Mark Reviews the Growlight Garden

Growlight Garden
Microgreens Growth Rate
Microgreens Growth Chart

Microgreens are simply tiny vegetables, herbs, and flowers that are harvested at a very immature stage, just as the first pair of true leaves are emerging. It’s a one-off harvest as they don’t grow back. But there are some good reasons to grow microgreens. First of all, they are incredibly nutritious and easy to digest. In this regard, they are much like sprouts – they have all the nutrition and flavour of mature plants, but they lack tough cell walls, so your body can break them down completely and quickly.

Microgreens can be grown anywhere, at any time of year. You need to provide some basic elements like soil, moisture, and light, but that’s it. You can grow them in the winter in Yellowknife, or in the summer in Tahiti – it makes no difference. I also like microgreens because of the wildly diverse potential they represent. Seeds that would be totally unsuitable for growing as sprouts (think basil, which can take 3 weeks to germinate), make excellent microgreens.

On that note, I might mention that seeds selected for sprouting in water (alfalfa, bean sprouts, etc), are chosen precisely because they germinate very quickly and evenly. Not all seeds do this, of course.

Last August and September, I actually grew all of these microgreens out and timed them for use in this chart, as well as our Two Week Blend and Three Week Blend. This experiment was made easier because I was using the magnificent Growlight Garden.

We see a ton of products developed for home gardeners as well as professional growers. Like every industry, we attend trade shows, and are presented with all kinds of gadgets and gizmos. From time to time one comes along that is superb, and the Growlight Garden, in my opinion, is superb. It’s clever, simple, efficient, inexpensive, and ideal for growing microgreens.

At the bottom is a reservoir for water. In this sits a short, table-like stand. On the stand sits a cotton mat that wicks water up to the bottom of four food-grade plastic trays. The bottom of each tray combines raised and lowered drainage holes – half come in contact with the mat to suck water up by capillary action. The other half allow oxygen to enter the soil. Above all this is a hood containing two high-output T5 fluorescent tubes against a reflective surface. These are attached to a single 3-foot power cord with an on/off switch. The hood can be raised or lowered as needed, and because of the mat/wick, the unit is essentially self-watering.

You plant your seeds, fill the tray with water, and walk away. We have had one of these units running in our retail store full time for about three years. When the microgreens are ready, we harvest them and replace the tray with new soil and seeds. There has never been any mould, no odours, and no problems at all. Should a mat develop mould, it can be washed with a little bleach, or just replaced.

For what it is, you get incredibly good value. We have tried sunflower microgreens (delicious!), nasturtiums (spicy!), arugula (my personal favourite), beets and chard for colour. Pea shoots are wonderful. The potential for experimentation is pretty vast.

The Growlight Garden is also ideal for growing wheatgrass. It’s also the ideal size and shape to hold the standard 10 x 20 seedling flat, and the light is powerful enough to keep your seedlings stout and strong – so as a seed starting unit, it’s really all you need.

At $139.99, for the amount of use you can get out it, the Growlight Garden is a steal, and gets my solid endorsement.

Growlight Garden Growlight Garden Growlight Garden Growlight Garden

Soil Block Recipe

Soil Block Recipe

Soil Blockers have been around for many years, but their popularity is spreading fast, largely by word of mouth. Using this Soil Block recipe and Soil blockers will eliminate the need for plastic seedling trays and insert flats, so they represent an ecologically sound alternative for people who find themselves starting masses of seeds.

Soil Block Recipe

A soil blocker creates individual cubes of lightly compressed soil. A single seed is planted in each block and grown into a seedling to the stage it is ready to transplant into the garden – or into a larger soil block. Because the sides of each soil block are exposed to the air, the roots of each seedling get plenty of oxygen. This makes the roots stronger and minimizes transplant shock when the block is eventually planted.

Like seeds themselves, soil blockers come in various sizes. A ¾ inch soil block may be an ample size if you’re starting some tiny seed like thyme or Lobelia, but if you’re starting pumpkin seeds, you might want to begin with 3 inch soil blocks.

Soil blocks are also designed to fit inside one another. A mini ¾-inch block can be potted on into a 2-inch block, and this can be inserted into a 4-inch block. So even if you’re sowing seeds that need a very early start (like peppers), you can move the seedlings from block to block without disturbing the roots.

In Eliot Coleman’s outstanding book, The New Organic Grower, he devised a soil block recipe so perfectly proportioned that it has become an industry standard. We paraphrase his recipe here with a nod of respect to this guru of organic growing:

Soil Block Recipe

Use a 10-quart bucket and standard kitchen measuring cups to mix the following ingredients:

3 buckets finely milled peat
½ cup lime (use agricultural lime if you can get it)
Add 2 buckets coarse sand or perlite and
3 cups base fertilizer (Gaia’s All Purpose 4-4-4 is a good choice)
Mix again and add
1 bucket garden soil or bagged topsoil
2 buckets screened compost
Mix all ingredients thoroughly

This recipe produces about 2 bushels of soil block mix.

Coleman explains:

“The lime is combined with the peat because that is the most acidic ingredient. Then the sand or perlite is added. The base fertilizer is mixed in next. By incorporating the dry supplemental ingredients with the peat in this manner, they will be distributed as uniformly as possible throughout the medium. Next add the soil and compost and mix thoroughly a final time.”

Making Soil Blocks

Use a large container with a flat bottom to mix and make soil blocks. For a small farm that is going to produce masses of soil blocks, a surplus bathtub works well.

Mix in enough water to create a very wet mud. It needs to be deeper than the depth of the soil blocker itself. Press the blocker into the mix, against the bottom of your mixing container, and give it a ¼ twist, lifting it at the same time.

Eject the soil blocks by gently and steadily pushing down on the plunger as you raise the blocker. Give the soil blocker a rinse in warm water before you press the next set of soil blocks. You can build trays to receive your soil blocks, or use Seedling Germination Trays – but be sure to poke drainage holes in the bottom so your soil blocks are never sitting in water.

The Micro 20 (HG700) produces 20 individual soil blocks measuring ¾ inch on each side. On the top of each block is a shallow dimple that will receive one seed. These soil blocks can be moved on into larger blocks by employing the ¾” Cubic Insert Pin (HG708A).

The Mini 4 creates four 2” soil blocks at a time. This blocker comes with seed pins that indent the tops to receive seeds. These are interchangeable with Dowel Pins (HG708C) for large seeds, and ¾” Cube Insert Pins (HG708A) to receive soil blocks from the Micro 20.

The Mini 5 produces five soil blocks that are 1 ½” per side. This soil blocker is usually used on its own, but its soil blocks can be potted on into the large 4” blocks from the Maxi 1 Blocker.

The Multi 12 is a stand-up model that forms twelve 2” soil blocks at a time. Its seed pins are interchangeable with the Dowel Pins (HG708C) or 3/4″ Cubic Insert Pins (HG708A), and its soil blocks fit snugly inside the 4” blocks from the Maxi 1 Blocker.

The Multi 20 is for big farm jobs, producing twenty 1 ½” soil blocks at a time.

The Maxi 1 creates a single, large, 4” soil block with a 2” cubic indentation at the top. The blocks put out by this behemoth are meant to receive other soil blocks (1 ½” or 2”), and not individual seeds by themselves.

How to Attract Hummingbirds

How to Attract Hummingbirds

Learn how to attract hummingbirds. The two most common hummingbird species in British Columbia are the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) and Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna). The Rufous is a migratory species that usually appears in the Lower Mainland around the middle of March, and stays throughout the summer. These birds migrate as far north as Alaska, and then take their winter months primarily in Mexico.

How to Attract Hummingbirds

Anna’s Hummingbirds are found mainly along coastal North America from Alaska in the north down to Baja California. These birds often stay in one area all year round, and they can be quite territorial. Anna’s Hummingbirds can be seen at the UBC Botanical Garden (and other sites) twelve months of the year.

Hummingbirds have a poor sense of smell, and select their food sources based on colour and the quality of the available nectar. They develop routes from food source to food source known as trap-lines, and a well planted hummingbird garden will attract visits several times a day. In the right conditions, some hummingbirds will aggressively defend a rich food source from others.

Although the colour red is highly attractive to hummingbirds, they will feed from flowers or feeders of any colour once they establish that it’s a good food source. They will look for the shape of the flower and the abundance and sweetness of its nectar. This list is not exhaustive, but some of the most attractive flowering plants to hummingbirds are:

Begonia Begonia spp.
Bleeding Hearts Dicentra spp.
Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Columbine Aquilegia spp.
Coral Bells Heuchera sanguinea
Crocosmia Crocosmia spp.
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea
Fuchsia Fuchsia spp.
Geranium Pelargonium spp.
Honeysuckle Lonicera spp.
Impatiens Impatiens spp.
Lantana Lanta camara
Larkspur Delphinium spp.
Licorice Mint Agastache rugosa
Lupins Lupinus polyphyllus
Morning Glory Ipomoea tricolor
Penstemen Penstemen spp.
Petunia Petunia spp.
Sage Salvia officinalis and other Salvia species
Scarlet Runner Bean Phaseolus coccineus
Tobacco Nicotiana alata
Weigela Weiglea spp.
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa

In planning a hummingbird garden, it’s good to include a really diverse mix of flowers — annuals as well as perennials, shrubs as well as vines. This will give the birds a wider variety of feeding options over a longer period in the year.

Hummingbird Feeders

If you don’t have the space for a dedicated hummingbird garden, feeders are a great option. They can be mounted nearly any place that allows for good viewing of the birds as they feed. Wherever you intend to mount or hang a feeder, make sure you have easy access to it for regular cleaning and refilling. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned frequently — at least once a week, more often in hot weather. If the nectar is allowed to sit in the feeder it can grow mould, so regular washing is essential. Some sources recommend only filling feeders half full, as the birds will not be able to consume a full quantity of nectar before it needs to be discarded and cleaned.

Clean your feeder by filling with warm water and giving it a good shake. If you see black spots of mould develop inside the feeder, remove them with a bottlebrush or add some sand with warm water and try to shake it away. Avoid using detergents for cleaning, if possible.

The nectar mix is very simple: Dissolve ¼ cup (57ml) of regular white sugar in 1 cup (227ml) of warm water. Doing this on the stove works a bit faster, but don’t let the water come to a boil, as it can cause the sugar to caramelize, which can harm the birds. Allow the solution to cool completely, and store any unused nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

The style of feeder you choose is largely a matter of personal taste. You may go for the charm of an antique glass feeder, or the simple design of a glass tube feeder. The HummZinger Fancy hummingbird feeder even features an ant moat to prevent insects from going after Once the birds figure out that it’s a source of good, clean nectar, they may become quite territorial over it. If this happens, consider hanging another feeder out of sight of the first, like on the other side of the house. If activity around your feeders goes down in mid-summer, it’s because more flowers are in bloom, and hummingbirds prefer natural nectar to feeder nectar.

Planting Potatoes

Planting Potatoes

Whether you intend on planting potatoes in a garden trench, in containers, or even in your unused parking lot stall at work, your key to success is an understanding of how potato plants grow. The little spud that you plant (called a seed potato) is a tuber – part of the plant’s roots in which it stores energy for growth the following year. If you’ve ever left a potato out on your kitchen counter, you’ll know what eventually happens… The “eyes” of each potato sprout little growths called stolons. When these sprout below the soil, they grow vertically upward, and once they reach the surface they become the stem and leafy upper portion of the plant.

How to Plant Potatoes


New tubers (more new potatoes) form along the length of each stolon, and at first they’re just tiny little bumps. As the above ground leaves of the plant take in energy from the sun, and the roots take up moisture and minerals, each new tuber begins to swell, beginning the energy storage process again to get the mature plant through winter. The greater the length of the stolon in the soil, the more tubers form along its length. The potato grower needs to maximize the amount of contact between the stolons and the soil, and there are a few different ways to make this happen.

The traditional farming method of planting potatoes is to dig a series of trenches about 6” deep. The seed potatoes are placed about 12” apart, very evenly down each trench. The tractor makes a second pass, and covers the potatoes with 3-4” of soil. Once the plants have emerged and are growing vigorously, the tractor makes another trip down the rows, hilling soil up, and covering the bottom of each plant with more soil. Unlike most other types of plants, piling soil up so that it covers the lower stem and lower leaves will not kill potatoes. It just encourages more root growth.

If you were planting in a container like the Potato Bag, you would add a shovel-full of soil to the bottom, lay down five or six seed potatoes, and then add about 6” of soil to cover them up. Once the plants are growing well, and have reached 12” above the soil surface, you would add a further 6” of soil, so that the plants are buried waist-deep. You can repeat this until the soil is level with the top of the potato bag. This creates a large vertical space in which more tubers can grow. Garbage cans also work well.

This principle is always the same. If you were to place a seed potato right on the bare ground and cover it with a 6” high pile of soil, it will sprout just fine. Keep adding soil (“hilling up” as it is known), and it will produce more potatoes for you. One of our customers described planting potatoes in his parking stall at the church where he volunteers. He laid down a couple of layers of cardboard from collapsed boxes, and then laid his seed potatoes on top. Over this he laid 12” of straw. Once the plants were a foot high, 6” more straw was added, and he repeated this process all spring, ending up with a pile of straw about 4 feet tall. Kept well watered, straw is just as good as soil for growing potatoes. At harvest time, the straw was just removed and used as mulch in his other garden, and it had already begun to break down. All of the potatoes were easy to find and harvest as the straw was removed.

Typically, you can count on harvesting ten times more potatoes by weight than you plant. Plant 1 kg of seed potatoes, and you should be able to harvest at least 10kg. With some conscientious hilling up, and in nicely fertile soil, you can expect as much as 15 times the weight planted. Consider using straw as your hilling up material, because it will keep the soil cooler and moister as the plants develop, and it makes a great addition to the compost heap at the end of the season.

Aside from hilling up, here are our top five tips for tip top potatoes:

1. Plant potatoes in full sun, and avoid freshly limed beds. Potatoes like slightly acid soil with a pH of 6.0 – 6.8. Organic matter in the soil will improve your crop, but use well rotted compost or dig in a cover crop the previous fall. Avoid fresh manure.

2. Once you plant your potatoes, don’t water them until after you see the plants sprout above ground. This will help to prevent soil diseases from affecting your crop. Once they’re growing, keep your potato plot evenly moist, particularly once the plants begin to bloom.

3. For fresh eating of baby or “new” potatoes, wait until the plants are in bloom. That’s usually a good indication that an early summer harvest is ready.

4. For storage potatoes, wait until the plants wither and turn brown, and then leave them in the soil for a further 3 weeks as their skins firm up. Harvest them for storage if there’s a threat of very cold or very wet weather.

5. Store potatoes in a cold, dark place, above freezing, with good ventilation. You can brush soil off your harvested spuds, but don’t wash them – the extra moisture is not good for storage. Check your stored potatoes frequently throughout winter, and remove any that are turning soft or looking mouldy.

More on how to grow potatoes here.

A Year in Mason Bee Keeping

Keeping Orchard Mason Bees

Learn about keeping orchard mason bees. In late winter, hang your mason bee nest against a wall in a sunny location that has morning light. Placing it about eye level is best. That way you can watch them coming and going.

Mason Bee Nesting Tubes

Consider putting the cocoons out near or on the nest in early March. Choose a warm sunny day with little wind. If using the bees for pollinating your fruit trees, wait until the trees are about 25% in bloom. Otherwise look around your garden and neighbourhood to see what is flowering. Imagine your bees visiting 17 blooms a minute in a 100-meter radius from the nest. Is there enough forage? If so, bring out the bees.

Hang around for a half hour or so and watch for the males to emerge. They are a little smaller than the females and have a white tuft of hair on their foreheads. They are cute! Being male, they have no stinger and so are perfectly safe to gently handle as they emerge. They will sit on your hand for a minute before flying off for a long awaited breakfast. If they leave a bit of orange sticky stuff behind don’t be shocked; just a little bee poop as a memento… If you are very lucky and very patient you might find the males huddled together beneath a flower blossom having a snooze.

The females will stay in their cocoons for another few days or weeks, depending on the weather. Hopefully sooner than later. After emerging they will mate almost right away, but it takes a few days for their ovaries to mature. Until then they seem to disappear. Eventually, if you have the right conditions, you’ll see them busying themselves around the nest.

They’re hard to follow, being such fast fliers. You can spot them around fruit tree flowers if you wait long enough. In the afternoon they can be seen with their back ends sticking out of the nest tubes, having a siesta.

For greater success helping your bees, make sure there is exposed clay nearby. Unfortunately, one year my bees used construction-grade sand to make their walls. The next spring the newly emerged bees couldn’t chew their way out. Since then, I haven’t left this to chance. A small tray of water with rocks in it for landing on also increases the bees’ ability to lay eggs. Planting a diversity of flowering material, in terms of colour, height, type of flower, and time of blossoming will give the bees more opportunities for forage.

Adult female bees lay a single egg and deposit a ball of gathered pollen and nectar. Then they wall that chamber closed before laying the next egg and depositing the next food ball. Being parthenocarpic, mason bees lay fertilized eggs—females at the back of the nest tubes, and unfertilized male eggs at the front.

Usually by the end of June, this year’s adult females are dead. You will notice a drop-off in activity around the nest. At this time, it’s worth bringing the nest indoors, and placing it with the entry holes pointing up somewhere out of the way like on top of the refrigerator. This will ensure that the larvae in each chamber will be in contact with their stored food supply. By bringing it indoors, you can prevent the developing larvae from being eaten by birds or parasitized by wasps. Don’t worry about it being too warm, as the larvae need time to spin their cocoons and turn into pupae.

By the end of August the larva have pupated inside their cocoons and are already fully mature. They will stay in this dormant condition until the following spring when the cycle begins anew. By late September, it will be safe to open the nesting tubes to wash the cocoons.

Gently take the tubes apart and float the waterproof cocoons in a bowl of cold water. Delicately rub them back and forth with your fingers until no more mud and mites can be seen clinging to the cocoons. The mites are very small and look like rust, turning the water very red. Cocoons containing live healthy bees tend to float on the surface of the water. Keep the sinkers separate from the good cocoons to see what emerges. This is a good way to get up close and personal with one of the small wasps that parasitize mason bees.

Gently dry the cocoons (mould can be a killer for the bees too), by placing them on dry towels and rolling the cocoons around to remove moisture.

Place the cocoons into a paper bag or cardboard box, such as a Jello container. Place it in the refrigerator or an unheated room until conditions are right in the spring for release.

Article compliments of Brian Campbell, Certified Bee Master.

February, 2014 Update – some answers to questions and comments:

Too late or too early?

Mason bees emerge from their cocoons at exactly the time when early spring flowers are opening. Their brief lives as adults last from March until around the end of June. In late winter/early spring, on sunny days you may see insects flying around. That’s the signal that it’s warm enough to place your mason bee cocoons outdoors. Don’t worry if it rains or gets cold again – these insects are pretty tough. In south coastal BC and the US Pacific Northwest, March is the time when many trees go into bloom and dandelions and Forsythia flowers appear.

You have to play it by ear in regions where winter can drag on. Simply keep an eye out for flowers and early insects.

By July 15th, it’s probably too late to hope for success with mason bees, no matter where you live.

No visible bees?

It’s a very common experience to find hatched cocoons but no signs of bees around the nest. Remember that these are not honeybees. They are solitary, not colony-forming insects. It’s unlikely that you will ever see a male mason bee without a great deal of effort. Only the females frequent the nesting site. They gather enough pollen and nectar to form a food supply for one larva, then they lay one egg and seal the cell with mud. Each of the tubes in your nesting site will hold about six cells. The deepest cells (farthest from the entrance) will harbour larvae that will grow up to be adult female bees. The ones nearest the entrance are males.

Don’t look for “a hive of activity” around your mason bee nesting site. Rather, from mid- to late-June, watch for the tubes’ entrances being capped with mud. That’s the sign that you have a successful nesting site.

By the end of June, the nesting period is over, and the female adults die. If you have mud-capped nesting tubes, bring them indoors at this time, and store the entire nest somewhere out of the way, where it won’t be disturbed. Store it with the entrance holes facing up – this will ensure that the emerging larvae are in contact with their food stores inside each cell. Give the lavae time to mature. By late October or early November, the larvae will have pupated, having spun silken cocoons in which they will lie dormant over the winter months. This is the time to gently remove them from the nest and clean them, removing any parasitic pollen mites and discarding any diseased or dead cocoons. Then the mason bee’s year starts again, with the cocoons being placed back outside near a clean nesting site in March.

Planting for mason bees?

The ideal flower for mason bees is actually that of a fruit tree like cherry, plum, or apple. These flowers are shallow and numerous, and they appear in spring and early summer. If you have flowering fruit trees in your yard, or even in your neighbourhood, it’s not strictly necessary to plant more flowers to feed your mason bees.

However, all pollinators (including your mason bees) benefit from a wide variety of flowers blooming over a long period. If you have room to plant a bed of wildflowers, you will be rewarded by the presence of all kinds of pollinators throughout the growing months, from bumblebees to hummingbirds and butterflies. Planting flowers with wild pollinators in mind is a simple step we can all take to enhance pollinator vitality in our neighbourhoods. Choose a wildflower blend to suit your particular planting needs.

Making a Cloche Greenhouse

Making a Cloche Greenhouse

These instructions will help you plan your garden, making a cloche greenhouse configuration, choose your covering material and pipe frame. Then they will help you set up your greenhouse and make the very best use of it for great gardening and harvests!

How to Build a Cloche Greenhouse

Clip on Cover & Protect your Plants

  • Garden Clips are durable, versatile fasteners which hold greenhouse film, floating row cover, bird netting or shade cloth securely to a cloche pipe frame, even in high winds and heavy rains.
  • Protect your plants from frost, rain, insects, birds, or hot sun.
  • Extend your growing season by covering vegetables, fruits and ornamentals.
  • Start gardening earlier by warming up and drying out your soil.

Planning your garden beds and greenhouse

We recommend permanent beds. By not walking on the soil you plant in, you keep the soil structure loose and open for better plant growth. Consider a few wide paths for wheelbarrows, and narrower foot paths between individual beds. Beds can be either raised or left at ground level. Edges can be boards or stones or left informal – follow your personal taste here but remember that raised beds dry out faster in the summer.

A Garden Clip Greenhouse works best 2’ to 4’ wide and up to 2 ½ ‘high without reinforcement or 5’ with rebar inside the hoop. It is designed to cover your plants, not you.

Example: If your garden is 8’ by 10’, don’t try to make a greenhouse that will cover it all. Split it up into two beds 3’ by 10’, with a 2’ path in between. This will allow you easy access to your plants.

Space hoops from 2’ to 4’ apart. The windier your conditions, the closer you need to space your hoops.
Be careful: don’t design too tall. You want to keep the warmth you are creating down with your plants, not several feet above them. Remember, the taller your structure, the more problems you will have with high wind.
Dry out and warm up your spring soil – Set up your green house several weeks ahead of planting.

How to Build a Cloche Greenhouse

How Many Garden Clips Do I Need

Calculate the square footage you wish to cover (the length times the width). You will need one clip for every 1 to 2 square feet.

Example: A 3’ by 7’ area is 21 square feet. You will need 10 to 20 clips depending on how tall your cover is and how windy your conditions are. If your clips blow off in the wind, use more clips and place them closer together.

Making the pipe frame

Black “poly” cloche pipe makes an excellent frame for a Garden Clip cover. Black poly pipe comes in rolls at plumbing, building supply and feed stores. It’s easy to cut with garden loppers, has a natural curve to it already, and it more durable than PVC.

Cut pipe ends at an angle for easier penetration of your soil. Lopping shears cut black poly, a hacksaw cuts white PVC.
Use ¾ inch pipe (100 psi or higher) for large covers.
An easy way to “guesstimate” how much pipe you need is to think of your hoop as a rectangle instead of an arch.
Example: if you wanted your hoops 100cm (36”) wide by 60cm (24”) high, add the height 60cm (24”), plus the width 100cm (36), plus the height 60cm (24). 220cm ( 84”) of pipe will give you a hoop of nearly the desired size.

Installing the Pipe Hoops
Measure carefully and put stakes in the ground for the corners of your Garden Clip Greenhouse – the plastic cover will fit much more neatly when the hoops are set up at the right size and shape.
Mark the corners with stakes and the sides with string.

Bend the pipe into a half circle that spans the bed then push the ends into the soil about 15-20cm (6” – 8”).
If your soil is heavy or compacted use a spading fork to loosen soil around the edge of the garden bed.
If you have very loose soil, use 60 cm (24”) rebar stakes. Pound rebar into the ground about 30cm (12”). Slip the hoop over the rebar and push the hoop down to the ground.

In the late summer when you need to cover mature plants, use this technique to create covers up to 2m (6’) tall. Use longer rebars to extend into your hoop up to where is begins to curve. When windy fall storms begin, reduce the height.
If you have raised beds with boards along the sides, push the pipe into the soil along inside the board or purchase brackets to slip the hoops into along the side of the boards.

Attaching the Cover
There are many types of cover material. Garden Clips will allow you to secure them all.

Clip on clear or milky plastic sheeting 4 – 6mil thick and create a mini greenhouse or cold frame. Hardware store 3 – 4 mil plastic sheeting will last one to two seasons in the sunlight before breaking down. Greenhouse film is 6 mil plastic sheeting containing to a UV protectorate to keep the film from becoming brittle and shattering. It will normally last 4 – 6 years.
Floating Row covers can help you to keep flying bugs out and allow air to pass through.
Bird netting, secured with your Garden Clips, lets you, not the birds, enjoy your harvest.
Drape the cover material over the hoops, and snap the clips onto the hoops. Space clips 30-60cm (12” – 24”) apart on the end hoops and approximately 60-90cm (24” – 36”) apart on the middle hoops.
New Garden Clips can be very stiff. If you have any difficulty putting your Clips on at first, place your fingers inside the clip and gently open the “C” shape wider. Then slip the clip on the hoop.
To close the ends of the cover, fold the flap down over the end, make a small tuck at the shoulders of the hoop, and secure the pleat with clips.
For easy access to your plants, pull off the clips along one side and fold back the cover.
Sunny hot days can require ventilation: pull off clips on the bottoms of the end hoops and fold back covers. Hold cover in place with clips.
Garden Clips are designed to resist the pressure of the wind. So don’t try to pull your Garden Clips straight off. Brace the heel of your hand at the bottom of the clip, and peel the clip off top to bottom. If the clips pop off in the wind, use more clips, and put them closer together.

Design Ideas for a Garden Clip Greenhouse
4’ x 12’ Cover
For over wintering lettuce, parsley and chard. Covers tomatoes and peppers for extra warmth during spring and summer.

4’ wide, 22” high, 12’ long
4 hoops of ¾” poly pipe 7’ long
6’ x 16’ Cover material
25 Large Garden Clips

High Bed Cover
Cover mature plants in the fall to protect from frost and too much rain. Pound rebar in ground about 12”. Slip pipe over rebar for extra strength.

4’ wide, 3.5’ high, 12’ long
5 hoops of ¾” poly pipe 10’ long
10 pieces of ½” rebar 3’ long
10’ x 20’ cover
40 large Garden Clips

Square Foot Gardens
4 x 4 Beds (Square Foot Gardens)
To cover two 4′ x 4′ beds, cut a 4′ x 12′ piece of greenhouse film into two 6′ x 7′ pieces.
Then use one piece of greenhouse film, 2 hoops and 12 Garden Clips to cover each bed.

Mary’s gardening techniques for using a Garden Clip Greenhouse:

Using your Garden Clip Greenhouse
If you use your Garden Clips with greenhouse film, it will work as a cold frame or tunnel cloche, and you will be able to extend your gardening season about a month on each end of a light frost. Often the coldest nights are preceded by sunny days. Any extra heat, which can be collected and stored during the day and released at night will moderate the climate and extend the gardening season further into the freezing season. By adding jugs of water around the inside edge of the greenhouse film, you will have a thermal mass for heat storage. This not only provides heat at night, it also helps your greenhouse from overheating in the sun. When your Garden Clip Greenhouse includes jugs of water, it will stay above freezing even when outside temperatures dip into the mid-twenties after sunny days.

Germinating Seeds
To start healthy, vigorous plants, germinate the seed in a securely warm but not necessarily bright place. Then grow the seedlings in bright light where the temperatures stay above 13ºC (55°F) and about 21ºC (70°F) during the day.

Cool season plants, such as lettuce, spinach and broccoli will germinate at about 15ºC (60°F). Warm season plants such as tomatoes, basil and peppers germinate best at about 27ºC (80°F).

Find a place in your house that will maintain the specified temperature day and night. Beware: A sunny window may not be the best place! It may get too warm during the day and/or too cold at night. The top of the refrigerator usually works best. Don’t worry about the lighting right now – seeds don’t need light to germinate.

Start your seeds on a wet paper towel wrapped in clear plastic. (So you can see them)
Check your seeds several times a day. When the seeds germinate (watch for that first little root tip to emerge) move them to starter pots or tray.
You may choose to germinate your seeds in the starter tray instead of a paper towel.

The Spring Garden
As the Garden Clip greenhouse captures every bit of sunlight and warmth some plants may burst into productivity in March. Jugs of water can store solar heat well. Cold, wet ground can be dried out early. Just set up cover and let the sun go to work. Cool season crops such as peas, spinach, lettuce and greens can often be started early when protected by a cover.

The Summer Garden
In some areas covers are needed for certain summer crops. For instance, in mountain areas, clear nights can be cold or frosty even in the summer. Covers well lined with jugs of water allow your gardens to take advantage of your great midday sun and then survive the cold night. In foggy or rainy climates basil, peppers and melons need covers all summer long. Be sure to ventilate well when the sun is out.

The Autumn Garden
Tomatoes ripen best when warm and dry. Build a high structure to roof them – ventilate well to minimize diseases. Keep the roots dry to signal tomatoes for a final ripening flourish. (This mimics the seasons in South America where tomatoes evolved). Extend your harvest beyond the first frosts by putting covers back up.

The Winter Garden
Water jugs are especially valuable in the winter. A second layer of plastic, bubble wrap or cloth (at night) retains more heat as well. Cool season crops such as lettuce, greens, cabbages and peas are the most tolerant of winter. Where your winters are mild you can extend the growing and harvest seasons later in the fall and start earlier in the spring. Plants are limited by day length as well as by cold so you will still have less production than in the summer because plants will be larger (to get more light) and grow slower but they are fresh and available in your garden, not the grocery store!

Predatory Nematodes

Predatory Nematodes

Predatory nematodes can be applied in the spring to combat chafer beetles, wireworm, and other soil dwelling beetle larva. Predatory nematodes are effective against over 250 species of insect pests. Only insects that have a soil dwelling stage (egg, larvae, pupae or adult) can be controlled by nematodes. Therefore, the nematodes are best used as a preventative. In field crops they infect cutworms, grubs, root borer larvae, root weevil larvae, flea beetle larvae, carrot rustfly larvae and other pests. Parasitic nematodes invade and destroy white grubs, pill bugs eggs & larvae, Japanese beetle larvae, crane fly larvae, and other harmful pests commonly found in lawns and turf.

Contents: 5 milllion Heterorhabditis bacteriophora

Storage: The nematodes in the little bag are alive and can be stored for 3 weeks at a storage temperature of 8-12 degrees Celsius in the dark until you are ready to apply them. Do not freeze this package! Do not expose the nematodes to bright sun or hot temperatures!

How they work: Beneficial (or predatory) nematodes are naturally occurring organisms and are not harmful to humans, pets, wildlife, birds, soil, earthworms, water sources, or the atmosphere. They are safe and legal on all crops. The nematodes migrate through the soil, finding insect larvae by detecting either a slight increase in temperature or a release of methane gas. The microscopic infective juveniles enter the larvae and multiply and release bacteria that eventually kill the host. The nematodes feed on the bacteria and the decomposing host tissue where they reproduce until numbers drive them out to find a new host.

Predatory nematodes are effective against over 250 species of insect pests. Only insects that have a soil dwelling stage (egg, larvae, pupae or adult) can be controlled by nematodes. Therefore, the nematodes are best used as a preventative. In field crops they infect cutworms, grubs, root borer larvae, root weevil larvae, flea beetle larvae, carrot rustfly larvae and other pests. Parasitic nematodes invade and destroy white grubs, pill bugs eggs & larvae, Japanese beetle larvae, crane fly larvae, and other harmful pests commonly found in lawns and turf.

The nematodes in the little bag are species that are known to do well in cooler soils. They survive over a wide temperature range and reproduce within 10 days.


Apply in early spring (after air temperatures are about 9-10 C) or late summer or fall when temperature is moderate. It is best to apply on an overcast day or very early in the morning or in late evening. Never release them onto hot dry ground or ground which is flooded. As a rule of thumb, “if an earthworm can survive, a nematode will also”. Try to time your application no more than 3 months before the pest is active in the soil. Water soil thoroughly before you apply the nematodes or if it is raining, water after applying the nematodes.

Place contents of the bag into a container of room temperature water and agitate to rinse out the pouch thoroughly. If only tap water is available, let it sit in a bucket for several hours or overnight so the chlorine will disperse. Slosh the bag about several times, dispersing the nematodes into the water. You now have a concentrate. You will further dilute the concentrate before applying it to soil. You must apply the nematodes within 2 hours of making up the concentrate.

To apply, use a watering can, bucket or sprayer (that is not equipped with a superfine sand filtre). The nematodes can withstand pressure up to 300 psi. Keep the water agitated to ensure even coverage.

After application, moisten the area again with more water (turn on your sprinkler) to carry the nematodes into the soil.

To determine how to dilute the concentrate:

You should wet the area you want to cover with plain water using your watering can or sprayer and record how much water was needed. You will then dilute the concentrated nematode solution to give you the amount of solution that it took to cover the area. For example, if it took 5 full watering cans of water to cover the area — you would divide the concentrated nematode solution into 5 equal parts and add one part to each of the next 5 cans. If it took 2 full sprayers to cover the area with plain water, you would divide the nematode solution in 2 parts and add one part to each sprayer of water.

Water out to the drip line of rhododendrons, along the rows of vegetables, or cover the lawn completely.


The strains supplied by West Coast Seeds are very vigorous, reproduce rapidly and have strong searching and quick killing ability. These potent high-quality strains are the result of several hundred generations reared for these characteristics and thus fewer numbers of the nematodes are required to cover a selected area.

The five million nematodes you have prepared in the one gallon of water will cover an area of 230m2 (2,500 square feet).

An application in spring, another in fall followed by another spring application should build up an active population in your soil that will be self-sustaining, only requiring a boost in 3 years.

Nematode Biology

Entomopathogenic nematodes, or EPNs, are very small worm-like organisms that make their living killing insects. The nematodes do not act alone to kill insects rather they merely serve as a delivery service for the actual organism that kills the insect, a bacteria! A good way to think of this relationship is to picture a missile with an explosive warhead. The nematode is the “rocket motor” and the “guidance system” which delivers the bacterium (“warhead”) to the insect, resulting in the insect’s early demise.

Here’s how the process works: The “infective juvenile” stage locates a host insect, usually an immature form (larva or pupa) in or on the soil, and then it enters the insect through the mouth, anus, or breathing tube. Once inside the insect, the nematode releases the bacteria from its gut, and the bacteria starts growing, ultimately killing the insect. While this is going on, the nematode is feeding on the bacteria and what was once the insect. The nematode is also continuing to grow and develop to an adult, ultimately going through one or more generations (usually 2-3) inside the carcass of the insect. Once the bacteria and nematodes use up all the nutrients in the host insect, more infective juveniles (ijs) are produced which load up on the bacteria then emerge from the now long-dead insect and continue the cycle. Two important points to remember though, is that the only free-living form of the nematode is the infective juvenile, and that the bacteria is usually found only with the nematode and/or the insect it killed.

Growing Garlic

How to Grow Garlic

Garlic is an excellent herb to grow in your garden. It is a relatively carefree plant and has few pests or diseases. Because the bulb is located so close to the surface, only shallow cultivation can be practiced. So plant in an area as free of weeds as possible. A mulch of leaves or other material free of weeds seeds will help garlic to grow hassle free.

Growing Garlic

Most planting is done in October and even in September in early winter areas. Garlic planted too late in the fall will not have good root growth and will get off to a slow start in the spring. The site where the garlic is planted should be in full sun and in a light, humus-rich soil that drains well. The soil should not be too acidic or too fertile. To much nitrogen causes heavy top growth and, especially in the spring, delays bulb formation. If your pH is below 5.5, the addition of wood ash or dolomite lime helps.

Break apart the bulb without peeling off any of the skins. Plant the individual cloves 10cm (4 inches) apart and about 5cm (2 inches) deep with the pointy side up.

Planting depth depends on your winter weather. If you will get a lot of rain or repeated frost heaves, plant deeper so the developing plant is not uprooted during the winter. Shallower planting may be useful if root rot has been a problem for you, this way the bulb develops during the summer above ground. To maximize bulb size, cut off the scapes (the curling tip) just as they begin to curl. (They are wonderful in stir fries!)

Garlic matures between the end of July to early August. Avoid watering for a few weeks before harvesting to allow the bulbs to cure. Harvest when 1/2-3/4 of the leaves have turned yellow (depending on variety). Try to avoid puncturing the bulbs when digging them out. Remove any dirt by hand, leaving as much of the skin intact as possible. Cure the bulbs in a single layer in a warm spot for 1 week to 10 days. Then clean them off again and cut off the stems and leaves of the hardneck varieties. If you are going to braid the leaves of the softneck, clean them up now.

Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space. Do not store in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will induce sprouting, changing the garlic’s texture and flavour.

Set aside your best bulbs for planting in the fall. Use any damaged bulbs first, Store the best.

Rocambole (Allium ophioscorodon) is a very pungent variety with large cloves and light purple skin. It is a hard neck type, also known as ophio garlic, which forms a flower head that should be cut off so that energy is not directed out of the edible bulb. This variety of garlic is best planted in the fall in rich soil that was well fertilized in the summer. Hardnecks have the tendency to split open if left in the ground too long.

Rocambole Varieties

(Allium ophioscorodon)

Italian Hardneck
This one hits the top of the charts when it comes to yields. White skinned with just a blush of pink, this garlic makes big cloves, which are easy to peel. The taste is a medium hot, true garlic flavor that lasts for a long time. Under proper conditions it will store 9 months to a year. Very cold tolerant.

Red Russian
Red Russian handled a very wet winter and spring better than the Spanish Roja variety. It has substantial bulbs with purple-streaked wrappers that peel easily. This type is quickly becoming a popular gourmet garlic in high demand. It is recommended primarily for areas with winters, not for hot climates that do not experience winter temperatures. Stores for 4-6 months.

Bulbs in this organically grown hardneck garlic are 4-6cm (11/2-21/2″) in diameter and can be even larger when well grown. These cold-hardy plants have a rich and strong flavour. There are usually siz to eleven cloves per bulb, which peel easily.

Persian Star
Persian Star is a one of a kind garlic with beautiful lavender striped bulbs and crescent moon shaped cloves. It’s a great all around garlic, and perfect for roasting and spreading on bread, or minced raw in salads and oils. It is moderately spicy with a smooth garlic flavour.

Softneck Variety

(Allium sativum)

Purple Softneck
Cloves Per Head: 8 to 10
We are unable to offer this garlic as Certified Organic Garlic, but have been ensured that this Garlic is organically grown Softneck Garlic. With this information we are still offering this lovely purple skinned variety from Kelowna. Softneck varieties are not as fussy about how they are planted. Because the “stem” is flexible it is not as important to set the cloves with the pointy end up. (That is why this type is grown and harvested by machine for the grocery stores.) They store better and longer than the Hardneck types. One way to store them is in braids to hang in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space. There are many cloves in each bulb so separate them carefully trying not to dislodge the wrapper on each bulb. If the wrapper comes off accidentally, use that clove in the kitchen.

For additional information, we recommend the Garlic book “Growing Great Garlic
by Ron Engeland (Product number: ZBK730)