The Society receives many gardening questions. This page was created to share answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). If you don’t see your question listed here, check out the options on the Gardening FAQs page.

Fruit and Vegetables

How do I store and ripen green tomatoes?

Tomatoes can be picked off the vines any time between the mature, green, and fully ripe stages. Mature green tomatoes will have a light blush of colour. These tomatoes will have stopped taking nutrients from the plant, and picking them at this stage can prevent damage from splitting, pests, storms, or the weight of fruit on the vine. For indeterminate varieties, this also encourages the plant to put energy into the production of more fruit.

Store green tomatoes in a paper bag, or lay them in a single, spaced-out layer, stem side down, and cover with newspaper to contain the ethylene gas released during ripening. This helps speed up the ripening process. They can also be left on the kitchen counter, but out of direct sunlight. Storage temperatures should fall between 13 and 21 °C with higher temperatures leading to faster ripening. Tomatoes may last from three to five weeks like this.

Store tomatoes at room temperature as long as possible, but if they can’t be used once fully ripe, then place them in a refrigerator to prolong their useful life, though, in general, refrigerated tomatoes tend to lose flavour and change texture.

How often should I water my vegetable garden?

Wind, temperature, and rain will affect the frequency of watering, but a vegetable garden generally needs about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water per week. Water the garden when the soil is dry 2.5 cm below the surface during the growing season. If you are starting plants from seeds, watering may need to be done daily during the germination period and until the seedlings are established.

Watering is best done in the morning to ensure the plant foliage doesn’t remain damp over night. Extended periods of dampness can cause disease. However, watering in the evening is better than midday if you can’t fit in morning watering. This reduces evaporation loss.

Water deeply to encourage deep root growth. Ideally, water until the soil is damp 15 to 20 to cm (5 to 6 inches) below the surface.

Mulching around the plants reduces evaporation from the soil.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an interesting critical water period table for vegetables. It is usually when the flowers and fruit are forming. Visit to see their guide:

When should I harvest rhubarb?

Rhubarb should not be harvested at all in the first year, and only lightly during the second year to ensure the plant becomes well established. Harvest stalks when they are at least 20 cm (8 inches) long and greater than 1.5 cm (3/4 inch) in diameter. To harvest, pull from the base of the stalk and twist slightly. Cutting rhubarb stalks leaves a short stub that can rot and damage the root. Leaves are toxic due to their high levels of oxalic acid, but they can be composted. Leave a minimum of 2 stalks per plant to ensure continued plant growth. Stalks from later season harvesting tend to be tougher than spring harvested stalks. Stop harvesting if the stalks become thin, or after mid-summer, so the plant can restore it’s energy for next year!

When do I plant strawberry plants?

Strawberries should be planted as early as possible in April or early May, once the soil is thawed and warm. Ensure the roots are kept damp while in storage and prior to planting. Choosing a cool, overcast day to plant to minimizes the stress on the plants. When planting, place the mid-point of the crown level with the soil. This prevents the plant from drying out (which can happen if it is planted too shallow) or from rotting (which can happen if it is planted too deep). Firm the soil around the roots and create a ring around the plant, about 15 cm away, to trap water. Water well. To encourage the plant to establish roots and grow leaves, remove flowers for the first 2-3 weeks and apply a starter fertilizer solution, (10-30-10 or 10-52-10) at 1.5 ml per litre of water. New plants should be protected from frost.

Read the Agricultural Alberta AGRI-FACTS Strawberries in Alberta for more information about growing strawberries.

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