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.
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 1½ 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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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
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.
May 12, 2017
After the cold rain last Saturday and then the very cool, sunny,
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
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.
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
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
April 14, 2017
How strange an April with about 3-4 inches of snow last Friday
and a low of 26º 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!”
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
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!
March 31, 2017
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
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
Spring is here.
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.
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 28ºF. 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!
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
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.
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
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 19ºF 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 -4º 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.
January 20, 2017
Winter is a busy time in a greenhouse
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 28º 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 28º 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
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
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!
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!