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Dayton "Dirt"
Weekly Blog entries
by Tom Dayton

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"Going Green" Blogs


July 21, 2017
Last Saturday, the Blueberry Fest seemed quite the hit as evidenced by the full parking lot that remained full for hours as well as finding parking spots for the additional 25-30 vehicles that could not fit into the already full lined spots.  Now the question is how to properly manage the fall festival that is set for the third weekend in September!

The hot, humid weather of July has returned although rainfall has been adequate unlike the dryness of last year.  The potting of plants goes on beginning with the receipt of clematis varieties that will be available next spring.  For some reason, the Queen of Vines sold better than ever this year probably having to do with the popularity of vertical gardening and the fact that clematis are available in a multitude of colors with an ever expanding pallet of new varieties from various breeders.

Next week, local sweet corn from the Seiberling Farms will flood the Owl Barn with the first sugar enhanced, synergistic variety called “Espresso” comes into ripeness.  With refrigeration, these new varieties that are much different from those of yesteryear will remain sweet in the refrigerator for at least 3 days according to Chuck Seiberling although Chuck has stated that some of the customers had told him that they have held the sweet corn for a week after picking!

The nursery has been seasonally slow in these dog days of summer although folks in our garden club have enjoyed spending their Dayton Dollars coupons which spend like cash except on produce items.

At the Columbus trade show called Cultivate, many vendors showed off their new exciting wares for the spring 2018 season and beyond.  The problem is that some of the older varieties must be eliminated to make room for the new but as always the question is which ones!

Tom


July 15, 2017
What a jackpot this week with the receipt of at least one inch of rain after previous heavy rains continued to go north and south of the nursery making it 16 days since the last “good rain”. Chuck at Seiberling Farms was a little anxious as the 60 acres of sweet corn were becoming thirsty so that the aluminum irrigation pipe filled with water from the always running Hudson Run would have to be put in place and then moved from field to field as it was last year in the hot and drought--filled summer of 2016.

Tomorrow is our 7th annual Blueberry Fest that is a treat for little kids and “big kids” alike with activities for small children including crafts, a bouncy house, petting zoo and so much more. For the “big kids”, hayrides, lots of blueberries with foods comprised of a blueberry component and a polka band from Cleveland are just some of the events. Admission and parking are free as well as all the events and to top things off, the weatherman is promising 80 f, sun and lower humidity making it perfect weather for mid-July! See below for details...

The long and sunny days of July get the solar panels at the nursery cranking their excess power to the grid. Most likely by 2020, no net power will be used from the grid creating an even “greener” environment at the nursery.

Tom

July 7, 2017
This past week the heavy rains have been about one mile north and one mile south of the nursery with about no rain at the nursery! The nursery stock has been growing nicely as well as the weeds which makes for constant weed control in the outside sales yard as it is good fodder for weeds because of the everyday irrigation.

Constant repotting is the norm as some shrubs are “shifted up” which means they are transferred to a large pot to grow larger. Mostly all trees that were potted in late March and early April are now available and will be sold this summer, fall and next spring.  Trimming is another matter.  Most varieties of the newly potted hydrangeas have already been trimmed twice and will need at least 2 more trimmings.

Then there is always a “project”.  Three overwintering structures constructed in 1994 must be razed and new ones constructed because of corrosion making the houses weak and in danger of collapsing under the weight of heavy snow.

With next week’s Blueberry Fest there’s even more work to do!  Who said summer is slow compared to spring!

Tom

June 23, 2017
Sadly in the afternoon on Sunday, June 18th, our nursery cat L.B. died after having a seizure and then lying down with heavy labored breathing. The past year he had trouble from an animal bite from which he recovered but then in March slowed down from eating which caused him to lose weight and become lethargic. A visit to the vet last week revealed he had bad teeth and an overactive thyroid which caused weight loss. After a shot of antibiotics and a topical treatment for the over active thyroid, L.B. seemed to eat more and maybe was on his way to better health. This spring, some customer’s were concerned that he was being starved or mistreated because of his appearance. One suggestion was offered that he should be euthanized. I was offended by that comment as L.B. sill came out to eat something and would purr when I picked him up and stroked and petted him as he looked excitedly out the window. L.B. came to the nursery by accident in December of 1997 and decided to adopt us as his family. After almost 20 years, he survived the busy road, prowling coyotes, other wild animals, fertilizer and insecticide bags that he used as a bed sometimes and a wolf that a customer brought into the store. He could not survive his old worn out body of almost 20 years. I buried him on a well-drained site on a hill in the shade garden where sometimes he would roam. This gentle, loving cat will be missed for years by all at the nursery.

Tom

June 16, 2017
As the summer solstice approaches with the long days of summer , growth of the vegetable garden and the weeds is prolific.  Besides hoeing and pulling weeds, newspaper used as a mulch as well as corn gluten will inhibit the weed growth that will easily take over a garden quickly.

In Avon, Ohio the large wholesale nursery called ‘Willoway Nurseries’
uses rice hulls as a mulch on top of their container-grown plants which does an excellent job of inhibiting weeds.  A few years ago, Willoway had significant problems with production as many plants were stunted and yellow from a chemical herbicide toxicity which effected their switch to the non-chemical rice hulls.

At the nursery here, coco weed discs are employed that eliminate the use of chemicals for weed control.  These discs fit right into our program of sustainable, environmentally friendly growing practices and prevents a buildup of herbicide residue in our recycled irrigation water.

Soon it will be time to pot the small azaleas into 1 gallon pots for next spring’s sales and future larger plants.  These plants too would be treated with coco discs preventing any toxicity from herbicide use that sometimes would occur.

Hopefully the ideal wish of one inch of rain per week will occur over the summer instead of the hot, dry summer of last year.  How sad it will be for some of the television weather folks if needed rain fails on a weekend to spoil someone’s barbecue!  They will have to learn to live with the consequences.

Tom

June 9, 2017
The heat of summer has finally arrived even though according to the calendar it is late spring until the summer solstice.  What good fortune in that the irrigation pond is brimming with rain water of such good quality that the plants will definitely show it.  For the hot days, potting up new arrivals of perennial plants and shrubs in the afternoon is a welcome chore as it keeps us largely out of the hot sun.

Long overdue maintenance has been in full swing this past week including but not limited to pulling weeds, spraying weeds, mowing, trimming and cutting back shrubs and trees in the landscape.  Persistent rain and wind has delayed this overdue chore so that it now is only being performed.

The greenhouse flower house really have run low now although many flowers are used to brighten up the landscape for the summer. Many trees and shrubs will be shifted to larger containers while new product constantly becomes available beginning in late June. One such plant is the creeping phlox which has been sold out since late last May.  Another group of purple and pink will be available about July 1st as we actually rooted the plants from cuttings in mid-March.  The large pots of flowers along the driveway are growing profusely with the warm weather and the warmer nights which definitely will aid in the growth of heat loving vegetables.

Timely to-dos are:
1.    Apply bicarb to ornamental and vegetable plants prone to powdery
mildew.
2.    Apply a product now containing acephate to azaleas to kill lacebug
which are very active   and will require a follow up spray in about 10
days.  A trade name of the product is called Bonide Systemic Insect Spray that can be applied with a hand sprayer or hose-end sprayer.

Happy gardening!

Tom

June 2, 2017
With June already here the rain department is still producing an excess of water. Reports have been coming into the nursery of garden seeds failing to sprout and garden plants somewhat at a standstill. While temperatures have warmed to a more normal range, soils are devoid of much needed oxygen that roots must employ for respiration and growth.

Root diseases such a Phytophthora and Pythium just love to grow and infest plant roots as the saturated soil provides a pathway for infection of the stressed plant roots and a favorable environment as well.

Flowers too have suffered with the wet weather as growth is slow due to cool nights and constant rain. Constant rain will leach nutrients out of the soil for flower and vegetable plants so that additional fertilizer will be needed for pots or plants in the ground to supplement the leached away fertilizer.

Better weather is sure to come. Let’s hope the rain subsides but does not shut off completely!

Tom

May 26, 2017
Contrary to last year, there is certainly no shortage of rain this spring.  Many customers coming into the nursery have been more aware of wet areas in the yard and are wanting ideas for plantings which might include the Buttonbush (Cephalanthus), Calycanthus (Carolina Allspice), Winterberry (Ilex verticilata), Variegated Dogwood (Cornus elegantisima or stolonifera), Variegated Willow (Salix integra ‘Nashiki’) or even elderberries (Sambucus canadensis).  For trees in wet areas River Birch (Betula nigra), Silver Maple (Acer saccharum) or Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) would work well.

Finally, many of the roses are coming into bud and bloom which will create a spectacular show especially for the final week of May!  Tea roses and floribundas must be sprayed weekly with a fungicide such as Bi-Carb to keep mildew and black spot at bay as soon after inoculation by these fungus organisms, the leaves will yellow and drop off which then will slow down growth and the resulting bloom.

With Memorial Day approaching, many folks will decorate the graves of loved ones in cemeteries as a sign of respect and memory of those who have passed before us.  The traditional Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and designated to be May 30th by the federal government to consolidate the date into one celebration after the multiple celebrations on different dates throughout the various regions of the country.  With so many war dead from most families resulting from the Civil War it was only natural that families would want to decorate the graves of those lost.

At the nursery, plantings of flowers will not go on until after the holiday weekend due to the busy time.  The greenhouse is at its peak with masses of color everywhere.  The mixed confetti hanging baskets that were a little small are now particularly beautiful as at least 25 different combinations are available. Confetti is a trademark name of the Dummen Orange Company that produces the “plugs” for the combination.

A little more sun and warmth now would be good for the garden but now we’ll have to wait and see.  Que sera sera.

Tom

May 19, 2017
With the onset of warm days and more importantly warm nights, the planting of vegetable and flowers seems to be in full swing.  Even tropical plants that like plenty of sun and hot days will be planted outdoors in the ground and in pots for outdoors.  This weekend will finish up the late blooming lilac call Miss Kim while just the beginning is near for the Mountain Laurels that will “repair” the loss bloom from the lilacs and the already out-of-bloom evergreen azaleas.

In the perennial department, scads of late spring perennials are ready to bloom as well as hundreds of the Tiny lilies bred in Holland.  The bulbs were planted three to a pot in late February and early March and now are coming into a May bloom although the true bloom time would be mid-June to early July.

The growing houses in the rear of the property are finally clearing out as more and more of the product becomes ready to sell.  As always, the Calliope geranium hanging baskets have been a big hit as they do well in part shade or full sun.  The breeding of the plants is called interspecific since they are a cross between the vining geranium and what is known as the zonal geranium.

Wolf Creek Garden to the north is a riot of bloom with rhododendrons in varieties such as ‘Boule de Neige’, ‘Boursault’, English Roseum’, Yaku ‘Prince’, ‘catawbiense Alba’, ‘Scintillation’, ‘Nova Zembla’ and then some.  Next will come the bloom of the Maximum types along with delicate blossoms of Mountain laurel and Kousa Dogwoods.

It would be nice to get some weeding done but for now, it will have to wait.

Tom

May 12, 2017
After the cold rain last Saturday and then the very cool, sunny, windy day on Sunday followed by two freezes at the nursery, the question really is “what’s next?”  As always, weather patterns vary widely from year to year mainly due to the winds of the jet stream.  Needless to say, there is no shortage of water here in Ohio and record snows and rains in California have ended the drought and alleviated the pressure from wild fires that have ravaged that state and the entire western part of the country.

In the greenhouse, the beneficial nematodes have kept the mostly destructive thrip insect in check while cutting down on spraying chemicals for insect control by almost one half.  It is difficult to manage insect control with all beneficial insects as many do not eat pollen from flowers to survive and then are left with nothing to eat.
Unfortunately, wind and rain have made weed control in Wolf Creek garden lack luster to say the least as the few sunny, less windy days customer service must take priority over weed control.
Things are looking up though as the forecast for next week appears to be for more “normal” weather for the latter half of May whatever “normal” is.

In a way it is strange that there is only one day to honor mothers as everyone knows that a mother is actually a keystone in a family raising children, preparing family meals, shopping, cleaning, tending the garden, canning and freezing food...as the saying goes, “ a mother’s work is never done.”  It reminds me of my own mother and her mother which did so much and basically how much mothers are under appreciated.

Happy Mother’s Day.

May 5, 2017
As the rains continue, so must the work at the nursery continue so that when the sun does decide to shine, everything will be ready for the normally busy May season.  Surprisingly, despite with weather, sales have been brisk especially with the opening of the annual flower house.
It is difficult though for folks to plant the garden even with the cool weather vegetables because of the somewhat saturated ground.  One of the worst concerns of a gardener is to walk around the garden when the soil is quite wet because of the resulting compaction.  I do remember speaking to a customer in 2011 when the spring rain never seemed to stop and even continued well into June.  She had been born and raised in the UK and related to me that the 2011 spring was like English weather.  When I asked her what the English do in the garden when the spring rains seem to go on and she replied “you just put on your “Wellies” and go out into the garden.  She of course was referring to the high Wellington boots that offer maximum protection from the wet and muddy soil.

With still a chance of frost in the air for May, it is still too early to plant heat-loving vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers as well as impatiens and wave petunias.  However, many annuals can survive a light frost like other petunias, ageratum and a few others.

“Hope springs eternal” as written by the poet Alexander Pope and so is the hope for at least some sun this spring.

Tom

April 29, 2017
This weekend is the opening of the main greenhouse of flower and vegetable plants, tropicals and herbs.  To me, it is still too early to plant and if any of the customers do ask all salespersons as instructed the answer that “yes” it is too early to plant except for ‘cold weather’
plants like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, pansy and violas.  The extra burden on us is the daily required high maintenance of the greenhouse consisting of watering, spacing, cleaning and of course serving customers.

In addition to this work above, more plants have arrived from Michigan to be potted in which some of these shrubs will be available late this summer.  If that weren’t enough, the perennial house still needs “filled to the gills” and maintained.  Then there is weed control in the plants and the ever present garlic mustard weed starting to bloom along the nursery that must be destroyed before this invasive weed spreads everywhere!

The azaleas are blooming about 10 days earlier than usual with colors galore in the nursery and flowers blooming everywhere on the grounds.
In the Wolf Creek Garden, weeds are finally getting under control and color from Eastern Redbuds and the spill of pink and blue colors down the 18 foot vertical wall on the north side of the Owl barn light up the grounds.  In the garden, the azaleas are just at a hint of color except for the full bloom of Rhododendron ‘Aglo’ and the old-fashioned and rare Azalea Ethylwyn which is an old Gable hybrid.

Spring is wonderful time at the nursery although sometime’s it’s too much work!

Tom

April 21, 2017
The second half of April at the nursery is an even faster ramp up of activities as the perennial house and annual flower houses must be readied for opening at the end of the month. Then too is the receipt of tropical plants from Florida that require almost everyday watering plus the at least 2 initial successive treatments to eliminate or at least check the “Florida bugs” so that they are not present on the plants when they are purchased and to eliminate the possibility that they will contaminate the flowers and vegetable plants grown in the greenhouses over the winter.

For other business, the receipt and then potting of thousands of small shrubs from Michigan must be accomplished so that stock will be available later in the summer and next year. Some of the small shrubs will be continually repotted into bigger containers in order to achieve larger finished sizes which might extend over a 3 year period!

Growth of plants in the annual flower house is amazing as the warm, much longer sunny days of the winter. Some shipments of small flower “plugs”
(as they are called) were delayed by the grower from which we purchase many of the patented flowers so that it looked as though the pots and hanging baskets would be delayed which now is not the case with the favorable weather. Fortunately rain has been adequate as the outside stock has to be irrigated almost everyday with water that is both recycled and the result of rainfall runoff from the nursery property.

The thousands of tulips for May bloom may come early as a late April bloom due to the warm push of weather this spring. While not quite the Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, they still make quite a show as these bloomers “show off their skills.”

Tom

April 14, 2017
How strange an April with about 3-4 inches of snow last Friday and a low of 26 F at the nursery and the very next day it’s sunny and warm!

Many shipments of stock are arriving from Lake County growers as well as being moved out of the overwintering huts. Unfortunately, many customers have been asking for items not out of storage yet which can make things difficult as much of the stock is tightly jammed in the huts making it difficult to access one or two items. Then there is the preparation of Easter flowers this week in addition to the receipt of nursery stock! To make matters more exciting, the irrigation system needed some major emergency repairs in order to water the overwintering huts and sales yard as some plants were very “thirsty.”

The new digital catalog seems to be of interest with gardeners as over a four-day period there have been 6,000 views. Another positive note is that the new plant kiosk call the Perfect Plant seems to be working faster as it has been hard wired to the “system” instead of depending upon the wifi.

As anyone can see, spring preparation in a nursery is a lot of work! As my friend and mentor Mr. John Ravenstein who was the head propagator for Losely nursery had said long ago: “I had four daughters and if I had had a son I would never tell him to go into the nursery business.” When I ask Mr. Ravenstein why not, he stated, “this business is too much work!”

Tom

April 7, 2017
Next week starts the beginning of filling up the sales yard at the nursery as shrubs will be pulled from the over-wintering structures and truck loads of stock will be received from nurseries in Lake County.

This past week though has seen the repotting of about 1500 small azaleas and yes even more perennials and blueberries. Mountain Laurels are next to be potted and must be placed in a special site so that they are not irrigated with the other plants as they must be kept drier by receiving only one-half the irrigation.

After the seemingly never ending set up of the sales yard comes the shipments of many varieties of shrubs from Michigan nurseries that will be potted for later summer, fall and spring sales. Many of these shrubs are of the proven Winner brand that require the white Proven Winner pot. These pots are such that the nursery grower will only ship enough pots for the particular plants ordered. In this way, it would be difficult to propagate new plants from the ones received from the nursery and thus the patent on these plants is better protected form illegal propagation. In fact, when ordering the patented Proven Winner shrubs or flowers, the nursery grower makes it quite clear up front that the order confirms that the customer (Dayton’s) agrees to place the plants in the PW pots and will not illegally propagate the plants!

The hyacinths and narcissus at the nursery are in bloom to be followed in a few weeks by the thousands of tulips planted last fall. It’s too bad for the deer though as their tulip salad was sprayed by another application of deer repellent last week!

Tom

March 31, 2017
With April 1st tomorrow, things have readily geared up in the temperature department as well as the work amount and work speed at the nursery.  Massive amounts of bare-root trees and shrubs have arrived that must be handled quickly as the bare roots are subject to drying out that will cause death to the plants.  After preparation of trimming, tagging and root pruning, the stock must be potted in our mix consisting of pine bark that is mixed with sphagnum peat and certain fertilizers.
They are then ready for sale around July 4th, or, sometimes, not until next spring.

As the above process of potting goes on, stock out of the over-wintering huts must be pulled out and more truck loads of purchased stock still are arriving.

On the greenhouse front, flowers still need trimmed, planted, moved and spaced as these flowers are ready for the greenhouse opening about May 1st.  The cold weather of the previous week has slowed down the flowering and growth of plants on the outside although now much of the required degree days, as it is called, has been achieved already causing the environment to “wake up”.  The advent of the spring awakening was celebrated long ago on April 1st by that date being chosen as the first of the new year.  With an act of Parliament in the year 1759, January 1st was declared the beginning of the new year.

With the above change, does that mean the father of our country, George Washington was born not on February 22, 1732 but February 22, 1733?  Or why would his birth date in the family bible be given as February 5, 1732?  Who knows!

Spring is here.

Tom

March 24, 2017
Now that the Vernal equinox is past, the spring season has begun with daylight hours now longer than the nights.  Soon it will be time to stop lighting tuberous begonias and dahlias in the greenhouse as the longer daylight hours will ensure that the plants will make growth for flowering instead of the energy going to tuber formation during shorter days.

Truckloads of stock have arrived all this past week as we scurry to set up the sales yard.  Much of the stock though has not been placed on the on-line inventory in order to discourage sales (ironically) as during the unloading process, loaders and wagons are going full tilt which can make for a dangerous situation for anyone in the area.

The previous week of bitter cold placed some chores on hold so that the hurried pace of the early spring is even more accelerated.

Most of the new perennial flower stock has been potted as late last week thousands of plants arrived all at once causing the potting assembly to ramp up into high gear.  Relatively cool temperatures so far are keeping a lid on a quick spring flush especially after such an abnormally warm February.

Soon the new on-line catalog will be posted with all the beautiful photos of the stock just in time for spring sales.  To say the least, it’s been a very busy winter getting ready for spring.

Tom

March 17, 2017
Winter’s last gasp (hopefully) is done at least concerning minimum low temperatures in the teens. Snow is another matter as Lake Erie is unfrozen and strong winds from the north could bring additional snow to southern Summit County and areas even farther south through April. As far as the plant business, snow is not a bad thing with great insulating power during cold and especially clear nights. Still the “show must go on” as delaying work in the greenhouse is not possible as stock keeps arriving for transplanting and our rooted cuttings will not fare well in their small cells if not transplanted soon enough. Fortunately, all roses were potted just before the onset of the cold so that now they are safely tucked in a covered house with a small heater that keeps the temperature from falling no lower than 28F. The cool period during rooting is necessary in order to retard growth of the plants in order that the roots can grow and expand to fill the pot and support the top  growth later. Once fully rooted in the pot and a moderate amount of short growth in early May and once they have gone through a process called hardening-off in which the roses will be ventilated continuously in order to get them used to wind and cool if not cold temperatures at night and conversely bright sunshine of the day, they are ready for sale.

Removal of the vinyl tree guards on trees over-wintered outside has been delayed at least a week due to the abnormally low temperatures. Young trees used to the guards that are put on in December to protect the bark from hungry rabbits could suddenly experience a bark split if low  temperatures in the teens or lower combined with an early rising sun which results in a temperature difference between the sunny side and the early morning shaded side.

One aspect of this past cold week is that for sure the quick rush of spring due to the weird warm weather in February and early March, will definitely be slowed.

As the sun returns to the north to rise earlier and set later, the newly installed solar panels are entering their high production period of April through September in which they will send more power to the grid than is used in the greenhouse operations at least for the one meter. It’s good to know that for every one of these solar kilowatts produced means coal that is not mined and burned for the production of electricity.

With St. Patrick’s Day here, today is the day to plant peas. What “they” don’t tell you is how do you plant peas if the ground is frozen! LOL!

Tom

March 10, 2017
Amazingly, spring flowering bulbs are emerging everywhere as abnormally warm temperatures continue to push the spring season. Surprisingly, the severe freezes of last Friday and Saturday did not seem to bother the flowers as even the narcissus showing flower buds don’t seem to be affected. Tulips though have been ‘tested’ by deer in some areas last  week even when they had emerged from the ground no more than 2 inches! The next day, all the thousands of tulips were sprayed including those along Cleveland-Massillon Road as the deer herds this year seem quite  aggressive.

Thousands of perennial flowers have been arriving from Minnesota and Holland, Michigan to be potted up into gallon pots or larger for later sales in spring. Unfortunately, the plants must be handled quickly as diseases can damage and even kill the tightly packed plants in the warmer weather. Plants in what are called plugs and bareroot ones are potted in an assembly line fashion where 3 potters place trays of the then potted plants on a roller conveyor where they can be tagged and fertilized to then be placed in what is called a minimum heat greenhouse in which the plants will grow to a saleable size.

Already the warm weather has caused a speed up of bringing tightly packed azaleas out of winter storage to the movable roof greenhouse called a Cravo greenhouse which is the name of the manufacturer from Canada. The spacing of the plants with the greater light and air movement has prevented fungus problems that would eat away at the plants very quickly. Soon will be the unloading of truckloads of nursery stock and removing thousands of plants from winter storage.

March as well as April is quite strenuous at the nursery as the days seem to pass quickly with all the multiple chores in progress all at once.

Que sera sera.

Tom

March 3, 2017
With February now past with its record high temperatures, March is traditionally the month that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Strangely though, February mostly went out like a lamb with temperatures and sun feeling like spring when it even isn’t spring! Sadly, many spring flowering bulbs have awakened early along with the swelling of the buds of some trees and shrubs as they have been “fooled” that it’s time to awaken.

At the nursery, deer have nibbled at some emerging tulips already when usually the plants are sprayed with a deer repellent called Deer Stopper in late March. The Valley Forge American Elm next to the Owl Barn is already getting ready to bloom which soon after will be followed by the  dropping of the protective bud scales and then the emergence of leaves.

Inside the well-ventilated winter storage huts, Hydrangea Endless Summer, Bloomstruck and other large-leaved types are opening with leaves even though temperatures in the huts drop to the outside air temperatures at night which has been in the 30's. Interesting too is that bright sunshine has caused such high generation of electricity in the newly installed solar panels that about 16 kilowatts per hour are being produced by noon which is more than that in use so that electricity is being sent back to the grid.

The March extended forecast while a bit warm is not as warm as the recent February warmth and will tend to check the advance of the degree days that plants receive to break into full growth and bloom.

This Saturday will be our seminar on Hemerocallis genus (Daylilies) as much intensive breeding is bringing on numerous, unusual and beautiful varieties. Our speaker, Rae Dickens is from the Western Reserve Daylily Society and will expand on the creation of these new types as well as  showing off the latest cultivars. Last year when Rae Dickens came to the “What’s new” seminar for 2016, she related to me that what we were showing in daylilies was “old news” so that I asked her to speak this year.

The nursery is open but the plant selection is quite limited as nothing will be put on display until early April as there is always the danger of a very severe cold weather blast such as on April 8th of 2008 when temperatures dropped to 19F overnight accompanied by 35 mile per hour winds after  a warm March pushed everything ahead. To say the least, this spring season is going to be very interesting.


Tom


February 24, 2017
The weather has been to say the least, enjoyable although it’s not typical for the end of February. Last week, the bud scales on the lilacs in the storage huts are already falling off which is definitely a  sign of the plants wanting to push out growth. All the storage huts for a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials are well ventilated including the provision of roll up sides to keep the houses even cooler with the warm weather. Unfortunately, growth will “push” to early anyway that is for sure to cause problems later on when a sure-to-come hard freeze will occur later on. Even outside, daffodils are popping up everywhere soon to be followed by trees and shrubs starting to “wake up” as their cold  requirements have been achieved for the breaking of dormancy. The warm weather too is a wake up call to perennial weeds such as henbit and the troublesome hairy buttercress as it grows quickly and then blooms with its tiny white flowers that will soon fade to be followed by countless  seeds to pop up again everywhere!
 

              

New growth on planted Montauk Daisies and daffodils popping up everywhere!
 

At the nursery, planting of annual flowers is proceeding at a feverish pace with now the arrival of perennial flowers from Michigan that must be handled quickly as they will not keep well in their small cells if not transplanted soon to larger pots. In addition, bare-root roses have arrived from California and they too will not keep long in their shipping boxes as they will be subject to destructive mold should they remain only a few days sealed up.
 

          

Perennial plugs are arriving daily and need to be potted up quickly by a whole planting crew.
 

Now the clematis vines potted last summer are showing a little growth which means they must be quickly pulled from winter storage, trimmed, fertilized, spaced and weeded before they become tangled in a mass of early growth of the twining vines.

It’s only the beginning of the wild side of spring. In June, we’ll reflect on spring and think how did it pass so fast!

Tom

 

February 17, 2017
While the weather department still behaves like a roller coaster, the extended periods of warmth are mimicking last year’s relatively warm winter. With some exposed vegetation from the lighter than normal snowfall, deer browsing at the nursery is less than it had been in the two recent previous cold winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. In Wolf Creek Botanical Garden, the deer repellent called Deer Stopper was applied to many of the shrubs susceptible to deer such as the evergreen azaleas and rhododendron about Thanksgiving. During a thaw in late January, the repellent was applied again as the deer had found their favorite azalea called ‘Herbert’ which ironically is a dark double purple that is quite winter hardy and easy to grow except in the case of  deer. It seems the animals prefer the flower buds of this variety even though Herbert is surrounded by Azalea Boudoir, Stewartstonian, Cascade and Elsie Lee which are deer damage free! Who would have thought that deer would be picky about what variety of plant suits their taste within a species!

Part of next week is filled with safety seminars, a Drug Free Workplace seminar and one on the new expansive regulations rolled out by E.P.A. on January 2, 2017, which is aimed at protecting workers and applicators from exposure to pesticides that are sprayed in greenhouses and on the  grounds. This update of the WPS 1992 Standards although somewhat cumbersome, is designed to protect workers and prevent pesticide poisonings in the work place.

Tomorrow I will be giving a seminar entitled “Lovely Lilacs” that will not only give the “dos and don’ts” when planting and caring for this genus and reviewing the various hybrid groups and varieties within those groups. Recently, Father Fiala near Medina, Ohio was known for his  breeding and selection of many varieties. Sadly after the priest’s death, the property was sold and divided up into housing lots due to the zoning violations having to do with all the traffic resulting from all the activities having to do with his lilac display.

As always, join us for this informative seminar beginning at 11 a.m. this Saturday. See you at the seminar.

Tom


February 10, 2017

As February rolls along, work in the greenhouse intensifies as rooted cuttings now must be transplanted into pots and hanging baskets while more unrooted cuttings are to arrive from Costa Rica and Guatemala. Strict sanitation controls are in place at the foreign greenhouses where
the stock plants for the plant cuttings grow.

       

In 2013, a virus called tobacco mosaic virus or TMV was found in our greenhouse on petunias grown from cuttings in Central America resulting in their disposal after the plants were potted and growing nicely. The Dummen company sent out a warning that some of their stock that they had  shipped tested positive for the virus that is evident by a slight streaking or mottling of the normally evenly dark green leaves. The virus is spread by handling the cuttings while sticking them into the  rooting cells and then by trimming the plants. TMV will cause a collapse of the plants when the weather begins to warm up in spring. This collapse during warm weather is similar to a once common malady that geraniums are prone to call Xanthomonas. This geranium killer is actually a bacteria that is spread by water. Some plants, such as vining geraniums show little or no signs of the disease and yet can be a carrier that results in the infection of the zonal (regular) geranium. Today with virus testing and better sanitation methods, disease like Xanthomonas and TMV are relatively rare.

In the greenhouse too continues the application of the microscopic worms called nematodes. These small creatures move in water so that the foliage of the plants must be kept wet for no less than 2 hours so they are able to hunt down and kill the destructive thrip insect. Surprisingly, there are no restrictions by EPA as far as entry into the greenhouse once the nematodes are applied as they already exist in nature and are completely harmless to humans. Soon the hanging baskets just recently planted will need to be hung up so that two small packets of predatory mites will have to be attached to the plant’s foliage. These packets called mini-sachets contain two mite species called Amblyseius californicus and Amblyseius curcurbitae. The californicus mite seeks out the nasty European two spotted spider mite while curcurbitae prefers the lousy thrip insect. Everyday several of the mites walk out of a hole in the sachet for a total of 6 weeks that will protect the plant from destructive greenhouse pests without chemicals! With the help of a technician form the Biobest Company that produces and supplies these critters to the greenhouse and food crop industry, the complicated process of using “good” bugs to “fight” bad bugs should be well under  way this spring.

With more and more greenhouse growers and possibly farms using beneficial predators will pesticides largely be a thing of the past? I hope so.

Tom

 

February 3, 2017
With the passage of the coldest month of the winter and even the fact that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, this winter season will be short. Right? I am wondering if anyone really believes if the famous groundhog doesn’t see his shadow that the winter will be shorter than usual.

For gardeners, farmers, nurserymen and those in the orchard business, the return of more normally cold weather is a blessing. One type of weather not needed though is like that of February 2015 that was relentlessly cold. In fact, that February was reported by the National Weather Service to be the coldest February as far as average temperatures have been recorded by Cleveland since 1875!

By the middle of this month, the days grow gradually warmer and the average temperatures in Ohio for January have been on the warm and wet side for the most part. The folks in the Portland, Oregon area have received several inches of snow and somewhat colder temperatures than  normal. For the most part, Portland is known for its mild winter due to the Pacific climate which is very similar to the effect the Gulf Stream has on northern Europe. Once in a great while though, a cold front will appear out of nowhere dropping temperatures into the single digits. I remember talking to an old lady when I visited Vancouver, Canada and related to her of how beautiful the weather in summer is in Vancouver and that the winters are so mild. She replied that while my  observations are true the depressing fact is that the skies are mostly gray all winter and accompanied by a cold, almost never ending drizzle. In fact, when Lewis and Clark spent their first winter along the Oregon coast they had written in their diary about the never ending winter rain  and how some men in their party were quite depressed.

The first in our series of winter seminars is tomorrow with Judy Semroc from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History on the subject of damselflies and dragonflies. As usual, all seminars begin at 11 a.m. and finish up at 1 p.m. Hope to see you in the Owl Barn.

Tom

January 27, 2017
The unusually warm, wet weather while not enough to bring trees and shrubs to life because of their cold requirements, it has caused a small push to the thousands of daffodils and narcissus planted around the nursery as well as some hosta in Wolf Creek Gardens to the north.

In the winter storage huts, while plants are still dormant because of the cool and sometime cold nights plus short days and low light levels, root systems in the containers are growing! In the 2006- 007 winter, temperatures were eerily warm until January 27, 2007 when 40 mph winds swept in with a cold front and dropped temperatures to -4 F. Early the next spring, much damage to the plants occurred in storage by evidence of the root system. The once tender growing roots in many cases were killed by the sudden shock of extreme cold. That year was like deja vu when in 1992 temperatures were abnormally warm in February only to drop suddenly March 1st for several days again causing plant damage on the outside. While widely fluctuating temperatures in winter are a nightmare for the orchardists, gardeners, farmers and nurserymen, there is nothing that can be done about it.

On another note of interest, the folks at Wolf Creek Winery about 1 mile north of the nursery have spotted a pair of Bald Eagles hanging out along the shore of the Barberton Reservoir. How strange to have such birds of prey as the eagle around when not too many years ago it was pushed to the brink of extinction by the ravage of the pesticide DDT and relentless hunting! With the passing of the Endangered Species Act by Congress in 1973 which protected the birds as well as other endangered  species, the eagle began to recover very slowly. Then too, Congress outlawed the use of DDT that same year resulting in more chicks hatching from the formerly too fragile eggs of the birds. Hopefully the eagles will thrive and multiply around the reservoir but as their numbers grow,  anyone with chickens will soon get wise as to what the birds do best - eat.

Tom

January 20, 2017
Winter is a busy time in a greenhouse nursery operation!

It may not look like much is going on from the outside, but winter is a very busy time of the year in a greenhouse nursery operation. With the cold, short and bleak days of January and February, the  behind-the-scenes activity of a greenhouse nursery operation is anything but slow. In the greenhouse, the rooting of thousands of flower cuttings begins in December and lasts throughout the winter and early spring months. The rooted cuttings which are referred to as “plugs” must be hand transplanted to larger pots and hanging baskets for product to be available during the peak selling season in the month of May. Even in the depth of winter, disease and insect pressure on the greenhouse crops must be controlled with a variety of insecticides and fungicides. A warm, humid greenhouse is not only an ideal environment for plants but for harmful insects and diseases, as well. Therefore, disease and insect control products must be applied weekly with a fogger or hydraulic sprayer and in some cases results in a considerable expenditure of time.

In the huts covered with a white polyethylene film, shrubs and herbaceous perennials stored over winter must have ventilation when temperatures exceed 28 F in order to prevent disease called Botrytis, which will grow on dead and live plant tissue causing major plant damage. Conversely, the huts must be closed when temperatures are expected to fall below 28 F. This open-close scenario sometimes is repeated every day depending on weather conditions. Vigilance is necessary to prevent rodent damage from mice, in particular, that just love tender plant roots and the live bark on a wide array of shrubs and herbaceous perennial flowers. Mouse traps with sunflower seeds must be reset with new bait weekly as the old sunflower seed bait becomes moldy as a result of the more humid conditions in the storage huts. On the outside, at least weekly inspections are required to assess any attack on the stock from browsing deer or gnawing rodents such as rabbits. Maintenance to equipment including but not limited to tractors, loaders, RTV’s and trucks needs to be performed along with any needed repairs during the winter months. It goes without saying, working equipment for the busy spring months is crucial as there is no time to perform repairs or maintenance on the equipment.

In summary, winter in a greenhouse nursery operation is a busy time except that sales in most of the smaller operations are at a slow pace, or non-existent all together resulting in little or no income!

Tom

January 13, 2017
Even though January is that long, seemingly non-ending winter month at the nursery, the somewhat slower time allows for a “look-back” of what went wrong and definitely needs improvement. As in any operation, the goal of perfection is for sure elusive; however, the strive is for excellence and continuing improvement which are never ending. One major “push” to improve the greenhouse operation using almost all bio controls has been underway now for a couple of weeks. Hours of study, meeting with greenhouse operators and speaking to various vendors about using bio controls such as nematodes, beneficial fungus and beneficial predatory insects and mites is needed to get the program underway by February 1st. The goal is to control insect and disease on the stock better without using harmful chemicals which are not good for the person applying the products or the customers from the residue left on the plants. Even though we eliminated the controversial neonicotinoid class of insecticides three years ago, this step was only one in a longer process that will be complete by the spring of 2018.

January has allowed time to reflect on what the customers want and not just what we think they want when they come into the nursery. With a number of surveys returned in December, the news was not all compliments. Many areas that need improvement in the area of customer service were identified with suggestions from customers on improving the operations. A prioritized list is now being developed so that many excellent suggestions from the survey can be put into effect as quickly as possible. The “regular chores” at the nursery still continue with tax reports and budgeting, ordering and product review, a Drug Free Workplace required meeting, greenhouse production and equipment maintenance without any money coming in!

In summary, the “respite” of January is a time of reflection and a time to get things moving to improve the nursery and garden center operation for everyone working here and for all those we work for - the customers!

Tom

January 6, 2017
Even with nothing growing outside and the nursery closed except for seminars, that begin February 4th, the work at the nursery never ends! Much of the work at hand concerns getting ready for the spring and sometimes 3 years ahead or more.

Purchase orders are generated, plant and hard good orders are being tweaked, descriptions of new plants are written, and new signs are designed and printed.

Then the greenhouse propagation and transplanting is a little behind with thousands of more flower cuttings coming next week to be rooted for transplanting later.

Maintenance is an ongoing job but takes on a more important role in winter as equipment greasing, oil changes, filter changes, and any repairs are performed before the busy spring season.

Hiring of full and part time employees will be the mode in late January and February which then leads into employee training, safety seminars, a drug free workplace seminar, and pesticide safety seminars. Ongoing too is the development of an information Kiosk for customer use and the design of a new color digital catalogue!

I think sometimes there is almost as much to do in the winter as in spring!

Tom
 


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