods by unfair and exploitative labour practices. Of course, when Ted and I farmed, we relied an awful lot on kids. If they hadn’t helped us so much, we would never have been as successful.

Work can and should be an integral part of growing up. Children gain a strong sense of satisfaction when they’re given the chance to contribute, and they build habits and attitudes that will stick with them long after they’ve grown up. You just have to find ways to keep the work fun and ensure that it doesn’t interfere with other equally important parts of their lives.

When they were young, Bill and Jim were always bringing friends home from school. Their buddies from town loved the chance to be out on a farm. It felt like a different world to them, even though their homes were only a mile or two away.

As the spring evenings lengthened, they’d be up in the field transplanting seedlings. They’d hoe the rows throughout the summer, and they’d help out as the vegetables became ready to harvest.

Sure it was hard work, but the kids wouldn’t have kept coming back if they weren’t having a good time. It wasn’t even the fact that we paid them—although they never complained when I handed out the cheques. When I’d take drinks or popsicles up to them, I felt like I was walking into the middle of a rather sweaty social occasion. The radio would be blasting away, competing with a steady stream of jokes and conversation.

I have to admit I pushed them a little from time to time. As their energy started to flag, I’d go out there and say, “Come on, kids, just five more minutes!” Ten minutes later, I’d go back out and say, “Just two more minutes!” Somehow though, when the break finally arrived, they always seemed to find the strength to pick up a football and start an impromptu game.

Their parents, naturally, were thrilled at the idea of their children coming out to our place. The kids were happy and healthy, they were earning a few bucks of their own, and if they were tired out at the end of the day, that was a bonus.

I’ll never forget one afternoon, though, when a man drove out to the farm, his poor teenage son slumped in the back seat of the car. Something about this man’s manner put us off, even before he opened his mouth. He told us, “I want you to put my boy to work. He’s a lazy kid, and I want you to show him what real work is like. Straighten him up.” The boy had gotten drunk one night, and his father wanted to teach him a lesson. I guess he thought we were running some sort of boot camp.

Ted and I were appalled that this man would think of farm life as punishment. Clearly, he was the one who needed straightening up, not his boy. I don’t imagine he ever thought of sitting down to talk with his son, although it was obvious he was very mad at him. I wonder, if we had taken the boy, could we have helped him? But when you’re not the parent, when you’re only there for a short period of time, there’s not much you can do.

If you talk to the kids who worked for us over the years, I don’t think you’ll hear many complaints. Sure, they’ll joke about how we made them slave all day under the hot sun, but they’ll also talk about all the good times they had together. Many of them still come out to visit us from time to time, and we’re always thrilled to see them.

As a matter of fact, a few of them still work for us. And, if I’m not mistaken, they’re still finding a way to have fun on the job.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry a Farmer

The New Push Seeder

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Like most farmers, Ted always kept an eye out for a new piece of equipment that would make his work more efficient. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he came home with a shiny new Stanhay precision carrier-seeder one day, even though (as far as I could tell) there was nothing wrong with our old Planet Junior.

Like any kid with a new toy, Ted just couldn’t wait to try it out. As he pulled on his coveralls, I eyed the seeder skeptically.

“Ted,” I said, “it looks awfully heavy. How in the world will you push it through all that soft soil?”

“No Problem,” he laughed, heading out to the garden.

I settled back to watch him. Right away, I could see he was in trouble—his face was already getting red from the exertion as he leaned into the 50 kilogram seeder, trying to push it through the soft earth. I pulled on my boots and ran out to lend a hand.

“Ted,” I said, “you take one handle and I’ll take the other, and we’ll push together.” We managed to seed the first row, heading down the gentle slope toward the riverbank. Then we got to the bottom and turned around to head uphill. Well, we might just as well have tried pushing the thing up Mt. Everest. It was hopeless.

After much panting and sweating, we took a break, leaning against the seeder, wondering what in the world to do. “Ted,” I said, “this just isn’t going to work.” He was too stubborn to admit defeat, however. There was no way he was going to go back to using the old seeder after buying this new one.

He ran to the garage and fetched a long piece of rope. He wrapped it around my waist, then tied an end onto each handle of the seeder. There I was in front, with Ted holding the handles from behind.

“Lois,” he said, “start walking.”

I stared at him for a moment, hardly believing what I had heard. I had to admit, though, it was a good idea, and probably the only way we were going to get the field seeded. Feeling rather like a plough horse, I started pulling.

Well, it worked. We went up the row and down the row, up the row and down the row. The going wasn’t too bad, really, and we actually started to enjoy ourselves. I stopped feeling silly and just got into the steady rhythm of pulling the seeder along while Ted put his back into it and pushed.

Just then, a car happened to pass by. The driver slammed on his brakes, threw the car in reverse, and pulled off on the side of the road. As we neared the fence, we saw four startled, slack-jawed faces peering at us through the car windows. I had a momentary flash of embarrassment—“Just look at their expressions!”—but then I thought, “Well, who cares what they think?” In farming, you’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes.

After silently observing us for half a dozen long, long rows, the car slowly and quietly pulled away. By this time, Ted and I were killing ourselves laughing, picturing the story these folks would tell when they got back to the city.

“Lois,” Ted said, “how I wish I’d had a whip!” 


-Lois Hole, I'll Never Marry A Farmer

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:

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

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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:

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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!


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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!

Tomatoes! Unique Seed Varieties

Tomatoes are Canada’s favourite garden vegetable (botanically, tomatoes are a fruit, but since they’re used as a vegetable in eating and cooking they’re usually categorized as such.) With such a myriad of sizes, flavours, and varieties, it’s easy to see why they're so loved. Tomatoes can be enjoyed in many ways, including: raw, in sauces, salads, and drinks, and as an ingredient in countless dishes.

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The tomato species originated in the South American Andes, but its use as a food originated in Mexico, and spread throughout the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Because of the vast choice of tomato varieties (more than 7,500!), choosing a favourite is no easy task. But here are a few unique seed varieties I find particularly interesting, and delicious:

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Tomato - "Banana Legs"

This fun and tasty tomato is similar in shape and colour to a small banana. The fruit has a mild taste and a meaty flesh, making them fantastic for slicing into salads.

Banana Legs is an extremely prolific tomato with 4" yellow fruits that ripen to a golden yellow with distinctive pale stripes.

With enough light, Banana Legs produces so much fruit, that late in the season you can barely make out foliage amongst the tightly clumped fruits!

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Tomatillos - "Two Colour Fiesta"

When thinking of salsa, tomatoes are usually the first ingredient that comes to mind. But, believe it or not, the essential ingredient in the green salsas of Mexican cuisine is not the tomato but the tomatillo: a fruit with a sweet and tangy flavour.

Easy to grow, tomatillos look like large green cherry tomatoes. And, similar to candy, tomatillos are individually wrapped in a thin papery husk.

By late summer, what seems like thousands of fruits dangle from the plant's branches, ensuring that you can more than satisfy your salsa cravings by summer's end.

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Tomato - "Sweetie" 

"Sweetie" tomatoes are an incredibly sweet, red, cherry tomato with a high sugar content and full bodied tomato flavour. They produce masses of grape-sized round fruit in large clusters that keep coming all summer long. Sweetie tomatoes make fantastic additions to a raw vegetable tray and are ideal for salads and garnish. You’ll love them!

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If you're interested in learning more about how to grow tomatoes, join Jim Hole for an informative workshop on April 18th or May 9th 2015 at the Enjoy Centre.  The workshop will cover the best planting techniques, correct soil and nutrients for our zone, tomato seed varieties and types, diseases and prevention, pests and how to protect your harvests, watering and much more.

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

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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.