Friday, January 29, 2010

Dayton "Dirt" Green Blog - February 2010

Recently in October, the Ohio Research & Development Center featured a program titled “Why Trees Matter”.

The sundry benefits of community trees as presented in the program include:

- Key to environmental health
- Energy savings for homeowners
- A healthy community
- Healthier lives
- Wildlife habitat
- Trees provide food
- Protect watersheds
- Increased property values
- Promote a more successful local and regional economy

Without going into lengthy detail, no one can argue that trees are important to our local communities and to our planet as a whole.

In many towns and cities, we have become complacent about the Urban Forest as to the care if needs and the planting of trees replacements.

Many years ago, Denver, Colorado had planted a magnificent urban forest only to have it drastically decline from years of neglect.

Now the city has made great strides in the past few years to replace its emerald cloak.

Even here in Ohio when the great American Elms were devastated by the Dutch Elm Disease, the scramble was on to find “the” American Elm that would not succumb to the disease.

Without a doubt trees especially are a must for urban environments and should not be perceived as a luxury commodity.

The program presented at the OARDC rightly tries to quantify the benefits of trees in a monetary way as this aspect can be measured.

The other properties such as beauty, feelings of well being, and simply living in a healthier environment are all more difficult to quantify and measure but these are just as important, if not more, as the benefits than can be more accurately measured.

I like the quote from L. Merrier as it seems to sum everything up well on a statement about trees:

To plant a tree is
An act of faith in the earth
An act of hope for the future
An act of humanity towards
Coming generations who will
Enjoy its fruits after we
Shall be gone

My own opinion is that the OARDC (Secrest Arboretum) programs about trees and other aspects of our natural world will educate the public so that we and the next generation have enough sense to protect and preserve out natural heritage.


Dayton "Dirt" - January 29, 2010

Tomorrow is the first in our series of winter seminars beginning with the multiple uses of lavenders and how to grow them.

This herb (perennial) is not only versatile when harvested but is well known in the perennial garden for its flowers and fragrance.

I can remember the lavender growing on the hillside of Provence, France when I stayed in a small town above Nice called Vence. The only disappointment was that my timing was off as none were noticeable as they were not in bloom.

Tomorrow, January 30th, is the first day of use of our new barn that we call the "Owl Barn". This structure is a perfect place to hold seminars in that it is heavily insulated and boasts an in floor heating system powered by a small boiler. We have already had this system cranked up to check it out and I must say that all those attending should be nice and warm no matter the weather outside.

I hope you can come. The seminar begins at 12 noon and will include a short break for refreshments. See you there.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dayton "Dirt" - January 22, 2010

Now we’re entering the coldest part of the winter and I pray that at least 3-4” of snow or more will blanket the ground through February which will definitely help tender perennials overwinter well.

The first in our series of winter seminars takes place on the 30th of this month with Judy Byrne of Daybreak Lavender Farm.

Lavender is such a fascinating plant with its beautiful foliage and aromatic leaves. We grow about 8 varieties including Munstead, Hidcote, Fred Boutin, Lady, Vicenza, Provence, Blue Cushion and Coconut Ice.

Judy will be speaking on the best cultivation practices for lavender and its many uses. She will be my guest on our radio program “Ready, Set, Grow” on 1590AM WAKR on Saturday, January 23rd at 8:00 am.

I’ve been answering gardening questions on the radio program for almost 14 years now and I have learned a lot myself from our callers as to how they solve various garden problems.

This coming week we’ll receive our shipment of primrose called Super Nova. These primrose are a great improvement over the old Pacific types in that they are just as hardy but the flowers are so much larger and colorful. I hope to offer them in early spring as a potted plant to be enjoyed indoors and then planted in the garden in some shade when the weather warms. Primrose like cool temperatures (45-55 degrees) so that for us, they will be ideal to grow in the greenhouse as we can keep the heating costs down.

I’ll look forward to seeing you at the seminars!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Dayton "Dirt" - January 15, 2010

Even though we’re moved into the Owl Barn, we still have a lot of work to do before you’re invited. We’re constructing counters, shelving, coating & sealing the floor, hanging tapestries, hanging colorful photographs…

On a trip last summer to Holland, Michigan, some extraordinary large framed photographs caught my eye. I saw them in the window and just had to have them. One is a huge photo of a daffodil called ‘Ice Follies’ with amazing detail. The second framed photograph is one of the famed tulips of Holland, Michigan followed by the glowing orange of an Oriental poppy with the black inner parts of the flower
contrasting with the robust orange.

The barn will be an ideal space to market the blueberries that we’ll be planting next spring next to the lake area at the rear of the nursery. While we’re not planning to market solely organic foods, the main focus for our summer market will be on locally grown and locally preserved foods from farms around this area.

The word local is broad by I have defined it to mean that our sources for almost all products will come from a one hundred mile radius from the nursery.

Other products available will be fresh cut flowers as well as potted flowers from our own greenhouses and growing operations.

Before the farm market opens, the Owl Barn will serve as a display and gathering space for educational seminars and flower shows. As time goes on, we hope to make gradual changes to our business to achieve a higher level of service, more varied but related products and a more pleasant atmosphere for our customers to shop.

Back to work for me,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dayton "Dirt" - January 8, 2010

Don’t forget that birds get hungry too and must constantly eat to keep up their 104 degree Farenheit body temperature. In lengthy studies, it does not seem to harm birds to feed them as the myth about making them too dependent on humans that can “giveth” and then later “taketh” away the food source.

Periodically please wash your bird feeders and use a bleach solution to kill any bacteria that would be detrimental to the birds’ health.

We are closed for the winter but Copley Feed is an excellent source for all your bird feeding needs.

Don’t forget too that I told you last year about staking up your cut Christmas tree near the birds feeders to give them shelter and cover from predatory birds and animals.

Check the trunks of your young trees that are less than two inches in diameter for rabbit damage. It would be a good idea to place tree guards on young trunks.

Also, if you sprayed your plants susceptible to deer damage in November, I would recommend a re-spray of Liquid Fence with the advent of a January thaw. Re-spraying with Wilt-Pruf or Freeze-Pruf would be a good idea too on those broadleaf evergreens that can be susceptible to wind burn when cold day winds accompanied by frozen soil take hold in winter.

I must lecture you also about that perils of throwing salt-laden snow from your sidewalk onto your landscape plants – don’t do it! Urea will work as a safer ice-melter and you can pick it up at Copley Feed.

See you soon,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dayton "Dirt" Green Blog - January, 2010

One aspect of gardening that I have been talking about on our radio show “Ready, Set, Grow” on WAKR 1590 AM is the importance of at least supplementing a family’s diet with home-grown fruits and vegetables or at least “locally grown” produce.

The importance of such a maneuver away from entirely “store-bought” food is the fact that much of the food chain is becoming contaminated from foreign sources that do not have the same standards of production and handling of foodstuffs as compared to the U.S. as related to safety and health issues.

No one can argue that fresh produce or fruit out of season must come from some foreign sources; however, non-domestic frozen food and canned foodstuffs are plentiful on grocery store shelves.

As an example, I sometimes purchase “steam-in-the-bag” vegetables for quick preparation and convenience but I accidentally discovered that on the bag was China, Mexico, USA as sources of the contents. When I called the company to inquire if some or all of the contents were from the above sources, the company spokesperson said that in fact the contents contained components from all of these countries and that the company has “full” control of the production process.

I no longer buy this brand of vegetables as I have reasoned that:

1. There is no need import vegetables that are frozen.
2. Imported foods, at least as I perceive it, are more risky to consume because of foreign substandard production and handling methods compared to those in the United States.

A specific example of my concern in item #2 is that the dangerous pesticide Parathion is legal to use on food crops in Mexico but not in the United States. Another of my concerns is the Chinese factor of tainted milk, candies and problems with non-food products such as lead-based paint on children’s toys.

In my seminar two years ago, “American Intensive Gardening”, I presented an efficient way of producing an array of home-grown produce that could be easily frozen or canned to supplement a family’s diet to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the consumption of foreign foods.

I very much resent the food processing companies that procure foreign sources of product when they don’t have to do it. In my view they are more concerned about their short term profits than providing quality domestic sources of canned or frozen foods.

It is wise to read the label on what you’re consuming to discover the listed nutritional content or the country from which it is sourced. Its even wiser to grow and/or purchase locally as many fruits and vegetables as possible although I’m sure there are many in our country that are content to blindly trust that the big food processors would place your family’s health and safety as their first priority.

My very conservative close friend Tom who lives in Toledo, Ohio sarcastically played down my concerns about the safety of imported foods.

I replied that he thought the imported foods were completely safe and healthy then he was free to eat them and prepare them for this family to eat!

I do know that food processors would not intentionally market unhealthy or dangerous products as it would not be in their own best interest. However, with the wider the sources of product, there is more loss of control of production and handling processes.

Frankly, I don’t trust the global food processors to put health and safety of its customers over their own profits, do you?


Monday, January 4, 2010

Dayton "Dirt" - January 1, 2010

Well the bad news first. We’re still not in the depth of winter as the coldest part of winter is after mid-January through early February.

The good news is that we’re more than one week past the winter solstice and the day length is increasing by a few minutes each day.

There’s not much growing now except some young Azalea, blueberries and Rhododendron that we took as cuttings last summer.

Many of you have poinsettias that will last into spring as their flower bracts do not abscure easily like the ones sold in the 1960’s and earlier.

January is the month to study all those garden supply catalogues for all the exciting new cultivars of trees, shrubs, flowers and seeds. Winter is the time to dream away to imagine the possibilities of gardens to come with visions of riotous color from foliage and flowers to a bounty of harvest from your own small fruits, fruit trees and vegetable plants.

Now is the time to start planning your spring garden to get the most from your hard work and not only from what you’ll actually plant but what steps you’ll take to achieve maximum success such as soil testing, soil preparation, spacing of plantings, staggering multiple plantings, etc.

One thing I keep repeating is the importance of planting your own vegetable garden as a supplement to your food sources for a healthy diet. I pulled a bag of vegetables from the refrigerator that are to be steamed in the bag. The taste was mediocre so that when I checked for the expiration date (the bag was well within the date of expiration) I noticed that all the contents of the bag did not come from the United States but also China and Mexico. I called the well known company to inquire about the use of foreign sources of supply for their product to which they supplied the answer that they have full control of quality.

My thought process is that they want to maximize their own profits even if it means there is a greater chance of something slipping by that has been sprayed with dangerous pesticides or is inferior in quality with these foreign sources. I do not buy the brand of frozen vegetables now but only another brand which I read “produce of USA” on the label exclusively.

I just wish I had my own canning or frozen vegetables from my own garden like I preach to you to grow and preserve. Maybe this year I can truly tell you to do as I do and not tell you to do and I do not!
Oh well.

Happy New Year,

Dayton "Dirt" - December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone!

The story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with his life-like characters of Ebernezer Scrooge, Bog Crotchet and Tiny Tim changed Christmas forever as Christmas Day was just another work day in Victorian England.

There are other books such as Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe that have changed the course of history but a Christmas Carol did it for the Christmas holiday.

In the not too distant future, you or your children should be able to roast American chestnuts on an open fire as the American Chestnut, or at least 15/16 of it, is starting to be planted on strips near areas and will soon populate the Eastern forests as the great trees once did.

My Slovak grandmother used to say “You be got health, you be god wealth”, to which her then teenage grandchildren thought nothing of it. Now, being older, I do know that if one’s health is not good, there’s not a whole lot that matters except for maybe food on the table, a warm place to stay, and family and friends.

We’ll be open Saturday December 26th 9:00-5:00 but closed on Sunday the 27th. Then we’ll be open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm through New Year’s Eve after which we’ll close for the winter except for out winter seminars on Saturday.

Someone will be here though to answer all your questions on the phone or by e-mail. We’ll look forward to seeing you at the seminars in our new Owl Barn.

Joyeuox Noel,