Categories > Annuals

Let’s Talk Tomatoes | Gardening Tips | Alberta

Tomatoes are probably the strongest draw for the non-gardener to venture into trying to grow something because there really is nothing like a fresh tomato.  Tomatoes are originally native to the tropics, producing smaller berry-like fruit than we know today. Here are a few tips on the environment of their choice and care.

Because of their rtopical ancestry, tomatoes love it hot and humid.  They grow well in pots, raised beds, and gardens. They love to have their feet warm, so containers and raised beds are a favorite. Tomatoes are split into 2 basic categories: determinate and indeterminate.  Determinate tomatoes have a finite height that they reach and are known as bush types and indeterminate tomatoes just keep growing.  Some determinate varieties need to be staked and generally all indeterminate varieties need the support of staking.

Tomatoes are what we call heavy feeders and heavy drinkers.  Tomatoes grow rapidly, produce large crops and consequently need plenty of water and fertilizer to maintain that growth.  If they are growing in a container on hot summer days they will likely need a large drink of water in the morning and possibly at night as well.  When you water our container tomato, be sure to let the water run out of the bottom of the pot so you know that it is completely watered.  Use fertilizer specific for tomatoes weekly, or follow package directions as some fertilizers are slow release and need to be reapplied less frequently.  Another very helpful tip is to put 2-3 inches of mulch around the base of the tomato, be it in a container, a raised bed, or garden.  The mulch will keep roots cool, decrease water evaporation, and protect the roots from repeated waterings.  If you choose to grow tomatoes in pots, be ensure that you select a sufficiently large pot so that the tomato has plenty of soil capacity to hold enough water for its metabolic needs. There is nothing worse than having to water a tomato 50 times a day just to keep it from wilting on a hot day.

There is no rule of thumb any longer regarding whether to pinch back suckers or not.  Suckers are additional stems that grow on stem nodes between the stem and leaves.  At one time, it was recommended that they are all removed but that is no longer the case.  In view of that, our recommendation is to just trim your tomato so it is manageable, because sometimes they can get quite, let’s say, ‘ambitious’.

Tomatoes and Basil are best garden buddies, companions that love each other and grow well together.  You can even pop in a basil plant at the base of your tomato plant if it’s in a container or in a garden, plant it right next to it.

Enjoy your fresh tomatoes!

Have more gardening questions? Call us today: 780-467-3091

Deer & Rabbit Resistant Perennials | Gardening

Deer ravage country gardens and rabbits love to mess with country and urban gardens.  We are often asked for ideas for deer and rabbit proof annuals and perennials.  Unfortunately, there is nothing ‘proof’ when it comes to deer and rabbits – when hungry enough, they will eat basically anything that’s not poisonous to them.  Below we have listed some strategies to help combat these pesky visitors and hope that this helps somewhat.

General guidelines:

Use plants:

  • with a bad taste or smell
  • that are highly fragrant
  • that contain a milky sap
  • that are highly textured with fuzzy leaves
  • that have prickly stems
  • like ornamental grasses – deer have difficulty chewing they long stems

The following is a list of perennials that deer tend to avoid sourced from fellow gardeners, customers at our greenhouse, and perennial suppliers.  Please remember that this is a general list but there is no guarantee that deer or rabbits will not eat these.  Let us know what you discover.

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Aconitum (Monkshood)
  • Aquilegia (Columbine)
  • Artemesia (Silver Mound)
  • Cerastium (Snow in Summer)
  • Delphinium
  • Dictamnus (Gas Plant)
  • Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
  • Digitalis (Foxglove)
  • Euphorbia (Spurge)
  • Lupines
  • Monarda (Beebalm)
  • Nepeta (Catmint)
  • Rhubarb
  • Salvia

A few other strategies:

  • Be aware of time / weather that makes your garden more vulnerable to visits from deer and rabbits i.e. drought
  • Protect vulnerable plants with physical barriers like cages, netting, and noisy materials that flap in the wind
  • Put up fencing
  • Plant less desirable plants

Wishing you success because this is a challenging issue!


Natural pest control: Cut Worms

Cutworms are a finite problem lasting 2 – 3 weeks in the early spring – just about the time you have planted your veggie garden seedlings and your seeds have erupted.  You generally don’t know you have them until you see wilted and dying seedlings in your garden that have been cut off near, at , or below soil level.  Here are some strategies to cope with them.

Who they are:

  • larvae from eggs that have overwintered, laid by a variety of adult moths on grass or other green plants/weeds in the garden or at the garden’s edge in the fall
  • they emerge hungry & ready to feed so they can reach their next enstar (stage of development), which is that of a pupae or cocoon
  • range in color from grey to brown & black, with or without spots
  • curl themselves up into a classic C shape when exposed from the soil
  • check out this Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Fact Sheet on identifying cutworms (note: this is not of natural pest control):

What they do:

  • live in top 2” of soil
  • like to feed at night or on cloudy days
  • some emerge from the soil, others feed just below soil level
  • feed on the stems of the young plants – thus cutting off the stem – hence the name, cutworm
  • feed by wrapping their bodies around the stem to grip on & eat

Getting rid of them:

It is possible to reduce the incidence of cutworms but it takes discipline

Here are a few ideas

  • Tilling in both the spring and fall to expose the cutworms
  • Placing collars around the base of the stems
  • Placing something (a nail, toothpick, straw) right beside the stem so the cut worm can’t wrap itself around the stem to dine
  • Natural pest control

Also,  check out the following links below:

1. The Old Farmer’s Almanc


2. Gardening Know How


3. Natural pesticide recipes

4. Montana Homesteader


5. Mother Earth News


6.  Canola Encyclopedia

Caring for Million Bells Hanging Baskets

Before speaking specifically about Million Bells or Calibrachoa hanging baskets, let’s do a quick review of hanging basket care in general using the acronym C-A-R-E so aptly developed by a former team member, Arlene:

(C)heck daily

  • This is about keeping a watchful eye on your hanging basket.
  • Each day, do a general top to bottom overall check of your hanging basket – leaf & flower health, curling, wilting, spotted or yellowing leaves, and old or deformed flowers. Turn the leaves over to look underneath for bugs, they love hiding there.

Millions Bells – the fact is that million bells are a favorite food of aphids particularly yellows & purples – a regular application (every 10 days or so) of safer soap can really help keep them at bay.  You may also make homemade aphid spray from recipes found on the internet. As a last resort you may need to use insecticides specifically for aphids such as Dr. Doom

  • One other thing to note – aphids love Maple trees as well.  Keep your Calibrachoa basket a generous distance from and avoid hanging them in Maple trees.

(A)dequate Hydration

  • This is all about watering.
  • A good way to check hanging baskets for adequate hydration is to feel how heavy they are, lift them by pushing up on their bottom as they are hanging and check the weight.  As you get more familiar with how heavy a fully watered hanging basket is, you will be able to tell when it’s time to water.  During hot days, it will likely need to be watered be everyday or every other day.  For containers, you can dip your index finger deeply into the soil.  If the soil is dry at about 1.5 inches, it’s time for a drink of water.  When watering containers and hanging baskets, water thoroughly so that water runs out of the bottom of the pot.  That is how you know you have watered effectively and that all the roots are bathed in a fresh drink of water. If you don’t let water flow out, salts from the fertilizer will accumulate causing the leaves and flowers to burn.

Million Bells – making sure you have kept your Million Bells basket adequately hydrated is SUPER important because Million Bells HATE to get dried out, their leaves will get brown and crispy and branches will start to lose their leaves.  You generally 3 strikes of severely drying out this type of basket & then you are out.

(R)eplenish Nutrients

  • This step is about fertilizing.
  • The reason why replenishing nutrients is important for containers and hanging baskets is that there is a finite amount of nutrients held within the container and when the water drips out of the pots, some of those nutrients are lost.  We recommend fertilizing weekly.  Pick a regular day of the week, and make that your fertilizing day – make it an alarm on your phone.  Our favorite fertilizer is called ‘Nature’s Best’.  It is a natural fertilizer and we have found it to be easy to use, gentle on plants with no burning, and we think it makes flowers brighter.  ‘Miracle Grow’ is another good choice and other balanced fertilizers (20-20-20) work well.

Million Bells – are “heavy feeders”, so be sure to fertilize them weekly for the best performance.

(E)ncourage Growth

  • This is a maintenance step.
  • Growth of plants is encouraged by taking off old flowers, known as deadheading, removing dead leaves, and pinching straggly, leggy plants back.  Taking off old flowers is important because the ultimate purpose of flowers to produce seeds for reproduction. By taking off those dead flowers, the plant continues to flower.  Old wilting and curled leaves actually take energy from the plant in an attempt to repair itself but if they are removed, the plant can continue to focus its efforts on flowering.  Plants can also get long and straggly looking – it’s ok to literally give them a haircut with scissors – it will make them branch, become bushy and thrive.

Million Bells – Million Bells don’t need to be dead headed (yay!) but they can get gangly –  pinch  or trim them back with scissors.  Sometimes they can get flat on top – we call that ‘balding’ – and they need to be pinched back.  It’s easier to do this pinching early on when there is a lot of new growth on the top regularly rather than later when it’s really flat because of the amount of foliage you may have to cut back.

Enjoy these baskets, they have tremendous color power and perform wonderfully with a little routine care.

Call us today for more gardening tips: 780-467-3091.

Well Water & Your Garden| Edmonton & Strathcona County

Well water in our Edmonton Capital Region area and the Strathcona County is high in iron and dissolved minerals such as calcium and sodium.  This high iron and dissolved mineral salt content is  what makes water hard causing yellow staining, soap scum, and other issues. Well water not only effects machinery, household appliances, and bath tubs, it also affects plants.

When well water as described above is used to water plants, salts accumulate in them also.  As dissolved salts accumulate you will see:

  • Loss of a dark green color, paling of the plant in general
  • Yellow leaves
  • Burned leaf edges
  • Wilting that doesn’t respond to watering
  • Death

Plants most sensitive to salt accumulation tend to have more succulent leaves such as:

  • Sunpatiens
  • Impatiens
  • Begonias of all types

Geraniums will be one of the last kinds of plants to show burning but they as well will succumb to death by excessive dissolved salts.

Understanding that water trucked in is expensive, we recommend that you collect and use rain water to hydrate you plants.

Have gardening questions? Call us today: 780-467-3091.


Container Planting: Soil Quality is Huge

High quality soil is the foundation for growing success. Soil requirements for plants in containers are different from those grown in the ground or a raised bed garden. This is the thing worth spending extra money on if you were ever debating over spending money on a pretty pot or soil.  Pick the soil. Below is an exploration of soil – its function and what a high quality soil looks like.

The Function of Soil:

  • Acts as an anchor /support for plants
  • Holds moisture & nutrients
  • Provides air for roots to breathe

Components of good soil

  • usually sterilized for weed prevention
  • Has a light, airy density
  • Is a mix of peat, composted bark, vermiculite, and possibly perlite

Peat moss – Canadian sourced peat moss is considered to be of excellent quality, its function is to  retain moisture & nutrients.

Composed bark –  serves as an anchor for roots,  moisture & fertilizer retention, provides air spaces and organic matter.

Vermiculite is like a sponge – keeps the soil loose, keeps soil from compacting, aids in  holding water & fertilizer.

Perlite– provides air spaces – keeps the soil from compacting, adds no nutrient value, using a large amount can lead to fluoride binding to it if using fluoride treated water – more of an issue for long term houseplant gardening than for container gardening – this is why not all mixes contain perlite.

Cheap Soil

  • Mostly  made purely of peat moss
  • The problem with pure peat moss isthat when it gets dry out, it is extremely difficult to rehydrate & it actually repels water like a brick of concrete – so needs to be soaked –it may be able to return to its water retaining properties but this is challenging

Also, heavy soil doesn’t mean it’s good soil.  It is either:

  • very wet: very wet is likely an indicator that the soil is decomposing in the bag which can cause root rot  (losing air space and then causing roots to rot)


  • has a lot of sand: sand is a cheap filler – sand causes the soil to lose air spaces and that as well will cause root rot

Other notes on soil:

  • There is a need to fertilize because potting soil doesn’t naturally possess a lot of nutrients
  • Complex mixes with manure, garden soil, compost are for landscaping purposes, not container planting
  • Good quality soil is most often bought at greenhouses and garden centers and it is always best to ask if the soil being sold in bags is the same as the one used in for their products

Contact us today for more container gardening tips!


Drought Resistant Plants & Natives

With concerns for good water stewardship, many are interested in using varieties of plants that require less water management.  Below is a list of Annuals, Perennials, and Native Alberta plants have reduced water requirements once established.  It can take perennials a good year or two to establish.  Please avoid transplanting, watering them once, and then leaving them to the elements to care for them.  They will fail.

drought resistence chart

Sources:,,,,1213353,00.html,,,, ‘Xeeriscape Priority Plant List” by Prairie Urban Garden – Oldman Watershed Council,

Call us for more gardening advice: 780-467-3091.

Garage Syndrome – Stressing on the Inside | Gardening Tips

“Garage Syndrome” is a real thing.  It happens when plant material spends too much time inside a garage when the weather is cool.  What happens is that garages, in general, are built for vehicles and they aren’t able to provide an adequate amount of light and air circulation for plants to thrive.  If they spend too much time in a garage – even as little as 2 or 3 days, or too many weeks going in and out of the garage – they begin to languish.

Symptoms of this failure to thrive look like:

  • Green leaves begin to pale and turn yellow
  • Plants begin to stretch, get leggy, and weak
  • Wet and soggy soil (because of a decrease in metabolism) that could start root rot

How does one combat garage syndrome?

  • Wait for the weather to warm up before you buy – the 3rd week of May is usually safe for day time temperatures, but always watch the night time lows and bring them in at night if it is threatening temperatures at +8C or below, bring them in for the night

Let us take care of the plants at the greenhouse until the outside weather can support them – you will be less harassed and much happier with your purchase.

Call us for more gardening tips: 780-467-3091.

Tips on Choosing the Right Hanging Basket or Container

These are the days when we start thinking of what kinds of containers or hanging baskets we would like to have in our growing space. As in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Take a look at our handy chart below to see what you should plant this year!

hanging baskets

Factors  about location that should be considered are:

  • Hours of sun exposure
  • Buildings or fences that may shade the area
  • Intensity of sun exposure: direct or indirect
  • Wind exposure

We would be happy to consult with you to try to get the best match possible for your location. Call us now at 780-467-3091.

Ready, Set, Not Quite Yet | Planting Tips

Our Alberta climate likes to play with our minds – especially this winter – and fool us into thinking that spring is settling in nicely.  The thing with Alberta is that we are never really sure when a heavy frost may set in.  May long weekend traditionally has been the planting weekend but we can still get frost into June. So, while your fingers are itching to get into the garden, here are some things you can do to make your garden ready:

  • Rinse out hoses
  • Wash of garden tools with warm soapy water
  • Gather your gardening supplies like any new tools, garden stakes, Velcro tape, labels & markers
  • Concentrate on yard clean up: raking up leaves, cutting down perennials that were left for winter interest
  • Building raised beds, if you are thinking of incorporating them in your grow zone

And remember to avoid digging down into perennial roots with your fingers to check to see that they have awakened – this kills perennials!

Soon, yes, very soon, spring will really be here!!

Call us for more greenhouse and gardening tips: 780-467-3091.

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