How to address garden pests, part three: cats and dogs

How to address garden pests, part three: cats and dogs

Few things disrupt the beauty of a garden and the pleasure of a warm summer day more than the discovery of pests. From large animals to tiny insects, pests pose problems that range from minor annoyances to serious damage, and the everyday gardener may not always know the best way to deal with specific nuisances. We’re here to help with that.

In Part Three of our series we’ll showcase ways to deter the most common household pests for Atlantic Canadian gardeners: cats and dogs.

 

Cats

Keeping cats out of the garden is a topic we get asked about a lot, in store and in our comments section. We’ve heard your concerns and are more than happy to suggest a few ways to make your garden cat-free!

Cats have sensitive noses and can be warded away from your garden with the use of certain aromatics. Lavender is not only an indispensable herb but an effective deterrent to cats with it’s iconic aroma. Cats will also stay away from strong citrus scents – placing lemon and orange peels around your garden will discourage feline trespassers.

If you’re in the market for a fast acting solution, Get Off My Garden repellent is our recommended go-to. The repellent contains modified water crystals that emit a strong odour which confuses a cat’s sense of smell and makes your garden very unappealing to them.

An alternative approach to get cats from visiting your garden, is to make a separate cat-friendly garden! Catnip and mint are loved by cats and can be utilized as incentives to draw curious cats away from your more delicate plants.  

 

Dogs

While dogs are great companions, they aren’t always the best gardeners. Dog’s can be very disruptive to a garden, either by digging up your plants or taking naps on your flower bed.

Physical barriers can be implemented to get dogs from coming into your garden. One trick is to keep the branches of your roses after pruning and strategically place them around your garden. The thorns will make dogs reluctant to dig up your soil as they’ll want to avoid getting pricked. A small fence around the perimeter of your garden can act as a reminder for your dog to stay away, and if you catch them in the garden they are more likely to learn from their intrusion then a cat.

In regards to repellents, Critter Ridder is a cayenne pepper based product that will irritate animals once they come into contact it and makes them think twice about coming back. It works on dogs, raccoons, skunks and cats as well.

For the caffeinated gardener, coffee grinds can be used a deterrent to keep nosy dogs at bay. The bitterness of the coffee isn’t appealing to a dog’s sense of smell and the grinds double as a fantastic fertilizer!

 

Hopefully this article will help you address your garden’s troublemaker -  whether it’s the neighbor’s pet or your own. We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for keeping dogs and cats out of the garden so make sure to leave a comment below and, as always, happy gardening! 

How to address garden pests, part two: Aphids, Leatherjackets and White Grubs

How to address garden pests, part two: Aphids, Leatherjackets and White Grubs

Few things disrupt the beauty of a garden and the pleasure of a warm summer day more than the discovery of pests. From large animals to tiny insects, pests pose problems that range from minor annoyances to serious damage, and the everyday gardener may not always know the best way to deal with specific nuisances. We’re here to help with that.

In Part Two of our series we’ll showcase the best ways to deter some of the most common pests from the insect kingdom for Atlantic Canadian gardeners: aphids, leatherjackets and grubs.

 

Garden Aphid

Aphids can be found on flowers, vegetables, ornamental trees and shrubs. The average aphid is very small (around 2mm in size) and come in a variety of colors. The miniscule insects operate by sucking sap out of plants with their mosquito-like mouths, which can cause the affected plant to “yellow”, wilt, and have stunted growth. In small numbers they aren’t harmful to a healthy plant, but can be disruptive when in large groups. Aphids are typically found grouped on flower buds or on the undersides of leaves.

Fabric coverings are an excellent way to prevent aphids from getting into your garden. Our Plant & Seed Guard protects plants from a host of insects while still allowing sunlight and air in. If aphids do manage to infest in your garden, there are multiple methods available for removing them.

Directly spraying infected plants with water will cause aphids to slide off their host and onto the ground. This can wet and inhibit the wings of certain flying aphids and makes the return to the plant difficult due to their small size and their susceptibility to predators once they are in the grass. Similarly, going through and removing aphids by hand works as well. If a particular part of a large plant has aphids, pruning is another option; plants with aphids only need to be removed from your garden when they are already wilted or yellow.

A trap you can consider implementing in your garden is Safer’s Sticky Stiks. The yellow colour of the trap attracts aphids and glues them to the paper, preventing them from damaging your plants.

For a biological solution, we carry bags of 1000 to 4500 ladybugs that will certainly take care of your aphid problem. Ladybugs love eating aphids and our customers are always surprised at the effectiveness of these helpful beetles. Come in to talk to our garden experts on how to best introduce our ladybugs into your garden!

Aphids only become a serious problem if you let them; regularly monitoring your garden for signs of aphids can prevent them from causing any lasting harm.

 

Leatherjackets

Leatherjackets are the larvae of the crane fly, known by their more common name, ‘Daddy Long Legs’. These small brown grubs can be extremely destructive to lawns and gardens. They are laid in early fall by the crane fly in grass, and they eat the roots of grass until early June of the following year. The appetite of a leatherjacket is quite remarkable, and their presence is indicated by browning or dead grass. Birds pecking over dead patches of grass is another good indication that leatherjackets are in your soil.

In combatting leatherjackets, using Nematodes is your best bet. Nematodes are types of microscopic worms that make their home in your soil. They are an incredibly diverse bunch and while some are very dangerous to plants, others kill harmful larvae. One type of Nematodes we carry targets leatherjackets specifically and thoroughly eradicates them. More information and directions on applying nematodes can be found on our product page, here.

 

White Grub

In a similar vein to leatherjackets, White grubs are the larvae of the infamous (at least here in Atlantic Canada) June bugs. Usually 4 centimetres in length with an off-white body and a darker head, the White grub is a common enemy to those of us who cherish our lawns. Their lifespan follows a 3-year cycle and for the first 2 years they remain nestled in your soil soil, feeding on grass roots during summer and burrowing deep into the ground when things get chilly. In that fated third summer they transform into June bugs, lay more larvae, and continue the cycle.

Healthy fertilized and watered grass is the best way to keep white grub from infesting your lawn. June bugs look for thin, bare grass patches when laying their larvae, and prefer to stay away from green lawns.

If white grubs do pay a visit to your yard, Nematodes are, again, the best answer. Biological methods like Nematodes are much safer than pesticides and work very efficiently at destroying the grubs; consider using our Grub Killer Beneficial Nematodes.

 

We hope our tips will aid you in the continual battle against garden pests and we’d love to hear your personal tips and tricks – feel free to leave a comment below, and happy gardening!

How to address garden pests, part one: deer and mice

How to address garden pests, part one: deer and mice

Few things disrupt the beauty of a garden and the pleasure of a warm summer day more than the discovery of pests. From large animals to tiny insects, pests pose problems that range from minor annoyances to serious damage, and the everyday gardener may not always know the best way to deal with specific nuisances. We’re here to help with that.

In Part One of our series we’ll showcase the best ways to deter the most common pests from the animal kingdom for Atlantic Canadian gardeners: deer and mice.

Deer

For gardeners in rural areas, deer can be an everyday headache. They come to gardens primarily to feed on the grass and the leaves of plants. Once deer have been to your garden, stopping by can become part of their daily routine! Discouraging them from coming back is difficult because of their persistence, but by leaning on our tips you’re more likely to ward off nature’s troublesome attendants.

You can determine if deer have been to your garden by scanning your grounds for their distinctive hoof prints and their bean-shaped droppings. When assessing damage done to plants, look for jagged markings on the leaves and heads; deer don’t have strong teeth and need to pull plants apart to eat them.

A surrounding fence is helpful in protecting your garden from deer, but is not an infallible fix. Unless it’s been built 8 feet high, a determined deer can easily jump over. A more cost effective solution can be adding deer resistant plants to your garden.

Deer don’t like eating all types of vegetation, and planting aromatic and hairy leafed plants along the edges of your garden is a good way to discourage deer from dining in. Lavender, poppies, and Black-eyed Susans like our Goldstrum are all unappealing to deer and will do the job in style. Another similar odor tactic that you can try involves hanging fragrant soaps from trees around your garden!

For the gardener who wants a fast-acting solution, Deer Away is the product you need. This putrescent egg-based repellent is odourless to humans, but will turn deer and their heightened sense of smell in the opposite direction.

Rats and mice

Finding rodents in the garden is almost always a startling experience, and they have an uncanny ability to appear out of nowhere.

These expert sleuths love hiding in tall grass, wood piles and any sort of clutter, so be vigilant in keeping your garden tidy. Food packages and containers will attract mice and shouldn’t be left outside unattended. Signs of rat and mouse presences include their dark rice-like droppings, nibble marks on plants and trees, as well as black grease streaks from the oily fur of rats.

Repellents such as Skoot can put off rats and mice with it’s unsavoury flavour. Spray or paint it on any part of your garden which shows signs of rat visitation to deter the undesirables. A more direct method of controlling rodent population is the use of traps.

Traps eliminate rodents, but only use them as a reactionary measure opposed to a preventative one. They work by attracting rodents and can actually promote more rats to come visit your garden. If traps are properly maintained they are effective at killing the pests and our Predator Mouse Bait Station is a product you should certainly consider if your garden is frequented by rodents.

We hope our tips will aid you in the battle against garden pests. We’d love to hear your personal tips and tricks – feel free to leave a comment below, and happy gardening!

A healthy garden is a happy garden

A healthy garden is a happy garden

The weather in Atlantic Canada can be drastic, and as a provincial community we’ve grown accustomed to dealing with seasonal colds and fevers as they pass through with the next major snowstorm or abrupt change in season. Part of being a hearty people means we know that prevention is the ticket and is way more enjoyable than recovery. But what some don’t know is that your garden is just the same when it comes to disease; good sanitation practices can mean all the difference for prevention.

There’s good news: preventing disease in your garden is often a case of environment. A healthy gardening environment can make or break a healthy yield, and better news still is that a few key gardening practices performed on the regular can help to get you there! Let’s dig in.

A clean garden

Like we mentioned, maintaining the environment of your garden is as important as caring for your plants — in fact, the two are one and the same. A clean garden environment is all about maintenance, and that includes trimming dead stems, weeding, and clearing the ground of old, dead foliage. This is especially true if you’ve experienced issues with diseased plants in the past, as pesky bacteria have a way of migrating from defeated plants on to new ones.

Warm soil

This one may be tricky for the eager Atlantic Canadian gardener, but waiting a while and ensuring that your soil has warmed with the ground is the best way to ensure that your plants are strong enough to fend off invading diseases. Much like our own, a plant’s immune system is influenced by temperature and its surroundings. It’s why watering your plants in the morning (and letting them dry during the day) is always recommended over watering them in the evening and leaving damp, potentially cold water on them over night.

Fertilize!

The boost your plants need, fertilizer is an incredible vessel for keeping your plants healthy and strong. But like anything, too much of a good thing can actually be harmful. Over-fertilizing your plants will actually weaken them (despite the yield), making them more susceptible to the diseases that you’ve been working to fend off. Use just enough fertilizer to keep your plants in top shape, and you’ll be in good shape yourself.

A breath of fresh air

Air flow is important for a multitude of reasons when it comes to a healthy garden and impressive growth. Plants that are clustered together create an optimal climate for diseases that rely on stagnant airflow and uninterrupted growth. Do your best to keep large plants separate and to position your garden(s) in a location that has a healthy supply of air.

Pesky pests

Pests and insects that are prone to harassing your garden pose a serious threat to gardeners defending against disease. Though they may chew the plants themselves, they can also carry and transmit disease. Do your homework, and look into any insects you come across in your garden. If they’re harmful, act quickly!

These are just a few proactive tips when it comes to keeping your garden healthy and free from disease. For more information and other helpful ideas, come into our store and talk with one of our knowledgeable staff - we’re always happy to see you. Happy gardening!

Five easy tips for dealing with weeds

Five easy tips for dealing with weeds

Weeds. We all have a fear of seeing our beautiful gardens, our labour of love become infested with unwanted, unattractive weeds. Not only are they greedy, nutrient-gluttons, their roots are also invasive and can transfer harmful diseases to your plants.

Our battle with weeds has been ongoing since the very first days of agriculture, and the science behind deterring and eradicating them is certainly warranted. Countless significant harvests, recorded in history, have been decimated by weeds, and our beautiful local gardens are no exception. Though most of us don’t depend on such monumental harvests to sustain ourselves, the presence of weeds is still an unsightly blemish in our gardens.

As fellow green thumbs, we’re always on the lookout for the best ways to deal with weeds. We sympathize with the gardeners who come to our store with that look in their eye – the gardener fighting the good fight against weeds. It’s for you, troubled gardener, that we’ve written these five tips for fending off weeds or eliminating them for good. All without the use of harmful herbicides!

1. Mulching

Mulch is aesthetically pleasing in any garden, and a great way to suppress weed growth. The mulch keeps the soil beneath it moist and prevents weeds from getting the sunlight they need to grow. About 2 inches of mulch on top of laid out newspaper can stunt weed growth drastically, and the paper will naturally decompose and feed your soil. We’re huge fans of the old win win.

2 .Plant spacing

Although we referenced plant spacing in one of our recent Inspiration Garden posts, spacing your plants at an optimal distance from one another is incredibly important. Too close, and weeds won’t get any sunlight to grow, but your plants run the risk of spreading disease to their neighbours. Too far, and the excess water and nutrients in the unused soil will be put to work feeding your unwanted plant invaders. Give careful consideration to big leafed plants like Hostas or our Kong Mosaic Coleus and how you can use them to prevent the sun from ever reaching those weeds-to-be.

3. Wet weeds

Here's the cold hard truth: when you’re working against weeds you’re going to need to get down and dirty. The good news is that things aren’t all doom and gloom. Use the weather to your advantage, and do your weeding after a heavy rainfall! The water will make it easier to slip those stubborn weeds out of the ground without tearing the roots and sending you back for round two. A couple quick tips: Bring a fork to skewer and dislodge pesky leftover roots, and make sure to wear some comfy knee pads and a pair of waterproof gloves!

4. Don’t dig where you don’t need to

Whether we like it or not, weed seeds are everywhere in our soil. However, only the seeds near the top inch of soil have the ability to germinate. Be very particular about where you dig and don’t dig any deeper than you need to, as you have the potential to give life to otherwise dormant weeds.

5. When you can’t kill it, delay it

Some persistent perennials (such as dandelions) can be difficult to get rid of once they mature. Chopping off the heads of weeds can make them use up extra energy to regrow and ultimately limit their spreading ability. Deadheading annual weeds, at the very least, can give you valuable time to prepare for the weed season. Consider calling on tools like the Felco pruners, which deliver the precise cuts needed for weeding while still being extremely comfortable in-hand.

Keeping your garden properly fed and fertilized is always helpful in warding off weeds. A constant eye on the state of your plants is necessary in finding and pulling weeds before they have matured and grown their tap roots. Hopefully, hard work in combination with our tips will help you keep your garden happy, healthy and weed-free.

Happy gardening, and let us know your personal weeding tricks in the comments below!

A bird-friendly garden is as easy as these four steps

Build Your Own

A bird-friendly garden is as easy as these four steps

Here in the Maritimes, a backyard full of birds is like a dream come true. Nova Scotia is home to a wide variety of unique species, and sharing your garden with them up close and personal can be a truly rewarding experience. From a colour perspective alone, species like the Cedar Waxwing, which sports muted yellow feathers, or the Downy Woodpecker with its distinct red head will visually complement any arrangement of flowers in your garden.

However, birds can be finicky by nature, and like all of the wildlife we talk about bringing into your garden, appealing to the specific tastes of the species you’re looking for is the ticket. Take some time to research your species of choice, and reference these four tips when it comes time to get started on your bird-friendly backyard.

Focus on what you’ve got. Many of us have high aspirations, but when it comes to bringing some of the rarer breeds into your garden it’s important to remember that base populations matter to birds. Wild birds prefer to eat together, and will be more likely to investigate your space if it’s a ‘popular hangout’. The next time you’re strolling through your garden, take a note of the visitors. They can provide a clear plan for which starter seeds and feeders you should invest in. As more birds and species arrive later on, you can adjust accordingly.

Don’t break the bank. Having every type of feeder and seed in your yard may seem like an easy win, but if you’re unsure of which birds are native to your area or even your neighborhood, your time spent may not yield a return in avian guests. For feeders, start small; a simple tube feeder is almost always a safe bet. Tip: make sure to buy one that is durable enough for the winter and inoperable by the pesky squirrels in your neighbourhood.

Sunflowers are your friend. Cardinals, finches, nuthatches, blue jays – the list of birds that eat sunflower seeds is a long one indeed. You can even grow sunflowers in your garden and let the birds feed off the heads! We would recommend the Giant Mammoth Russian variety, due to their large size and sturdiness. The sunflower is the bread and butter of the bird world, and a great way to attract winged friends of all shapes and sizes.

Birdbaths. When it comes to bringing birds to your garden, water is just as important as seeds. A bird bath is a great way to provide your new guests with a place to drink and clean themselves, and will give your backyard an edge over other feeding grounds. Make sure to mind its state, keeping it clean and freshly watered. By the way, if you have outdoor cats, do the birds a lifesaving favour and position the bath away from bushes and ferns, or place a fence around it.

Transforming your garden into a paradise for birds will require patience. It may be a time investment, but the payoff is certainly worth the wait. Head over to our store in Halifax for a full assortment of bird seed, feeders and houses. Happy gardening!

It’s not too late! Here’s what to plant in late June or early July

How to Grow

It’s not too late! Here’s what to plant in late June or early July

OK, so it’s the end of June and you’re feeling like it’s way too late to dig into gardening and get something truly meaningful done with your landscape, however big or small. Between work and play, those summers where May and June seem to fly by are all too real, but we have some good news! It’s never too late, and if you’re looking for a little quality time with your soil you have plenty of mid-summer options, flower and vegetable alike.

Flowers

  • Alyssum Saxatile: a hardy spring blooming perennial with beautiful, fragrant golden-yellow flowers that can be planted in June and will flower the following year.
  • Chinese Lantern: in a league all their own, Chinese Lanterns look eerily similar to ornamental paper lanterns. They’re bright orange, and have several lantern-shaped blossoms to a stem. Ideal for a fall or winter arrangement and visually exotic in just about any setting.
  • Christmas Rose: we have these beauties listed in our store as a rose ‘for a gardener looking for a challenge.’ Beautiful and long lasting, the Christmas Rose is a perennial with creamy-white pearls and lovely golden anthers.
  • Early Sunrise Coreopsis: when you’ve been specially bred to produce a vibrant, glowing display of semi-double golden-yellow blooms, you really knock it out of the park. These Early Sunrise Coreopsis have genetics on their side, and won’t disappoint!
  • Delphiniums: to say these Delphiniums grow high would be an understatement. At a formidable 60 inches high, the beautiful array of colours they produce will be visible to most and are particularly attractive to bees. Plant in June or July for flowers the following year.

Vegetables

  • Squash: summer squash planted in June will yield fresh vegetables in either July or August. The window is small here, so if squash is on your radar, this is one you should jump on, soon!
  • Broccoli: capable of growing right into November, broccoli is a good go-to if you’re planting in June or July and want to add some green to your meals. 
  • Beans: we talked about bean teepees in one of our latest Inspiration Garden posts, and now beans in general are in the spotlight. Pole and bush alike, you can plant beans now and enjoy a reliable harvest.
  • Carrots: champions of the fall crop, carrots can be planted in July and will yield crops well into the fall and will sustain in your garden until needed and harvested.
  • Kale: your friend in both July and August, Kale will yield harvestable plants all the way through fall and into the winter. Plant these hardy vegetables before mid-August and reap the rewards.

Of course, these are just a few options open to you if you’re looking to get started with your garden a little later than usual. Drop by our store in Halifax, and one of our staff will be happy to assist you in picking out the right plants for the mid-summer job. Happy gardening!

How Back to the Roots is making products that ask the right questions

How Back to the Roots is making products that ask the right questions

For many residents in the core of Halifax City and the Metro area, urban farming is a great way to reconnect with what it means to plant and eat food that’s often healthier than store-bought alternatives and a lot of fun to grow.

It’s for this reason that Back to the Roots is a company worth keeping an eye on. Their claim to fame is in producing products that inspire families to ask “where does my food come from?” - it’s an auspicious undertaking and one that rings close to home for Halifax Seed. 

Their most recent success story is a closed-loop ecosystem called Water Garden that was fully funded on Kickstarter. For your money you’re getting a countertop garden and fish tank all in one. The fish feed the plants, and the plants clean the water. It's a win win!

It all comes down to hydroponics, or the growth of plants without using any type of soil. You care for the fish, and you generate a sustainable, clean urban farm. Dill, basil, chives - think of a herb and you can probably grow it. The product's community of owners have some incredible setups, here, worth referencing.

Though we don't sell the Water Garden itself, we stock just about everything you could ever want to grow with it. If you’re in the market for herbs, seeds or have questions on hydroponic seed growth, drop by one of our locations or contact us at our website!

Bringing light and life to your shade garden

How to Grow

Bringing light and life to your shade garden

Experienced gardeners know that shade gardening is far from easy. Aside from the nourishment benefits of the sun, the range of plants that flourish with just a glimpse of sunlight far outweighs those that can thrive without. However, most gardeners will also agree that there’s something incredibly rewarding about ducking away to your shade garden on a scorching summer day to defy expectations and make something stunning out of a consistently shady area. For urban gardeners with sheltered patios and limited options, we’re looking at you, too!

The benefits of a shade gardening may surprise you. Because the sun’s reign is limited in shade gardens, moisture will evaporate slowly and reduce the maintenance and watering requirements on these sorts of gardens. Additionally, pests of all shapes and sizes (including weeds) will make less of a showing in these darker areas. Less watering and fewer pests means low maintenance, and we call that a win-win.

So the challenge isn’t so much caring for a shade garden as it is choosing the right plants for the job. Dropping sunlight-hungry beauties into a dark garden is a real tragedy, but with the right information you’ll be on your way to working with plants that require little to no sunlight. A challenge worth taking on!

The most commonly regarded ‘shade plant’ is arguably the Hosta. They’re large and luxuriant, growing leaves that look like they’re straight out of the rainforest. Best of all, they’re simple to grow. Just ensure that there’s ample room for drainage in the soil and keep things damp (not wet!)

Bleeding Hearts are a surefire win if your goal is to bring brightness to the darkness of your shade garden. Another dependable perennial, Bleeding Hearts bring radiance to an otherwise shady shady garden, with long elegant stems and heart-shaped flowers. Easy to grow and easier on the eyes, Bleeding Hearts are an easy recommendation, and one we make often!

Continuing our crusade for colour in the shade, Astilbes are, again, perennial (we dig patterns here, and yes, pun intended) that grow plumes of vibrant flowers. Pick a moist, shady area and commence with adding an array of colours to your darker garden. By the way, if you need any help with colour palettes, we have an Inspiration Garden entry for ­just that. Between the Astilbes and the Bleeding Hearts, your shade garden will be anything but dreary.

In addition to the above, we recommend Japanese painted ferns and Hakonechloa grass. For more information and other inspiring ideas, head to our store or deeper into the Inspiration Garden. Happy gardening!

Gardening with kids

Vegetable Gardening

Gardening with kids

At Halifax Seed, we’re proponents of the idea that gardening is an investment. Gardeners pour their time, energy, and varying passions into the soil, and the results are just as unique and individualized as the person tending to them. It’s this personal element to gardening that creates variety. Chaos or organization, vibrant colour palettes or uniform schemes; every garden is a little different, and they reflect the expertise and personality of their caretakers.

So here’s the gardener’s challenge: how does one preserve the garden they’ve labored over, and introduce the activity to children? The truth is that for most, a garden is as much a shared recreational space as it is a fragile monument. Striking the balance and incorporating your kids in the activity could just be the best thing for your garden this summer, and we have a few tips that should help you on your way. This, is the often-request feature article on gardening with children, and it’s just one of the ways Halifax Seed is bringing your family back outside to the garden this Summer!

Bringing your young ones into the garden can be a gratifying experience for parent and child alike. If not for the enjoyment factor of time spent together, gardening at a young age also encourages healthy eating and an awareness of where real food comes from. Much like the results of your own efforts, your children will reap what they sow and have an opportunity to participate in the lifecycle of a plant from seed to pot or table.

Looking for plants that are resilient to yard play is one way to start, but the ticket is having children invested in the growth cycle of their plants. Most gardeners who have experienced the satisfaction of a full growth cycle will agree that nurturing a plant and seeing those efforts culminate is a relationship and a reward worth pursuing! So instead, focus your attention on plants that grow quickly, are visually exciting, and reward your small gardener for that effort. Hook, line, and sinker! Have a look:

  • Cherry Tomatoes: quick to grow and fun to tether to support stakes, cherry tomatoes grow in roughly two to three months from transplant (five to six months from seeds) and are easy to care for. Visually, they’re a real treat (bright red on green) and can be quite tall indeed! Best of all, they make for a great salad or snack.
  • Carrots: as fun to grow as they are to pull from the soil and eat, carrots reach maturity in around two months (a great companion for those cherry tomatoes) and require little spacing, water, and little else. Cook them with supper and remind the family that these bad boys were grown at home.
  • Pumpkins: quick to sprout and exciting for just about every child, pumpkins will show off their sprouts in just a week. As they grow, vines will spread and the orange giants will grow to maturity in about three to four months. Dry the seeds for a quick treat, and get working on this Halloween’s Jack-o-lantern.
  • Sunflowers: the fan favorite, sunflowers will pop up in a week and should be a formidable height by the end of your first month. Once they’ve dried out, harvest the seeds and roast them for a classic snack. Just remember that they’re needy when it comes to spacing.
  • Bean Teepees: Crafting a vegetable hide-away for your kids is a great way to get them excited to be in the garden. Simply form five to six bamboo poles into a teepee shape and plant three to four bean seeds at the base of each. The beans will grow along the bamboo poles and over the entire structure, making a cool escape from the heat on hot summer days.

These are just a few of the ideal plants for the young gardener in your life - just remember to keep an eye on their plants and lend a helping hand if things look dire. Together, there’s little your family can’t accomplish in the garden. For more information and other inspiring ideas, head to our store or deeper into the Inspiration Garden. Happy gardening!

Culinary herbs in your urban garden

How to Grow

Culinary herbs in your urban garden

Whether your urban garden takes up your whole balcony or just your windowsill, incorporating herbs will provide a quick and easy source of culinary enhancement that’s way more satisfying than store bought. On top of that, most herbs produce abundantly all season long and fit well in a container, flower garden, or vegetable garden. Naturally, herbs will flourish best in sunlight, but many of the more popular herbs like parsley and chive will tolerate partial shade and produce well.

Some culinary herbs we recommend for your urban garden:

  • Basil: As well as being a kitchen essential, Basil is regarded as one of the healthiest herbs around. Enriched with vitamin K, copper, and calcium, basil requires 6-8 hours of sunlight a day and is a great addition to any urban herb garden.
  • Chives: Similar to basil, chives are arguably a cooking essential. If French cuisine is the name of the game, look no further! With a hybrid garlic and onion aroma, they’re not only aromatic, they’re also easy to grow. Though they prefer full sun, they will grow in partial shade and still do wonders.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro’s taste is best described as a promise of lively fresh flavor. As long as you’re not affected be the genetic soap taste it strangely offers some people, Cilantro will definitely be of benefit to your next dish. For optimal growth, make successive sowings every 2 to 3 weeks starting in late spring.
  • Mint: Mint carries the chemical menthol, which can be a treat for your taste buds. Use just the right amount and you’ll add a bit of fresh bite to a dish. Similar to basil, mint is a health nut’s friend and is rich in manganese, copper, and vitamin C. For optimal growth simply cut the stems one inch from the ground before flowering. As an added bonus, you can pick mint leaves whenever you need them!
  • Oregano: Oregano offers a special savor to almost any dish, but is most commonly used to compliment tomatoes, eggplant and meat. It will also take any pizza and pasta to the next level. Oregano does not have a strict growth cycle, so you can harvest the leaves as you need them.
  • Thyme: Thyme brings an intense kick to foods, and should be used sparingly. To unlock the full flavor of thyme it is best to add at the last moment of a recipe, because the oils are easily evaporated. Thyme is another ingredient that will help bring your specialty pizza or pasta to the next level, and gives your morning omelet a pleasant aroma. Although it’s not as beneficial to your health as basil or mint, thyme has several surprising medicinal uses. It can be used as eyewash, a hair rinse to prevent dandruff, or a tonic to stimulate the nervous system. Believe it or not, it’ll even alleviate nervous disorders such as nightmares, depression, insomnia and melancholy. Time to plant some thyme!

Dill, Lavender, and Parsley are also fairly easy to grow, and will make spectacular additions to your urban herb garden. For more information and other inspiring ideas, head to our store or deeper into the Inspiration Garden. Happy gardening!

The layout of your planter box, in five easy steps!

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The layout of your planter box, in five easy steps!

We recently published an article on planter boxes and their general layout - but for a quick and easy to-do list with links and tips, look no further!

Planter boxes are the mobile gardens that can bring any side of your house some new personality. If you’re living with limited space or in an urban setting, planter boxes also make great alternatives for those of you with smaller grounds to work with.

The difference between a good planter box and a stellar one has a lot to do with composition. Your choice of flowers and colours comes secondary to visual arrangement and initial wow-factor, and with an eye for design and a road-map for arrangement, your next great planter box doesn’t have to be a guessing game!

First and foremost we recommend annuals when it comes to long seasons of colour and the option of switching out species if they ever begin to look tired. From there, you can observe a few simple steps to help you turn your next planter box into a stunner:

  1. Use lightweight potting soil and leave close to four inches of free space from the top of your box. We recommend Pro-Mix!
  2. Place your taller focal plants in the back row of your box (typically two to three rows per box, but this method works for any size). You’ll ideally want one to two taller plants for every foot of your planter, equally spaced from one another. Remember, symmetry is your friend! We suggest Dracaena Spikes, Grasses, Angelonia, or Geraniums.
  3. If you can accommodate three rows of space in your planter box, the next row ought to house your plants of medium height. If you’re working with a smaller box, plant these types of flowers next to your taller focal pieces. A notably attractive practice is to stagger your medium flowers in between your larger ones, which creates a framed effect. Try some experimenting and see for yourself! Some great fillers to consider are Heliotropes, Lantanas, and Petunias.
  4. The front row of your box will typically be home to your smallest plants and/or your trailers. If you’re unfamiliar, trailers are wonderful for planter boxes because they grow out and down the front of your box, crafting an over-flowing appearance and making the space they occupy feel very green indeed. Again, it’s helpful to stagger these smaller plants and trailers so that they frame your medium ones. The Licorice vine is great for downy-leaves, and adds that much desired flow. Our favourite ‘spillers’ are Sweet Potato vine, Persian Shield, Bacopas, or Nasturtium.
  5. Completing your planter box is as easy as filling the rest of your open space with potting soil, and drenching the plants with water to settle them in for a long season of growth and beauty. Be attentive to your planter boxes (they’re prone to drying out quickly) and remember that the right fertilizer can really help your flowers with that extra mile of vibrancy. Some great choices for fertilizers and soil amendments would include a slow release annual plant food, Pink Vigoro Organic Based All-Purpose Fertilizer 8-12-6, Gaia Green Organic Power Bloom Fertilizer, or water retaining gel crystals.

For a great visual walkthrough, check out this video at Proven Winners, and as always, happy gardening!

Bee Friendly

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Bee Friendly

They may have been terrifying when we were young, but bees play a vital role in the lifecycle of plants. With a little extra knowledge, you may find yourself inviting the once unwelcome honey hoarders into your garden with open arms.

Seemingly carefree as they roam lazily from flower to flower, bees are, without question, the best pollinators you can hope to have frequenting your garden. Nearly three quarters of the food we commonly eat and grow in our gardens, like vegetables, herbs, fruit and even nuts require pollination to reproduce.

With bees on your side, you’ll even see an increase in the yield of your fruits and vegetables. It’s hard to say no to results like that when you come to understand that bees are truly custodians first and aggressors rarely.

Building a hospitable home for bees in your garden can be easy, and once done, will ensure that your plants are sharing the love and distributing or receiving pollen. You might consider buying or building a bee house, or, if you're feeling handy, building one by using a small wooden box or a milk container. Simply coat your box with a bright, low-VOC (non-toxic) paint, and fill it with paper tubes for nesting.

If decorations aren't really your style, we’re happy to help you select from a huge supply of plants that bees are naturally attracted to, here at Halifax Seed. Drop by our location and speak to a specialist for our recommendation on the flowers and plants that will turn your garden into a blossoming safe haven for one of nature’s most undervalued residents.

Here are just a few of our flowers that will have your garden buzzing: Alata MixtureSageSunflowerGolden Jubilee. For more information on which flowers would be suitable, drop into Halifax Seed and one of our garden specialists will be happy to assist you. Happy gardening!

A guide to playing with colour

A guide to playing with colour

Similar to an interior decorating choosing a colour scheme for a space, gardeners can sometimes overlook the joy of selecting a theme for their garden. By harnessing your lighting and working with contrast, you can create a beautiful and fulfilling panorama that’ll wow guests and make afternoons in your garden that much brighter. 

Despite the required planning the results really can be spectacular. When you’re planning your garden’s colour palette, try to take stock of every colour present in your garden’s surroundings. For example, contrasts like white flowers against white fencing aren’t nearly as impactful and dramatic as yellow or purple flowers in the same space. 

If you can catalogue and counter these influential visuals coming in from your surroundings, you can make an informed decision on the colours of your garden and the result will appear refined and complete. By sticking to a consistent colour scheme, you create visual unity in sections of your garden that cater to very different plant types.

Once you’re happy with your colour palette, your options open up in a lot of exciting ways. Unity can come from planting the same coloured flower throughout your garden, but you can also opt to plant varying flower species of the same colour to add variety without moving away from your chosen appearance. For example, rows of yellow marigolds bring the same air of unity as a combination of lavender, blue petunias, and blue salvia.

It’s important to remember that colours influence our emotions in meaningful ways. Brighter colours like yellows and reds will excite in the same way that greens and blues will relax. It’s a very visceral inner dialogue that can come to define an atmosphere if executed on with care. When guests enter your home, are they walking into a zone of excitement or serenity? Is your back yard a place of rest, or play? When it comes to the indoors you can define those spaces with great interior decorating, but a garden’s placement and colour palette can set the tone right from the first look.

Best of all, many modern annuals are available in a full spectrum of colours and way more tones and shades than ever before, including designer colours and blends! Just about every combination of colour you can think of is open to you, and your distinct look has never been easier to find. Have fun!

The butterfly effect

The butterfly effect

A garden can be a spiritual place. Highly visual and an aromatic treat, gardens are as rewarding as they are demanding, and for some create an atmosphere of equivalent exchange: what you put into your landscape is what it will yield for you. 

That mentality is a good place to start, but there are a few tricks of the trade that’ll help you get the most out of your efforts. At Halifax Seed, we do our utmost to share these insights with you that you might yield an incredibly vibrant, fulfilling garden.

Few things say zen garden quite like butterflies. They’re colourful, attractive, and add a gentle element of life and motion to a garden that’s sought after and appreciated by owners and guests your garden alike. Fortunately, adult butterflies have a reliably cosmopolitan palate and attracting them beyond that can be broken down into a bit of a science.

Though the flower nectar that butterflies rely on for energy is available to them in a myriad of flowering plants, they tend to gravitate towards the gardens that house warm coloured flowers that emit potent fragrances and produce nectar. Attracting butterflies can be as easy as picking up flower mixtures tailored to do just that.

Keep in mind that a pesticide-free garden is key to making your butterfly dreams a reality, and that one patch of nectar-producing plants may not be enough to keep the interest of your vibrant visitors, due to their relatively short lifespan. Instead, plant multiple sources will increase your chances of seeing visitors more often.

Finally, if you’re fully invested in a butterfly-rich garden, consider planting some host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on. By creating an ecosystem that supports a butterfly’s entire lifecycle, you can turn your colourful visitors into permanent residents.

Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers: How to Design a Container Garden

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Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers: How to Design a Container Garden

Choosing a Container

Containers for planting can be made of a wide range of materials from clay (glazed and unglazed) to metal or metal with coco fiber lining to plastic or fiber glass resin as well as wooden. Unglazed clay and coco fiber will dry out faster than plastic or fiber glass, and need more frequent heavier watering. Another factor to consider is drainage which is a must for outdoor containers especially during heavy rains which could leave plants drowning in too much water causing rot. Some plastic pots have a circular mark on the bottom indicating where you can drill a hole easily which will save your plants after a rain. Emptying saucers underneath pots after a rain is a good idea too preventing rot. The size of pot selected is also an important factor. If there is not enough soil the pot will dry out quickly and need more frequent watering as well the plants will become pot bound. If the pot is too big the soil will hold more moisture and the plants could rot if over watered, though as a general rule of thumb it is a good idea to have a bigger pot than a smaller one to avoid over crowding. Containers with narrow openings should be avoided. Consider the height of the planter if thinking about using different types of trailing plants. If the container is really tall it doesn't need to be filled with soil the whole way to the bottom to reduce the weight of the final product. You  could fill it half way with foam packing chips or old cell packs crumpled up to take up room but stay light enough to move. Remember you still want it to be somewhat heavy to avoid blowing over in high winds.

Choosing Soil

In containers for annuals the best choice of soil is a potting soil mixture since they contain perilite and vermiculate which help with moisture retention and soil drainage. They are primarily peat moss based and "soilless" so substituting a top soil or black earth would not be advisable since they would not function the same in a pot and poor plant growth would result. We generally recommend a Pro-Mix potting soil since it is a sterile planting medium and the homeowner should not get weeds from it or other plant diseases. It also contains Mycorrhizal fungi which form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the plant extending the plants natural root system helping it take up nutrients and water. In exchange the fungi receives carbohydrates from the plant which is not harmful and in fact the plants are healthier because of this relationship. If you wish to add compost to the soil use a 2/3 potting soil to 1/3 compost mixture. Sheep manure or earthworm castings would make good soil amendments and are odorless. Remember to leave a 1" or more gap between the soil level in the pot and the top lip of the pot, this will allow room for watering and prevent over flow of mucky water. It is a good idea to moisten your potting soil before planting so you know water has reached the bottom of the container. Before planting as well you can mix Soil Moist into the potting soil if you want to use crystals that absorb water and gradually release it to the plants, preventing the soil from drying out quickly though they cannot be used on food crops. Be careful not to use too many since they can cause the soil to overflow out of the pot after a heavy rain when they become over saturated.

Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

To make a successful container garden there are three elements to consider the thriller plant, the filler plants and the spiller plants.

The thriller plant is the focal point of the pot and should be selected first with the other elements relating to it. A thriller plant should be the tallest plant in the composition, generally they are upright and could have showy flowers, dramatic foliage or a different shape. Examples are Purple Fountain Grass, Cordyline, Canna Lilies, Dalhia, Dracena, Coleous, and Millet. In a planter that would be viewed on all sides in a round pot placing the thriller in the center is best. If the planter will be viewed from the front only you can place the thriller towards the back of the pot.

The filler plants are just as the name implies something to hide the bottom stocks of the thriller and weave through it. Generally the filler has a different texture than the thriller so if the thriller is coarse the filler is fine or vise versa. In addition to providing a texture contrast the filler adds colour to the planter it could be similar colours to the thriller (monochromatic) like different shades of purples or contrasting colours like purple and yellow. They should be planted around the thriller and don't have to be all the same type of plant some could be flowering and some could be foliage. The size of your pot will determine how many plants you will need without overcrowding since they will fill in over the summer. Examples are Begonia, New Guniea Inpatients, Osteospermum Daisy, Saliva, Persian Shield, Nemesia, Diascia, Petunia, Heuchera, Lamium  and Lantana. 

The spiller plants do just that and will spill over the edge of the planter softening the edge of the planter. The spillers are planted closest to the edge of the pot so they can tumbled towards the ground. These plants should tie into the colour scheme of the thriller and spiller and carry on the theme of those selections with colour, texture and shape of leaf or flower. Examples of spiller plants are Bacopa, Golden Creeping Jenny, Sweet Potato Vine, German Ivy, Swedish Ivy, Lobelia, Baltic Ivy, Fan Plant, Bidens, Verbena, Wave Petunia and Million Bells.

Sun and Shade

It is extremely important to study the area where the plants will be located during the summer to determine how many hours of direct light they will receive and also the time of day when this light is experienced. Six hours of direct light is considered to be full sun and morning sunlight is considered part sun as would evening sunlight. Bright shade is 4-6 hours of morning sun, dappled light is filtered through the canopy of trees, lastly dense shade is north facing or obstructed by structures. If you are gardening in shade or partial shade you can gain interest in a container by experimenting with texture, colour in leaves and sizes of leaf not just colour from flowers. Sun plants will not flower in shade and shade plants can be burnt from too much sun so it is important to plant the right plant in the right place.    

Perennial

Perennial plants can be used in containers as well as annuals to give extra interest with their leaves. The only draw back is that they will not flower as profusely as an annual would. Plants such as Heuchera, Hosta or Lamium are three great perennials for the shade that would work  well in a shade planter. Some perennials that work in containers such as Creeping Jenny that will trail over the edge of a pot should not be transferred to the garden afterwards because it is so invasive once established, but in a container it is wonderful.  

Fall Planters

Keep in mind in the fall that with trees and shrubs are loosing their leaves and perennials dying back to the ground hardscape elements will become more evident, such as walkways and railings. As well the siding of your home will be more dominate so colour combinations that worked in the summer may not work in the fall and could clash. You will want to choose plants that can tolerate a frost or two such as Ornamental Kale, Chrysanthemums, Pansys, Sedum or Purple Fountain Grass. Pick colours that suit the natural colours of autumn, like oranges and reds. You could incorporate branches as well as grasses to give height to your arrangement. 

If you want to plant a evergreen or other shrub in a container make sure that it is two zones colder than we are in Nova Scotia. We are Zone 5 so anything at Zone 3 would have the best chance of over wintering in a container. The choice of the pot is important too. Ceramic pots, glazed or unglazed would crack with the freezing and thawing of the soil mass over the winter months and a big investment could be lost. Consider using fiberglass, iron, thick plastic or a stone planter if you want the container to survive the elements in our climate.  

Colour Wheel & How to Use Colour in Your Garden

The first thing to know about colour is that it is based on three primary colours red, yellow and blue. Arranging the primary colours in a circle on a wheel is a logical way to understand how secondary colours such as green, purple and orange are formed when they are mixed with the primary colour next to it. Tertiary colours  are formed when a primary colour and a secondary colour are mixed with each other forming Yellow-Orange, Red-orange, Red-purple,  blue-purple, blue-green and yellow green these are hues.

Colour harmony is created by using certain colours taken from different parts of the colour wheel. If you pick three colours that are next to each other on the wheel you have an arrangement of analogous colours such as yellow-green, yellow and orange-yellow. Another type of arrangement is complementary colours which is when you place two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel side by side this creates a positive type visual tension with contrast. An example is purple and yellow which are opposite each other on the wheel.

There are warm and cool colours. Warm colours include shades of red, orange and  yellow. These colours often times will excite the spectator and cause a warm feeling. Cool colours include shades of green, blue and lavender. These colours tend to have a calming effect on the viewer. Think about what feeling you want your visitors to have while entering, roaming and relaxing around your property. Cool colours like purple Bacopa, Lavender and green Potato Vine in containers around the patio will produce a serene mood. Electric colours like yellow Dahlia, orange Zinna and red wave Petunia will produce a feeling of excitement and warmth. Combinations of warm and cool colours tend to be more typical with most homeowners but it is good to keep in mind the way our minds respond to colour theory emotionally.   

When using colour in your garden pick a theme of about four colours to use throughout to minimize visual confusion. These could be analogous colours such as reds, red-purples, blue and blue-purple. Like a red Geranium, purple Potato Vine, purple Bacopa, blue Salvia in a container. You could select complementary colours such as blues and oranges to create organized confusion like a orange Marigold with Celosia, Blue Lobelia and blue Salvia. You want to minimize the number of different colours to create a sense of unity like an interior designer would do in a home. Repetition of those selected colours will create unity which is one of the principals of landscape design. That doesn't mean you need to plant all the same type of plant, pick different flowering plants with similar coloured blooms that would be enough repetition and provide some variety as well while remembering you want a thriller, filler and spiller.  

If you are planting in the shade you want to use light coloured annuals such as white, light pink or pale blue so that the blooms don't get lost in the darkness of shade. That doesn't mean that you cannot use dark colours just make sure there is a variety of different intensity of colours with some lighter intensity colours used to pop and create contrast. A light green Coleus could surround deep red New Guinea Impatient.

Contrast between hardscape features such as fences, siding of your house or patio pavers is essential so avoid an analogous colour relationship. So if your fence is red, planting a container with red geraniums in front of it might become lost but if you planted white or pink they would stand out due to contrast. Having some red in the planter though might be a good idea to create a sense of harmony in the entire feel of the garden. Likewise if the fence is white you wouldn't want to plant white Petunia cascading down the planter a darker more vibrant colour like purple or hot pink would stand out better. Or if using a light colour choose something other than white but a less intense hue of purple.

Containers become a focal point in the garden or on the deck so it is important that they are dynamic and full of contrast between the thriller, filler, spiller while having an overall feeling of unified harmony. This feeling of harmony is not just created with colour the foliage of the annuals is an important factor as well with different shades of green such as  blue-green, yellow-green, white and green. There are purple, orange, red and silver  foliage plants. Don't overlook different colours of foliage when planning your container they can be just as striking and dramatic as well as longer lasting than blooms. They also can tone down the intensity of strong flower colours making them less outrageous.

Caring For Your Planter- Fertilizing

Since container plants have such a small amount of soil accessible to their root systems this affects their requirements for both nutrients and water. So plants in pots require more fertilization due to the small soil volume. At the time of planting you can use a quick start liquid fertilizer to help the roots of your annuals get established. These formulas are higher in phosphorous which will stimulate the roots. Three weeks after planting your annual containers it is a good idea to start a fertilizing routine for flowering plants. There are many options available and a choice between synthetic and organic.

Synthetic fertilizers can be water soluble, granular or slow release. Water soluble are mixed into your watering can with water and poured into your pots of flowers (Plant Prod, Miracle Gro) Granular is mixed into the soil around the plants carefully without disturbing the roots (Pink). Slow release fertilizers only need to be applied once and come in a granular form that is sprinkled over the soil around the plants (Nutricote). Organic fertilizers contain natural nutrients often that come from a varity of sources to provide balanced macro-nutrients and mirco-nutrients that will help build soil health while nourishing the plants (Gaia Green Power Bloom, Neptune's Harvest). Regardless of what type of fertilizer you select following the directions on the product label is extremely important to avoid over fertilization which can harm the plants. While under fertilization isn't as harmful as over your plants will not perform to their full potential. A lack of nitrogen will make them yellow (chlorotic) and a lack of phosphorous will cause a lack of blossoms. 

Caring For Your Planter-Watering

Since the annuals are planted above ground and cannot seek out water they are dependant on you to deliver their water requirements to them. While they cannot call out for water they will wilt if they become too dry or the tips of the leaves can turn brown from inconsistent watering.

So how do you know how much water to provide? This all depends on the location whether it is full sun or shade. In full sun plants will use much more water compared to the plants in the shade that don't have all that intense heat everyday. Wind is another factor which will dry plants out faster, something to consider with hanging baskets which can be watered everyday almost. The larger the plant is the more water it will use to sustain itself and the more actively growing the plant is the more water it will consume in a day. For example large tomato plants are extremely heavy drinkers. Of course the type of weather we are experiencing at the time is also a factor watering more on a hot summer day, watering less during a day with showers, and no watering on a day with heavy rain. Some plants don't like an abundance of water, like Portulaca which prefer dry soil and plants like Coleus will rot if they are kept too wet. A major consideration too is the type of soil that you are planting in as well and whether or not you add compost to the soil which will make it harder for the soil to absorb water once it has dried out.

Watering is an activity best done in the early morning before the heat of the summer day sets in so the plants are able to absorb more water and less water will evaporate into the air. When you water in the heat of the day the beads of water on the leaves can act like magnifying glasses and burn the leaves causing spotting on the otherwise healthy leaves. Many people water in the evening since it is cooler and they have more time to spare but this can cause a beneficial environment for fungal diseases to spread with moisture remaining on the leaves since there is no heat from the sun to dry them. 

Caring For Your Planter-Dead Heading
 

An essential practice for any annual garden is dead heading removing spent blooms, but it isn't just the colourful petals that need to be removed it is also the seed head itself, the green portion underneath the petals. If that is left the plant will go to seed and stop flowering since it has completed it's life cycle and feels that it has fulfilled it's purpose to spread and continue that type of plant in the world. Dead heading will keep the plant blooming the whole season long, combined with using a flowering plant fertilizer.  

Sprouting!

How to Grow

Sprouting!

Sprouting is an increasingly popular practice that allows you to grow your food, even during the cold of winter. Sprouting is a simple and fast process. They are considered a “live” food, because at the time of consumption they are still growing. Sprouts are packed with vital enzymes and vitamins and are great used on sandwiches, salads, soups and cooking.

The materials that you require are:
• A jar (with a wide mouth)
• A screen or netting (that will cover the mouth of the jar), and an elastic band
• A bowl
• Sprouting Seeds (We recommend Mumm’s Organic Sprouting seeds)
• Air, warmth, light (but not direct sunlight), and water.

Step 1:
Soak seeds in your container / jar. Cover with mesh or netting, and secure with the elastic band. The seeds should be soaked in water for 4-8 hours (or over night) but read package directions as some varieties of seeds only require 2 hours of soaking (ex. Broccoli). When you choose your type of seed it is important to determine the length of soaking time and how large the seed can become as seeds will expand greatly as they grow into sprouts. This is important to take into account when choosing the quantity of seed to place into the jar. It can expand up to 20 times its regular size. A little seed goes a long way!

Step 2:
Drain water after soaking. After this, the sprouts need to be rinsed at least twice a day. This is approximately once every 12 hours (set an alarm). All the water should be drained after being rinsed. The jar can then be propped up at a 45 degree angle to help drain water out and allow air circulation. This can be done by propping the jar in a bowl. This process should continue until the sprouts are ready to harvest.

Step 3:
Days until harvest generally varies from each variety, ranging between 3-10 days. Monitor the seeds to determine when they are finished. Harvest them carefully by pulling apart the sprouts carefully, and separate the developed sprouts from the ones that are still growing. This way you can keep growing the sprouts that have not full grown.

Step 4:
Store sprouts in plastic bags in the fridge, and rinse them every 3 days. Generally sprouts will last at least a week to 10 days.

Tips:
• Use sanitary equipment to avoid any salmonella or any other contamination
• It is recommended that pregnant women do not eat sprouts
• Never let seeds dry out during growing, or in storage

Popular sprouts:
Alfalfa, brocolli, buckwheat, canola, fenugreek, flax, garbanzo beans, lentils, mung beans, mustard, chickpeas, radish, red clover, sunflower, wheatgrass

Urban Gardening: How to grow in your own backyard

Vegetable Gardening

Urban Gardening: How to grow in your own backyard

1. Light requirements:

Sun Loving Plants: Nightshade Family: (Solanacea) - Peppers, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Ground Cherries, TomatillosOnion Family: (Alliacea) - Onions, Leeks, Garlic, ChivesAlso: Beans, Eggplants, Cucumbers, Squash, Zucchini 

Shade Tolerant Plants: Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Endives, Herbs, Kale, Lettuces, Spinach, Peas, Radish, Turnips, Swiss Chard, shrub berries (with slightly decreased yield)

What do we mean by lots of sun?
Full sun can mean anywhere from 6 hours in the afternoon, to all day. Part sun is usually morning sun, or less than 6 hours of sun in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s tricky to plant shade plants in afternoon sun, because the heat of the sun at that time can still damage leaves. If you are blessed with morning sun, you may have reduced yields from vegetables like tomatoes, but that shouldn’t discourage you from a bit of experimenting. Choosing early ripening varieties can help. Leafy greens and plants in the cabbage family actually benefit from a bit of shade to keep them cooler. They stay more tender, and do not develop as many bitter flavors.

2. Space requirements

What requires a lot of space? What doesn’t?
Vegetables with high production in small amount of space: Beans, Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Mustard, Onions, Peppers, Radishes, Turnips. Vegetables that take up more room, but have a high yield: Summer squash (bush types), Tomatoes

Vegetables and the appropriate container size for one plant:
Root vegetables - 10-12 inch deep: Carrots, Turnips, Beets
Vigorous growers - At least 12 inches or more: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Squash
Shallow growers - Lettuce, Leafy greens, Radishes, 8 inch wide x 8-10 inch deep: Beans (bush), Kale, Mustard, Onions, Spinach 12 inch wide x 12 inch deep: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, Eggplant (Black Beauty)12 inch wide x 24 inch deep: Standard tomatoes, Bell peppers, Squash family6 inch wide x 7 inch deep - Dwarf tomatoes, Hot peppers

Space saving varieties:
Beans - French Dwarf (Purple Queen, Sprite) or any bush variety is suitable
Beets - Golden Burpees
Cabbage - Kalibos
Carrots - Rondo
Cucumbers - any bush variety will take up only 1/3 the space of regular types
Eggplant - Black Beauty, Pinstripe F1, Hansel F1
Lettuce - any variety is suitable as a space saver, wonderful for container gardening
Peas - Little Marvel, Laxton’s Progress
Peppers - California Wonder, Yum Yum and Hot Peppers
Pumpkins - Summer ball
Squash: All bush types
Tomatoes - Patio Hybrid, Tiny Tim

Many people find it easier to use vegetable transplants, as opposed to starting from seed. However, root crops should be sown directly into the soil. Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils all do better when directly sown.

3. Container Gardening  

There are many advantages to container gardening! The soil in containers warms up quickly - great for heat-loving plants like tomatoes. You can control what kind of soil gets added to your containers, and they are portable: you can move them into a sunny patch and bring them inside on cold nights. You can grow almost any variety of vegetable you want in a container, provided that container is big enough.

What containers to use: Your choice of containers is limited only by your imagination. I’ve seen discarded plastic milk crates “re-purposed” into plant containers. They drain really well and you can line up groups of them into nice, symmetrical vegetable beds- especially handy for those whose sunniest piece of property is an asphalt or gravel-covered driveway. 

What soil to use: Start off with a potting soil for better drainage and water retention on hot days. Amend with compost of your choice. 2/3 potting soil to 1/3 compost. Keep in mind that compost will make your soil heavier an less able to absorb water once it has dried out.

Importance of watering: Containers are notoriously bad for drying out on hot days. Be careful to use an appropriate size of container - it’s best to use a container that is bigger than you need. You can add water retention crystals into your containers, which swell up with water for gradually release. If possible, water in the morning to deter fungi or mildews from forming and to prevent burning of foliage in the hot afternoon sun. Plants absorb more water when it is cooler. Less of the water you use evaporates.

Adding flowers for pollinators: Containers benefit from added flowers which can draw pollinator insects to help pollinate and increase yields. They also add a nice splash of colour to your garden. Some flowers are also edible, and can be added to salads or as a garnish. Some examples of great flowers to add would be marigolds calendulas, pansies/violas, chamomile (insects love it), nigella, and many more.

Aesthetic design: You don’t have to follow specific design rules, you can use your imagination in creating your urban garden. Keep in mind, some rules that have worked in the past would be repetition, groupings of threes, alternating shapes and textures, adding height for aesthetic interest, and creating multi leveled effects all unite any type of garden.

Fertilizing: Container plants need to be fed more, especially if there is no compost at all. Also, constant watering tends to leach nutrients from the soil. Some great fertilizers to try are Pink All Purpose granular fertilizer or Gaia Green Organic fertilizers

Container examples:

Salad: Growing your own salad is easy, especially in containers, which warm up more quickly than the garden. Start in late April or early May and stay tuned to the weather channel for frost warnings- you can always through a bedsheet over a patch on a cold night. Use a mixture of potting soil and compost to add to containers. Because they grow quickly, many greens are good candidates for succession planting - plant a new patch of them every couple of weeks for a fresh supply throughout the season. 

Peppers: make good container candidates; the generally drier soil conditions in a pot suit the hot varieties perfectly. I’ve heard of gardeners who bring their potted pepper plants inside for the winter where they lie dormant before coming back to life the next spring.

Vertical gardening: the ultimate in space-saving! Relatively new in the gardening scene is the upside-down hanging planter. This kind of design allows you to suspend you tomato, pepper, cucumber or other fruiting plant from the side of your house, garage or tree branch. Take your transplant and feed its root ball and the bottom part of its stem up through the hole from the outside. Pack in some good-quality potting soil and there you have it - ready to hang! Don’t forget to water it.

4.Raised Bed Gardening

There are many advantages to gardening in raised beds

Time: They can improve production and save time, space and money, as well as add a touch of beauty to the yard. You save time because you only work the soil within the beds. You do not have to till all the space between the rows and you don’t have to weed the paths, which can be mowed or mulched. Because the vegetables are planted closer together, less weeding of the garden bed is needed.

Better Crops: Crops tend to grow better in the deep, loose soil of a raised bed because it is not continually run over by you or machinery. Gardeners using the raised bed method can expect to harvest at least twice as much produce from the same number of plants.

Control Over Soil: One of the big advantages to raised bed gardening is that you have control over the soil. Even if you start with dirt that is less than desirable, you can add lots of compost that will vastly help to improve soil conditions. Loose, fertile soil tends to drain well too.

Building the Bed: Make sure you pull up all large plants, level the area, and turn over the sod or cover with a thick layer of wet newspaper before building your bed. Your bed should be 8 to 12 inches deep and the frame should be sturdy enough to hold the soil that will be placed in it. Cedar lumber is ideal because water won’t cause it to rot for many years. Another, cheaper option, is to use untreated planks of regular building lumber at least 2” thick. These will last for 2-3 years before they need to be replaced. Screw the planks of wood to 2”x2” or 4”x4” corner posts using 4 screws per board (2 at each end to attach the boards). For better stability sink the corner posts 6 inches into the ground before attaching the side boards. 

Use caution in selecting materials. Used railroad ties, landscape timbers, or treated 4X4s can be laid on the ground and stacked in log cabin fashion to the desired height. Another fine option is to use old tires, large rocks, or even whole trees to create your borders. However, wood and other materials that have preservatives or industrial products on them can leach chemicals into the soil, and most people choose to avoid these materials. 

Soil: Determine measurement of the bed to determine how much you need: width x length x depth = total volume. A bed that is 4 ft wide x 8 ft long and 1 ft deep = 4x8x1 = 24 cubic ft ( 1cubic yard is 27cu. ft). The mix you fill your raised bed with should be one half soil and one half compost. If the soil is dense it might help to add some sand to aid in drainage, especially if you are placing the raised bed directly on concrete. You will find that most garden soils that you can buy in bulk will have 40-60% organic material already mixed in.

Square foot Gardening in your raised bed: The square-foot gardening concept is simple: Build a raised bed, divide the space into sections of one square-foot each, and then plant vegetables (or flowers) in just the amount of space they need. 

Advantages: reduced workload, less watering, easy weeding (and not much of it), and easy access to your crops. You also maximize your space usage. As the plants mature, they spread and shade the ground, making it harder for weeds to grow. Square foot gardening also allows you to get a higher yield from less growing space.

Disadvantages: The soil in intensive gardens loses its fertility much quicker. You need to amend it more regularly with organic matter and fertilizer.

Tips:

Sun Exposure: Make sure you locate the garden in an area that gets as much direct sunlight as possible. Plant tall plants in the back of a raised garden to ensure they don’t block sunlight for other plants.

Water: It helps if there is a water source close to the garden.

Spacing: Plants like turnips, carrots, herbs and lettuce use less space in your raised bed than tall or spreading crops like corn, strawberries, or pumpkins. Try growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash pots or containers to save space in the beds.

Fertilizers: Many people add an all purpose fertilizer to a raised bed at the beginning of every season, along with toping the bed up with organic matter.

How to Build a Backyard Putting Green

Build Your Own

How to Build a Backyard Putting Green

Having a putting green in your backyard is a dream come true for many golfers. The steps to building a green are rather simple but it will take time to keep the green looking its best. Here are the steps to get you started:

1. Choose a relatively level area

2. Dig out/remove soil to a depth of at least 6 inches

3. Put in 3 inches of 1” clear stone

4. Cover with 4 to 5 inches of good topsoil

5. On top of this put 2” inches of a 60% sand and 40% peat mix

6. Rake in a good quality starter fertilizer (Scotts Starter Fertilizer 24-25-4)

7. Seed with Bentgrass grass seed

8. Moisten area a couple of times a day (do not soak) until good germination is apparent

9. Begin mowing with a reel type mower with catcher attachment to a desired height of 1/2”

10. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks until a good density is achieved

11. Get expert advice from a local Golf course Super regarding disease and insect control that would pertain to your area.

Please note the putting green should be edged with pressure treated wood or plastic lawn edging to prevent native grasses, weeds, etc

Lawn Care: How to Maintain a Lush, Green & Healthy Lawn

Lawn Care: How to Maintain a Lush, Green & Healthy Lawn

With the use of chemicals being regulated and removed from the market, there are some great alternative products that meet the new standards. This new focus is more of a holistic view on lawn care, concentrating on the basic needs and conditions of the lawn and soil to fix issues. The attitude of alternative lawn care is focusing on prevention and helping your lawn out compete weeds, insects and diseases.

Here are some simple tips and products to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Fertilize
Regular fertilizing gives your lawn the necessary nutrients to keeps it strong and healthy. Keeping your lawn well-fertilized will help it out compete any possible weed infestations, and will make it tolerate a certain degree of insect infestation. You can choose to use synthetic or organic fertilizer on your lawn. Synthetic fertilizers give a huge chemical boost to a lawn, greening it up and causing lots of top growth. Unlike the synthetic, the organic fertilizers offer a slow-release feed which is better for the overall health of the plant, and will not burn the grass as synthetic fertilizers can.

Lime
Nova Scotia has naturally acidic soil. In order to sweeten the soil to benefit the development and health of your lawn, it is recommended to apply lime, twice a year. Testing your soil will help determine if your pH level is ideal for your lawn. Most  pH level in Nova Scotia are around 5.5. Ideally the pH should be 6.5-7.0 for optimum turf growth.

Topdress and Overseed 
Adding some organic matter (compost) every year will help build up the soil, and add macro and micro nutrients. Overseeding will help thicken up your lawn and keep it healthy, especially in areas that are sparse after the winter cold or summer heat.

Test Soil
Testing your soil every couple of seasons will tell you if you lack or have an excess of any specific nutrients. We carry several different products that will test your soil for pH and essential nutrients in your soil.

Aerate
Aerating the soil helps to reverse the effects of compaction. It increases air and water circulation in the soil by opening up air spaces. Compacted soil is bad for grass development and will often result in various weed infestations (such as plantain and clover).

Mowing Habits
Good mowing habits will help the overall health of your lawn. Mowing your lawn too low can attract weed problems and stress out your turf, especially in mid-summer with the hot sun. It is also important to never take off more than 1/3 of the grass blade when mowing. It is healthier to mow more frequently and keep the grass longer than removing a large portion of the blade at once. Keeping your lawn mower’s blades sharpened is important to prevent injury to the grass.

Choose the Right Grass Seed
Choosing the right grass seed to seed an area is important to the development and health of the lawn. Most insects and diseases target specific varieties of grass, so it is beneficial to use a blend of different varieties of grass seed, making it more insect and disease resistant (eg. GreenFast, GreenVelvet, Shady Nook and Hi-Way Mixtures). Also be aware of the physical conditions the lawn will face (high traffic, salt spray, sun or shade, etc). Choosing the proper blend for your property is important.

Knowing Your Weeds
Various weeds are indicators of conditions that need to be improved in your lawn. Knowing which weeds are attracted to certain conditions will help you establish what you can do to improve the lawn. For example, Plantain likes compacted soil. Aerating will help prevent any reoccurrence. If you are unsure of what a particular plant is, bring a sample into either Halifax Seed location and we will do our best to identify it and offer solutions to control and prevent the weed from coming back.

Watering
A healthy lawn needs about 1” of water a week. Rainfall can take care of this. During droughts, the lawn should be kept watered to diminish stress on the grass. To encourage a deep root sytem it is best to water well less often rahter that short shallow waterings. A quick trick to help watering in drought conditions is to place an empty tuna can on the lawn while the sprikler is on, when the can is full you have watered enough.

Weed Control
The approach in weed control has changed to more of a holistic viewpoint, but sometimes it is necessary to nip persistent weeds in the bud! There are some great environmentally friendly weed controls available. After removing weeds, remember to put down a good quality topsoil and grass seed to ensure that grass fills in the area and not another kind of weed!

· Corn Gluten is a preventative product that inhibits weed seeds from germinating. It should be put down first thing in the spring, and again in the fall. It also adds some organic matter to your soil. Note: wait 6 weeks to put new grass seed down.

· Weed B Gon: an iron based spray that can be used as a spot treatment for many of the common lawn weeds. Does not harm grass, but can cause browning temporarily. Works best on broad leafed weeds.

· Weeding: The classic manual removal of weeds from the lawn. We sell various instruments designed to ease this task!


Pest Control
A healthy lawn can withstand some insects, but if there is an infestation there are environmentally friendly options.

· Nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are a microscopic insect that can be applied to certain insect infestations in the lawn. They do not harm the grass or any beneficial insects, but will target the pesky insects. Nematodes can be used on leatherjackets (crane fly larva), white grubs, chinch bug and sod webworms. These are an easy and environmentally friendly way to get rid of many lawn pests! As these are live products, Nematodes are only available certian times of the year when the soil temperatures is above 15 degrees celsius (usually when the insects are active). 

· Trounce: A Safer’s product made from potassium salts of fatty acids and pyrethrins that is used for the treatment of chinch bug and ants on lawns.

· Kelp Meal: Has properties which will deter chinch bug, and also adds good organic nutrients to your lawn.

· White Dutch Clover: Although some consider white clover to be a weed, it can be beneficial in the lawn in small quantities. It has become common for homeowners to spread white dutch clover seed on their lawns as it is said to deter chinch bug, is low maintenance and is exceptionally hardy. Clover does attract bees so be cautious if you have a bee allergy. Halifax Seed does not recommend more than 5% clover in a lawn. Clover can become quite slippery when wet.