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Planting time is here: Gardening questions answered

Do you have a gardening question? Ask Jim Hole, in our monthly Q and A. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Gardeners always have questions. We're starting a regular series to answer some of your queries, and who better to give us the goods than Alberta gardening expert Jim Hole, whose family owned and operated Hole's Greenhouse in St. Albert for decades.

Q: I'm growing a vegetable garden in a raised backyard bed for the first time. What are the best choices for our climate and for an inexperienced gardener?

Hole: The simplest thing to grow, that offers the most food value per square metre, is a seed potato. Other great cool-tolerant vegetables for our climate are lettuces, spinach, onions, zucchini, swiss chard, carrots, parsnips and beets. None of these take up too much space. If you're growing vegetables from seed, they can go in right away. Target the start of June for tender transplants.

Q: What's good to grow on balconies or back decks? 

Hole: There's so much you can grow in containers, but people's favourites are tomatoes and peppers, above all else. For these, you want transplants to drop into a container with a good soil mix, but with cucumbers--another container favorite--you want to start those from seed. They can grow up on a trellis in your container. Also do herbs, and a popular mesclun salad mix of lettuces: you can harvest the tops off and let it keep growing. Cherry tomatoes growing in a container are great--you can pick off a few for salads etc and it'll keep giving you fruit through the whole season.

Bedding plants, herbs, strawberries--these can also live together in pots on your deck too--they're colourful and practical.

Q: I've heard of growing new food from food bits, in a container of water or on your windowsill. Is this for real?

Hole: As long as a piece of food (romaine lettuce, green onion, herbs, celery) has a growing point on it, it can regenerate. When you buy carrots or a head of cabbage at the store, it's not dead. It's been harvested but is still a living organism. If you put that growing point into water, you'll see a root, chute, stem--even leaves grow. If there's a bud there, you can get re-growth. I'd put it straight into dirt and skip the water step, but it's an interesting experiment to see how something sprouts. As with anything you want to grow, it's critical to have light.

Remember that for the outdoor plants too. Water and light.

Do you want Jim to answer your gardening question? Send in your query to and he'll answer a few questions each month.