Author Archives: Conrad

About Conrad

Though I have only been gardening vegetables since 2010, there have always been flower gardens at our house, which I have helped with since I was young. I think that I have learned a lot about gardening, but I know I have much more still to learn. I hope that the readers here can learn from my successes and failures, and provide feedback to help us all grow better gardens. You can follow me on twitter @AltaGardener, Instagram, YouTube, and on Google Plus

How to Protect Cabbage Plants from Predators

Before I begin I would like to mention that this will work to protect all of your brassica family plants from those white cabbage butterflies. As you will see in the video, I am not only using this method to protect my kale, and broccoli plants as well. The thing that you need to keep in mind is how tall the plant is that you are protecting.

Last year I put a row of broccoli across the back of the bed (left to right in the video) and it ended up pushing up both ends of the netting. This year I am remedying this by planting the broccoli directly under the tallest part of the frame. This should keep everything in place, as well as protected.

This is a very simple way to protect your cabbages and other brassicas, but it is by no means the only way. Many gardeners have had lots of luck with “hiding” their plants in between others of a different family. This is done not only by planting a cabbage or two in between many other types of plants, but also by spreading them through the whole garden. This keeps the predators, like those bloody white butterflies, confused as to where the plants they want are.

I tried this in the past and it never worked out for me, but I also, until last year only had a few little gardening plots around the yard. I think this lead to my problem, as I didn’t have much for other vegetables, and perennials to hide the cabbages and broccoli between. I am hoping that this will be my go-to method once I have more space set up for planting, but for now, I am very happy with the method in the video.

Another method that can help you out is companion planting. I tried planting dill near my cabbages a few years ago, and I have to say, I did have less damage to the cabbage than in years prior. I think if I had more dill, or other aromatic herbs, and had it and my cabbage spread through the yard, I would have done even better.

The method shown below is simple, give it a watch, and give it a try. You don’t need a fancy small greenhouse frame like I used, you can use anything from some PVC bent over the bed, to a fancy wooden frame that took you three days to build. The important part of the project is that the netting covers the entire crop and that the holes are too small for the cabbage butterflies to get through.

Thanks for watching, reading, and remember to keep on gardening!

Greenhouse Seed Starting Update June 18, 2016

I did a lot of digging in between episodes this time, which really helped me to move many of the bigger seedlings out of the greenhouse. The tomatoes (except for two) and the peppers were all planted out, along with two of the basil plants. All of the Tiny Tim tomatoes were planted in bigger pots and have taken off since.

I also planted the last of the seedlings that I will be doing this season. I planted zucchini in a medium-sized pot which is likely going to be a little small for a plant of its size, but we don’t have plans to eat a lot of it, so hopefully it will only produce a few fruits.

Believe it or not, I finally moved the goji berries out of the greenhouse so that I could plant some vegetables in the raised bed. The goji berry bed measures approximately 8 feet by 8 feet if you measure from the end of each section to the middle edge. Once I get the leaves in, and some more strawberry plants, I am going to plant strawberries in between all of the goji plants. Along with the leaf mulch, this will help to hold in a bit of water by shading the soil (and leaves) as well as helping me to maximize my space.

I also had to remove what was left of the radishes and turnips that were in the raised bed. Almost all of them were starting to bolt, as the hot weather has made it very hard to keep the greenhouse at a good temperature for cooler weather crops. At least we got a few of each early in the season since I won’t be planting any until the fall because of the root maggots we had last year. I had forgotten to mention about these in the video.

As always, keep on gardening, and thanks for watching (the video is below).

Greenhouse Seed Starting Update May 22, 2016

A little snow doesn’t keep a good gardener down. Well, maybe it does in more tropical regions, but here in Alberta, it’s not uncommon to have a late spring snow storm or two, so it’s just something we all have to learn to deal with.

That being said, we have really been blessed this season with warmer than usual spring weather, and I think that has a lot to do with the seedlings do as well as they have done up to this point. The extra heat could have hurt them in the greenhouse during the day, but I was careful to vent with my fan through the open door to push out as much excess heat as I could. This worked out rather well, but as soon as I get the frame put on each end, I will have an automatic venting fan that will run from a few small solar cells that I bought.

That small project should help loads with my venting issues in the greenhouse, as having a fan against the outer plastic pushing the hot air out, while allowing the cooler, outside air in through the window will be much more efficient at exchanging the air inside the greenhouse. Right now the fan does an alright job, but I can tell come summer that it will require at least one more fan to run it this way, and every extra fan that I need to run in the greenhouse takes away from the purpose of gardening in there as cheaply as possible.

For the update on the seedlings, you can just check out the video below, it will be much easier for you to see them first hand like that than for me to tell you.

As always, keep on gardening, and thanks for watching!

Greenhouse Seed Starting Update May 1, 2016

Even though it has been more than a week since I took the video that this post is named after, and from when the video at the bottom of the page was taken, I figured that I could give a little update about what I did and (mostly) didn’t get done this week in the gardens and greenhouse anyway.

First off, the weather changed and it was very hot for most of last week. Luckily for those tomatoes, I only had to use that blanket once, the rest of the nights it was warm enough to leave them uncovered. That changed this week, though, as the last two nights they have had to be covered, and judging by the forecast, I’m going to have to cover them every night for the near future.

I did come up with a better solution, however, and instead of that big, heavy blanket, I have been covering them with some landscape fabric that sometimes doubles as a shade cloth for me when it gets too hot during the summer. Being a lot lighter, it still seems to hold in some of the heat from the mats, and so far has worked great. I also, just as an extra measure, put a long piece of bubble wrap over the top of the plants on the outside, which may or may not also help, but it gives me a little piece of mind when I go in after covering them.

With all of the heat, I never did get the frames put in like I had planned. I don’t do well in temperatures as hot as it was for most of last week, especially working directly in the sun. To add onto my problems with the heat, when it wasn’t too hot to work, it was too windy to play around with taking off the plastic, or I was too busy with work to get anything done outside at all. I will hopefully get to them soon, though I’m not that worried about them getting in immediately.

I also never did get the broccoli, cabbages, spinach, and kale put out like I had planned, again due to heat, the wind, being busy, and also raspberries. You see, where I’m going to plant them has been taken over partially by raspberry suckers. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, I could just dig them up quickly and toss them, or give them away. This time, however, I want to keep them and replant them at the back of the yard to form a bit of a hedge.

I went out and got a few additions to the yard as well this week: I found a great rain barrel at a garage sale for only $10, that I did have time to set up, and it’s begging for rain just as much as I am. I also bought three more blueberry bushes to go with the four that we already have and two saskatoon berry bushes. That is probably as much as I can do for perennials this season, as the lumber that I bought for the frames and for the rest of the greenhouse changes, along with what I’m planning to spend on a couple of other raised beds has eaten almost all of my budget for the year. You never know, though, I might buy something cheap at the end of the season or something like I tend to.

I’m just not planning on anymore…

Greenhouse Seed Starting – April 17, 2016 Update

It’s time for another look at how the seedlings are doing in the greenhouse with nothing but a heat mat and some hope. So far, so good with this method for me this year, but things are about to change.

It has been three weeks since the first video in the series, and since then we have had weather as low as -10°C (14°F) and as high as 34°C (approximately 93°F). Luckily that 34 didn’t last long, it was on a weird day when I had to keep opening and closing the door, and at some point I didn’t open it fast enough to keep the temperature down. Once the door was opened, though, the temperature dropped to somewhere reasonable quite quickly.

In the last week or so, we only had a couple of nights below freezing, and both ended up being around -8°C (about -18°F). The rest of the nights have been near freezing, but not quite making it down far enough, at least not according to my thermometer inside the greenhouse.

No matter how cold it has been, since the last video, I have changed the heat mats to turn off at 9 AM, and turn back on at 7 PM. After this video, I will be changing the evening time to 8 PM, and for now, I will leave them on until 9, but might drop that down to 8 PM if the temperatures allow it.

As for the plants themselves, the only seeds that never germinated were from the Lemon Balm and the Habanero Peppers, the rest all did great. One of the two Meyer Lemon trees even sprouted, which I wasn’t sure would happen since it took most of a month to happen, but I’m glad it did. I don’t think the ones I overwintered made it.

These seedlings might be the strongest that I have ever produced also, I haven’t had any problems with the plants being leggy, or looking unhealthy, and I have lost only one seedling out of everything I planted. That was my fault as well, I missed covering the tray up completely one night and a jalapeno pepper paid the price for it… Phew, say that three times fast. Everything else has nice thick stems and is growing a lot faster than they ever had when I’ve had them under the grow light in the house.

On April 2nd, I planted eight cells each of Kale and Spinach, eighteen of three different lettuces (more on that in a moment), six cells of Broccoli, and six each of red and green Cabbage. Out of all of the cells, everything sprouted except for one cell of broccoli, and none of the lettuce.

The problem with the lettuce might be one of two things; either my seeds are too old, or I planted them too deep.

The seeds I have for each type of lettuce are about three to four years old, and knowing this, I didn’t bother to over-seed each cell like I should have to guarantee something came up, I just planted two or three seeds in each and walked away.

The other possibility is that I planted them too deep. I’ve had some bad luck with lettuce in recent years, and I am starting to think it might be because I have been planting the seeds at 1/2 an inch deep. I have noticed that most gardeners that I follow on YouTube, or even on gardening shows on T.V. mention that they plant their lettuce seeds at a 1/4 of an inch deep, and they seem to have fantastic results.

When I plant some more later in the season here, I will make sure not only to plant it at 1/4 inch but also over seed it a bit… Unless I buy some new seed, which I just might do.

The transplanting went really well, I didn’t mash any baby seedlings with my big, stupid hands like I usually do, and the only thing that didn’t get planted were the White Alpine Strawberries. I’m going to let them get a little bigger before I put them into a bigger pot, or right out into the planter box they will have soon.

Now only the heat loving plants (tomatoes, basil, and peppers) will be on the heat mats at night. Everything else will just be left on their own with only the greenhouse for cover. I know the spinach, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and strawberries will be fine, but I am slightly worried about the mint, chives, and goji berries being left as is if it manages to get down to -5 or below. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.

On April 10th I planted four peas (I forgot to mention them in the video), a half row of Early Snowball Turnips, a half row of Round Scarlet White Radishes, a half row of German Giant Radishes, and I used seed tape to make a half row of Scarlet Nantes Carrots in the raised bed. The peas are situated in the back corner, with two across the back, two down the side, and the turnips and radishes are spread out in the middle with rows that are really too far apart. I couldn’t find my line making stick that I usually use, so that’s part of why the other part is I’m just really not good at eyeballing a line and making it straight for planting. Oh, and the carrots are across the front, and they will get another half row once the Goji Berries are out of the other part of the planter.

Which reminds me, a bunch of the Goji Berries from last year are coming back! I thought I had lost them since I never planted them until October in the greenhouse and by then they were so root-bound that it was hard to know when the roots ended and the soil began. So far I have five or six plants that are leafing out, so hopefully soon I’ll plant them in their spot in the yard.

I was going to talk more about the starting schedule that I have modified from Patrick Dolan’s own seed starting methods, but this post is getting really, really long, so I will save that for another time.

Thanks for reading if you did, and if you’re only here for the video, thanks for watching!

Greenhouse Seed Starting – March 25, 2016 Update

Hello, everyone! I posted this video to YouTube last weekend, but as of yet I have not had the time to write up anything for it other than this. Check back soon for the full write up where I will go into more detail about what I’ve been doing out there! Until then, here’s the video:

A Late Look Back at 2015

This should have been written a month ago, at least, however, I have been insanely busy with work, my other YouTube channel, and life in general. None of which are usually the case, but I’ve got some time now, so let’s talk about last year.

What I Accomplished

  1. With the help of my best friend, I got the greenhouse leveled, and put down cardboard to smother any grass that would try to grow through, landscape plastic, to do pretty much more of the same, and wood chips to make a nice looking floor. It worked out really well for a floor, I’ve only had to pick a couple of grass shoots out of it since we did the work in the early spring.
  2. I also put down some cardboard and wood chips underneath the espaliered pear shortly after I made a new trellis for it. So now we don’t have to mow under the branches, hoping not to burn them with a hot lawn mower engine, and it’s on a sturdy trellis, so I don’t worry every time a strong southern wind blows through.
  3. The work with the wood chips and the cardboard didn’t stop there either, I made a small strawberry planter out of an old pallet and placed it east of the greenhouse, where we surrounded it with – surprise, surprise – wood chips and cardboard. I think that we also put down the last of the landscape plastic there just to make sure that the grass didn’t get up through. It mostly worked, I had to pluck some out of the planter every now and then, but, for the most part, it worked well.
  4. I put a raised bed into the greenhouse. This is by far the best thing that I did all season long, as it gave me a lot more space to plant then did the containers the year before. My greenhouse productivity exploded this year because of it.
  5. I planted a tub full of herbs. It was delightful, but more on it later.

What I Learned

  1. Beans LOVE greenhouses. Or so it would seem, I planted nine Kentucky Wonder beans in my greenhouse in the spring and soon they took over enough that they actually started shading my cucumbers. They also ended up going up and over the roof of the greenhouse and touching the other side. We ate a lot of beans, but I still can’t help think we could have eaten more!
  2. This one is pretty embarrassing if I’m being honest. As it turns out, green beans can just be immature beans of other varieties. This is probably common knowledge to most gardeners, but I didn’t have a clue until probably around July. It’s lucky that it’s like this too, because as it turns out, I don’t really like the flavor of the Kentucky Wonder beans once they mature, but I love them as a green bean. I saved a lot of seed from them for this year because of it.
  3. Lemon Balm makes great tea. I started a lemon balm plant because I heard that it would add a zest of lemon to your food without having to buy lemons, which can get pretty pricey in my area sometimes. What I learned, later on, is that a couple of leaves in some hot water makes for a great cup of tea, it not only started me drinking lemon balm tea, but also more tea in general. This year I will make sure to dry and save some leaves for later use, though, as I ran out as soon as the plant died back.
  4. If you’re lucky, a rhubarb plant will live through a zone 3 winter in a small pot on your deck. Blueberries, however, will not. In 2014, I bought three blueberry plants and a rhubarb plant from the local Home Hardware store sometime in June, but I never got around to planting them because I just couldn’t decide where they should go. Well, come to the end of July, the blueberries were doing fine in their pots, but the rhubarb died off. I never threw out the planter that the rhubarb was in, just incase I wanted to reuse the soil (which I normally don’t do, but, this time, I thought I might).

    Well, winter went by, and spring came, and all of a sudden I had a tiny rhubarb plant sticking out of the soil, so I started taking care of it and planted it in the yard. It grew to about five times the size it was when I bought it before the year was done and I can’t wait to see how big it gets this year. The blueberries were replaced by four more, which were also planted in the ground as well since they never sprouted leaves from their winter deck vacation.

  5. There is no better defense against cabbage moths and their devil-babies then some good netting. I had huge broccoli plants and the healthiest cabbage plants I’ve ever grown this year simply because I covered them with a frame and a net early in the spring. I’ll be doing that again this year for sure, I just have to keep those bloody raspberries from popping up inside the cabbage bed.
  6. A chair is a great addition to a greenhouse if you have room. I went to a garage sale last spring looking to find a good deal on something that I could use, or sell on eBay. I ended up at a place with nothing that I wanted for some people who were moving, and when they saw I was leaving empty handed, the nice couple offered me a leather chair that was in fine shape, save for a rip on the seat for free. Wanting to help them out, but not really having anything to do with it, I took it, while I was driving away, I thought I’d put it in the greenhouse, and it became a great little place to read, or plant, or just listen to the bubbling of the fountain that I got at another garage sale the same day.
  7. The dark foam that I used to cover the sharp edges on my cattle panel for the greenhouse will destroy plastic because it heats up so much. I bought plastic for the greenhouse that should have lasted for four years, and here I am going to have to replace it after two because the foam pipe insulation that I used to keep the cattle panel edges from tearing it heat up so much in the sun that it makes the plastic brittle. I will find a solution for that this year, though, I have a few ideas floating around for it.
  8. If you’re air pruning a plant (growing in grow bags) you need to have a constant water source. I tried a Roma tomato in an old cloth grocery bag this summer, it started out great when it was smaller, it rapidly took off, and at one point was even bigger than the one in the greenhouse. However, this changed later in the season when it was using a lot of water and drying out quickly, as I just had it sitting on a board on the ground instead of in a kiddie pool with some water, or some other auto-watering system, as Larry Hall suggests. It should be noted, however, that when I took it out of the bag at the end of the season, the roots had AMAZING growth, with tons of root hairs and if I could have kept up with the water, it would have been a great success.

I’m sure that there was definitely more that I learned through my gardening last season, but I can’t think of anything at the moment. Hopefully, by sharing what I learned, I helped you learn something new as well.

Let me know what you learned in 2015 in the garden in the comments below.

July 24 Greenhouse and Small Goji Berries Update

Once again there isn’t much to say here that isn’t covered in the video. Everything has been growing fairly well (there are some signs of struggle on the Morning Glories, but that’s it), some of it a little too well, resulting in the cracking of the fruit.

I’m writing this a few days after the video was taken (four days to be exact) and not much has changed. Less water for the tomatoes and cantaloupes seems to be working like a charm, there hasn’t been any more cracking on any of them. I wish I could remember where I got the tip for that so I could give the person credit. I saw it in a video a long time back but never had the problem until recently, so I never thought to save it for a shout out. Oh well, I’m sure if I found it easy enough their video isn’t hurting for views, especially if the rest of the advice they give is as good.

The goji berries are growing like mad now that I have moved them into a bigger pot, I should be able to place them outside soon where they will live permanently. I am a bit worried that I might have started them too late this year to give them enough of a head start to survive the winter, but if I am still worried when it looks like it’s crunch time, I will cover them up just to be safe. If they keep growing at the rate they are, however, I won’t have to worry at all they will be plenty ready.

July 5, 2015 Greenhouse Update

There isn’t too much to talk about today in the greenhouse update. There haven’t been any disasters that required me to fix the plastic; there haven’t been any falling fans to break off my watermelon vines, or anything of that nature. What there has been however is a tremendous amount of growth.

As you can see in the video, everything has double (or tripled, or more) in size since the last video from June 21. This is in large part to a spike in temperature for almost a week that kept it near (sometimes above) 32°C (89.6°f) which a lot of the plants in there just loved. On those days the smaller containers and the flats needed to be watered at least twice, the medium containers only needed extra water a few of the hottest days since they do a good job of shading their soil with their leaves. I only had to water the raised bed and the large pepper an extra time once through the hot weather, and that was on the day when I couldn’t get the temperature down below about 36°C (about 97°f).

I tried something new to shade the greenhouse on those hot days which seemed to work better than the tarp I had been using before. I used clothes pins to pin up strips of landscape fabric to the cattle panels in the upper south side of the greenhouse. It worked alright, but eventually I think I will have to get something that shades from the outside, but doesn’t touch the plastic so that there is a zone where the air in the shade can cool before it ever touches the greenhouse. I think this is the best option, and should help keep the greenhouse the coolest on those hot days.

Another idea I have been toying with is to grow beans up the front of the greenhouse, either on the inside, or on the outside to provide a natural shade on the structure. The only thing that worries me about that is how it would affect the plants inside, since there will always be some shade thrown on them during the summer instead of just when they need it like a shade cloth would provide. I will keep an eye on the beans that I already have in there this year to see if the idea is even plausible to try.

That’s all for this update, until next time, keep on gardening and look for a guide to how I sprout my lemon seeds faster that is coming soon.

June 21 2015 Greenhouse Update and Hand Pollination Tips

The greenhouse is doing great for the most part this year, even after a week solid of rain and mostly cloudy weather – there were a few sunny breaks, though not many – everything is growing well. Everything that is, except for the cucumbers.

The cucumbers I planted, that I talked about in the last post have grown a bit, but not as much as everything else around them. This is becoming a bit of a problem, at least for the moment because they aren’t getting as much sun as they should because they are flanked on each side by pole beans and tomatoes which have become much bigger than the lowly cucumbers.

Shaded Cucumbers

As you can see, there isn’t much sun for them yet, and that was taken at 10:30 AM.

As of right now, I would guess they only get about four solid hours of good sunlight a day. The morning sun is dappled through the watermelons and beans, especially on the plant at the back but this is something that I had planned for, as I want the morning glory’s to do that for everything on the north side to keep the temperature down a little bit for slightly longer on warm days.

What I never planned for was the beans growing so much faster than the cucumbers, and that the Roma tomatoes, and some of the door frame would block so much from them in the late afternoon and early evening. None of this will be a problem once the cucumbers start growing up the netting behind them, as for now the sunlight seems to hit just above their current height and there isn’t much of the trellis that is shaded most of the time.

Next year though, I will either moving them to one of the ends of the raised bed, or just starting them earlier so they can be more dominant when it comes to reaching the sun against the other plants. If I transplant them around the same height as the tomatoes, or even the peppers, they should do a lot better.

Hand Pollination
One of the problems with my greenhouse is the lack of pollinators flying in and out of it on a daily basis. Though lately I have had to help a few bees get back home by picking them up on a stick and bringing them out the door, so it seems the hanging basket I put outside is working so far.

I am not seeing enough activity to stop hand pollinating however, so I will keep it up for the rest of the season unless I see the number of pollinators climbing significantly.

Tomatoes and peppers are some of the easiest plants to hand pollinate that I know of. All you have to do is knock the pollen off of the male parts into the air and they will coat the female parts and you will have a new fruit. Some people use electric toothbrushes for this, but I just tap the top of the flower with my finger and it seems to work great. For tomatoes growing very tall I have seen people using long poles to tap on the flowers, but I can reach the roof of my greenhouse, so this should never be the case for me.

The technique I showed in the video for the watermelons – rubbing the reproductive parts of the male flower right onto those of the female flower – can be done for a number of other plants as well. Cucumbers, summer and winter squash, cantaloupe, and any other plant that fruits from imperfect (separate male and female) flowers. You can also transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers by using a small paintbrush or cotton swab.

That’s it for this update, I hope you enjoyed it, and if you liked the video subscribe to the YouTube channel! As always you can reach me through social media using the links on this page (look for the green buttons).