stalbert

Marvelous Mums

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Fall mums are some of the most spectacular plants for our gardens. No other fall-flowering plant can match the colour of mums and they always arrive just when our gardens are looking a little brown and need a little brightening-up.
 
When it comes to fall mums there are roughly three categories based on flowering period: early, mid-season and late. Early varieties start blooming in August and into mid-September. Mid-season varieties bloom from late September and well into October, while the late varieties are for late October and November.
 
By now, anyone who purchased the early varieties (August-September bloomers) can see that they are well past their prime and have more dead blossoms than they do vibrant flowers. But, the mid-season types are just beginning to bloom. Mid-season types are, usually, bigger and more floriferous than their early season cousins and with cooler October temperatures, will last much longer than the early maturing varieties.
 
While garden mums won’t be killed by hard frosts, the blossoms can be damaged. What I like to do is leave the mums in their plastic pots and then just drop them into a slightly-larger, decorative pot so that they can be pulled out and placed in the garage should the night temperatures get really cold. Beyond giving them shelter when needed, mid-season mums just require some watering to keep them looking spectacular often until Halloween, and sometimes beyond.
 
If you are wondering about the late season mums keep in mind that, by November, we often get some pretty cold temperatures. Having said that, I have seen years where late season mums looked incredible well into the third week of November.

For me, the reward of seeing spectacular mums blooming in November outweighs the risk of damage from deep cold or heavy snowfalls!
 
Who knows, could this be the year of blooming garden mums in early December? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened!
 
Risk versus reward – everyone has their own formula.

~Jim Hole

The Mud Bowl

One sunny day in July, we were out in the field with our boys, weeding. Jim, who was ten years old at the time, turned to his dad and asked, “What day can I have for my summer holidays?”
In farming, good weather is almost always accompanied by hard work. You really do have to make hay while the sun shines, as the saying goes. Since we didn’t have much hired help back then, we couldn’t afford to waste time. So when we did get a good rain, it was cause for both celebration and relaxation.


While the city folks sat inside lamenting all their spoiled fun, we thought about our thirsty crops. Rain is a make-or-break proposition for farmers. If, as the legend goes, the Inuit have twenty different words for snow, farmers have almost as many names for rain. There’s drizzle, soaking rain, pounding rain, and the highly coveted three-day-soaker, to name just a few.
Anytime the right kind of rain came at just the right time, Ted would gaze out of the window and say, “That’s a million dollar rain.” He wasn’t just thinking about our place, but about all the farms in our area.


A good rain was our signal for an impromptu holiday. Since there was no work we could do out there in the muck, we gave ourselves permission to take a break and have fun.


When the boys were young and the first truly rainy morning came along each summer, I’d turn to them and say, “Hey boys, it’s your birthday today!” Now Bill’s real birthday is in August and Jim’s is in early October, both very hectic times on our farm. It’s not that they didn’t know the truth. As far as they were concerned, though, their birthdays were on the same day. They never asked, “How come you didn’t say yesterday that tomorrow was our birthday?” or “Why does it always rain on our birthday?” They just accepted the arrangement.


We’d have an instant party. I’d whip together a cake, and they’d invite their friends from down the road. If my mom and dad had time, they’d come out and join the celebration.


I used the same strategy with the annual Klondike Days festival in Edmonton. If the weather was sunny all that week, we wouldn’t get the chance to go to the Exhibition. However, there was almost always at least one wonderfully rainy day. We’d put on our rubber boots and raincoats, and off we’d go. With practically the entire fairgrounds to ourselves, we’d have an absolute ball.


I remember one rainy afternoon when the boys were quite a bit older. A downpour turned a summer fallow field into a sea of mud. The boys had a brilliant idea. They called up their football buddies from high school and a whole crowd came over. Out they went, into the field. Although they started out playing an actual game, it quickly dissolved into chaos. The boys were slipping and sliding all over the place, tackling each other and diving face-first to make spectacular catches. I’ve never heard so much whooping and laughing in all my life. When it was over, we actually had to hose them all down. The “Mud Bowl” remains a neighbourhood legend to this day.


Yes, rainy days certainly provided us with some of our best times and fondest memories on the farm. Maybe that’s why I still enjoy splashing through a mud puddle now and then.

-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!

Happy Canada Day!

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Every Canada Day, I'm reminded of the rows of maple trees that lined the dirt road on the hillside across the road from our farmhouse.
 
Dad planted them both for their inherent beauty and because they provided a bit of a windbreak for our strawberry and cucumber patches.
 
Our maples were Amur maples, not the huge sugar maples whose leaves are featured on the Canadian flag. And while the leaves of our Amur maples lacked the outline of the more stately sugar maples, they were equal to the sugars in developing blazingly red foliage in the fall.
 
Sugar maples are hardy in our region although they rarely reach the magnificent height of the eastern Canadian maples thanks to our drier and colder climate. However, at maturity, sugar maples are far too large for most yards, while Amur maples are suitable for even the "postage stamp" yards.
 
Although Amur maple is not an indigenous plant, it is tough, resilient and beautiful. Sounds pretty Canadian to me.
 
 Happy Canada Day!

 

~Jim Hole

Beat The Summer Garden Heat!

The weather is heating up outside in Alberta, and taking the risks of sun exposure and heat stress seriously, and protecting yourself from these dangers, is just as important in the garden as at the beach or on a construction site. Here are a few consideration and precautions from the Prudent Gardener that you should take when gardening in hot weather. 

The human body is amazingly adaptable, but it doesn’t happen immediately. Air conditioning allows us to live our lives in comfort, but keeps our bodies’ natural cooling ability “rusty” because it is not often used. If you spend much of your time indoors, be especially mindful of gradually training your body to work in hot weather. Spend a little time each day moving and sweating outdoors so that by the weekend it won’t be such a shock to be hot for a few hours at a stretch.

Avoid Gardening In The Hottest Part Of The Day

The best time to work in the garden is the last two or three hours of daylight. At that time, you can do any chore that needs to get done without having to endure the brutal midday Alberta sun. Early morning is nice too, if you don’t mind being dew-soaked.
 

Stay Hydrated

You can’t sweat/cool yourself if you are low on fluids. It is important to begin the day hydrated by drinking two cups of water before heading into the heat. While working, drink another 1/2 cup every half hour. Your urine should be transparent (and plentiful!).

Cover Your Skin

Wear long sleeves, long pants and a broad-brimmed hat to shade your ears. You can also keep a wet towel on the back of your neck as well to help you stay comfortable. If you just can’t stand the long clothes, be sure to use SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.
 

Take Breaks

Work hard for an hour at a time, but make sure you take at least a ten minute break in the shade (with a cool drink) after each hour of work. This will allow your body to cool and your muscles to recover for a more productive, less injury prone day.

Garden With A Partner

Two gardeners can watch out for each other’s heat safety by drinking and breaking together. They can also watch out for signs of heat stress, and administer first aid if necessary. If you go it alone, make sure someone who will check on you knows you’re out there.
 

Know The Signs Of Heat Stress

Heat exhaustion is a serious warning to cool yourself, and is closely linked to the heat index. When it’s hot and humid, sweat doesn’t evaporate easily, making it difficult for your body to cool itself and so the risk of heat exhaustion increases. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Confusion
  • Dark colored urine
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you experience one or a combination of these symptoms, get into a cool place as soon as possible. Loosen any restricting clothes. Drink cool water. Take a cool shower. Symptoms should abate within fifteen minutes or so.

Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke,  is a medical emergency, requiring immediate medical attention. It often occurs as a progression of untreated heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat (either strong or weak)
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes (confusion, disorientation, staggering)
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

For cases of suspected heat stroke, immediately call 9-1-1. While awaiting arrival of paramedics, administer first aid to cool the victim’s body temperature. Cooling tactics include: cool water immersion (or an ice bath); placing ice packs on areas where the blood vessels are close to the skin such as the back of the neck, armpits, groin and back; and fanning the victim while wetting the skin.

Win $500 Worth Of Patio Planters from Hole's Greenhouses!

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Help us spread the word and win! Refer a friend to sign up for our newsletter, and each of you will be entered into our four weekly drawings to win $500 worth of patio planters from Hole's Greenhouses! 

Entering is easy:

1. Enter your email, and a friend's email into our contest form HERE.

2. A confirmation email will be sent your friend. Have them click the link inside to confirm.

And that's it! You're both entered!

The more referrals you make, the more entrees you get! 

One Year's Seeding Is Seven Years Weeding

I know that some people find weeding rather uplifting and therapeutic. But I think that most would agree weeding is a job that is despised by the vast majority of gardeners. 

For me, weeding fields of cabbage and cauliflower ranked right up with shoveling the chicken manure out of our barn!

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But the one thing I learned over time was that having the right tools was critical for getting the weeding job done efficiently, effectively, and with the least amount of back bending.

The "weapons of choice" for winning the war on weeds (or at least the battle) was a combination of different tools.

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My recommended weapon of choice for any gardener is the stirrup hoe. It is a band of steel attached to a handle and is very proficient at cutting out weeds with much less effort than the conventional big "broad bladed" hoe.

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The Burgon and Ball hoe from Sheffield, England is a fabulous tool that will get weeds in spots that are too tight for the stirrup hoe and will even fit between concrete pads. Just keep the file handy!

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Finally, if you want to whack some weeds or even lawn grass that is getting a bit tall in spots, the Corona Grass whip is ideal. You can hold the Grass whip much like you would hold a golf club, so not only will you chop weeds and grass down to size but you might improve your golf game, as well.


As the saying goes for weeds, "One year seeding is seven years weeding".  In other words, if you let your weeds mature and drop their seeds…well, that will equal seven years of bad luck!

~Jim Hole

 

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas are a beautifully blooming garden classic. The long-stemmed sprays of ruffled blossoms produce an irresistible perfume scent, and can either be trained onto a plant support to create an impressive column of fragrant, summer colour, or cut for a wonderful bouquet.

Growing sweet peas couldn’t be easier. Sweet peas thrive in cool temperatures, so Alberta is an ideal place for growing them. You can plant them outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in spring. Before sowing,  sweet pea seeds can be soaked in tepid water to rehydrate them. It helps them get off to a quicker start but it isn't essential as they will still germinate well in moist compost.

These pea-like flowers grow in many lovely colours and are suitable for an annual border, a woodland garden, and a trellis or arch.

Here are a few of our favourite varieties:

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April In Paris -  is a perfect match of intoxicating fragrance, lovely form, captivating colour, and the most intense perfume of any Sweet Pea variety.

The large ruffled blossoms are a soft primrose cream, tinted at the edges in dark lilac that deepens and increases with age.

These strong-growing vines produce heavy sets of long-stemmed flowers that beg to be cut for heavenly scented bouquets.


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Jewels of Albion - This custom-blended colour palette of especially fragrant antique varieties offers both beautiful cool shades and plants with significantly more heat tolerance than other Sweet Pea varieties.

You'll have succession in bloom with "Flora Norton" (pastel blue), "Lord Nelson" (deep blue), "Mrs. Collier" (creamy-white), "Lady Grisel Hamilton" (pastel lavender) and "Captain of the Blues" (mauve-blue).

This lovely perfumed mix blooms on strong climbing vines that easily cover a trellis or fence.


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Saltwater Taffy Swirls - These charming novelty Sweet Peas will delight flower lovers with their unusual patterned blossoms. 

Each large flower is uniquely "flaked", showing finely rippled veins of colour that swirl throughout the pastel background of the petals.

This blended mix consists of blue, maroon, chocolate, burnt orange, crimson red, and rich purple swirled flowers all from the same packet.

A handful of these long blooming, intricately marked blooms makes delightful softly-scented centerpiece bouquets.


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Royal Wedding - These long-stemmed, softly frilled sweet peas come down the garden isle decked out in glorious pure white blossoms, four to six on each long stem, all with lovely ruffled petals.

This premier award-winning variety is imported from England because it has outstanding form and garden performance and carries an enchanting fragrance reminiscent of jasmine and orange blossoms.

You'll enjoy Royal Wedding's beauty and enticing pefume indoors and out over a long season of bloom.


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Cupani's Original - This is an especially strong blooming strain of this heat-tolerant treasured heirloom. It's ancestry can be traced to the first wild sweet peas from Sicily named for Father Francis Cupani, the Italian monk who discovered and sent them back to England in the 17th century.

These intensely perfumed, beautifully bicoloured flowers have petals of deep maroon-purple and orchid-violet. The fragrance of these classic simple blossoms truly wafts in the air, delighting every passerby.


The "H" Tree

When I was growing up on the farm, we always had plenty of space to grow fruit trees. Dad loved planting trees so we had lots of different kinds of trees around in the yard.

Because we had so much space, Dad planted about 20 different varieties of apples so we had plenty of apples to eat starting with the crab-apples in July and finishing with late maturing apples that were ready in late September and October.

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But while we were fortunate to have so much space for growing apple trees, many small, modern, urban yards can only support a single apple tree at best. Yet, all is not lost if you have a small yard and yet want to enjoy a variety of different home-grown apples.

The solution is to plant a single apple tree with multiple apple varieties grafted onto it. We've got one this year that I’m calling the "H" tree.

 Now if you are wondering what the "H" I’m talking about, we have a single tree grafted with the following apple varieties Heyer, Honeycrisp, Hardi-Mac, Harcourt, and Haralson.

So the H apple provides a wide variety of apples to suit everyone’s taste, yet doesn't require a lot of space. It’s the perfect choice for those who have limited space and besides…I just think it’s cool to have so many apples on one tree! 

And, by the way, this H apple also has a "Parkland" apple grafted onto it. Why they put a P with the H’s, I don’t know. 

Maybe the grafter thought the H joke had runs its course.

Before you plant a grafted apple or any apple tree, for that matter, here are a few points to remember:

•    Evaluate the site, and spend some time visualizing what the apple will look like when it is fully grown. If the apple tree is going to block out the sun for your flowerbeds and vegetables, you may want to relocate it, if possible.

•    The apple tree should have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for good fruit production. Shady spots are poor choices for apples.

•    If the apple is planted near the neighbour’s fence there may be a concern with the mature fruit drop. The dropping fruit may be of concern to your neighbour and don’t forget that the best apples might be on his side of the fence. 

•    Always allocate some time in the spring for pruning. Healthy apples with strong branches require a bit of pruning each year.

•    Document the apple varieties so that you don’t forget which are which. Metal tags wrapped around branches (loosely!) are great way for keeping track of what’s what.

•    Prepare the soil properly and have the right tools at hand (shovel, pruners, tree supports, Myke, irrigation equipment, tree trunk wrap, etc.)


~Jim Hole


For more information on which varieties of apple trees (or other fruit) we carry, please click here to see our Fruit List for 2015

To learn more about our Myke 5 year guarantee on Hole's trees, please click here.

Grafted Cacti

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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

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