Jason Andersen, second from right, owner of Kathy’s Greenhouse and Garden Centre north of Kitscoty, is pictured with other Alberta growers who were invited to the IPM Essen Germany horticulture trade centre in January. The growers also toured sites in the Netherlands and Belgium on their own. SUPPLIED PHOTO
The first thing to sprout this spring at Kathy’s Greenhouse is news of a sponsored tour to one of the world’s largest horticultural trade shows in Europe.
Greenhouse owner Jason Andersen and three other Alberta growers were invited by their supplier, Ball Horticulture, to attend the IPM Essen show in Germany Jan. 23-26.
Andersen said he went there hoping to implement some newer techniques or technology into his operation, as well as give him and his customers a glimpse into what the future holds as far as some plant materials go.
“We saw incredible technology, we saw some different ideas on doing stuff on procedures,” he said.
“Two of us went early and set up our own tours of other companies we wanted to see, and we got a consultant to take us to four different places in one day.”
One of the sites was the BioBestGroup headquarters in Belgium that develops and sells advantageous natural biologicals that Andersen is using to control parasites without chemicals.
“I’ve been doing biologicals for about six years—I shouldn’t have to spray in the greenhouse ever,” he said.
Andersen purchases tiny parasitic wasps from BioBest called Aphidius colemani that lay eggs inside aphids that attack greenhouse plants and vegetables.
“Basically, we using good bugs to eat bad bugs,” said Andersen.
At IPM Essen, Andersen also saw some new plants that growers don’t yet have access to in North America like some new colours that should be here next year.
As for trends that his residential customers may be interested in, Andersen said that would be the colourful pots he saw in Europe.
“Some of the big trends are mono colours, so like a red pot with a red flowering flower—more matching pots to colours,” he said.
Kathy’s Greenhouse, located on Highway 897 north of Kitscoty opened for the season on April 2 with snow on the ground, but Andersen said there are a lot of anxious green thumbs dropping by.
“People just come in and do some planning as far as what they’re going to plant for pots and just escape the cold —we’re still transplanting and moving plants around, so there’s some action,” he said.
“There’s a bunch of stuff that’s just seeded, just started that will be ready to go come May when it’s time to go,” he said.
He says it’s all about timing.
“I’ve had some stuff seeded the third week in January, and other stuff hasn’t even hit dirt yet.”
Customers may also be in the market for a few new colours in Petunias and Million Bells.
The greenhouse is also stocked with bedding plants for planting in beds and pots as well as vegetable transplants.
“Later on we’ve got the market garden—10 acres of vegetables,” he said.
Andersen suggests customers wait until after the May long weekend to put plants in the ground.
“If they are doing pots they can move them in and out of their garages,” he said.
“If they’ve got some shelter they can put them out in the day and drag them in at night if it’s supposed to freeze.”
He thinks the last frost day in the area is about June 7.
Kathy’s Greenhouse has more than 22,000 sq. ft. of space for plants and vegetables, along with gardening supplies and a big gift store to cover all the bases.
Trees and shrubs are grown outdoors.
Andersen is also hoping to plant the seeds for another trip to Europe one day, especially the IPM Essen show just by talking about it with customers and his suppliers.
“It was just huge; there was anything and everything to see as far as horticulture goes right from the floral end of things to the bedding plants type of things,” he said.
A summary of the group’s 10 day trip is archived online at floraldaily.com.