Categories > Vegetable Gardening

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

Maintaining with Mulch

Mulch really IS magical! Mulch technically is a top dressing for soil. For this conversation, we will define mulch as shredded wood or bark chips or leaves; or a mix thereof. It truly is the golden ticket to simpler gardening. With a mulched garden you water less and weed less and still can have a beautifully maintained yard. With a little muscle power on the front end, you can reduce your gardening work load significantly.

Mulch can be placed in flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and even containers. In all of these applications, mulch keeps roots cooler and reduces water consumption because the water evaporates less.

Listen to how your life can be simplified by using this modus operandi in your garden.

For more information on mulch, click on this link to view our blog on The Magic of Mulch / Gardening Tips on our website. If you have more questions about types of mulch or on techniques, reach out to us via email via our website, or feel free to call us at 780-467-3091. We are always happy to support you in your quest of gardening.

Crazy for Cucumbers

Like tomatoes, there are few foods out there that taste better than a fresh garden grown cucumber.  Cucumbers require some finesse to grow because they are a tender crop (they don’t like the cold) and they have some idiosyncrasies that we gardeners need to iron out:

  • Cucumbers like it warm
    • have no frost tolerance whatsoever
    • temperatures below 10C have a negative impact on their growth and fruit quality
  • Because of their intolerance of cold, start cucumbers indoors, 2-4 weeks ahead of when you would like to plant them outside.
    • for us in the Edmonton area, a good target date for planting cucumbers outdoors is the 1st or 2nd week of June but still keep an eye on overnight temperatures. If it is looking under 10C, cover them.
    • get them started indoors in the first 2 weeks of May
  • Grow cucumbers in high quality, well-draining soil – cucumbers have a high demand for water, they like to be moist but they become despondent if their feet are sitting wet & soggy
  • If cucumbers are too wet (and cold) they become more susceptible disease & insect pressures
  • Fertilizer requirements for cucumbers:
    • cucumbers have lower requirements for nitrogen (N), and higher for phosphorous (P) and potassium (K)
    • fertilizer numbers are in the order of N-P-K so look for fertilizers that have a sequence something like this: 5-7-6
    • for more information on unwinding the fertilizer numbers, click this link Unwinding the Fertilizer Numbers
    • soil types have an effect on fertilizer needs
      • well-draining soils will need more applications because fertilizer leaches out with the draining water
      • heavy soils that drain less tend to build up fertilizer salts.  Cucumbers burn when the salt level gets high
    • compost adds organic matter to heavy soils and helps them to drain better
    • consider using mulch – mulch keeps roots cool and helps the soil retain moisture
    • consider using a slow release fertilizer and apply once a month
    • soluble fertilizers work well, apply them weekly
  • Training the cucumber stalks up a trellis affords easy access for maintenance and picking; and keeps leaves dry and off the ground.

Maybe contemplate growing a juicy, tasty cucumber this year!  We carry cucumber seeds and started plants in our sales greenhouse alongside our other vegetables.  June is a perfect time of year to plant cucumbers because the day lengths are long, the light intensity is high, and the risk of frost is significantly reduced.

Got questions?  Please call us at 780-467-3091 or email us via our website we’d be happy to dialog with you!

Sources:

Crop Rotation

Ever had a flower bed or vegetable patch that you grew you favorites for a few years and years with amazing results but then suddenly  its production became anemic or could be best described as ‘meh’? And then you wonder is going on with it — Is it the seeds?  Is it the transplants?  Is it the soil? Is it bugs?

Chances are that if you’ve grown the same plant in the same place year after year, there is something up with the soil.  It could be the soil on a number of different fronts:

  • The soil may be depleted of a particular nutrient that plant feeds heavily on. For example, tomatoes use a lot of nitrogen, so if they are grown in the same area for many years, the soil will become depleted of nitrogen.
  • Favorite pests may begin to grow there and stay there because its favorite plant is there reliably and dependably year after year. Those same pests may even overwinter in the soil.
  • The same goes for soil borne diseases.

How do you combat that?

  • The best thing you can do is rotate your ‘crop’ or plants around the garden. Rotating plants means to shuffle your annuals or veggies around in their placement in your garden. This doesn’t mean that you can’t grow your faves, it just means its best practice to move where you are growing them in your garden every few years.
  • Beans and peas replenish nitrogen to the soil, and tomatoes pull a lot of nitrogen from the soil. As an example, it’s a good idea to plant tomatoes where you had peas or beans the year before.  And to put peas or beans where tomatoes were the previous year.
  • Just mixing it up and keeping things fresh by moving annuals and vegetables around in the garden keeps soil replenished, pests wondering what you’re doing, diseases at bay; and maintains productivity.

Crop rotation is a simple concept with big benefits.  Feel free to contact us via our website or by calling us on the phone at 780-467-3091.  We love to puzzle through gardening issues with you.

Pounds of Veggies – Veggie Timing Chart 2.0

Knowing when and how to get your veggie garden up and going can be daunting – we’ve put this updated new and improved veggie timing chart together for you.  To make this chart better we’ve added:

  • More specific information for seeding – whether indoors or outdoors
  • Which plants are best to get a jump start on – to seed indoors or to buy transplants
  • Common pests and diseases to watch out for
  • Common companions
  • Gardening Tips specific to each vegetable

We welcome you to send in any questions you have via email and encourage you to come into the greenhouse this spring for seeds and started veggies in our vegetable department.  We’d be delighted to help you choose fun and tasty varieties to try this growing season.

   

           Pounds of Veggies – Veggie Timing Chart 2.0                            

 

“Blight” Potato and tomato blight is a disease of the foliage and fruit or tubers of tomatoes and potatoes, causing rotting.

It is most common in wet weather.

Importance of well drained soil with good organic content.  Stay out of wet gardens to avoid plant to plant transfer.

Look for disease resistant varieties.

Cut Worms Cranky garden pest with a broad appetite – cuts off tender plants at / near soil level usually at night.

Cool weather – just below ground level.  Warm weather – just above ground level.

Dig them out of the soil, place collars around stems.

Till garden in spring and fall. Keep garden clean of weeds and plant debris.

Slugs Slugs love cool ground → place wood ashes, sand, lime (slugs will not cross over them)

– saucers of stale beer, slug baits

   

** please remember that dates in chart are approximate ALWAYS depending on weather **

 

Crop Timing Tips Common Pathogens/ Pests Companions
Beans Seed after May 24 because of frost sensitivity Bush & Climbing types

Supports/trellises

Garlic, Onion, Shallots ↓ bean growth

Generally unaffected Beet – bush beans

Carrot, Cole crops, Corn,  Cucumber, Peas

Cole Crops

(Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Kohlrabi etc)

– Transplants recommended to put in garden as early as the 3rd week May

 

– start seeds indoors the 3rd week of April

Cool weather crop

Mulching is very beneficial

Butterflies / Worms→ Bacillis Thuringiensis (BT) very effective

– Nasturtiums (trap crop) at opposite end of garden – cabbage butterflies like Nasturtiums better = effective even in small gardens

– rye flour

– rotating crop (larvae winter over in the ground)

Hate: tomatoes ↓ cole growth, strawberries, pole beans

 

Like: carrots, onions, beets,

Garlic improves flavor

Rosemary, Sage, Mint deter cabbage moth

Corn Seed Early → Long crop – seed May 5-14 depending on weather

If there is heavy frost at < 5” tall, corn will be okay

> 5” will frost will kill corn

Seed 3-4” apart in 40” row

Seed 6” apart in 20” row

Plant in blocks for cross pollination

Heavy feeder (likes Nitrogen)

Heavy water consumer

Highest sugar content in morning – pick & cool immediately

 

Few pests or diseases generally

 

Beans & Peas

(nitrogen fixers from air into the soil)

Pumpkin

 

 

Cucumbers – Transplants recommended  — or seed later, May 18-24, because of cold sensitivity

– Start seeds indoors 1st -2nd week of May

Love heat and warm feet (cover soil with black poly x 2 weeks before seeding)

Don’t like roots disturbed

Consistent moisture to prevents bitterness

Greenhouse culture – Support / trellis

Heavy drinker (water) / Heavy feeder

Yellow skin = over ripe

Few pests or diseases generally

 

Nasturtiums & Marigold deter pests

Hate pumpkins, squash, sage, Zucchini – will not produce

Like beans, cole

Marigolds deter beetles

Lettuce  -Seed / or transplants 4th week May

– Start seeds indoors 1st -2nd week of May

Try successive plantings every 2 weeks

Bolting is due to heat stress

Keep evenly watered

Rabbits & Rodents & Deer

Occasionally aphids

Garlic, Onions

Radishes, Carrots

Chives deter aphids

Onions – Transplants  or sets around the 3rd week May We prefer transplants over onion sets

Red onions store well

Ready to harvest when necks fall over

Field cure alternatively until tops are dry

Onion Maggots – aggressive

‘subterranean chainsaws’ (Ken Beattie)do much damage with onions planted in rows → plant in random clumps throughout garden

beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, tomato
Peas Seed as early last week April to 2nd week of May  – can take cold weather

 

Supports/Trellises if you wish

Seed thickly (2” apart)

Powdery mildew – esp. later in the year due to wet conditions → look for mildew free peas

rotate crop

beans, beets, carrots, celery, cole crops, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, radishes, squash, sage, turnips
Peppers – Transplants recommended

May 24

– Start seeds the 2nd – 3rd week of April

Love heat

Love Greenhouse culture

Black plastic mulch or organic mulch keep roots warm

Temperature variation encourages better blooms & fruit setting

All green peppers turn red

Grown inside a greenhouse – aphids basil, carrots, coriander, onions, spinach, tomatoes
Potatoes – Start seed potatoes the 2nd – 3rd week of April Try successive plantings every 2 weeks

Try new colored varieties (ie Russian Blue)

Potatoes & Tomatoes are attacked by the same blight therefore avoid planting close together

– Potato bug

– Potato Scab d/t alkaline soil (ph > 7.5) treat soil w/ compost / peat moss, increase organic content, avoid manures

– Potato Blight – wet weather

Companions: Beans, Peas, Corn.

Allies:  Marigolds – deters beetles

Horseradish – generally protects

Tomatoes – Transplants recommended

May 24

Love heat – warm soil 2 weeks before planting – speeds maturation

– mulch – stone mulch warms soil, deters fungal infections

Needs warmth to set blossom

Up against house / Greenhouse culture

Heavy drinker – consistent moisture at all times

Heavy feeder – commercial tomato fertilizer 4-12-4, 5-20-5 weekly

Spindly tall tomato – plant deeply or in a trench

Blossom end rot – due to stress: calcium deficiency or watering inconsistency or too dry, and cold nights

– have good air circulation

– don’t water at night

 

Basil – best garden buddy

asparagus, carrots, celery, chives, oregano, onion, parsley, rosemary, strawberry

 

 

Veggies that share common problems: peppers, eggplant, okra, potatoes

Who’s Your Buddy? Let’s Take a Look at Vegetable Companion Planting

Companion planting is a concept that has been practiced for years.  It is born out of the idea that there are groups of vegetables and flowers that grow more robustly together than they do alone.  And conversely, there are certain plants that actually grow worse – their growth slows down or is impeded – by certain neighbouring plants.

We have put together the chart below to give you ideas as you plan your veggie gardens, be they in ground, in raised beds, or in square foot gardens.

Before we get to the chart, just a few quick definitions:

  • Allium Family – onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots
  • Cole crops – also known as cruciferous vegetables – include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, etc
  • Leaf crops – includes lettuce, lettuce mixes, spinach, Swiss chard
  • Root crops – the roots are the vegetables we eat – include: beets, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onions, turnips
  • Squash family – includes squash, pumpkins, zucchini

One other note: Marigolds are included in this chart because of their overall benefit to gardens in general – they assist in controlling many garden pests and nematodes.  Specifics are included in the chart.

We welcome you to reach out to us with any questions that you may have via email us and encourage you to come into our greenhouse this spring for seeds and started veggies in our vegetable department.  We’d be delighted to help you choose fun and tasty varieties to try this growing season.

 Vegetable Companion Planting    

                                                                 

Lovers

Haters

Notes

carrots, celery, cole crops, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, squash family

strawberries

allium family, cabbage, chives, fennel, peppers, sunflowers corn acts as a trellis,

beans add nitrogen to the soil

carrots, cole crops, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, onions beans, tomatoes
asparagus, allium family, beans, lettuce, parsley, peas, peppers, rosemary

tomatoes

celery, coriander, dill, parsnip, potatoes onion, parsley & rosemary help the companions deter carrot fly
beans, cole crops, dill, leeks, marjoram,  peas, potatoes, spinach, tomato, cosmos, daisies, marigolds, nasturtiums, snapdragons anise, dill, carrots, corn, parsley, potato, asters Asters may cause a disease called Aster Yellows
beets, carrots, celery, dill, garlic, mint onions, parsnips, peas, rosemary, sage pole beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries,

 

mint & rosemary deter cabbage moth

garlic improves flavor

beans & peas & pumpkin

cucumber, lettuce, marjoram, potatoes, sunflower, squash family

celery, tomato beans + corn + pumpkin / squash = the 3 sisters that work together to fix nitrogen from the air & into the soil
beans, celery

cole crops, corn, dill, lettuce, peas

squash family, potatoes, heavily aromatic herbs potatoes & zucchini cause cucumbers to produce poorly
beans, beets, cole crops, leeks, mint, peas, peppers, radishes, strawberries, marigold parsley mint helps to repel slugs
cole crops, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, squash family, tomatoes beneficial for deterring many garden insect pests, beetles, and root crop damaging nematodes
beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, tomato, rosemary,  strawberry asparagus, beans, peas, sage  
beans, beets, carrots, celery, cole crops, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, radishes, squash, sage, turnips allium family, onions, tomatoes  
basil, carrots, coriander, onions, spinach, tomatoes beans, eggplant share similar traits and pests – keep a distance from each other
basil, beans, celery, corn, garlic, lettuce, onion, peas, spinach, asparagus, carrots, cole crops, cucumber, peppers, squash, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, sunflowers cucumbers, raspberries & tomatoes share similar pests – maintain a healthy distance from each other
beans, corn, dill, garlic, peas, radish, strawberries, spinach, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflower potatoes  
Basil – best garden buddy for tomatoes

asparagus, carrots, celery, chives, oregano, onion, parsley, rosemary, strawberry

beets, cole crops, corn, eggplant, okra,   peas, peppers, potatoes

 

share common insects & diseases with  peppers, eggplant, okra,   and  potatoes =  space these apart from each other so they don’t infect one another

Sources:

Square Foot Gardening

Garden grown vegetables have a quality and taste that can’t be replicated – think about the crisp crunch of baby carrots, the flavour of steamed new potatoes, fresh peas & beans, juicy ripe red tomatoes, the coolness of cucumbers, and on it goes…is your mouth watering yet?  Are you feeling nostalgic for you grandma’s garden??

Growing your own veggies is becoming a thing as we see urban gardens popping up all over the place.  Growing your own veggies can be a reality and for those with limited spaces — square foot gardening could be the answer.  Let’s talk about Square Foot Gardening and explore the role it could have in getting those fresh veggies on your table.

What is Square Foot Gardening?

  • Square Foot Gardening is a cultivation method of that it super productive – it maximizes the use of space and optimizes growth through the use of companion planting.

What are the Advantages of Square Foot Gardening?

Where is Square Foot Gardening done?

  • As we said, Square Foot Gardening is very flexible and it can be done:
    • In the ground

OR

  • In raised beds – this is the most popular way because —
    • they are more accessible for planting, watering, weeding
    • the soil stays warmer and plants grow better
    • we recommend that raised beds have a 12” depth of soil for vegetable production – this will help maintain soil moisture
    • for more details on raised bed gardening, check out this link to our blog

How does one get Square Foot Gardening Started?

  • Take out time to research, get great ideas, and plan – otherwise your efforts could wind up being in vain – there’s nothing like building a tower without having the proper plans in place. This can seem like the least productive phase of the entire operation but you really do save time in the end when you have a plan and you are prepared.  Familiarize yourself with the following information:

Where is the best place to put your Square Foot Garden?

  • Pick the sunniest part of your yard – vegetabless need at least 8 hours of sunshine.

Make a list of what you’d like grow

  • Annual vegetables
    • know which produce continually – like tomatoes, herbs, peppers
    • know which only produce once – root crops like beets, carrots, leeks, onions, cole crops like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
    • know which veggies have a flush of production over a period of weeks, but they don’t produce all summer – peas, beans and leaf crops like lettuce, kale, spinach, and swiss chard all have a period of production, but they don’t last the entire summer

Develop a schematic diagram

  • Either make one from hand with a photo or do one on the computer
    • Draw a grid representing 1 foot x 1 foot grids, or you could use bigger grids if you’d like
  • When planning vegetable placement keep the following in mind:
    • match heights – grow vegetables of similar heights side by side so that the smaller ones don’t get choked out
    • place taller plants and those that need a trellis together and in a place where they won’t shade out the sunshine from the smaller plants
    • optimize your use of companion planting – some veggies do better grown together and others inhibit growth – our blog on companion planting is coming out next week.
    • be careful to not overcrowd your garden – take heights and widths of the plants into consideration – and believe the dimensions given. Overcrowded gardens decrease production because of the stress it causes on the plants.

Make a schedule of when things need to be seeded

  • Not all vegetables take the same amount of time to produce so they don’t all need to be seeded at the same time; and for our northern climate, timing is everything.
  • We have prepared this veggie timing chart, check out this link (veggie garden timing chart) for suggestions on when to seed various vegetables
  • Direct Sowing – some crops do best being sown directly into the garden:
    • peas, beans, and corn always do best direct sown
    • cole crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale do well either direct sown or sown indoors a few weeks earlier. If they are grown indoors, they will usually produce earlier than sown directly into the soil.
  • Sowing Indoors – to get a jump start on some vegetables that take a longer time or are more sensitive to the cold, you can always seed them indoors. Check out our blog on seed timing to be careful to not start them too soon.  If they are started too early, they may stretch and it’s more difficult for them to be productive.  Never be in a big hurry to get these crops started.
    • celery, herbs, peppers, and tomatoes can be started indoors in mid-April
    • sensitive and vining crops like cucumbers, pumpkin, squash, and zucchini that get really large very fast are best sown indoors in the first and second week of May – plant these outdoors around the last week of May or 1st week of June because of their sensitivity to our cool nights.
  • Successive Seeding – leaf crops like lettuce and spinach work very well seeded directly into the garden every 2 weeks to ensure a continual supply during the summer

How to Maintain your Square Foot Garden?

  • Weeding – it is always best to get the young weeds early because when the weeds are large, especially in a Square Foot Garden, you may accidentally take some good plants out while getting rid of the weeds.
  • Watering – with a raised bed depth of 12”, water retention shouldn’t be a big issue. Water when the soil is dry; avoid watering your garden on a strict schedule because it may end up getting over watered and soggy.  Plants stress from overwatering as much as they do from overwatering.
  • Mulch – using 2-4” of mulch around your veggies will decrease weeding, keep roots cooler, retain moisture, and decrease your work overall.  Mulch is the golden ticket for reducing work in your garden.

Take good notes

  • Get yourself a good notebook and keep a garden memoir. This will help you avoid making the same mistakes twice.  One thing:   Remember to review your notes at the beginning of each season!  This is where the real learning and becoming a savvy gardener happens.

Disadvantages of Square Foot Gardening

  • It can get over full – like, stacked & packed – so be careful to research heights and widths of the vegetables you plant to grow and plant accordingly. It’s VERY tempting to put more plants in when they are really small but they will fill out.
  • Water retention can be a problem if the raised beds are less than 12” deep.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog on Companion Plantingfeel free to email or call (780-467-3091) with any questions.  If you are looking for vegetable plants already started, we have a large selection in the vegetable department of our retail greenhouse. We are happy to help make your veggie garden fun, simple, and wildly successful place!

Sources:

Nerding Out on Ladybugs:  Who They Are, Why They’re Good & How to Attract Them

February is very much about the color red, red, and more red – it’s EVERYWHERE as Valentine’s Day approaches.  Let’s talk about a nice red bug – there are nasty red bugs out there like Scarlet Lily Beetles – but let’s focus on every child’s favorite – the Ladybug.

Who They Are

Ladybugs are also known as ladybirds and ladybeetles.  To be correct, ladybugs actually are beetles.  Here are a few reasons:

  • the structure of their mandibles (mouth parts) that chew their food
  • their diet
  • the kind of wings they have – National Geographic has an aaa-mazing video on YouTube of a ladybug folding its wings – it’s worth the 1½ minutes to view it
  • and because they go through a full metamorphosis in their life cycle

Ladybugs morph from egg to adult in about 21 days and generally live for 3-9 months.  There are 5000 different species of ladybugs worldwide and 300 different species in North America alone.  They are known as ‘foliage dwellers’ – meaning that they like to live among the leaves in trees, shrubs, flowers, forests, fields, and weed patches.

Not all ladybugs are red with 8 black spots like the ones we know so well.  They can be yellow, white, orange, brown, pink, and all black.  They can have no spots, a few spots, and up to 24 spots.  And instead of spots, some have stripes.  Crazy, hey?

Why They’re Good

Ladybugs are omnivorous – meaning that they eat both plant material and animal material.  For the vast majority of ladybugs, their preferred diet is aphids – that’s why we love them in our gardens so much!  It’s estimated that ladybugs eat 5000 aphids in their lifetime – they eat up to 400 in the first 2 weeks of their life as they develop from larva to adult.  Ladybugs also eat fruit flies, thrips, mites, mealybugs, bollworms, broccoli worms, cabbage moths, and tomato hornworms.  Some types of ladybugs eat pollen & mildew, and they have also been known to be cannibalistic, meaning that they will eat some of their own.

In addition to their ability to curb aphid populations, they play a role in pollination.

Ladybugs have few natural predators because they taste so bad.  They secrete a stinky smelling and terrible tasting yellow fluid from their joints & abdomen called hemolymph when they are threatened.  Do you remember having this stuff on your hands? Yuck!  Hence, birds generally avoid them; but some bugs, like assassin bugs, stink bugs, and some spiders and toads do eat them. 

Ladybugs have 2 other defense systems, their aposematic coloration – meaning their bright colors and spots – warn predators of their bad taste.  And their last line of defense is how they back flop to the ground landing on their backs, exposing their black bellies, and playing dead – this is called thanatosis.  It is really hard to see them on the ground when they do this, their black bellies camouflage right into the color of the soil.

How to Attract Them — 

Let’s talk about how to encourage ladybugs to live in your garden space during the growing season and how to encourage them to hibernate in your garden over the winter. 

But, before we talk about the actual plants that attract ladybugs, let’s talk a little about the use of chemicals. First up — is the need to stop using pesticides, chemical, natural, OR organic.  Most pesticides that advertise that they are safe to use are speaking of safety for the adults, but they kill the babies and other stages of development that are more sensitive.  Having a clean, weed controlled, healthy, well mulched garden goes a looong way to preventing garden pests from taking over your garden.

Now, details for encouraging ladybugs through the winter and the other seasons:

For winter hibernation – Ladybugs hibernate outdoors in:

  • hollow stems
  • under leaves, and
  • amongst garden mulch. 

Leaving organic matter in your garden through the winter encourages them to stay, so don’t cut down your perennials in the fall, and allow them to drop their leaves where they stand. Another thing to do is to keep your gardens well mulched.

While gardens are growing – Ladybugs are attracted to pollen, flowers & herbs.  Having a yard full of foliage and pollen is the best way to persuade them to take up residence.  They love trees and shrubs and are attracted to the pollens of flowers and herbs – take a peek at the chart below which we have divided into their favorite herbs, annuals and perennials.

We love this little bug that plays such a big part in our ecosystem!

Come in or give us a call @ 780-467-3091 or email us via our contact form on our website and we can help you find the plants listed in the chart below in the herb, annual, and perennial departments of our sales greenhouse.


Plants That Attract Ladybugs                 

  Herbs   Annual Flowers   Perennials
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • fennel
  • garlic
  • mint
  • parsley

  • alyssum
  • asters
  • black eyed Susan aka rudbeckia
  • calendula
  • cosmos
  • daisies,
  • geraniums scented & unsented
  • marigold
  • ajuga
  • angelica
  • asclepias
  • coreopsis
  • ecchinacea
  • statice
  • yarrow

 Sources: 

https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/surprising-facts-about-ladybugs, https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-insects-defend-themselves-4065571, https://www.thoughtco.com/fascinating-facts-about-ladybugs-1968120, www.ladybuglady.com, http://www.arkinspace.com/2010/08/strange-life-cycle-of-ladybug.html, http://everything-ladybug.com/ladybug-facts.html

http://www.lostladybug.org/files/9%20LLP%20All%20About%20LadybugsPDF.pdf

https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-make-a-ladybug-feeder-attract-them-to-your-garden-169681

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/beneficial/attract-ladybugs.htm

http://balconygardenweb.com/26-plants-that-attract-ladybugs/

http://www.hobbyfarms.com/5-tips-for-luring-ladybugs/

“6 Surprising Facts About Ladybugs” by Angela Nelson, Mother Nature Network website.  Accessed online Novemeber, 2017

“Ways Insects Defend Themselves” by Debbie Hadley , ThoughtCo. website.  Accessed online November, 2017

“10 Fascinating Facts About Ladybugs” by Debbie Hadley, ThoughtCo. website.  Accessed online November, 2017

Planning a Veggie Garden – A Timing Chart

Growing veggies does take some enthusiasm and elbow grease, but it is well worth the effort.

 

Our region here in Edmonton boasts an average of 115-125 frost free days and below is a list of recommended dates for various vegetable crops that we have used over the years when the Wallishes were market gardeners.  Please remember that these are guidelines and not guarantees because there is little about our weather that is predictable.

 

We hope this helps a bit!

veggie chart

Call us if you need more information on vegetable gardening in Alberta.

Bitter, Bolting Lettuce

Few things are more disappointing that biting into the salad you have proudly prepared from your garden patch of fresh lettuce to find it — a bitter bite to swallow!

Why does lettuce get bitter?

1.      Summer heat –  lettuce is a cool weather crop – its favorite temperatures are below 20C

  • Mulch to keep roots cool
  • Pick in the morning
  • Immerse in cool water to soak for a bit, that can help with the bitter taste
  • Pick new leaves, not a whole head
  • Companion plant where it can get some shade from other veggies to get a break from the sun  and heat

2.      Plant successive crops every 2  or 3 weeks so the plants you are harvesting are young

3.      Too dry: browning edges of leaves

  • Water regularly in the mornings, evening watering can cause molding
  • Lettuce is a heavy feeder d/t quick growth – try organic liquid fertilizer

4.      Experiment with different varieties

  • leaf varieties & red lettuce tend to tolerate warmth more
  • Romaine tolerates high temperatures moderately

Why does lettuce bolt?

Summer heat causes lettuce to bolt – temperatures above 23C trigger lettuce to bolt & flower to produce seeds for the next generation of lettuce babies.

Sources:
1.      http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/lettuce/bitter-lettuce.htm
2.      http://tendingmygarden.com/lettuce-bitter-secrets-to-keeping-it-tasty/
3.      http://homeguides.sfgate.com/causes-bitter-lettuce-sap-76697.html
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