Proper Planting Techniques for Trees & Shrubs

How to Grow

Proper Planting Techniques for Trees & Shrubs

When planning to install any plant into your landscape you must first assess how much sunlight the area you are considering planting receives.  It is important to determine whether it is full sun, partial sun or full shade. Full sun is defined as more than six hours of light, generally south or west facing. Partial sun is three to five hours of sun, including morning sun locations that are generally east facing. Shade is no direct sun or light filtered through trees, otherwise known as dappled light, as well as the north side of your landscape. Be mindful of trees or other obstacles that could block the sun in the future.  It is vital to ensure you have adequate light for the plant that you select since this will influence leaf development, flowering and the overall health of the plant.  Carefully read the tag of the plant(s) you are considering purchasing to ensure that you have the appropriate light conditions.  Some tags use symbols such as a picture of a sun for full sun, a picture of a sun with clouds for partial sun and a picture of clouds for full shade. If there is no information on the tag ask a staff person to assist you in looking up information on the plant.

Soil conditions are another important factor to consider. If the soil is not suitable for a particular plant it will increase the uncertainty of whether the plant can or will survive. For example, if there is a consistently wet area, the plant selected for that location must be able to cope with having "wet feet", such as a willow (Salix).  Certain plants cannot survive or thrive under such conditions.  Other areas can be dry and arid, so plants that can survive droughts and dry conditions would have to be selected.  Digging a "test" hole will help determine drainage and soil consistency.  Soils mostly made up of clay or fine sediment will have reduced and poor drainage. Some plants thrive in rough rocky conditions whereas others need soft loamy soils.  Amending your soil can help accommodate a wider range of plants in that area. The initial quality of the soil will dictate how much the area needs to be amended (further instructions below).

Planting can begin either once a specific plant has been selected for a specific area, or conversely after you have found an ideal location for a specific plant.

Dig the hole as deep as the soil level in the pot or slightly deeper, depending on the requirements of your specific plant.  If the soil in the bottom of the hole is compacted it is recommended to loosen it up and lightly amend it. The width of the hole should be 2-3 times bigger than the diameter of the pot that the plant is currently in.  Loosen the soil around the edges and inside the planting hole.  These edges should be slightly angled away from the center of the hole.  Make sure the potting soil that the shrub is planted in is moist before removing the pot you purchased it in. Gently loosen up the root ball of the plant. If the bottom of the root ball is whirled and pot bound (roots wrapping around itself in circles) the bottom inch or two of the root ball can be cut off with a knife.  Loosen the sides of the root ball by tapping the soil and pulling the bottom roots out of the circular shape of the pot.

Before placing the plant in the hole, the backfill soil needs to be amended. Amending the soil will help insure that there are a wide range of both macro and micro nutrients available to the plant which will drastically improve the health of your shrub. Mixing compost or composted manure with the soil that was removed from the hole will have positive benefits as well.  Sometimes you can buy a 3-in-1 soil that has peat, compost and black earth, so you just need to buy one bag of soil and mix it with the existing soil.  When amending soils it is very important to mix it well and to make sure that the native soil is included in the backfill. It is also essential to know what pH certain plants thrive in.  For example, Lilacs perform best in Neutral soil (7).  If peat moss or black earth was incorporated into the soil mix it would be safe to assume that that the soil pH is going to be around 5.2-5.5pH, which is acidic.  Lime will have to be added to help neutralize the soil.  If a Rhododendron was planted in that same soil mix the pH would not have to be changed because Rhododendrons grow best in acidic soil (5.0-6.0). 

Put an inch of your amended soil mixture in the bottom of the hole and sprinkle bone meal in the bottom of the hole.  The amount you use will depend on how big the root ball of the shrub is. Lightly mix the bone meal into the soil in the hole.  Bone meal helps the root system of the plant develop faster because it is high in phosphorus.  If you have a pest problem like raccoons, for example, a starter fertilizer like 10-52-10 could be used instead (be sure to follow the product instructions on the side of the container).  Ideally, you want the plant to work on root development during the first year of planting so other fertilizers are not recommended. If the plant tries to flower or fruit on the first year it is advisable to remove all blossoms and or fruit because it takes a significant amount of energy away from the plant. The following season use an appropriate fertilizer for the type of shrub, whether it is a flowering shrub, evergreen or broadleaf evergreen after the sign of first growth.

Place plant in hole and backfill half way. Lightly tamp the soil in place to remove any air pockets. Finish backfilling around plant, lightly tamp soil again.  Create a circular berm a short distance around the plant from where the hole was dug; this will help with watering. Water in the plant to help remove air pockets and to settle the soil even if the ground or plant is wet. 

You may want to consider staking your plant if it was planted in a windy area or the shrub itself is very tall.  When placing the stakes make sure that they are not so close to the root ball that it is punctured by the ends of the stakes. Use two to four stakes with one on each side of the tree, making sure that one of the four is on the windward side.  You can purchase nylon ties or hose segments that can be wrapped around the sturdy main trunk and attached to the stake with wire or rope. There are also kits available if you do not want to buy the components individually.

During the first year after a shrub is planted it will be dependant on the homeowner for water while the root system is still getting established. It is better to do a long deep watering than to do frequent short periods of watering. Small watering encourages a shallow root system that is not healthy for the plant long term. There is a fine line between over and under watering.  This depends on the make-up of the soil and the precipitation that mother nature provides.  The hotter and drier it is outside the more water is needed.  The plant should be able to fend for itself the following season unless there is a drought. If that is the case then the plant may again need some assisted watering.  

When you research information on the particular requirements of specific plants, and how to best optimize your conditions, only use government and/or university, peer-reviewed studies.  Compile a number of those articles and/or studies and compare them to one another to help ensure the accuracy of the information they provide. 

How to Grow Basil

Garden, Edible Garden, Herbs, How to Grow

How to Grow Basil

Basil is a member of the mint family (Labiatae). Basils have the familiar four-sided stems and whorled flowers of that family; they are not, however, in the least invasive, as mints can be. There are four basic types of garden basils grown: sweet green basil, dwarf green basil, purple-leaved basil, and scented leaf basil.

Sweet basil (O. basilicum) grows about 2 feet tall. It has rather large leaves, 2-3 inches long, and produces white flower spikes. It is the most widely grown. Its “cousins” include lettuce-leaf and Genovese basils—varieties with much larger leaves—as well as the spicy Thai basil, ‘Siam Queen’ (1997 All-America Selections winner), an improved tropical basil with an intense fragrance and flavor.

Dwarf basil (O. b. ‘Minimum’) is also known as bush or fine green basil. Its compact growth reaches 10-12 inches high. The leaves are small, about 1/2 inch long, and flowers are white. ‘Spicy Globe’ and ‘Green Bouquet’ are well-known dwarf types; the former is aptly named because the plants grow naturally into rounded, globe shapes.

Purple-leaved basils (O. b. purpurescens) are very ornamental. ‘Dark Opal’ (1962 All-America Selections winner), ‘Purple Ruffles’ (1987 AAS winner) and ‘Red Rubin’ (with solid purple leaves, an improved strain of ‘Dark Opal’) are three of the most popular varieties. These basils tend to have ruffled, frilled, or deeply cut leaves, which are very pungent; they produce deep pink to lavender-purple flowers

Scented-leaf basils bring additional aromas to the basic clove-anise of sweet basil. Lemon basil (O. americanum, O.basilicum var. citriodorum) has a very distinct lemon flavor, especially in the newest ‘Sweet Dani’ (1998 AAS winner). The leaves are grayish green, the flowers white. The leaves of cinnamon basil have a spicy cinnamon flavor; flowers are deep pink with purple bracts. Anise basil has a flavor similar to licorice; its flowers are slightly purplish.

Growing From Seed
Whether you sow seeds indoors or out, remember that basil does not like cold, or even cool, weather. Sow the seeds outdoors when day and night temperatures reach about 12-15 degrees Celsius. When sown or transplanted at the right time, basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow successfully. Basil traditionally hits maturity in 80-90 days. 
Light: Full Sun
Seed Depth: ¼” or 6mm
Seed Spacing: 1” or 2.5cm
Row Spacing: 18” or 45cm
Days to germinate: 7-10

Starting Basil Indoors
Starting basil indoors is a great way to get a heads start on planting which will provide you with even more basil to cook with. Plan to sow seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the date of your average last frost in spring. Basil does not need a long time to grow large enough to transplant to the garden. 

  • Fill a shallow container, flat, or individual 2- to 2 1/4-inch pots with a commercial seed-starting mix (such as Pro-Mix) Moisten the mix and let it drain. Sow the seeds in rows in a flat or two to three seeds per pot. Cover the seeds with about 1/4 inch of the mix. Press the mix down lightly and spritz the surface with water to moisten it and settle the seeds.
  • To keep the mix from drying out while the seeds are germinating, cover the containers with sheets of clear plastic wrap, or place each in a plastic bag and close it with a twist-tie (preferably a proper seeding tray and clear dome will give you the best results).
  • Set the containers in a warm location; the growing medium should be at about 21-23 degrees Celsius. Seedlings will emerge in 4 to 7 days. When they do, remove the plastic covering and place the containers in bright light or direct sun in a south-facing window or a fluorescent light garden. Give the containers a quarter turn every few days so the plants grow straight instead of leaning towards the light source.
  • Keep the mix evenly moist by watering from the bottom: Set the container in a sink filled with a couple of inches of water until beads of moisture appear on the surface. A liquid fertilizer at one half the recommended rate can be given to seedlings to promote healthy plants.
  • When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall and have at least two pairs of true leaves, transplant those in flats to individual pots. Thin those started in small pots to one per pot by snipping off all but the strongest looking plant with a scissors. It is not necessary to transplant purple-leaved basils, such as ‘Dark Opal’ and ‘Purple Ruffles’, if you sow them about 1/2-1 inch apart. If young plants become tall and spindly, the growing tip can be pinched to encourage branching and compact growth.

Sowing Directly in the Garden
Sow seeds in the garden when the soil has warmed up to about 15 degrees Celsius. Sow the seeds about 1/2 inch deep in good garden soil; if you cover the seeds with less soil, they may float to the surface after a heavy rain. Basil germinates readily, therefore you do not need to sow thickly. You can sow the seeds in rows or in groups; drop two to three seeds in each hole for the latter. Keep the seedbed moist until germination occurs. When the seedlings have at least two pairs of true leaves and are 2 to 3 inches tall, thin them to stand 10 to 30 inches apart, depending on the species or cultivar. Begin pinching out the growing tips for compact growth when the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall. To have an uninterrupted supply of fresh basil, most gardeners sow basil seed several times during the growing season.

Basil from Transplants
Basil is so popular that you can readily purchase plants at garden centers or nurseries in addition to growing it from seed. The plants may be sold in individual pots, six-packs or flats. Look for young, compact plants. Avoid tall, leggy plants—even though you can correct their growth habit somewhat by cutting them back after you have planted them at home. The leaves of sweet basil should be a clear deep green; spots on the leaves may indicate they have been exposed to the cold. Pass up plants that have obvious pests, such as aphids, on stems or leaves. If you can’t plant the herbs the day you bring them home, set them in a protected area away from the drying effects of direct sun and wind until you can put them in the ground or in containers.

Out In The Garden
Select a Site. Basil grows best in a location that receives full sun—at least six hours (or more) of direct sun daily. With less sun, the plants have a tendency to get “leggy.” Plants in containers require the same exposure. Prepare the Soil. Although herbs are not very fussy, they do need a light, fertile soil with good drainage. Amend what you have by digging in about a 2-inch layer of peat moss and compost before planting. This is particularly important if your soil is mostly clay.

Choose a cloudy, calm day or late afternoon to transplant basil to give them a chance to settle in before they have to contend with the drying effects of sun and wind. It is very important to plant at the right time, which means not too early in the season. The slightest cold will set them back. Set the plants in the ground at the same depth they were growing in the pots. If you bought six-packs or flats of basil plants, water them first; then carefully lift each plant out of its cell or separate them from each other in the flat, keeping as much soil around the roots as possible to minimize moisture loss. Space plants 10-12 inches apart; dwarf basils, 8-10 inches apart; larger basils, such as ‘Sweet Dani’, up to 20 inches apart. Water the plants immediately after setting them in the ground.

Compaion Plants
To help grow the best basil try growing with these companion plants - Tomatoes, Peppers, Oregano and asparagus. Petunias are also helpful in repelling thrips, flies and mosquitoes. Sage is known to be an incompatible plant with basil. 

Garden Uses
Basil is as ornamental as it is edible. Put it in a traditional herb garden, in the vegetable plot in the center of a bed of red and green-leaf lettuces or edging a bed of tomatoes. Use both the green- and purple-leaved varieties in borders; the latter are especially beautiful with perennials such as coral bells (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’), Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’, fountain grass (Pennisetum), dusty miller, and blue Salvia farinacea. Both combine well with annuals, such as dwarf or medium-height snapdragons, nicotiana, French marigolds, and petunias. With its natural round shape, the dwarf basil ‘Spicy Globe’ makes a wonderful edging for any type of garden: perennial, rose, or herb. Try the old-fashioned technique of keeping flies away by planting basil around a patio or in containers on a deck.

How to Grow Asparagus

Garden, Edible Garden, Vegetable Seed, Asparagus, Asparagus Roots, Asparagus Seed, How to Grow

How to Grow Asparagus

Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables around. It is high in potassium, fiber, folacin, thiamin, vitamin B6 and rutin and contains glutahione. It is not only low in calories but is fat free and has no cholesterol. Aspara­gus can be a tasty side-dish when steamed or grilled on the BBQ. Not only can you eat asparagus, once the plants have matured the ferns from them can be used to add flare to floral arrangements.

When to Plant
Asparagus should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. One-year-old crowns or plants are preferred. Seeds are sown in a production bed and allowed to grow for a year. The young plants have compact buds in the center (crown), with numerous dangling, pencil-sized roots. Adventurous gardeners can start their own plants from seed. Although this adds a year to the process of established the bed, it does ensure fresh plants and the widest pos­sible variety selection. An optimum planting site for asparagus would be a sandy well-drained location. Asparagus don’t take well to saturated soil conditions.

Spacing and Depth
Place the plants in a trench 12 to 18” wide and a full 6” deep. The crowns should be spaced 9 to 12” apart. Spread the roost out uniformly, with the crown bud side up, in an upright, centered position, slightly higher than the roots. Cover the crown with 2” of soil. Gradually fill the remaining portion of the trench during the first summer, as the plants grow taller. Asparagus has a tendency to “rise” as the plants mature, the crowns gradually growing close to the surface of the soil. Many gardeners apply an additional 1-2” of soil from between the rows in later years.

As asparagus plants grow, they product a mat of roots that spreads horizontally rather than vertically. In the first year, the top growth is spindly. As the plants become older, the stems become larger in diameter. Following freezing weather in the fall, the asparagus tops should be removed to decrease the chances of rust disease overwintering on the foliage. Because asparagus remain in place for years, advance soil preparation helps future production greatly. Working green manure crops, compost, manure or other organic materials into the proposed bed well in advance of planting is a good approach. Asparagus should be fertilized in the same way as the rest of the garden the first three years. In the spring, apply an organic fertilizer such as the gaia green 4-4-4. Starting in the fourth year, apply fertilizer but delay the applicant until June or July (immediately after first harvest). This approach encourages vigorous growth of the “fern” which produces and stores nutrients in the roots for next year’s production season.

Weeds and grasses can be problematic with asparagus. They compete with the developing spears, making an unsightly area in the garden and will significantly decrease yield and quality. Start frequent, light, shallow cultivation early in the spring in both young plantings and mature patches that are being harvested. 

How to Grow Carrots

How to Grow

How to Grow Carrots

Carrots are an easy, popular home garden vegetable. They can come in many different colours and shapes, and have lots of nutritional value (including vitamin A and fibre).

Soil preparation is very important for planting carrots. They prefer loose sandy loam soil with good drainage. Work the soil down to 12-16” deep so that it is loose. Remove debris (sticks, rocks, etc) from soil as any foreign objects in the soil can cause deformities or stunt the growth of the carrots. Add organic matter, such as a rich compost, and till into existing soil.

Carrots can be planted once the soil temperature has reached 5 degrees. If planted before, it can drastically slow the germination rate. Plant in rows that are ¼ “ to ½” deep. Each row can be 1 to 1- ½ feet apart. The seeds are quite small and can be difficult to handle causing crowding in rows, once germiantion takes place and the carrots start to grow they will need to be thinned out during the season to give proper spacing. typically, 18-20 seeds can be planted per foot. To have carrots all summer long, plant in succession. This can be done by planting more carrots every 2-3 weeks. Avoid planting during hot, dry spells in the summer.

Once the plants have reached 4” high, thin them out 2” apart. They can be thinned by cutting the top off at the surface of the soil. If they are pulled out it can damage the roots around it, so cutting the top off is preferred at this stage. Some people choose to plant radish seeds along with the carrot seeds. Carrots can be slow to germinate, and radish seeds are quite quick. They make good row markers until the carrot seeds surface. It is important to thin the carrots out again after they have grown more, so that they are 4” apart. At this time it is possible to thin the carrots out by pulling them out. The roots have established more so that they would not harm the other carrots. This will allow proper growing space.

Carrots are low maintenance, but there are they require some attention during the growing season. They require fertilization after they are 4” high. A fertilizer such as 8-12-6 is recommended or an organic alternative such as 4-4-4.  Carrots require at least an inch of rainwater per week. During dry spells in the summer it is necessary to give them a nice deep watering once a week.

To check if carrots are ready for harvest, brush away the dirt at the top (or shoulder) and see how wide they are. Carrots can be harvested at anytime, and eaten as baby carrots. They are generally sweeter and juicier, but when harvested at full size they have higher sugar content and more vitamins. If the carrots are left in the ground too long, they can start to lose their flavour and become woody. It can take 65-80 days for carrots to grow to their full size, depending on the variety.

Harvest the carrots by gently grasping the greens at the crown and pulling them up. If they do not come up, try loosening the soil gently to help bring them up. Once they have been harvested, remove the excess soil. You can wash them gently before storing them. The tops can be trimmed off a 1/2 “above the carrot, and stored in a cool and dry place.

If you’ve been having problems getting large carrots when they should be fully developed use fertilizer containing boron or amend the soil organically using kelp meal. 

How to Grow Tomatoes

Garden, How to Grow

How to Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes are native to the Americas, and a favourite to grow in home gardens. They are full of vitamin C, iron and protein. They are easily grown in our Maritime Climate.

There are five major fruit shapes that differ between varieties of tomatoes; cherry, plum, pear, standard and beefsteak. Cherry tomatoes are defined by weight in the range of 1/4 to one ounce. The plum and pear tomatoes are the fruit shapes as described and weigh between 2 to 6 ounces. The standard tomatoes are round to globe shape weighing 4 to 8 ounces. The beefsteak size differs depending on the variety, but can be 2 pounds or more.

Tomatoes are also categorized by their maturity date. The maturity date means the number of days from planting outdoors to expect ripened fruit ready for harvesting. Tomatoes can be early, mid-season or late. Early tomatoes will ripen from 55 to 65 days from transplanting. Mid-season is considered 66 to 80 days for ripe fruit. Late types require over 80 days or more to ripen

Plant Growth
There are basically two types of plant growth for tomatoes. They are determinate and indeterminate.

Indeterminate growth means varieties grow, blossom and produce tomatoes throughout the growing season until the end of the warm season. Because of the abundant lush growth, pruning indeterminate plants is highly recommended. To prune, pinch out suckers inbetween the 'V' shape that forms between the main stalk and the stems that branch out. Examples of indeterminate plants are Beefstake, Early Girl, Big Beef, Early Cascade and Sweet Million. When growing indeterminate varieties it is esstenial that they be grown on steaks or in tomato cages as they can often reach well of 5' tall. 

Determinate tomato plants will reach a predetermined height and not grow beyond that height. They are relatively compact and produce a full bushy plant. The plants flower, set fruit and ripen in a short time so that the main harvest is concentrated into a few weeks. Examples of determinate varieties are Scotia, Celebrity and Tiny Tim. These are great varieties to grow in containers on the patio. 

Sowing Seed
If starting tomatoes from seed you need to start them inside (typically end of Feb, early March). Tomato seed should be sown indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the last predicted frost for your region. Most seed will germinate in 5 to 12 days. For maximum germination, the soil temperature needs to be kept warm, about 21 to 24 degrees Celsius. Place in a sunny location (or even better use grow lights), keep seedlings warm and water regularly. Because seedlings are inside for quite a while prior to planting out, you may need to move the them from the small cell paks they were started into a larger 4-6" pot. When transplanting up the tomato seedling can be planted deep, to the first leaf stem as roots will develop along the buried main stem, making a better established root system. Continue to provide as much direct sunlight as possible. Grow lights should be used to supplement the natural sunlight while inside. The plants may stretch or get leggy if they do not receive enough direct light. Occassionally fertilizing the seedlings will help to keep the plants strong, Plant Prod 10-52-10 is great for plants during rapid growth periods and transplanting.  

Prior to moving tomatoes outside, it is necessary to harden the plants off (so the plant does not go into shock). It is recommended to harden off plants before placing them in the garden. 

Put plants outside in a protected area where they will receive full sun, but out of the wind. Move plants inside at night. After being outside for a week or two, the plants should be hardened off and ready to transplant. To prepare an optimum growing space in the garden for toamtoes add compost and other organic materials to your soil to improve nutrinets, texture and mositure holding capacity. Products

 like kelp meal and Halifax Seed's Grow All Fertilizer 8-12-6 as well as a fertilizer with calcium are all great for tomatoes. 

The use of a Kozy Coat can help to extend your tomato harvest season. These plastic, red, 'wall of water' forms a teepee over the tomato plants, protecting them from chilly temperatures and giving them a head start. 

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require attention. Use a water soluble fertilizer to feed your tomatoes throughout the season. Gaia Green Tomato Supreme or Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer are both great choices for healthy tomato plants. Continue to monitor the plants for suckers that need to be pruned out and watch for insects and disease. Ensuing the plants are properly staked will provide good air circulation around the plants to help prevent disease. Consistant watering will help the plants to grow uniform, plump toamtoes and will help prevent cracking. 

Haskaps: The New Berry

How to Grow

Haskaps: The New Berry

The Haskap (Canadian Honeyberry or Blue Honeysuckle) is the newest berry on the market for home and commercial gardening. The name Haskap is Japanese for Lonicera caerulea (Edible Blue Honeysuckle). Health benefits of the haskap have earned it the ancient phrase "the berry of long life and good vision". A number of nutritional benefits include high vitamin C and A, high fiber and potassium. They also have high levels of antioxidants, anthocyanins, poly phenols and bioflavonoids. The flavor of haskap berries has been described as a cross between a raspberry and blueberry with the texture of a kiwi. 

Growing Conditions, Habit and Zone
Haskap bushes prefer a sheltered site with a pH level between 5 - 7  which is slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil which makes them an extremely versatile berry plant. They prefer being planted in full sun but will grow in partial sun as well. Bushes are rapidly growing should be planted 4.5 - 6 feet apart and will grow 4.5- 8 feet tall. It is a cool season fruiting shrub with early flowers which when pollinated mature into fruit mid to late June, making it one of the earliest fruiting berry plants. Berries are produced on one year old woody stems, by year 3 you should be able to harvest. After year 5 you should be yielding 7-10 lbs. If you wish to fertilize your Haskap plants use one designed for tomatoes such as a liquid 4-3-3 or 2-3-1, or use a powder such as 4-8-4. They are more closely related to tomato and potatoes than other fruit crops. Fertilize prior to planting an in following years only in the spring so growth can harden off before fall frosts. They are a hardy shrub when it comes to cold winter temperatures being able to withstand -40 C (Zone 2) and have infrequent winter damage.

The Haskap originated in Siberia with further research was preformed by the University of Saskatchewan to improve on these varieties and create strains that grow well in Canada and warmer Zones. Five strains have been created Tundra, Borealis, the Indigo series, Aurora and Honeybee. 

  • Tundra Has firm fruit which makes it an excellent choice for commercial production and heavy handling. Firmness is an uncommon characteristic for large Haskaps, and this one also has an excellent flavor. It also does not bleed when picked making it an ideal fruit for frozen storage. Matures at 4-5 feet tall.  
  • Borealis The largest Haskap berry  that prefers to be hand picked due to softness of the berry. Also the best tasting variety an excellent selection for homeowners or U-pick operations. The berries will not tolerate shaking methods of harvest. Matures at 4 feet tall.
  • Indigo Gem A long flowering season which is beneficial since it is has fertile pollen and can cross pollinate other varieties of Haskap plants. It is a taller variety which is late maturing and the berry is able to withstand handling making it a good selection for homeowners or commercial growers. The flavor of the berry is similar to a plum.

Pollination/ Reproduction
Cross pollination is required for Haskap plants, as mentioned before the Indigo Gem will cross pollinate the Tundra or Borealis. It is a good idea to plant at least 3 bushes close to each other. Alternatively planting a Berry Blue Haskap (P-17) bush for every 3 fruit producing bushes will cross pollinate the others. The P-17 will produce abundant flowers that are present for a long period of time but not fruit. 

Season of Harvest
After 3 years the Haskap plants will produce  great yields. Keep in mind that the berries will look ripe about 10 days before they are actually ripe they should be completely purple on the inside and outside before harvesting. All the berries on the same bush will ripen at the exact same time, some will fall onto the ground when they are ripe. Depending on the firmness of that type of plant's berries they can either be harvested by shaking (put a catch basin or large umbrella underneath before shaking) or handpicking.

Should be completed in late winter or early spring with the objective of letting more light into the branches that will bear fruit. Keep in mind that berries are borne on one year old wood and you need a continuous supply of these branches from year to year to produce fruit. Never remove more than 25% of the bush at a time. It will not sucker and can be pruned like high bush blueberries, dwarf sour cherries and Saskatoon berry.

Common Pests and Diseases
Birds are a major pest feeding on the berries and netting may need to be placed over the bushes to prevent them from eating your crop. According to the University of  Saskatchewan  the deer have not been seen feeding on the Haskap plants in their fields but there have been some reports of deer feeding on them in other wild areas. Powdery mildew is the only disease that can effects Haskaps and begins in July after the harvest of the berries when the heat of the summer sets in. Some varieties are  more affected than others while some seem immune.

How to Grow Currants & Gooseberries

How to Grow

How to Grow Currants & Gooseberries

Both Gooseberry and Currant are of the Ribes genus because of this similarity it means that both types of small fruit plants are a secondary host to a fungus Cronartium ribicola called White Pine Blister Rust (WPBR) that needs a Ribes plant to complete its life cycle before it attacks a White Pine. In some areas there has been a ban on planting Gooseberry and Currants to prevent the spread of WPBR and save White Pine trees. There are varieties that are resistant to WPBR that can be planted in gardens if you are concerned about White Pine trees on your property. Gooseberry and Currants shouldn't be planted within 1,000 to 3,000 feet from a White Pine if they are WPBR susceptible.

Growing Conditions, Habit and Zone
They will tolerate a range of soil types but prefer a rich, moist well drained soil high in organic matter. It is best to avoid water logged soils and areas that have low spots where a frost may settle in the spring. Northern exposures are a good location that will provide afternoon shade but it must be an area with good air circulation to prevent disease. Disease and insect resistance varies according to variety and type. They are either upright or spreading and range from 3-6 feet in height depending on type. Leaves of currant and Gooseberry are similar but only Gooseberry will have thorns.  Most currants are hardy to Zone 3 with a few varieties being more cold tolerant. Gooseberries are hardy to Zone 4-3 depending on cultivar.

Different Varieties and Types

Black Currant Resistant to White Pine Blister Rust  (WPBR)

  • Consort is an early mid-season variety that is fairly productive but susceptible to mildew and leaf spot. The currant berries can be shaken off the plant. Roughly 3-6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
  • Titania is a mid season variety with large firm berries and produces a consistant crop as a vigorous plant. It is resistant to powdery mildew and has high juice quality. Hardy to Zone 2a-2b.

Red Currant (some find them less susceptible to WPBR)

  • Jonkeer Van Tets is a red currant variety resistant to WPBR and is a popular variety with early brilliant red fruit with excellent flavor.
  • Red Lake is a mid season producer with clusters of large mild flavored berries, considered one of the best red currant varieties. High juice quality however it is prone to powdery mildew and not tolerant to late spring frosts.

White Currant

  • Primus is a variety resistant to WPBR  with  translucent white berries that have a yellow tint to them. Vigorous upright growth with good sweet flavor to long clusters of berries.
  • Blanka very easy to grow and reliable with heavy yields of long clusters of large opaque beige berries. Flowers mid spring and has some resistance to frosts in the spring. Vigorous spreading growth habit producing in mid season and resistant to mildew.


  • Hinnomaki Red is a maroon colored berry with a thin tart flavored skin and sweet flesh inside. It is 3-5 foot tall and wide plant producing in mid summer.  Upright plant that is very productive and heavy yielding. Hardy to Zone 4. Resistant to powdery mildew and WPBR.
  • Pixwell has pinkish medium sized berries produced in clusters on a shrub with few thorns on the branches making it easy to harvest. Vigorous and bushy plants that are 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3.

Black Currants require pollination from insects such as bees due to the structure of the flowers, and will bear a heavier crop if there is cross pollination from a different black currant near by. Gooseberries, Red and White Currants are self fruitful and don't require different types of cultivars nearby for cross pollination. Since they flower early in the spring good air drainage is required to prevent frost damage when they are in bloom so avoid planting in low spots. 

Season of Harvest
Remove the flowers during the first season of your plant to avoid fruit production and encourage root growth. By year 3 you will have a heavy crop. Gooseberries and Currants produce fruit on 2-3 year old shoots and very little fruit is produced on four year old so pruning is important to obtain a continuous harvest from year to year. The plants should remain productive with pruning for 8-10 years. The berries will ripen over a two week period and can stay on the bush for a week without risk of dropping when ripe. Gooseberries will turn red to pink when they are ripe and be picked individually but beware of thorns. Currants can be picked in a long clusters. There is some trial and error to know when they are ripe and they can be stripped from stems later.

In late winter or early spring when your plant is dormant you can prune. Leaving 3 to 4 shoots from each years growth so in total you should have 9-12 shoots. Remove 4 year old growth to encourage new growth. Also remove any branches that are low or touching the ground to keep the fruit from being damaged. Also remove any branches that are slow leafing out or are sick with diseased tips, make sure to destroy these branches and not put them in your compost.

Common Diseases
Powdery Mildew: Some varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew a white fungus that covers new leaves and shoots as well as the Gooseberry fruit. It will stunt the growth of the plant but can be controlled with fungicide and good air circulation can prevent it from occurring on your plants. It will appear in your garden after humid weather. 

Anthracnose: Also know as leaf spot it frequently effects black currant plants, less frequently red currants and Gooseberries. It appears as small brown spots on the leaves in mid summer-late fall and can cause defoliation even reducing the potential for growth for the next season. Since the fungus survives the winter it is best to clean up fallen leaves and destroy them in the late fall or early spring before the buds burst.

Common Pests

Currant Borer: Contrary to the name this pest will also affect Gooseberries as well. In mid June moths appear and lay eggs. The larvae bore into the center of the shoot (pith) and feed on the plant. The leaves become sickly and if you prune them there will be a dark hole in the center of the stem which is their tunnel. The best solution is to prune until there is no longer a dark hole in the stem.

Scale Insects: These pests suck juices from tender wood of the plant both currant and gooseberry can be effected by either round or oyster shell scale.

Aphids: Red currant is particularly susceptible to aphids that will fed on the underside of the leaves and the tips of the shoot. They suck the sap from the plant and sometimes ants will farm them for the honey dew they secrete which can cause sooty mold. Aphids come in a range of colours green, black and peach coloured insecticidal soaps can be effective.

Currant Sawfly: They are able to strip the plant of all its foliage so it is best to monitor the plants in the spring and kill any greenish worms with black spots about 20mm long. They feed on the edge of the leaf.

Currant Fruit Fly: A pest that over winters in the soil that will result in a maggot in the center of every berry. When the currants are blooming the adults emerge from the soil and the female lays her eggs in the flowers that will develop into a berry. These eggs become maggots that feed in the berry causing it to ripen prematurely and many will drop to the ground before harvest time.

Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces

Garden, How to Grow

Growing Vegetables in Small Spaces

Back in the 1970’s the average backyard vegetable garden was about 1000 square feet. Now it is typically 200 square feet. New houses tend toward smaller yards, so the farm model of growing food and the generous space it required has become obsolete. Contemporary vegetable gardening borrows the best design ideas from the past, while incorporating new technology and materials to make smaller vegetable gardens easier to manage, and more productive. Two ways to coax more production from limited space is by borrowing from old cultures, the concepts of raised beds and vertical growing. Shifting a garden layout from rows to raised beds almost doubles the available growing area, as most of the ground formerly devoted to paths is dedicated to production. Growing food vertically to exploit the airspace above the garden again almost doubles its effective production area. This configuration facilitates the use of soaker hose irrigation, woven fabric mulches and other space age materials to dramatically reduce the amount of work involved in producing crops.

Raised Beds
Raised beds are permanent, rectangular plots holding soil that remains loose and rich because it is never compacted by foot traffic. Paths between the beds are also permanent. While they require a significant investment of physical labor to dig and box, they do not have to be dug again every year. Raised beds promise years of virtually instant bed preparation and easy planting each spring. Try one bed at first. Dig it in the fall when the weather is cool, then add more beds over time. Because their excellent soil permits intensive planting, it will not be necessary to have as big a garden overall as before.

Making Raised Beds
Lay out the bed’s dimensions with stakes and string. A width of 3 or 4 feet is a comfortable reach from either side for most adults. Lengths of 8 or 12 feet (conveniently allowing for evenly spaced trellis supports every 4 feet) are most adaptable to the typical backyard. Begin digging within the string at one end, cultivating the soil to a depth of at least a foot--deeper is better. If working in a turf area, put aside pieces of sod for the compost pile. Working backward to avoid stepping on newly dug soil, turn over shovelfuls of soil and mound them in a loose pile within the measured dimensions of the bed. This is a good time to incorporate organic material such as compost, peat moss or chopped leaves into the soil.

Designate at least 3 feet for path area around the bed. Scrape off the valuable top few inches of topsoil from the paths and mound it on the newly dug bed to increase its height, then spread wood chips or gravel, or lay bricks in the path area to eliminate future problems with mud. Rake and level the surface of the mounded soil in the bed and it is ready for planting.

A layer of straw (not hay) or chopped leaves will protect the soil over the winter and discourage erosion of the mounded soil into the paths. While it is not necessary, boxing each bed with 2 by 10 inch wooden planks prevents erosion most effectively, makes beds easier to manage and looks more attractive. Boxed sides also provide a place to fasten fixtures to permit quick attachment of sturdy vertical supports for various crops.

When picking out wood for your raised beds make sure you are using untreated wood. Good choices for your raised bed would be cedar or hemlock or another wood that doesn’t rot quickly.

Reasons to Use Boxed Raised Beds:
- Save space
- Maintain soil texture
- Do not need annual digging
- Heat up earlier in the season
- Use water and fertilizer more efficiently
- Improve soil drainage
- Permit intensive planting
- Are neat and accessible
- Support trellises securely
- Permit use of shade cloth or plastic tents
- Avoids soil compaction due to foot traffic

The Value of Vertical
Another way to maximize production in limited space is to exploit the air space above the garden bed. Combined with raised boxed beds the potential for dramatically increased production with vertical growing is enormous. Plants grown vertically can be planted more closely together and produce more in the rich, friable soil of a properly managed raised bed. Because they take up only a few inches of surface soil, there remains lots of bed left to be intensively planted with low-growing vegetable plants. Orienting beds on a north-south axis assures that plant-laden trellises do not block the sun from lower growing plants as it moves from East to West across the yard during the day. Erecting vertical supports is always a time consuming problem. Free-standing ones provide flexibility in placement, but are precarious, tending to collapse part way through the season from the weight of maturing crops. The planks that enclose a raised bed offer a convenient place to attach year round fixtures that make setting up and taking down trellisesquick and easy. They make it possible to have a flat trellis system that runs along either side of the bed that is stable, yet easily reconfigured to facilitate crop rotation.

Establishing a Trellis System
There are lots of ways to fasten trellis poles to the wooden planks of boxed beds. One tried and true method is to fasten 12 inch lengths of PVC pipe, 1½ to 2 inches in diameter, with plumber’s brackets at four foot intervals along the insides of the long sides of the bed. Dig the PVC pipe into the soil so the opening is flush with the top of the board. Sturdy vertical poles, wooden or PVC, up to 8 feet long, fit easily and quickly into the PVC pipe fixtures for instant stability. Since their first 12 inches sit in the fixture below the soil level, the trellis will actually be 7 feet tall, about maximum reach for most adults.

Next you can cut 4 foot lengths (the distance between the vertical poles) of furring strips or similar 1 by 2 inch slats, to make crosspieces to make panels of trellis which fasten to the vertical poles at top and bottom. The trellis material itself may be hand-strung wire or twine, or commercial netting made of nylon or plastic. Mesh with 4 or 6 inch holes allows for easy access when picking large vegetables such as tomatoes. Fasten it to the crosspieces with a staple gun to form panels that are easily mounted and removed from the vertical poles, rolled up and stored for next year. Drill holes at the ends of the crosspieces and at the tops and bases of the poles for attaching panels of trellis netting with screw bolts and wing nuts.

Veggies That Grow Well Vertically:
- Beans, Lima Pole
- Beans, Pole
- Cucumbers
- Melons
- Peas
- Squash, Winter varieties such as acorn, butternut
- Tomatoes, indeterminate

Benefits to Vegetables of Vertical Growing:
- Better air circulation
- Better access to sunlight
- Less exposure to soil pathogens
- Easier to harvest
- Dry off faster after rain
- Less likely to be curled or deformed

Seed Starting 101

How to Grow

Seed Starting 101

Growing your own vegetables and flowers is fun and easy. Flowers are beautiful and are a great way to cheer up your outdoor living space, while vegetables provide you and your family with healthy, safe and nutritious food. Growing your own vegetables gives you the peace of mind knowing where your food came from and that your tomatoes, carrots and spinach were grown without the use of pesticides and preservatives! Many varieties of seeds need to be started indoors prior to setting (transplanting) outside. Starting inside allows you to have a longer harvest period with some varieties (lettuces) and giving others a head start while keeping them protected from the risk of frost (tomatoes, peppers, basil).


Equipment – Get set up with all the essentials

Cells or Small Pots
Cell sheets are what is most commonly used to start seeds in. These are sheets of plastic with small cell blocks you fill with soil and start your seeds in. Cells allow for the most efficient use of space when starting seeds. All sheets are the same size however the individual cell block size vary. Choosing the proper size can depend on what you are growing and how vigilant you will be looking after your seedlings (smaller cells have less soil, can’t retain as much water and dry out faster). You can also start seeds in small individual containers such as peat pots or plastic containers, up-cycle with products like egg cartons or reuse coffee k-cups.

Cell sheets are designed to sit in trays. The 3 most common trays available are trays with holes, without holes and rigid fiberglass. When starting seeds inside most gardeners go with trays without holes to help keep water contained. The rigid fiberglass trays are great for the long-term investment or for those growing microgreens indoors all year long.

Clear Plastic Domes
Clear plastic domes are made to fit directly over-top trays. These domes help to create the ‘greenhouse effect’ retaining heat and moisture that help to promote germination.

When starting seedlings you don't want to drown the seed so a spray bottle is essential. Keeping the soil moist  is key for good germination. Once the seedlings are bit older you can start using a water can. Look for watering cans with small holes for gentle watering.

Light is necessary for plants. A very bright window may suffice, depending on what you’re growing. Seedlings will lean towards the light so make sure you rotate your seedlings for more upright plants. Grow lights can also be used which can help provide quicker germination and growth. Seedlings sometimes can become spindly if the light source is too far away. Check for spindly plants and adjust light source.

Optional Equipment
Optional equipment you may want to have on hand include:
Peat pellets – dry pellets that expand in water in which you can start seeds in
Labels: Plastic, wood, metal – helps you know what you have planted
Dibble sticks – to create holes at the proper depth for different seed varieties
Soil Blockers – make your own soil blocks without using cells, pots, etc.

Soils – The start of every seed: 
Growing mediums are essential to starting seeds. All seeds need a good sterile soil to start sprouting. Typically Halifax Seed recommends Pro-Mix Seed Starting Mix or another potting soil specifically designed for seed starting. If you are using a potting soil make sure not to over water. Some flower and vegetable varieties prefer different soil conditions and additives. Here are the common ingredients that typically get mixed into growing mediums.

Peat: Decomposed aquatic plants, not usually used for seedlings. Can be acidic. Not easy for water to penetrate as it tends to retain water. Peat has better drainage and aeration when mixed with other materials.

Sphagnum Peat Moss: light weight and sterile. Good absorbency as it absorbs 10-20 times its weight in water. Is shredded for seedling use. Acidic. Better when mixed with other materials.

Vermiculite: Light and sterile. Holds lots of water for long periods of time. Contains magnesium and potassium, which helps with root growth. Typically comes mixed in with various seed starting potting mixes.

Perlite: Made of volcanic ash. Light and sterile. Does not absorb water, holds on surface.

Sand: Great for rooting. Not sterile and does not contain organic matter. Good for drainage.

Soil: Poor drainage and aeration. Not sterilized.

Mixture: Sterile potting mix such as Pro-Mix. Sphagnum moss, vermiculite and perlite.

A preferred soil for seeding must be light and sterile. Mixes typically work best and good drainage is important. The mix must be fairly fine and free of sticks and large pieces. When preparing the soil for seeding make sure it’s evenly mixed and moist, but not wet.

The Importance of Sterility, Drainage and Damping-off
The growing conditions will dictate how strong of a seedling you get. It’s important to keep a constant watch on the climate and conditions the seeds are being started in. A sterile, moist and warm environment are the best. In order to attain the right conditions follow these key tips:

-Make sure the pot or cell packs have drainage (holes) and good air circulation.

- When watering don’t let the water sit in the tray. If you have over watered be sure to remove as much water as possible from the holding tray under the cells. Over watering and stagnate water can lead to an infestation of fungusgnats.

-If pots are reused, make sure to sterilize them with a water and bleach mix prior to planting.

-When starting seeds do not add soil or organic material, because of fungus present in the soil

-When there is a combination of a lack of sterility and high humidity mold tends to form and damping off occurs. Damping Off caused by root mold/fungus typically leads to the seedling rotting at the base of the stem

-Vermiculite and finely milled sphagnum peat are suggested over top the seeds (that don’t mind cover). These will be completely sterile coverings that resist damping off.

-Cinnamon is naturally antifungal and is fine enough not to block light making it a great substance to put over the surface of the soil for seeds that do not like cover. This can be applied at the first sign of fungus or right from the first planting.


Special Treatments
Many seeds need to be prepared prior to planting to ensure they have good germination. Before starting your seeds be sure to read all packages and plan ahead in case a particular variety needs to be prepared a few days or weeks in advance of planting. Here are a few terms to be familiar with:

Soaking: This can sometimes be a few days ahead of when you expect to plant. Soaking the seeds softens the seed coat and leeches out chemicals. Generally you soak for 24 hours. Sow seeds immediately after soaking. Larger hard shelled seeds have a hard time absorbing water. Some common seeds that you need to soak are sweet peas, anemone, morning glory, parsley and lupines.

Scarification: making a nick or lesions on the seed. Not too deeply as you don’t want to do any damage. Mallow, sweet peas, lupines, morning glory seeds all need to be nicked.

Stratification: a moist-cold treatment. Mix seeds with 2-3 times their volume of a growing medium that has been moistened (Pro-Mix) and place in the fridge. Lavender, phlox and columbine commonly need to be treated this way.

*Be sure to never stratify seeds while they are still in the package.

Not all seeds will require a special treatment prior to being started. Be sure to read all package directions to find out what each specific variety you are planting will need. Some seeds resent transplanting and should be sown either directly into the garden or into peat pots that can be planted into the ground. Examples of seeds that should be planted directly into the ground include root vegetables (eg. carrots), parsley, cilantro, squash, spinach and radish.

Environmental Conditions
It’s always best to place the seed starting tray in an area where the temperature is between 21-24 degrees Celsius. A gentle bottom heat for seedlings is recommended either from a heating pad, heater or by placing the trays on top of the fridge. Moisture and humidity must be kept up, but soaked soil can cause rotting and damping off.

Heirloom Seeds
Growing vegetables from heirloom varieties have become quite popular. Heirloom seeds are not genetically modified and have naturally adapted to the climate, diseases and pests overtime. These seeds are open pollinators, have existed since before the year 1951 and grow “true to type”. Their seeds can be collected and used in the following season.

Sowing and Growing Seeds – Start to Finish
Always read the directions of each package of seed you are looking to plant. You want to find out germination times, if the seed should be started early or planted right into the ground, the space needed to grow the variety you want and certain needs of the seed – how much light (sunny, partial sun, shady), drainage, etc.

When starting the seed indoors using cell packs and flats start off by getting your soil moist (not soaked). Fill the cells/pots up slightly overflowing with soil and tap tray down gently to ensure that there are no air pockets, and sweep off the excess soil. Gauging on the size of the seed place seed in the center or sprinkle in each individual cell. For larger seeds, make an indentation in the center and place seed in that; for smaller seeds that are harder to control gently tap in the seeds while trying to keep in mind the recommended spacing (once seedlings present you can take out seedlings that are too close to each other). When finished cover the seeds with soil (if they need covering) and gently mist with a spray bottle. Place clear plastic dome on top and sit tray on a heated mat or in an area it will get adequate heat.

After germination treatment
After the seeds have germinated and the seeds have sprouted into seedlings they require three things:

Warmth: Most seedlings require cooler daytime temperatures and even cooler night time temperatures than what they had while they were geminating. For example, if they were geminated at 26 degrees then the daytime temp should be 21 and the night time temperature should be 16. This ensures that the seedlings don’t stretch or become weak. There are a few common exceptions to this rule – tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers like to grow in warmer environments

Light: The most important time for sufficient light is right after they sprout. Lights should be about 6 inches away from the tops of the seedlings. Before germination lights can be on 24 a day but after germination you want to gradually reduce the amount on light they receive over a 3 week period down to 12 hours.

Fertilizer: Once seedlings have been up for a week they need a weak solution of high phosphorous water soluble fertilizer (ex. 5-20-10) or an organic alternative such as Neptune's Harvest liquid fish and seaweed fertilizer. They can be fertilized once every week or two. Use bottom watering or a mister/watering can to apply fertilizer.

Transplanting 1 – From Cells to Pots

Once the seedlings have out grown the cells they are in, plant them into individual pots to mature further until it is time to plant them outside.

Pots: Be sure to choose the appropriate size pot to plant the matured seedlings into. Faster growing and larger plants may outgrow their pots by the time they are planted outside. Choose the type of pot you want to use, plastic are reusable but a peat pot will decompose and can be planted directly into the ground. If using a peat pot make sure to gently tear off the bottom so the roots can grow. Plant roots should completely fill the pot by the time it’s transplanted.

Techniques: Always be patient and gentle when transplanting. Choose a shady location and don’t allow the plants to dry out. After filling all of the new pots with soil, wiggle a hole in the center of them that is big enough to contain the roots of the seedling without squishing them. Always start with the strongest plant in the bunch. Gentle push from the bottom of the cell pack up to pop the seedling, root system and soil out of the cell. You can gently pull apart the roots before you guide the plant into the hole of the new pot. Gently press the soil around it and water well. Move to a location with indirect sunlight for a day or two. Some plants can get transplant shock.

After transplanting: Allow for one week recovery prior to starting to fertilize again. Pinch back the lead shoot of plants that have gotten too “leggy” (exceptions tomatoes and leaf vegetables).

Transplanting 2 – Into the Ground

Eventually comes the time when you will be able to put the little plants into the ground to grow big and tall, flower, and produce delicious food to put on your table. To prepare the sensitive seedlings to handle the conditions follow these guidelines to a successful planting.

Hardening Off: When the temperatures outside are right for each variety you can begin to harden off the plants. This process entails placing the plants outside (keeping out of direct sunlight) during the day and bringing them back inside for cooler overnights. Gradually increase the light levels over the first week, and this process with acclimatize them to sunlight and their environment outside.

Temperature: Cold weather crops can be planted outside much earlier than others (eg. onions, cabbages, broccoli, lettuce, peas). Heat loving plans (eg. squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil) need to be held off until or after the last frost. Generally, most annuals can be planted by the end of May. Always consult packages with each variety, as they are all different. When frost warnings are in effect be sure to cover your crops with floating row cover.

Transplanting outside

Always amend soil ahead of time with lime, compost and topsoil. Plan your garden out according to height and mature size – for flower gardens you need to make sure all the blooms get seen and for vegetable gardens plan for the space each plant will need especially if it grows outward on a vine (squash). Prepare the holes making sure it is wider and deeper than the pot the plant is being taken out of, mixing bonemeal and compost into the hole is a good idea as well. If using plastic pots gently remove the plant from the pot by carefully holding the stem and squishing the pot slightly with the other hand. Peat pots can be planted directly into the ground prior to placing them in the ground tear off or cut excess at the top and at the bottom of the pot as those don’t decompose as quickly. Place plant in the hole and fill in with surrounding soil, hold onto plant to ensure the soil remains level to the original level in the pot. Water well and provide shade when necessary.

Continuing Care
Once plants are fully established in the ground be sure to keep up on regular watering and fertilizing. Check for insects and disease and treat when necessary. Weed on a regular basis with a weeder or by hand picking.

Seedlings that resent transplanting: (Best to sow directly in the ground)

California Poppy
Mustard, Rutabaga, Turnip
Swiss chard
Tree Mallow

*Root vegetables in general dislike transplanting

How to Grow Blueberries

Garden, How to Grow

How to Grow Blueberries

How to Grow Blueberries

Blueberries require specific care and conditions to provide you with maximum fruit yields. With proper care, you will get optimum yields of large, juicy berries perfect for eating along with a beautiful shrub within your landscape. 

Blueberry plants thrive in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade; however, the fruit production can be less if they are in partial shade. They require acidic, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH that is between 4.2 and 5.0. In Nova Scotia, we have naturally acidic soil, although the pH level should be tested every 1-2 seasons. Peat moss (a slightly acidic soil amendment) can be added to soil, as well as compost and manure as organic matter.

When choosing blueberry plants, ensure you have a minimum of 2 different varieties to cross-pollinate as this will give you optimum crop yields. Choosing varieties with different maturity dates will lengthen your harvest period ensuring fresh, tasty blueberries all season long. 

When planting blueberries, ensure they are spaced at least 1-1.5 m apart. Blueberry plants have shallow root systems, so be aware of this when handling the plants while transplanting: damaging the roots can provide growth set-backs or the loss of the plant. The plants should be kept uniformly watered throughout the growing season. Mulching will help conserve water, as well as controlling fluctuations of moisture. During dry spells plants should be kept well watered.


Since blueberries are acidic loving plants you can fertilize with an ammonium sulphate fertilizer to help keep the pH low. They should be fertilized three times in a growing season. The first fertilization should be done in the spring, just prior to bud break; the second should be after petal fall; the third should be in early July. Older bushes should have most of the fertilizer around the outer spread of branches. At Halifax Seed we highly recommend our blueberry fertilizer with ammonium sulphate; however, we also carry organic lines, like Gaia Green, whose Power Bloom product would also work as a great blueberry fertilizer.


For the first 2-3 years, your plants will need little to no pruning. While this is important, it is also imperative to remove any damaged, diseased or dead growth, as well as spindly growth, as it will encourage an upright and vigorous growth habit. After blueberry plants are established, annual pruning will help invigorate and improve the health and yield of the plants. After 5 years, high-bush blueberry stems are typically no longer productive; pruning 5 year old stems and weak branches, as well as thinning out crowded spots after the initial growth period, promotes healthier growth and a higher fruit yield. Plants should be pruned when they are dormant, so it is important to find the right time to prune: typically in Atlantic Canada this is February to April. Once a blueberry bush has been pruned, it will stimulate new growth; if this is done too early, it can cause damage. As a rule of thumb, any single cane that is older than 5 years, or larger than 5 cm in diameter, should be cut back to the ground. Keep 4-6 mature canes per bush and 2-3 vigorous shoots per bush. After the winter, remove all the extra sprouts and let the healthiest ones go. Pruning out the older canes allows the new shoots to be more productive and take over.

The fruit develops on one-year-old wood. In the first 3 years the fruit buds should be cut back to encourage the growth of the blueberry plant, ensuring the best possible yields for the future.

When pruning a blueberry bush it is necessary to keep in mind the optimal shape for the plant. They are tight at the bottom with an open and spreading centre. Removing some of the canes and cutting back in the centre will help the plant develop into the right shape, preventing the interior of the plant from becoming too dense with leaves. 

Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) Varieties most common to Halifax Seed Garden Centres:*

Jersey: A late mid-season berry. The fruit is medium sized, has medium scar, fair colour and flavour, and is firm. The bush is very vigorous and productive. The clusters are long and loose. Grows 1.8-2.1m (6-7') tall. 

Duke: An early variety, with striking autumn foliage of yellow and orange. The berries are of medium size, firm, and light blue. The flavour is mild, but becomes more aromatic after several hours in the fridge; perfect in a fruit salad. The bush is vigorous, with stocky canes, but is well branched. Typically grows 1.2-1.5m (4-5') tall.

Bluejay: A mid-season berry. The fruit is medium sized with long stems that aid in mechanical harvesting. The bush is vigorous and upright. Grows 1.5-2.1m (5-7') tall.

Bluecrop: This mid-season producer is one of the most widely grown varieties. Medium to large size fruits, light blue colour, small scar, firm with good, tart flavour. The berries are resistant to cracking. Will grow 1.2-1.8m (4-6') tall. 

Northland: Produces fruit early mid-season. Fruit size is small, dark blue, and has a wild-berry flavour. It has limber branches which do not break under heavy snow loads and adapts well to a sub-zero climate. This variety is self-pollinating. Grows 0.9-1.2m (3-4') tall. 

*Availability and varieties can change from throughout the season. Our stock of High-bush Blueberries are field grown and will typically be available in Halifax Seed Garden Centres early spring. If you have any questions please contact one of our stores for pricing and availability.