Blog Archive 2015

Dayton "Dirt"
Weekly Blog entries
by Tom Dayton

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December 25, 2015

Today as we celebrate the birth of Jesus along with the miracle of his ministry some 2,000 years ago, miracles are all around us today of which a few include...

 

- Water expands as it freezes so that it does not sink to the bottom of bodies of water killing fish and other wildlife.
 

- The process of photosynthesis in which green plants are able to make food from sunshine enables us to be fed.

 

- Persistent hanging fruits and nuts on trees and shrubs during winter feed the fowl of the air and other wildlife.


- Spiders that prey on harmful insects helps greatly guard our food supply.

 

- The by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen that we all must have to live.

 

- Some six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains once in awhile is essential for all annual species to survive.

 

- The planting of small trees still goes on in which future generations will benefit long after the planter is gone.

 

- Pollinators such as birds, various bees, bats and even flies that through their actions place food on our tables.

 

- The miracle of flowers of every kind which even “King Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

 

- Family, true friends and good health are enough along with a few other essentials for a happy, long life.

Merry Christmas and God bless everyone!

 

December 18, 2015

As the Christmas season continues, the absence of cold and snow seems quite strange and is due to the El Niño effect of a surge or warm water in the Pacific Ocean causing a marked change in the jet stream as compared to last year and the year before.

 

With Oregon hit with heavy snow this past weekend, will California be next for rain and snow to begin ending the multi-year drought?

 

The nursery is geared up for a finish for the year with cut trees at a minimum and a small supply of beautiful poinsettias.

 

Growing well too is the weed known as hairy bittercress as it did in the mild winter of 2012. Glyphosphate, or Round-up, is being sprayed in full force to kill this nuisance before it can flower and disseminate its seeds.

 

Another weed, commonly called bedstraw, that looks similar to sweet woodruff, is active too as it vines its way along the ground and consumes shrubs as it crawls over them.

 

With the winter solstice, the still shorter days will be done with the ever increasing day lengths afterwards.

 

We will slightly reduce our business hours beginning December 22 and will reopen briefly after Christmas day through year’s end before closing until the first of March.

 

Strangely, a lot of work still needs completed before spring, especially with the greenhouse growing operation and the never ending office work and the not-so-fun-but-necessary work of closing out the year for tax paying.

 

Right now though it’s time to enjoy the Christmas season.

 

Tom

 

December 11, 2015

The almost everlasting warm weather of this fall has made it possible to do more gardening then ever. Transplanting, trimming and even some lawn mowing has been the norm for some gardeners the past couple of weeks.

 

At the nursery, an attempted restock of white pine roping and some live wreaths failed as the main supplier of these goods is already nearly sold out! Likewise on cut tree sales as an uptick in sales has resulted in fewer Fraser fir and other pines at this time of year. Production of grave decorations still goes on along with a new window swags and some porch pots.

 

Shortly after the Christmas season, the nursery will close until March 1st although every Saturday beginning January 30th will begin our annual educational series of winter seminars. No doubt, as always, the seminar finishing up the series on “What’s New’ will have to be cut short as more than 2 hours would need to be devoted to the program to the extent that an all day affair might suffice to discuss all the new plants for 2016! See you at the seminars!


Tom

 

December 4, 2015

As the relatively warm weather continues, hydrangeas that we had trimmed and “put to bed” into the winter storage houses were trying to grow as the growth buds were definitely swelling until Monday morning’s 27º F temperature sort of “ nipped them in the bud”. In fact, the huts have only been closed once when a 21º F temperature was recorded about 10 days ago. The warmth has made it necessary to irrigate the stored nursery stock by hand and by overhead irrigation. Even now, water is pumping from the lower pond to the upper irrigation pond on the water supply for irrigation is too low with the scant rainfall of the past 2 weeks.

 

Construction of grave blankets is still in full tilt after the wave of orders for pickup or delivery  before Thanksgiving. More branches of Colorado spruce, white pine and scotch pine have been cut and will have to be cut again to keep the construction going. Fraser Fir sales have been going well with the 10 foot and up size already gone with only very few Canaan Fir left of between 10 feet and 13 feet. There is at least one mammoth 13 footer left with a width of no less than 7 feet that hopefully will find a home. The poinsettias have finally started expanding so that they will not have to be spaced out for a third time and the fact that many are selling. How strange is that many of the plants in the 4½” size look almost the size of a 6" plant!

 

With the excellent weather, more cleanup and planting on the grounds is still continuing and will continue as long as the weather holds. When the winter weather does arrive as it definitely will, plenty of greenhouse projects will be waiting to keep us busy.

 

Enjoy the weather!

 

Tom

 

November 27, 2015

With Thanksgiving now past for another year the Christmas season is now upon us continuing about a month. At the end of the year, the nursery will close until March 1st as it has for the past 40 years although activities besides sales will continue throughout the winter as well as the upcoming seminars starting January 30th.

 

Strangely, the poinsettias continue to expand in size of the plants and the colored flower bracts so much so that they seem to be on steroids compared to last year. No doubt sunny, warm weather has been the major contributor. Our fresh cut trees from southern Ohio are ready to view with as always the larger trees sold first as the shorter ones of 9 feet and under normally sell in the next two to three weeks. While Ohio grown Fraser Fir are not common, they do exist on some well-drained  sites such as those in southeast Ohio.

 

While the main nursery store is closed, the Owl Barn has been converted into a holiday barn because of its ambiance resembling a Currier and Ives Christmas print. Grave blankets construction has been well under way for pick up or delivery. How much effort goes into customizing many of the decorations to suit individual tastes! No new offerings have been added this year although design trials will start next week that will be implemented fully next year.

 

This weekend at least 5 gallons of deer repellent will be sprayed in the botanical garden to prevent deer from browsing on the many rhododendron and what seems to be their favorite azalea called ‘Herbert’. Herbert with its dark purple double flowers is one of the most winter hardy and easiest to grow azalea but seems to be a favorite of deer that only want to chew off the fat flower buds!


As winter melts into spring, the barn will be surrounded with thousands of spring flowering bulbs and hundreds of multi-colored creeping phlox spilling over the boulder wall to its north. Only after the cold and sometimes seemingly endless winter will we see the next spring. The trick is to enjoy the winter and it will pass quickly.

 

Tom

 

November 20, 2015

This time of year with the short days and the bare trees seems bleak except for the groves and stand alone evergreen trees in the landscape which consist mainly of conifers such as spruce, pines and firs which are still grown to be cut for uses such as Christmas trees. While it was forbidden to celebrate Christmas in Puritan New England, German immigrants, it is thought, brought the tradition of the decorated Christmas tree to America. Years ago, cutting an evergreen for Christmas out of the national forests, a farmer’s woods or wherever it could be found was a common practice. Then appeared the concept of the Christmas tree plantation in which the trees were planted and grown to be cut for the Christmas season, as they still are today.

At one time Norway spruce with its young pyramidal stature was popular because of its fast growth and ability to grow on a wide variety of sites. Unfortunately, spruce tend to hold their needles to the branches by means of a scale that releases the needle when the cut tree begins to dry out, thus “raining” needles. Colorado spruce known also as Blue spruce tend to hold its needles longer especially when cut late such as around Thanksgiving but have a much longer growing cycle than Norway spruce.

The next tree to evolve in the Christmas tree line was the scotch pine beginning in the early 1950's as growth was rapid and more importantly needle retention of the tree after cutting could be as much as 3 weeks or longer as long as the tree is mounted in a stand with water. The Spanish and French strains of scotch pine have a medium length needle compared to the shorter needles of spruce or the longer needles of the native white pine. With selective breeding and training, the notorious crooked trunk of the scotch pine is only a minor problem today.

The five-needled white pine that is native to North America is heavily trimmed to produce a Christmas tree due to the very rapid growth. Left alone, white pines can achieve heights of 100 feet or more as they now exist in pockets from the virgin forests of Pennsylvania, New England and Michigan. Generally, a white pine’s trunk is much straighter than a scotch pine with the needle retention equal to or greater than that of the scotch pine. The disadvantage of a white pine is that the required heavy trimming causes the branches to be very limber so that the tree will not hold heavy ornaments.

The last group to be introduced for Christmas tree production are the firs. No doubt that firs are the favorite Christmas tree of all because the pliable needles are soft to the touch and seem to hang on forever even if the tree is indoors for a month and sometimes longer. While firs are certainly the favorite of consumers, they are “fussy” about their growing site and in general slower in growth than the faster growing pines, hence the greater expense.

Fraser fir with its dark green needles and glaucous underside seems to glow especially when draped with white lights. Fraser fir is quite “happy” in the wild from elevations of 2000 feet and up from the Adirondack Mountains of New York to the high elevation of northern Georgia. Sadly, this tree has been all but wiped out in the wild from a devastating aphid of European origin and acid rain primarily in the form of nitrous oxide from automobiles.

Another fir more popular with Ohio growers is the Canaan fir that has a very similar shape and look of the Fraser fir except that it does not have the shiny, glaucous coating to the underside of the needle. Canaan fir grow naturally in the Canaan River Valley in West Virginia and are more tolerant of soils that would for sure be too wet for Fraser fir. Canaan fir has very good needle retention when used as a Christmas tree as long as it is cut around Thanksgiving or later in the season.

Another popular fir is the concolor or white fir that typically has longer needles that are soft to the touch and have a pronounced smell of citrus especially when the needles are rubbed. Concolor fir are somewhat rare in that soils for growing this fir must be deeply well drained and the site must be high enough to allow cold air drainage in spring to prevent the tree’s new growth from being killed or burned by spring frosts.

Finally, the Douglas fir is similar to other firs with its medium length, dark green, soft needles that hold well when cut. Today though, Douglas fir are not as common as a disease that causes the tree to shed results in the tree looking somewhat thin and “tired” rendering it unsaleable.

Christmas tree growers face many challenges such as a long laundry list of diseases and insects to control, endless mowing between the trees, timely trimming, and finally harvesting the trees unless the operation is a “choose and cut” type of business. Labor shortages are common at the spring planting of the seedling trees as well as harvest as each of these chores have such a constricted time limit. Another risk for growers is that the production cycle is so long(up to 10-11 years for an 8 ft. Fraser Fir) that for some trees, a good market may no longer exist for the trees planted 10 years before!

To make the cut tree stay as fresh as possible, a fresh cut removing the bottom one inch of the truck will “unseal” the trunk bottom allowing the tree to take up water as long as the job is performed just before placing the tree in the stand. Paring down the tree trunk to force the tree into too small of a stand is not a good idea as the tree will no longer uptake water with the outer bark removed. A stand for a 6 to 8 ft. tree should hold a minimum of 1 gallon of water with the water level checked every day as sometimes a fresh cut tree will “drink” a gallon a day. Numerous formulas abound of what might be added to the cut tree’s water to hasten the water uptake; however, experiments conducted by the American Association of Nurseryman a few years ago concluded that just plain warm water did the job the best. In fact, some tree preservatives even deterred water uptake. Mini lights and Led lights on the tree are so much better than hot incandescent lights which tend to dry out the tree before its useful life is over.

After the Christmas tree leaves the house its life is not over as it can be staked up near a bird feeder to give birds shelter from wind and more importantly predatory hawks that might otherwise readily spot birds at an open feeder. While Conifers are important at Christmas, they are even more important as screens, windbreaks, oxygen producers, flood controllers and providers of shelter and food for wildlife. How many benefits we receive from conifers and all trees and yet how we take these blessings for granted!
 

 

November 13, 2015

The mostly sunny somewhat warm weather of November has accelerated the growth of the stock geraniums used for cuttings so much over last year that the plants have been sprayed with a product called Florel that will slow down the growth of the plants by shortening the internodes and  preventing any formation of flowers that are undesirable for winter time because of disease problems in a closed greenhouse. The arrival of more balled and burlapped trees this past week will result in a good selection of Autumn Blaze Maples for the remainder of this fall and next  spring. The fine gravel in the bed where the maples will spend the  winter does well to insulate the roots from potentially damaging winter winds and cold. In December, the trees will receive their vinyl tree  guards to prevent damage from rabbits scouting for young bark to eat when the ground is covered with snow.

 

Construction of grave blankets is proceeding nicely as November rolls along so that most items should be available by Thanksgiving for delivery and placement.

 

One chore to complete this fall is the replacement of the store building soffits as raccoons periodically push them up and aside as they crawl into the attic of the store to find shelter and raise young. The animals have done damage to electrical wires, the alarm system and insulation to the building as they chew away. In the past 3 years, we have trapped a total of 13 that were previously living in the attic!

 

Timely chores still include fall transplanting, one more grass fertilizing and finally the liming of lawn and/or garden if necessary. This year, new planting’s at the nursery will go on until the ground  freezers hard until it will not be possible to push a shovel into the ground! Let us hope the good weather of November continues.

 

Tom

 

November 6, 2015
Compared to November of last year, this November has so far been like a lamb with the continuing Indian Summer. How strange it is to not have the irrigation system shut down and drained for a deeper freeze as plants are still in need of water, especially evergreens. Soon it will  be time to stickmore cuttings of Euonymous ‘Golden Burst’ from the plant that surrounds the lamp post of theold farm house. This euonymous was purchased from Roemer Nursery in 1993 and has since  survived every winter without hardly any winter burn. Gold Splash is the correct name of this variegated plant but since the trade name is registered we are not legally allowed to use the name ‘Gold Splash’ even though the patent ran out years ago.

 

Annual flowers from Costa Rica will arrive as un-rooted cuttings at the end of the month. Geraniums will be cut and stuck into rooting cells much earlier than usual due to the warm, sunny days accelerating the plants growth.

 

Already orders for grave decorations are coming in with a delay in production due to the warm weather that will cause deterioration of the evergreen branches if they are cut too early.

 

Tree and shrub planting, flower bulb planting, irrigation repair and other greenhouse repairs are still all going on and will continue on the outside until the inclement weather that is sure to come will force us to the inside. The many changes that are being made to the facilities and grounds most likely will not be immediately apparent to customers; however, many have been long overdue because of the fall and early winter weather not “cooperating”. Could this nice fall be a harbinger  of a mild winter? We’ll see!

 

Tom
 

October 30, 2015
No doubt about it now with two hard frosts that the growing season is over. The evergreens are beginning to shine as the deciduous trees continue to lose their foliage. One such evergreen at the nursery is the Western Red Cedar called Green Giant. The Green Giant - Spring Grove screen at the nursery has grown rapidly at the north side of the parking area since it was planted in December of 2002. The Western Red Cedar, a native of the northwest, does well here in Ohio. This amazing  genus is so versatile as it naturally grows in bog and swamp areas up to elevations of about 2500 feet. Snow, wind, ice and deer don’t faze Green Giant cedars plus the fact that growth (up to 3 feet per year in Ohio) makes for an excellent visual screen and windbreak as it attains a height of about 50 feet after 20 years. That this species will tolerate wetter soils and moderate shade makes it advantageous for areas previously difficult to do an evergreen screen.

 

The nursery stock is all put away except for the trees that will remain in the pot-n- pot section that will protect their roots from the extreme winter cold. The greenhouse is gearing up in that poinsettias are coloring up fast and will be ready for sale right after Thanksgiving. I  must confess that I did spray the plants with a Neonicotinoid to kill a small infestation of whitefly. Neonicotinoids are effective whitefly killers and are low in toxicity for the applicant. I reasoned that this product would not be detrimental to foraging bees as there are no bees that I know of that visit poinsettias. Combined with the insecticide called Tristar was an insect growth regulator called Enstar that  controls pesky fungus gnats and the immature stages of whitefly. Enstar interferes with the molting process so that the young insects do not mature into egg-laying adults.

 

On the outside, the planting of thousands of flower bulbs is still going on along with a continued general cleanup such as killing weeds, pressure washing nasty looking greenhouse walkways and the final cleaning of the self watering greenhouse benches. Very soon it will be branch cutting time for grave blankets as we enter into the Christmas season.

 

Another event of note is the presentation of art of the Impressionist painters as it relates to the garden at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dahlias, irises, water lilies, flowering trees and so on decorate the landscape in the paintings. Claude Monet famous French Impressionist and avid gardener stated “I perhaps owe it to flowers that I became a painter.” The Monet to Matisse event is well worth seeing before it closes in February.

 

Tom

 

October 23, 2015
The traditional Indian Summer after a hard frost has come true with temperatures in the 70's and plenty of sunshine. The beautiful weather has made possible small projects as well as the picking up and entering inventory of thousands of shrubs and trees as they go into their long winter storage. Much of the old stock of perennials has been swept away for winter storage as it will be “bumped up” to a larger container size in spring or divided up for planting in a 4" pot or 1 gallon container. Root bound plants do not grow robustly in spring so that root expansion is necessary to produce beautiful vibrant top. No where is the above rule more evident than in the production of geraniums. For months during the winter, stock plants from which several batches of cuttings are taken for rooting new plants to be sold in spring. These 2 gallon geraniums look very “tired” by the first of March. When these same stock plants are transferred to a 12" diameter container or more, a  transformation takes place within about 2-3 weeks of explosive growth due to a pot bound root system exploding into growth. It just goes to show that this root growth scenario can be applied to any plant in which the size of the hole is usually more important than the soil amendments.

 

Years ago I marveled when I delivered a 6 ft. pink dogwood to my great uncle’s house in Franklin Township about 5 ½ miles south of the nursery. When I arrived, a 6 foot by 6 foot square hole about 18" deep was waiting for the tree with a 4 cubic foot bale of Canadian sphagnum  peat moss.Truly, the 6 foot diameter hole was overdone for such a small tree but after a few years, the tree grew as if it were on steroids.

 

While fall planting will go on for at least another month, it is essential that trees and shrubs are well watered in this somewhat dry fall. Evergreens such as pine, spruce and hemlock typically don’t show water stress until it is too late. The enormous amount of green foliage transpires large amounts of water that will leave a newly planted tree’s root system high and dry to the point of death if not watered adequately.

 

Maybe Indian Summer will continue for awhile with some good rain.

Tom


October 16, 2015

A recent federal court ruling has at least temporarily haulted the EPA rule of W.O.T.U.S. (Waters of the United States) in which a summary of the rules appears to give EPA broad powers over bodies of water, creeks, streams, drainage ditches, etc. on private property as it has to do with  runoff that would adversely affect water quality such as the case of farming. The new broad powers of the EPA has worried farmers especially because of the tons of fertilizer used to grow a variety of crops, especially the commodity crops of soybeans and corn. In particular, northwest Ohio farmers  have received much of the blame for the recent algae blooms in Lake Erie in which a 2014 bloom of toxic algae shut down Toledo’s water system as the water with the algae toxins cannot be used for anything. For certain, farmers and other large landowners have reason to worry about the great expansion of the 1972 Clean Water Act as strict implentation could make farming prohibitive with greatly increased costs.

 

With or without EPA, water contamination from farms, malfunctioning septic systems, sewer overflows, road salt, lawn fertilizer, residues from asphalt and even wear from tires still remains. Without the “overreaching” W.O.T.U.S. rules, what actions will farmers and even the general public take so that water pollution is at least significantly mitigated. Will some herald an eventual repeal of W.O.T.U.S. and then do nothing? Most likely, a more reasonable set of rules will replace  W.O.T.U.S. if it is permanently repealed by the courts; however, it is up to the public at large to get on board to curb the problem that originates on the farms, municipalities and even the backyards of homeowners.

 

The first frost of the season will most likely occur early Saturday morning with a weather prediction of at least 2 more frosts or freezes which for sure will end the 2015 growing season. The fall planting season though will continue for another month as root systems continue to grow.


Happy Fall

Tom

 

October 9, 2015

The chill of October is in the air with the trees getting ready to color. At the nursery there’s now a flurry of activity in moving stock to its proper place for winter storage and even now, more planting is going on.

 

Poinsettias in the greenhouse are coming along nicely with no trace of any whitefly or powdery mildew on the leaves although they still will have to be watched closely for the next month as it is difficult to get rid of any critters or disease once they begin to color in early November without damaging the plants.

 

The newer condensing boiler that was a headache last season is working just fine although it will be shut down shortly in order to make some additions to the system to use it to full capacity in that most of the greenhouse product grows better when the heat is where the plants are. Heating pipes and tubes from the hot water boiler enable the root zone of the plants to stay warmer compared with overhead heat with the result being more robust growth with the warmer roots. Some plants like cyclamen, evergreen azalea and a few others do not like overly warm roots so that their section of hot water tubing has to be shut off.

 

Some repairs to the buildings and greenhouse need to be accomplished before winter before moving inside when inclement weather will be more the norm. It seems like yesterday spring was here and now how fast the seasons have changed!

Tom

 

October 2, 2015

While the rain this past weekend held off for the Mum Fest in Barberton, two weeks have passed since then of the much needed rainfall on September 12th. One benefit of the dryness is that trees and shrubs are hardening off before winter. Hardening-off is a term used in the greenhouse and nursery industries that pertains to the cessation of lush, soft growth and instead that of slower more sustainable growth. For example, greenhouse grown flowers and vegetable plants are at risk for scorching from the hot sun and strong winds that are not present in the greenhouse especially since greenhouses are shaded in late spring with a white compound that is sprayed on the glass or plastic to cool the structure on the inside. Therefore some flowers and even vegetable plants will suffer when exposed suddenly to the outside elements. Outside with the trees and shrubs, lower light levels and a shorter day length, cooler temperatures and typical drier conditions of late summer  naturally harden off plants.

 

At the nursery, irrigation of much of the stock is lessened in September and October to slow down growth. On some plants such as evergreen azaleas, irrigation is withheld to the point of actually causing the plants to wilt. According to Dr. Hannah Mathers at Ohio State University placing tree guards on tree trunks of young trees to protect them from rodent damage will actually cause a splitting of the trees trunk if the tree guard is put in place too early in the season. After carefully controlled experiments, Dr. Mathers found that the tree guard created a micro climate around the tree’s tender bark preventing the bark from hardening off and causing the split. When the guard is placed on the tree when temperatures grow colder such as after Thanksgiving, the tree’s bark is

ready for winter.

 

Next week begins the consolidation of the nursery stock in the back stock area to ready the plants for winter storage. Some trimming, weeding and moving of the trees and shrubs into the over-wintering structures precedes the covering of the steel framed houses with a single layer of white polyethylene which will give plants protection from cold winter winds and wide ranges in temperatures. The white plastic actually provides 70% shade so that these storage structures do  not overheat when bright sun is the mode.

 

Enough about winter! There’s still plenty of good weather ahead and lots to do with the lawn and garden and in enjoying the beautiful fall season.

 

Tom
 

 

September 25, 2015

Even with impending rain and thunderstorms last Saturday, the Fall Fest was the busiest ever until some light rain showers thinned the crowds about 3 p.m. It was quite strange to see so many children at once at the nursery as they piled on the wagons for the hayride or crowded into the annual house to see Outback Ray and his animal show. With the fest, it was somewhat difficult to perform the usual nursery work although some it always gets sandwiched in between.

 

Good weather is in store for the Mum Fest in Barberton this weekend and with so many sights and attractions, the swarms of folks from “in town” and from “out-of-town” will be quite amazing. The nursery too has gorgeous mums for sale from plants in almost full color to those just “cracking” with color as we term it in the industry. Another thing at the nursery is that the super hardy Chicagoland Green boxwood is back in stock. Chicagoland Green appears identical to the more popular Green  Velvet until below zero cold, sweeping winds and no snow cover come against the plants in winter. In the above contest, Chicagoland Green comes out of the winter the winner!

 

Beginning this week, spring flowering flower bulbs can be planted so that their promise of a beautiful spring may be fulfilled. Through at least December all the flower bulbs can be planted with success although good weather is definitely a plus when digging in flower bulbs.

 

Trees and shrubs root in during the cooler weather of fall as roots will continue to grow until ground temperatures fall below 40º F which is normally after Thanksgiving so that in planning a landscape or in just planting one tree, fall planting enables stock to get established to explode into vigorous growth next spring.

 

Be sure to tune into Ready, Set, Grow tomorrow from 8-10 a.m. on WAKR 1590 to hear all about the Mum Fest.

Tom
 

September 18, 2015

Tomorrow, September 19th is the annual Fall Festival at the nursery with  all the festivities beginning  at 10 a.m. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and will not pour down rain as it did last Saturday that indeed was quite a blessing to finally soak into the still dry ground. I remember September 19th every year as my grandmother was born on this day in 1890. Lot’s of prep work has gone on this past week to prepare the grounds and facilities for the big day. This year a new powerful tractor will pull the hay wagons loaded with passengers as the RTV used  in the past would struggle as it chugged uphill.

 

Finally, the last perennials have been potted and some new clematis that will be available next spring. The new varieties are ‘Sprinkles’, ‘Tye Dye’, ‘Regency’, ‘Festival’ and ‘Silver Moon’ that will add a total of 12 new clematis to the mix. A new bed of creeping phlox in the botanical garden will be ready to plant next week from plants that last March were un-rooted cuttings and so small that handling them to stick in the rooting plugs was very difficult. The azalea cuttings stuck last July are almost finished rooting and will be transplanted to 4½” pots filled with Canadian sphagnum peat about October 10th which is about the time the small geranium plants will arrive to be planted into a 2 gallon nursery container from which the plants will be “butchered” for cuttings to make new stock just before Christmas.

 

Fall is sweeping in fast with the official start in just a few days with the arrival of the autumnal equinox so that soon the trees will begin to wear coats of yellow, orange and red just like the coat of many colors.

 

Tom

 

 

September 11, 2015

As I write today’s blog, I remember sadly in 2001 of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC along with the downed airliner in the field in Pennsylvania. At the time I was visiting nurseries just south of Portland, Oregon watching the television in disbelief as the World Trade Center burned and then collapsed changing the world forever.

 

On a more pleasant note, more needed rain is in the forecast to supplement the two inches of rain that fell a week ago. Chrysanthemums are budded and blooming in quite an array of colors along with the still blooming hydrangeas that just are not ready to give up. In fact, the Bloomstruck and Endless summer Hydrangeas will continue to bloom right up until a hard frost that will subdue them sometime in October to go into their long winter nap.

 

This past week’s 50% sale went well as much of the overstocked plants have been sold although there is still quite a selection of herbaceous perennials that includes some nice grasses that have been brought up from the back stock area. A few large white pine and Red Sunset Maples still remain with some nice rhododendrons and deciduous azaleas. While the sale will continue until the end of the season around November, more and more of the selection will be depleted as time goes on.

Next week on Saturday, September 19th, will be the Fall Festival with music, hayrides, crafts and food! Then on the 26th and 27th is the 25th Mum Festival in Barberton that features water ski shows, crafts, lots of food and of course thousands of blooming mums at the northeast corner of  Lake Anna Park. Mega amounts of planning, planting and much other work goes on behind the scenes to put on such an extravaganza. As for the nursery, some of the mum madness spills over as always some out of town visitors stop by.

 

On Ready, Set, Grow on Saturday, September 26th beginning shortly after 8 a.m. be sure to tune your radio dial to 1590 WAKR as I will grill several key players on the Mum Fest including Mayor Judge with his views and aspirations for this important event for the City of Barberton.


Tom
 

 

September 4, 2015

Today is the start of our Labor Day clearance sale with a wide variety of trees, shrubs and perennials at 50% off the regular price for Garden Club Members only through Monday.  The perennial selection this year is extensive including beautiful coral bells, grasses and hostas along with numerous other varieties for sun or shade.  In the shrub line, about 100 Endless Summer Hydrangeas will be on the list but as I have stated many times, once stock is gone, it is gone so that it is best to arrive early.  The sales list is not a perpetual inventory so that once the stock is depleted, it might still be on the list that is updated only every few days.

 

A new supply of Igloo mums has filled our front sales area this past week but again stock might be depleted as soon as this weekend as these super winter hardy Dendranthemums have been quite popular.  At some grocery stores and home improvement outlets, the word "hardy" mums are describing the tender Chrysanthemum morifolium which is a misnomer.  Here at the nursery we offer the Chrysanthemum morifolium as a "garden mum" that can be enjoyed in it's pot or planted in the ground to maybe come again in the spring.

 

The hot weather is somewhat unusual for the first week of September but a cool down and more rain is in the forecast soon.  With the runoff from the rainfall on Saturday overnight, the water supply at the nursery for irrigation has been partly restored; however, at least 2 inches would have to fall in order to replenish the rainwater in the irrigation pond. 

 

As a reminder, after Labor Day, the sale items are open to everyone.  An e-mail address, while not required to sign-up, is beneficial to receive periodic e-mail blasts of events and special buys as printing costs and postage is becoming extremely expensive when notifying our customers via "snail mail"

 

Hope to see you at the sale.

 

Tom

 

August 28, 2015

The Igloo mums are finally ready and now adorn the sales area in front of the store so that now, the age-old question about mums of "will they come back next spring?", can be answered with a resounding yes! The Igloos are actually a Dendrantemum and not a Chrysanthemum that gives them  ironclad hardiness.  The other benefit of the Igloo mums is that they bloom somewhat in late June and July and then can be cut back to display a full bloom in early September.

 

Next Friday at 7:30 am is the start of our annual 50% off sale of trees, shrubs, roses and perennials Garden Club Members only for the first 4 days after which the sale is open to everyone.  Again, just a reminder that no notice of this sale will be via a postcard so that our mass e-mails will notify most Garden Club Members of the sale as we do now our other specials.  Garden Club Members that do not have e-mail and are interested in periodic e-mail blasts should forward their address as soon as possible.  Hopefully those members without e-mail will be notified by friensd and relatives.  Non Garden Club Members, as always, may take advantage of the sale as long as they sign up the same day.

 

Look for the list of items on sale on Thurs, Sept 3rd and remember, inventory usually is depleted quickly so get here early!

 

The word at the nursery is mums, mums and more mums with cabbage, kale and perennial aster included as fall is at hand.

 

Tom

 

August 16, 2015

With Labor Day approaching, many customers are looking forward to our annual clearance sale in which many items will be 50% off the regular price. As always, not everything will be on sale as much of the stock is grown here and will be stored for sales next spring. All items that are 50% off will be clearly marked and once they are sold there will be no more available. For the very best selection, it’s best to arrive early on the first day of the sale.

 

A listing of sale items will be available on the internet on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 3rd and in printed form on the opening Friday of the sale; however, the list will be updated only about every 2-3 days as we take stock of what has been sold. One thing different about the sale this year is that we will e-mail all of the garden club members that will get first choice of the sale items for the first three days of the sale and then on Monday, members and non-members of the garden club are  eligible for the sale prices. We have discontinued the mailing of postcards as the cost of postage is astronomical! Our hope is that those of you without e-mail will receive the message via friends and  relatives that do have e-mail. The thousands of dollars saved in postage costs can then be passed on in additional savings and “deals” instead of transferring these dollars to the post office. The “Big Sale” begins Friday, September 4th when the gates open at 7:30 a.m. Hope to see you  there!

 

We’re hoping to restock some out of stock items such as arborvitae and Green Giant Western Red Cedars before the sale but may not be able to do it due to the dry weather. More “tweaks” of the grounds are going on and the seemingly never ending potting of trees, shrubs and perennials for next year’s sales.

Tom

 

August 7, 2015

At the nursery this past week and next is the word “plant”. Thousands of perennials are now being potted to supplement our spring potted crop of plants so that sales in May begin earlier in spring. With the hard winter, some species of perennials have not done well being overwintered above ground in pots so that cold frames to suspend a ¼” thick insulating of a product called microfoam will be suspended over the product in addition to the protection of the white layer of plastic over the over-wintering structure which in effect is a cold frame within a  cold frame. This structure will further insulate the root system of the plants from extreme cold and yet allow aeration of the structure to keep down fungus disease.

 

Repair and maintenance of almost all the equipment is completed as it’s constant and hard use during the rushed spring season is over. The propagation of numerous shrubs is complete while the cuttings sit under intermittent mist which will root most of them in about 6-8 weeks. A concern for customers is the presence of crabgrass in the lawn even after a pre-emergent crabgrass killer was applied in April. The reason for this annual grass spreading over lawns is the fact that a crabgrass  preventer does prevent germination of this weed up to 95% but the remaining 5% has grownprolifically from the more than adequate rainfall  resulting in the phenomenal growth of the survivors! One preventive measure to perform with the return of normal, drier weather would be to  stir any hardwood bark mulch with a rake, fertilize the bed with the addition of 10 lbs. of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1000 ft² and then the watering of this area to prevent the shotgun fungus that will spot  siding on the house with a sticky resin that is nearly impossible to remove. By fertilizing and watering the mulch, bacteria will begin to grow and are able to subdue this nasty fungal pest that seems to thrive in drier hardwood mulches.

 

With the August sun comes quick ripening of peppers and tomatoes that will overwhelm everyone as freezing and canning of the vegetable bounty of the garden moves into full swing.

 

Well, the motto at the nursery is to “pot on” as late August and September will bring another set of chores.

Tom

 

July 30, 2015

The typical heat of July has returned and with it an improvement in the growth of vegetable gardens and annual flower plantings. At the nursery, petunias that were cut back with just “stalks” remaining have exploded into growth and a riot of color.

 

More and more perennials keep arriving from various vendors so that another batch of potting mix must be made. Each 25 cubic yard batch of mix is made up of 5 parts pine bark and 2 parts sphagnum peat with various fertilizers and leave to make a light fluffy mix that is difficult to over-winter and one that is of a slightly acidic nature of a ph of about 5. An ideal soiless mix should have a ph of 5.8; however, the nursery mix must be more acidic due to the higher alkalinity of the  irrigation water.

 

New sedums “born and bred” in Zeeland, Michigan are growing well and will allow us to offer even more color of these wonderful plants that tolerate drought so well.

 

A few ash trees in the lower garden have succumbed to the Emerald Ash borer and will have to be cut down. The Valley Forge American Elms that were planted 4 years ago are now almost 16 feet tall and growing fast to take over where the ash once stood. Hopefully, with hundreds of millions of dollars and hundred’s of paid workers, the Asian Long Horned Beetle can be stopped in southwest Ohio as it kills maple trees and 8 other species of trees. How I would think it prudent to tax importers by imposing a fee on wood pallet products to add to the Treasury’s coffers to fight all invasive insect and disease species. Now the budgets of the federal, state and local governments are strained fighting these pests. No doubt, this is another example of the “hidden costs” of free trade that market forces do not take into account.

 

At the nursery, I think that we use too much electric power to run fans, pump water and light buildings. It is quite difficult to save energy in such a business as ours but try we must. I always have thought when even at home every time a light switch goes on how much of that power  contributes to a mountain top removal somewhere. Fortunately though, renewable power source’s costs are declining and most likely “dirty” energy will be a thing of the past in the not so distant future.


Water recycling, the weed discs used for weed control on stock and the progress to reduce pesticide use are all working well with even more “tweaking” going on to improve the systems. The end game is to produce and market products that enhance and beautify the environment with  sustainable practices.

 

Tom

P.S. Last week on Ready, Set, Grow I stated that because of the cold weather, Bauman Orchards in Rittman would not have peaches this year. Mike Lieberth of Bauman’s called me on Monday to correct me that they in fact DO have their own peaches! Almost unbelievable after last winter’s  cold, cold February for any peach to be found in Ohio. I stand corrected as Red Haven peaches will show up in markets including the Owl Barn Market all from Bauman’s!

 

July 24, 2015
The Owl Barn market is in full swing now with the arrival of Seiberling sweet corn. Brand new varieties with new sweetness and longer lasting sweetness after picking are available this year. How fitting then that the name of the first early variety is “Sweetness”! Following will be Java and Cup of  Joe which will have a certain percentage of super sweet corn on the cob along with the sugar enhanced kernals. According to Chuck Seiberling, 100% super sweet corn can be somewhat tuff so that the mixed ear of sweet corn is tender yet sweet. How different things are from 30+ years ago! Back then, sweet corn had to be eaten the same day as picked to be sweet or quickly chilled to prevent the sugar from converting to starch. Then too, yellow corn was the favorite with a small amount of bicolor sweet corn chosen by customers. Now the opposite is true today.

 

On the nursery side, transplanting of shrubs is still going on as well as major renovation of the grounds and the potting of scads of small perennial plugs from the companies of Walters Gardens of Zeeland, Michigan, Terra Nova of Canby, Oregon and Greenleaf Perennials of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Most of the plants will grow strong all summer and root out into their containers in order to “bulk up” for the long winter ahead. Come spring the plants will begin to grow in mid-March and will be trimmed to remove dead foliage from the previous year. The same goes for the hundreds of clematis that have been potted this past week. In early March, the plants are trimmed to 2-3 inches above the crown and then explode into growth in a matter of days as they wind around their trellis. Time is running out to take cuttings of various shrubs so that this chore will begin tomorrow and be finished by Monday.

 

With the new condensing boiler installed last year in the greenhouse, cool days and/or nights that would slow the rooting of the cuttings can now be cancelled out so to speak with the addition of “bottom heat” from the super efficient boiler. It seems summer is rolling along and time is limited to get necessary timely chores done.

 

Tom

 

July 17, 2015
As the rain machine continues, long established trees and shrubs are suffering or even dying as soils that are normally well-drained are saturated with water depriving roots of oxygen. The latest casualty is a 25 year old Crimson King Maple that is collapsing because of the roots being water soaked. Then too will damage or death of plants in wet zones be apparent next year especially if next year is hot and dry.

 

The Edith Bogue Magnolia planted at the nursery in 1992 is suffering from the cold February temperatures as is evident by the top half barely sprouting growth so that it will be chopped back severely to grow again with the strongest growth coming from the former small leaves that  actually protected the entire tree from dying. On a lighter note, the various hydrangeas just keep blooming with Vanilla Strawberry and Strawberry Sundae dressed in white and soon to blush with a strawberry pink coloration on the flowers so that both pink and white will be displayed. One of my new favorites is the Hydrangea called Bobo that is compact in growing to 3-4 feet and pure white. It is so easy to grow in full sun or part shade that this beautiful plant should be in every landscape.

 

The grounds at the nursery are undergoing a major renovation that was last accomplished 10 years ago. New plantings and a massive planting of a new perennial garden in the lower half of the botanical display garden is now underway. These renovations require lots of time and labor but  in the long run are well worth it as some of the landscape areas appear “tired”.

 

The Plow to Chow dinner put on by the Summit County Farm Bureau was a rousing success so that a few thousand dollars will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House for their operations and building expansion that will greatly benefit families in which parents of children that need  long term care at Akron Children’s Hospital will be able to be housed while their children are undergoing treatment.  See pictures of the event

 

On Ready, Set, Grow 1590 WAKR tomorrow at 8 a.m. will be my guest Chuck Seiberling of Seiberling Farms that basically will be a discussion of what goes on “down on the farm”. To get your questions answered call 330-370-1590.

~Tom

 

July 10, 2015
Tomorrow is the Blueberry Fest with hayrides, children’s activities and lots of blueberries all centered around the Owl barn Market. If this were not enough, the “Plow to Chow” dinner for the Ronald McDonald House is next Thursday evening in which 120 paying guests will sit down to an  outdoor gourmet dinner sponsored by the Summit County Farm Bureau. The event will also be used as “teaching” tool that will center on talks of various agriculture activities to produce food that will be on the gourmet menu and one on water conservation and recycling as we now do at the nursery. Unfortunately only paying guests will be able to take part in the activities, hor’s d’oeurves, wine and food as the $100 each that the participants have paid will cover the expenses of the gourmet chef , waiters and other workers and yet have enough left over to benefit the  Ronald McDonald house in Akron.

 

In the nursery, even more trees became available for sale from our spring potting and include more Eastern Redbuds, Sweet Bay Magnolias, American Elms, Flowering Pears, White Fringe Trees, American beech, Maples and even more flowering crabapples. Sadly for us, those trees were not available for sale in May when they would have quickly sold because they were bare root trees when they were potted last March. These trees will stay out all winter long and are actually meant for next spring’s sales although they could easily be planted now.

 

The continuous rain has been a real “bummer” in that annual flowers are not in their prime and are even dying do to the constant wetness and limited sun. Even our greenhouse manager planted 300 plus wave petunias for her daughter’s wedding which have stopped blooming and have gone to  “sticks”!

 

At least some sun is supposed to be present for the Blueberry Fest tomorrow.

~Tom

P.S. Don’t forget to join me at 1590 AM WAKR at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 18th as I interview Chuck Seiberling about everything “down on the farm”. The Seiberling farm has been growing and selling sweet corn and other produce that Chuck’s mother began selling from the front steps of  the old house beginning in the 1940's.

 

July 2, 2015
Seems as though the “faucet” of torrential downpours is done for awhile but one inch of rain per week would be nice instead of a long, hot dry spell. Many garden plants, trees and other landscape plants are suffering from too much water especially if the soil drainage is questionable. Then if a hot dry spell ensues, the damage will show up as wilted plants or even dead ones from the damaged root system. For sure algae blooms in creeks, streams and Lake Erie will proliferate due  to thehigh amount of runoff from the fields, septic systems, leach fields and lawns. Get ready for lots of foliar disease on plants and possible problems on lawn grasses due to the constantly wet foliage and high humidity.

 

At the nursery the watch word for “bugs” is spider mites and then wouldn’t you know it that I found some on butterfly bush in the back stock area. Powdery mildew so far has not been a problem due to prevention spraying for mildew with a product like armicarb that is the  same product that can be sold over the shelf called Bicarb.

 

With the holiday of the Fourth of July tomorrow, it typically is the last day so to speak for planting heat loving vegetables such as sweet corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Later on, the shorter days and cooler nights won’t allow the plants to fully develop if planted later than the July 4th date.

 

At the nursery, the azaleas are finally almost transplanted so that now we can change modes to potting more perennials and then finally to potting more shrubs in August.

 

The market is open with Marietta sweet corn and hopefully tomatoes from Marietta some time next week.  The tomatoes we have now are from Arkansas and they are big and red!. The next deal
are the ripening blueberries that will be in the market and then as always the Blueberry Festival on July 11th.

Hope to see you then.

Tom
 

June 26, 2015
With the holiday looming, planting, weeding, trimming and propagation of various shrubs and perennials goes on and on. A larger project of the extension of our movable roof greenhouse willhave to wait another year as many smaller projects of an irrigation nature and improvements in the landscaping of the grounds still need accomplished. Then too, the cold winter delayed construction on more ebb and flow benches (self-watering benches) in the production greenhouse so that they must be completed at least before Thanksgiving.

 

The market is now open for business with the introduction of sweet corn next week and tomatoes around the fourth of July from Marietta, Ohio. A new upright cooler and the moving of the compressor of the walk-in cooler to the outside of the owl barn will enable the building to remain  cooler and thus keep the produce fresher.

 

The blueberries in the field will be quite the challenge as turkeys, geese, robins, bluejays, blackbirds . . . are all waiting for the berries to turn blue. The geese and the turkeys seem to be the biggest  hallenge as they are quite aggressive and can devour a whole branch of berries with one stroke of their beaks. Fortunately for this year so far, water has been in good supply with the more than adequate rainfall. The water quality in the irrigation pond has actually improved with the large addition of rainwater so that the supplemental water from Van Hyning Run, that is always of poor quality, that was pumped into the irrigation lake is now very much diluted.

 

As many of us look forward to this July 4th holiday, so did our third president, statesman, farmer, architect, philosopher and author of the Declaration of Independence as it seemed he waited to die on July 4, 1826 as some of his last words on that day was “Is it the fourth yet?”


Tom

 

June 19, 2015
No shortage of rainfall here in June when normally the average for the month is just about 3-3½ inches. For sure any gardener even with limited experience knows that in the vegetable and flower garden, powdery mildew, black spot on roses, brown rot (botrytis) and lawn disease can or will appear. Weekly application of Bi-Carb fungicide will keep mildews and brown rots at bay especially if applied before the occurrence.

 

In the veggie department, squash, melons and cucumbers are all susceptible to powdery mildew so that preventive sprays make good sense. Tomatoes are susceptible to early blight which will attack and kill them especially if nights and days are cool. Sprays of copper and chlorothalonil (Fungonil) are effective control as long as they are applied at the first sign of disease.

 

At the nursery flower planting on the grounds has been delayed with the heavy rains. Beds that were rototilled last Friday filled with water so that again they must be worked before the planting can begin. Our new Hosta selections for this year have just become available as they were only potted early this spring and some time is needed for the plants to root in. Even more Butterfly bushes are now done “cooking” so that Purple Haze and Blue Chip Jr. are added to the growing list of varieties.

 

No doubt the sweet corn and other crops at the Seiberling Farms are growing like mad so that soon the market will be open in late June although it will start out with fresh sweet corn from Marietta, Ohio. The farm in Marietta where the sweet corn is grown operates on a system of picking the sweet corn at night so that it is delivered to distributors by 10 to 11 a.m. that same morning to guard its freshness. How strange that Marietta sitting at the confluence of the Ohio and  Muskingum Rivers is of such as different climate that the growing season is at least 2 weeks ahead or more of our season here in the north of the state!

 

Tom

 

June 12, 2015
This past week has been one of a restock of the shrub sales yard with much of the stock coming from Lake County. Much of our spring potted stock is normally ready but with the later planting this year due to severely cold weather, availability has been slower so that much of the stock won’t be available until the week of June 21st with many trees following a week later. Already, over 1000 hosta “plugs” have arrived from Holland, Michigan to be potted and availability on these won’t be  until April of 2016 since the plants are quite small. June is a good month to plant small hostas for our production in that they are able to become well established before another hard winter.

 

While stock in the annual flower house dwindles, quite a number of shade hanging baskets of non- stop begonias remain as they were initially slow to grow. Gorgeous rose-like blossoms of iridescent red, yellow, orange, apricot, pink and white just about cover the lush foliage.

 

A roundup spraying in the garden has devastated the weeds including the dreaded garlic mustard that if left unchecked will choke everything in its path. The Mountain Laurel in the garden are at peek bloom in varying shades of pink. With the return of hot or some say warm weather, the perennial greenhouse and annual flower greenhouse have been sprayed with another coat of white wash material that blocks and reflects the sun which lowers the temperatures inside the house.

 

Even though vacation time is soon, the work still has to be done.

 

Tom
 

June 5, 2015

What a deluge we received last Saturday and Sunday of maybe up to 4 inches of rain for the week. The irrigation lake is full and the lower collection pond is completely full. With the water table replenished after the May dry spell, ground water will alone replenish the lower collection pond for at least one week so that it may be pumped up to the irrigation lake for storage to replace water used in irrigation of the nursery stock.

 

I just finished applying 150 lbs. of ammonium sulfate 21-0-0 to all the rhododendron, azalea and blueberries in the ground, in the field and garden before the second rain we received on Saturday afternoon. Ammonium sulfate is a strong acidifier of the soil but must be used sparingly as the salt index is quite high compared to that of Holly-tone which has a salt index of 6 compared to 21-0-0 which is 69 for a salt index which is more likely to burn plants.

 

Our next batch of up to a thousand various hydrangeas will be ready in a couple of weeks and will fill our somewhat empty movable roof greenhouse called the Cravo house which is the name of the manufacturer. While the greenhouse sales are winding down we are ever wary of keeping control of spider mites and thrip insects in the annual flower house and perennial house. Then too are diseases such as powdery mildew that can appear out of nowhere with the high humidity.

 

This week and next the theme at the nursery will be flower planting and weed control! More flowers will be planted in more areas this year for a benefit dinner on July 16th for the Ronald McDonald House. The dinner will be sponsored by the Summit County Farm bureau and cost $100 per person for which a gourmet dinner prepared by an expert chef will be served outdoors complete with wine from Wolf Creek Winery, hors d'oeuvres and educational talks on water conservation. Anyone is welcome to reserve a spot and tickets may be purchased by contacting the office of the Summit County Farm Bureau at 330-456-4889 or 800-654-5158. Hope to see you there!

 

Tom
 

May 29, 2015

After last week’s light frost, the weather has been sunny, warm and dry. A two inch rain or more is needed to thoroughly water the packed earth. With water, warmer nights and days will spark the growth of both flowers and vegetable plants. At the nursery, the production greenhouse is nearly empty yet supplies of small potted flowers and hanging baskets are plentiful in the greenhouse used for sales. Perennials are all the rage now as June is perennial gardening month. The remainder of some of the new perennials for 2015 are just about ready so that many will be in the perennial house this weekend. Some of the new “stuff” includes Ligularia ‘Bottle Rocket’ and Ajuga ‘Golden Glow’. The tea and David Austin roses are budding and should be in glorius bloom in early to mid-June.

 

The grounds are a mess with weeds as it has been quite busy and difficult to get control of weeding so that the importance of a quick and thorough job is now apparent with garlic mustard ready to go to seed.

 

The last plants of our potted vegetables are now on the shelf with still a very decent selection of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes and peppers. June is an excellent month for planting successive crops of tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash...up until about the 4th of July. Then in mid to late August will come planting time for more vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, turnips and parsnips that with proper preparation can be harvested in winter.

 

Our next batch of hydrangea is just about ready that will include a wide variety of color and forms. Hydrangea are truly a miracle in the landscape because of their long bloom time and plants that are short and compact, medium sized or tall for just about any landscape. Then too will our plantings of the Proven Winner shrubs from the Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand haven, Michigan be ready that will include Cephalanthus (buttonbush), new butterfly bushes, new Clematis and much more. How things have changed in the last several years in the plant selection now available!

 

As the traditional Decoration Day approaches, May 30th, things are greatly improved in the weather department especially with the arrival this past week of much needed rainfall. More rain would be nice; however, the downpour of this week did certainly soak into the packed ground and added to our irrigation water supply that was dangerously low without bringing in the lower quality water from Van hyning Run.

Tom

 

May 22, 2015
With Memorial Day upon us, planting the flower garden is in full swing with hopefully continued warm weather. Remember too to plant for pollinators so that butterflies, honeybees and native bees will visit your yard and garden as if it were a food station so that the “blessing” of pollination performed by these critters must be bestowed on your property increasing the bounty of the garden.

 

At the nursery, the greenhouse factory is still cranking out hanging baskets, vegetable plants and flowers galore all for late May and at least through June. One of the most enthusiastic gardeners at the founding of the country was Thomas Jefferson who was a product of the late eighteenth century called the Age of Enlightment. Jefferson as younger man planted more than 1000 fruit trees at his Monticello home and later on as an old man used to sit in a chair in his perennial garden while reading a book. At the age of 68 in 1811 he wrote his friend Vincent Peale the following letter:

 

“I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position & calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another and instead of one harvest a continued one tho’ the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table I am still devoted to the garden but tho’ and old man, I am but a young gardener.”

 

I think this letter summarize what many gardeners experience and believe that is the essence of gardening.

Tom

 

May 15, 2015
Here we go again with cool weather and some frost. Many annual flowers are tolerant to a light frost but some are not which would include wave petunias and New Guinea impatiens. Also, as everyone knows or should know, heat loving vegetable plants such as tomatoes and peppers will not tolerate a frost. Covering plants with a sheet or blanket is helpful but not plastic as the cold will be conducted through the plastic where it touches the plant. Watering frost off plants in the very early morning before sunrise is helpful in that the heat in the water will raise the plant’s temperature above freezing and prevent the plant’s cells from breaking due to the freezing of the water within the cells. Tropical plants too do not like cold nights even if it does not frost so that it’s a good idea to “drag” them indoors when temps fall below 50ºF.


With May 30th the official free frost date for northern Ohio, it is always a risk to plant tender annual and vegetable plants early.

 

This week we received our last shipment of hibiscus, mandevilla and other tropicals from Florida so that hopefully they will be gone by June 1st as I don’t look forward to spaying them for the many Florida bugs that come with them sometimes. Selection of most perennials, vegetable plants andflowers looks great through Memorial Day so hope to see you soon.

 

Tom
 

May 8, 2015

How long we have waited for the warm weather of May and an end to the cold nights. While the greenhouse has been very busy this past week I would still advise caution in planting too early even with the long range forecast looking good as the official last frost free date is May 30th for northern Ohio. The greenhouse has been restocked with herbs and flats of flowers and veggies of every description and an early delivery of tropical plants is almost making the greenhouse burst with a  wide selection of hibiscus, mandevilla, plumbago, palms and bananas.

 

The production greenhouse in the rear of the property is still relatively full although “holes” are beginning to show up where once there was a mass of color. On a happy note, some petunia, hanging baskets looked as though they had the Tobacco Mosaic virus but lab tests revealed that a mottling of leaves was only a genetic defect. The new Torelus hanging baskets are coming into full bloom and are just gorgeous especially since they had a late trim to make them full and compact.

 

With color everywhere at the nursery, the whole scene seems surreal as if only a dream could produce such beauty.

 

Tom

 

May 1, 2015

It’s finally May day and the greenhouse with annual flowers, hanging baskets and vegetable plants is finally open. Many home improvement stores were stocked on the inside and outside with tomato and pepper plants as well as annual flowers over a week ago which seemed very strange to me considering the frosty nights and cool to cold daytime temperatures. Many new varieties of flowers and veggies are packed in the greenhouse this season due to the availability of unrooted cuttings  that were rooted last winter in our greenhouse and the fact that the purchase of a new seeder and seed germination chamber made it easier to grow at least 50 new varieties of vegetable plants in 3½” pots. One disappointment though is a pepper that is the hottest on record. The seed germination rate was only about 50% and the plants are weak even though the seed was sown in mid-March.

 

Torelus, Stachys, Crazytunias, dark red-leaved Caladiums, darker and blacker Collasia (elephant ears) are all the rage are just a few of the new varieties available. As usual, color is everywhere in a  kaleidoscopic array. A few items are not available to get as it is so early yet although the weather for the next 10 days looks great for growing. However, do remember that it’s early May.

 

As usual, the Calliope geraniums in hanging baskets are beautiful although next year one new type that will provide a dark-leaved version that is just as shade tolerant and just as vigorous in sun. Gorgeous dahlias are in bud with sporadic bloom with lots more “in the oven” to come. This year we rooted cuttings of dahlias shipped from Costa Rica that makes it quite easy to offer more colors, sizes and shapes of this gorgeous flower. While setting up the greenhouse for sales I noticed  some of the flowers on the vining geraniums dropping prematurely which is an indication of a build up of ethylene gas. On close observation, heavy winds forced exhaust gases from the heaters into the greenhouse and birds were flying in and out of one of the vent pipes. A simple  moderation of the exhaust pipe got rid of the nesting birds and the wind push back.

 

With the perennial greenhouse and annual greenhouse both open the work load to keep these greenhouses cleaned and stocked increases greatly as if there already isn’t enough work!

 

Tom

 

April 24, 2015

For Earth Day on April 22 and Arbor Day on April 24, I think its fitting to honor President Theodore Roosevelt who served from 1901 with the assassination of President McKinley to 1908 and is widely remembered for his sweeping reforms of land use, land and wildlife preservation and his role in the formation of National parks covering millions of acres for all Americans then and of today.

 

Therefore, I think its fitting to print his address to the school children of the United States about Arbor Day in 1907:

 

Theodore Roosevelt
The White House
April 15, 1907
 

To the School Children of the United States:
 

Arbor Day (which means simply “Tree Day”) is now observed in every State in our Union — and mainly in the schools. At various times from January to December, but chiefly in this month of April, you give a day or part of a day to special exercises and perhaps to actual tree planting, in recognition of the importance of trees to us as a Nation, and of what they yield in adornment, comfort, and useful products to the communities in which you live.

 

It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an elder generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.

 

For the Nation as for the man or woman and the boy or girl, the road to success is the right use of what we have and the improvement of present opportunity. If you neglect to prepare yourselves now for the duties and responsibilities which will fall upon you later, if you do not learn the things which you will need to know when your school days are over, you will suffer the consequences. So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal, whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life.

 

A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they cannot renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits. A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood, and at the same time a reservoir of water. When you help to preserve our forests or to plant new ones you are acting the part of good citizens. The value of forestry deserves, therefore, to be taught in the schools, which aim to make good citizens of you. If your Arbor Day exercises help you to realize what benefits each one of you receives from the forests, and how by your assistance these benefits may continue, they will serve a good end.

 

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

 

April 17, 2015

As tax day approaches many timely chores in the garden can be accomplished such as the putting down of crabgrass preventer and feed on the lawn, transplanting of perennials, planting cool weather cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts and the transplanting of trees and shrubs time is quite short in that the plants are starting to break dormancy which then will end transplanting until fall or next spring. Certain plants such as Japanese Maples, Dogwoods and most Magnolias only like to be moved just before growth begins while most can be moved spring or fall.

 

At the nursery this past week the jamming open of a side vent on the west side of the production greenhouse as a major storm approached caused great concern. With wind gusts threatening, a large open vent on the west side would allow a severe storm to take off the roof of the structure and even bend steel supports such is was the case in a microburst in July of 2000. Fortunately, Ron of the Orasko Greenhouse company came to the rescue and solved the problem before the storm hit with its full fury only a couple of hours later. Then there was the case of a leak in a four inch water line 3 feet under the ground that was excavated and repaired before the storm filled the hole with water! All of this “excitement” was all the more increased with the unloading of a tractor trailer full of heavy balled and burlapped trees and helping customers.

 

By this weekend almost all trees and shrubs will be available but not the perennials in which most like the annual flowers will not be done “cooking” until the tail end of the month. So much work to do in so little time!

 

Tom

 

April 10, 2015
Finally, we’re able to empty our winter storage huts and bring out plants although our shipments from Lake County won’t arrive until next week due to delays of wet fields that prevented digging. Even now, potting of a wide variety of trees, shrubs and perennials still goes on at a feverish pace to ready plants for late spring, fall and even next year sales. The roses potted in early March seem to be right on schedule in that they should be available by Mother’s Day which will include our new addition of the old-fashioned, very fragrant David Austin roses.

 

Some of the daffodils in the garden are beginning to pop into color and the thousands of emerging tulips received their spray of deer repellent as the deer, by evidence of tracks, have already been eyeing them for a meal. Finally, I have seen the hawks out in force to scoop up small and hopefully larger rodents such as rabbits that caused some damage from their eating in one of our storage huts.


The sun and longer days have greatly accelerated growth in the production greenhouse as the plants are growing like weeds! Several hanging basket varieties on the greenhouse benches have needed a severe trimming in order to create a full, compact basket for the month of May. The stock plants of Calliope geraniums were cut to small nubs in early March before transplanting them into much larger pots and now have at least tripled in size! Spring is here, however; snow is still a likely event!


Tom
 

April 3, 2015

It seems only yesterday that cold nights below zero and a heavy blanket of snow was the norm. With the arrival of April, better weather has come and still the emergence of spring flowering bulbs and the buds swelling on trees and shrubs is slow due to the cold and wet ground.

 

The “set up” of nursery stock at the nursery will be delayed about a week this year so that the week of April 15th will be our goal to get ready for sales which is a result of not trusting the weather to ‘behave” as we pull out container plants from winter storage that are somewhat advanced from the warmer temperatures of the winter storage huts. The annual flower greenhouse has been heated up to start filling up with plants from the growing greenhouse in the rear of the property and tropical plants that will arrive from Florida next week. This section of the greenhouse including the tropicals will be closed until about May 1st as that is the time much of the flower and vegetable plants will be ready although it is too early to plant.

 

With Easter this Sunday, we will finish up our Easter flower deliveries and then will go “whole hog” to set up the greenhouse for sales in May. So many new hanging baskets and potted plants are growing that the problem will be of where to display everything! Just this past week, another 62 flats of tomato seed was sown representing 40 varieties of hybrid and weird heirloom types. Potting, trimming and tagging plants is the norm in the greenhouse these days!

 

Happy Easter!

~Tom

 

March 27, 2015

The race is on with this week’s receipt of bare root trees and shrubs that must be handled quickly. First, the plants must be root and top pruned then potted into the proper sized containers and watered. Some, like the various big-leaved hydrangeas such as Endless Summer and Bloomstruck must be kept on a small amount of heat so that the temperature remains above 28ºF. Other types of hydrangea along with various trees and shrubs will remain outside as the sometimes frigid nights don’t bother them. Next, three semi truck loads of balled and burlapped and container stock was received that must be placed, counted and tagged and in some cases, dug into gravel to protect the roots from drying out.

 

In the greenhouse progress is continuing in planting shipments of plants overdue by a week. The trimming of hanging baskets and flats upon flats of flowers that next week will be planted in 4½” pots for sale in early May. The first wave of 4½” pots of flowers number around 8,000 followed  by another round of 7,000 for sales in mid to late May.

 

Last week’s seminar of “What’s New for 2015" was a big success but I must admit that I’m glad the series for this spring is over due to the heavy load of the spring.

 

What a week this has been!

Tom

 

March 20, 2015
The first shipment of trees for potting just arrived last week which includes maples, flowering crabapple, whitespire birch and many others. The trees have a trade 3 gallon root ball that only have a mesh bag to hold soil around the roots which prevents the trunk of the trees from scraping by plastic pots. Since the trees have already been root-pruned by the mesh bag in which they were grown, potting should be easy and fast followed by rapid rooting into there new 10 and 15 gallon pots.

 

In the greenhouse, new varieties of annuals have arrived to be made into hanging baskets and single pots. Torelus and Stachys are two new types of crosses between genus categories (which is quite rare) and will produce new exciting flowers that do not exist in nature. The rooting of  cuttings in the greenhouse still goes on with a shipment of unrooted perennial and annual flowers from Brazilwhich includes the Sun Harmony type of impatiens in which one plant grows into a small flowering shrub- like plant by mid-summer. These impatiens are directly stuck into a 3" pot and must be syringed with clear water about once an hour on a sunny day so that they can begin to form roots in 2 weeks. Then too are the geranium cuttings that have been directly stuck into 3 inch pots in which they will be sold in May.

 

Hundreds of clematis vines are waking up and will begin to need trimmed weekly to develop a compact bushy form. At least three new varieties will be offered this year with no less than 8 new clematis vines already ordered for the spring of 2016. The new crop of clematis will arrive in mid-July in order to be potted and then over-wintered just at freezing to vernalize the plants. Vernalized or cold treated dormant clematis vines along with many perennial flowers grow beautifully the next spring as the dormant period gives the plant time to grow a massive root system.

 

So much goes on behind the scenes at the nursery that some days seem like a ball of confusion although somehow with a lot of effort, “it” all gets done - well almost all.

 

Happy Spring!

Tom

 

March 13, 2015
Finally, the weather of March has returned and with it melting snow. Surprisingly, the snow is slowly disappearing which is a “good thing” as a fast melt could precipitate flooding. No signs of life are yet visible however as the snow recedes many spring flower bulbs will be popping through the soil because of the thick winter blanket that sealed in the ground heat.

At the nursery, soil mixing, potting, trimming and watering in a 12 hour per day schedule is the norm. The new seed germination chamber is working well as now several flats of peppers have been sown with tomatoes to follow near the end of the month. Sowing tomato seed too early will result in “stretched” plants by the time they can be sold in May. In fact, tomatoes are left to wilt almost to the point of no return in an effort to subdue growth and to keep them short and stocky. In Japan, vegetable plants in greenhouses are brushed by hand in order to mimic wind to “fool” the plants to thicken their cell walls instead of the stretching they normally do in a greenhouse.

Bare root David Austin English roses have just been potted and will be ready the first or second week of May. All the varieties that will be available have a heavy fragrance just like the old-fashioned Bourbon roses of yesterday. The tight flower with its high petal count too have that old-fashioned look along with a winter hardiness rating of climatic zone 5.

Bright sunny days require lots of watering in the greenhouses but also give us the opportunity to “pump” the plants with fertilizer to provide for the rapid growth caused by the warm sunshine and longer days of March. Only large-leaved begonias and dahlias are still not satisfied with the length of the days so that supplemental light to break the photo period on these plants is necessary until early April to keep the plants growing instead of going dormant and forming tubers.
Now that March is well under way, the warmer days of April are on the horizon.

 

Tom

 

March 6, 2015

Even with the snow last Sunday, the much warmer temperatures are such a welcome relief. Even so, Old Man Winter still reminded us who is yet boss with the low temperatures this Friday morning.

 

Transplanting in the annual flower greenhouse is continuing at a feverish pace as delayed shipments of young plants and our own rooted cuttings are transplanted. Then next week another batch of unrooted perennial cuttings, Sun Harmony impatiens, ground covers and dahlias arrive. If all this isn’t enough, at least two thousand geranium cuttings have to be taken and then prepared to be stuck into 6 packs that will be placed on small rubber tubes through which hot water circulates in order to give the cuttings “bottom” heat so that they will form roots. Then at least 2 shipments of perennial plants must be potted this week along with about a thousand roses arriving. Oh what  fun t is trying to sandwich everything together while still plowing snow and conducting seminars!

 

This weeks seminar will be an informative talk on the growing and many uses of gourds by Marlene Bolea. My guest this week on Ready, Set, Grow on WAKR 1590 am will be Carol Zeh talking about warblers as they return from their winter quarters to Ohio. After Carol’s Warbler presentation on March 14th, we’ll finish up with the “What’s New for 2015" seminar on the first day of spring.

 

Let’s all cheer up as it looks as though the cold weather is on the run. Now it’s California’s turn for heavy snow in the mountains and a slow, steady rain for a couple of weeks to end the lousy drought!
 

Tom

 

February 27, 2015

Is there any relief from this bitter cold! The days are not quite noticeably longer with the vernal equinox only about 3 weeks away and yet the month of February may end up being the coldest since 1875 surpassing the cold February’s of 1984 and 1978. Only in 2011, moist weather streamed into Ohio from the Gulf of Mexico which resulted in one of the wettest years in memory. The jet stream’s direction certainly does dictate the weather patterns everywhere so that now there is drought in California and most of the west, abnormally warm temperatures in Alaska and record cold over the eastern half of North America.

 

Even so, spring is not far off and the nursery will indeed open sometime next week. Except for in the production area, the greenhouse adjacent the store are empty and only will begin filling up during the last week of March with the Advent of Easter on April 5th. Perennial plugs (small plants) were due to arrive this past week but were delayed due to the abnormally cold weather. So too were a shipment of hydrangeas to grow on for Easter and Calla lillies along with small gerbera daisies. Next week too is the arrival of roses to be potted and to be placed under heat with just enough warmth in order to keep the plants above 28º F to foster root growth. All of the delays plus the scheduled shipments to plant are unfortunately going to create a log jam that will have to overcome one way or another.

 

All the “behind the scenes” work is a challenge almost every late winter and early spring. For gardeners, or anyone having to do with agriculture, the weather does truly dictates the tune.


Tom

 

February 20, 2015
With the Arctic weather this past week it makes one wonder if spring will ever arrive. The low temperatures of about -15º F have killed the flower buds of the evergreen azalea above the snow as -10º F is the limit at which the flower buds can survive although the shrub in the Gable and Girard hybrids can withstand temperatures of -20º to - 25º F.

 

Last Saturday’s Hydrangea seminar was surprisingly well attended with the beginning of frigid winds and drifting snow. This week’s seminar is with Michelle Riley of All About You Landscape Design that will enlighten everyone on the planning of the garden and/or landscape to be one of interest in all four seasons of the year.

 

A spider mite attack in a small corner of the annual flower production greenhouse has so far been successfully repelled with a traditional miticide. Now the trick is to wait the required 2 weeks for the residue to dissipate so that at least one species of a predatory mite can be released to keep them in check. Another mite then will start attacking thrip insects which are sure to follow. Then there as always fungus gnats flying around in which the larvae love various plant roots for their fodder and that will be killed with an insect growth regulator to be followed by a spray of a deadly bacteria; that is, deadly to them but not to the people or animals. Biological warfare occurs naturally in nature but is not as effective in keeping “bugs” under control in the greenhouse due to the controlled environment.

 

In the greenhouse, the beneficial organisms that prey on insects, spider mites and even disease just need a little help to do their jobs well. With the elimination of neonicotinoids, these beneficials are necessary in pest control in our greenhouses. Let’s keep our “eyes on the prize” as spring is not far away.

 

February 13, 2015
Last week’s seminar on the relationship between insects and plants was quite informative.  Especially interesting was the mimicry and coloration that adult insects such as butterflies and their larva apply to fool birds and other predators to keep from becoming a meal.

 

The ice last weekend after Sunday night’s rain has made it difficult to get around the nursery especially to haul potting media and other supplies to the greenhouse.  An additional section of the production greenhouse was opened on Monday although how good it would have been to hold off for another week in order to wait out the new cold wave and thus the burning of natural additional gas.  On the nursery property is a gas well that sends its gas to the East Dominion Company line along Cleveland-Massillon Road.  Unfortunately there is a contract signed by the Popadich family, the former property owners, stating no natural gas can be pulled from the well for commercial purposes.

 

This summer, the boiler system of heating pipes will be expanded as these heated pipes tend to keep the heat down where the plants grow and results in better growth because of warmer roots and less heat near the roof to escape from the double layer of polyethylene plastic.

 

The next seminar on Hydrangeas will be this Saturday in the Owl Barn so that during this cold snap, the building will be as they say ‘warm as toast’ as the boiler system of the building is in the floor and like the plants in the greenhouse keeps the heat where the people are which is nearer the floor than toward the roof.  Let’s hope this is the last severe cold snap as now we’ve all had enough!


Tom

 

February 6, 2015
By the looks of the forecast the cold weather will come again starting February 13th. The only thing worse would be a too early a warm up that would push out growth on trees, shrubs and flower bulbs early only to have them “fried” when the next cold wave would come in as such was the case with the warm February of 1992. On a historical note, the family Bible of George Washington has his birth recorded on the fifth of February of 1731 although we were all taught in school that he was born on February 22, 1732!

The second bay of the greenhouse is just about ready to be opened as space is at a premium with all rooted cuttings of annual flowers ready to be shifted from small rooting cells to larger pots and hanging baskets. Then too will be the time to figure out the rotation of an insect control program that will ensure that the pests such as thrips, European two-spotted spider mites, whiteflies, aphids and so on to not develop resistance to the spray materials and in the rotation of  materials controlling the bugs without the use of neonicotinoides that may be harmful to our pollinator insect friends. No doubt the bugs are in the greenhouse now even though my careful scouting has not turned up anything; however, I know they’re somewhere in the greenhouse.

Tomorrow is our first seminar with Judy Semroc on the relationship of plants with insect pollinators. Then my hydrangea seminar follows on the 14th so that I’ll be refreshing my knowledge of this wonderful genus!

Let’s all hope for a slow, measured and gradual warm up starting in early March so that maybe, just maybe, spring will finally open up “normally”. Whatever normal is.

Tom

 

January 30, 2015

One week from this coming Saturday will be our first winter program concerning the pollinators relationship within the natural world and ultimately us. The program is presented by Judy Semroc and as always will begin in the Owl Barn at 11 a.m. with refreshments served. Then on  February14th, I will present a detailed program on hydrangeas in which the genus is changing every year with the addition of more and more interesting varieties to embellish our gardens. No doubt the Hydrangea genus can be quite complicated but I’m hoping the seminar will reduce this genus to a manageable size so that all the gardeners have to do is fill out a checklist as it has to do with color, size, re-blooming and sun or shade needs of the plant’s attributes.

 

In the greenhouse,18,000 plus cuttings have just finished rooting followed by another shipment containing New Guinea impatiens. Next week too will be the shipment of young hydrangeas from Michigan to be used for forcing which is a term denotes the heating of the plants to push them ahead of their bloom schedule in order that they might be ready for sale for such holidays as Easter or Mother’s Day.

 

The recent snows have piled at least 3 feet of the white stuff along the sides of the overwintering houses giving the plants an extra insulated blanket which works to seal in ground heat keeping the plant’s root system warmer although still frozen. Soon it will be time to spray the weed infested hostas in storage with Roundup once temperatures in the daytime rise above freezing for at least a week to push the weeds into life that will ensure the material in translocated to the weed’s root  systems but not the root systems of the still asleep hostas.

 

Repair and maintenance continues on the various pieces of equipment and structures so that downtime from breakdowns might be minimized in the busy spring.

 

So much to do and so little time!

Tom
 

January 23, 2015
With winter marching along, the warmer weather has given a reprieve to the array of perennials, trees and shrubs in winter storage that makes it easier on the root system which was not the case last winter.

 

The geranium cuttings taken just before Christmas have now all been transplanted into hanging baskets and various size pots.  The stock geraniums have grown almost exponentially so that now they are ready for another trim so that the resultant cuttings will be transplanted into a 6½” pot.  Finally yet two more trims are due on these large geraniums in order to fill a 6 pack tray with plants for sale in early and mid May.

 

Now too is the time for my review of new fungicides and insecticides for rotating with older chemistry to control “bugs” and diseases. Many of the new products are not harmful to beneficial insects that are useful to control the problem ones.  Then too, the new chemistry is more readily broken down by sunlight and has a “caution” on the label instead of the “danger” as with the older formulas in which a very small dose absorbed through the skin or ingested could spell death for the applicator.

 

Last Saturday when temperatures were above 40º F, another application of deer repellent was applied to the rhododendron-azalea garden as tracks in the snow were evidence that the deer were indeed checking out the plants.  Hopefully temperatures this winter will not drop below -10º F as this is the borderline temperature that will be enough to kill the azalea flower buds not covered by snow. So many evergreen azaleas are nestled in front of the larger rhododendron that a mass of red, white, purple and pink blossoms will blanket the garden along with the sprays of color from dogwoods and redbuds in a variety of at least 10 different cultivars.

 

Tom


January 16, 2015
The snow last Monday should be welcomed by gardeners for its protective insulating blanket on plants and for the long term benefits it will provide as the result will be more water in underground aquifers on which many of us and even municipalities depend for water supplies.  This week too was a radio report on National Public Radio that the city of Des Moines, Iowa is threatening to sue three county governments nearby that are in control of drainage water coming from farms that drain into the Racoon and Des Moines rivers that the city uses for drinking water. It seems that water from the field drains contains a high level of nitrates which leaches through the soil to the drain tiles  on farms.  The nitrates are the result of farmers fertilizing their crops and the fact the nitrogen readily leaches through the soil. Nitrates have been increasing the last few years and can be found at  high levels even at the mouth of the Mississippi River as it winds through millions of acres of farmland along with its myriad tributaries.  The city of Des Moines contends that to filter the nitrates from the drinking water is expensive so that their demand is that the counties manage the farm runoff to reduce the nitrate levels. 

 

High levels of nitrates are not only detrimental to human life but are devastating to aquatic life.  The threat of the lawsuit places the problems squarely on the county governments and ultimately on farmers as they must come up with a plan to reduce the runoff from farms.

 

Here in Akron, Ohio is the forced cleanup of the Cuyahoga River by the federal EPA and a federal judge due to the city’s discharge of sewer overflows into the river after heavy rain because of miles of combined sanitary and storm sewers.  Toledo, Ohio too was in the national spotlight as phosphorus from farms in the Maumee River Valley caused massive toxic algae blooms in the area of Toledo’s water intake pipes in  Lake Erie causing the city to lose its water because of the deadly  toxins produced by the algae.  What is known as non-point source pollution of water is coming under more scrutiny as it seems that more legal battles will be not only be fought in federal court but mandates will also be put into place by the state and federal governments as they  scramble to protect ground and surface water systems.

 

There is no question that the protection of such a valuable natural resources water for drinking, irrigation, recreation and healthy aquatic life is of a top priority.  The only question is : Who will bear the cost?

 

Tom

 

January 9, 2015
The cold weather this week is like deja vu as the first in a series of polar vortices roared in last year the very same week.  As a precaution, all the small perennial plants and grasses in the cold storage huts are insulated with a thermal blanket which when laid over the plants, tends to hold in the ground heat in order to prevent the root system from receiving the brunt of the cold blast and thus killing the root systems.

 

On our thousands of evergreen azaleas in another cold storage house, a thicker blanker of ¼” thick foam is laid over small cold frames made from electrical conduit.  The suspension of this microfoam over and down around the plants prevents the sometimes wet microfoam from coming in  direct contact with the plant’s leaves which tends to produce leaf burning when the azaleas are uncovered in March.

 

In Columbus, the garden center-landscape trade show had many interesting speakers on a wide variety of topics such as that to do with marketing, production and so on.  Many of the speakers are from various universities and actual business people that combines researched knowledge with practical experiences.  I especially remember a talk by Dr. Hannah Mathers about managing water quality for the irrigation of nursery stock.  Much of what Dr. Mathers related is still in practice at  the nursery today.

 

Next week comes another batch of annual flowers and perennial cuttings from Costa Rica that again will be stuck into prepared cells of rooting media and then placed on the heating tubes in which hot water circulates.  The temperature at the rooting zone is maintained at 72º F by a boiler in which rooting will begin in one week and completely finished in another two weeks.  Next week too is the commencement of transplanting newly rooted geranium cuttings to hanging baskets and 1  gallon pots that will be ready for sale around the first week of May.

 

Even now, approaching the depths of winter with so much to do, the month of May is not far off.


Tom

 

January 2, 2015
The weather department continues it’s easy ride into winter without the severe winds and cold that roared into Ohio during the first week of January last year.  Ventilation of the cold storage houses is still necessary on a sunny day to prevent fungus problems on the closely spaced plants in storage.  Now is the time everything is geared to getting ready for spring including receiving of shipments of hardgoods, transplanting in the greenhouse, cleaning, painting, producing signs for plants and the new catalog...  There is no time for any of us to relax on the beach in Florida!

 

Some of the new technologies for this spring will be weatherproof boxes containing a screen that will project informational videos on plant care and new products and remote scanners that will operate up to 300 feet from the checkout counter in order to speed up the checkout process.   New products will include more new plants than ever especially in the perennial and annual flower line that in itself will create the problem as to where to display all the new plants!

 

A new seeder with a germination chamber will now make it possible to offer even more varieties of vegetable plants in 4" pots.  The seeder is a closed cabinet that is thermostatically heated by a heating element submerged in water that creates at a warm temperature of about 72º - 75º F which increases greatly the rate and the percentage of germination so much so that the seed flat in the chamber rarely would need the chambers environment for more than a week.  Other changes are hidden or not easily seen but will serve the goal of better products and better service for all.

 

Tom