Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - November 29, 2014

At the nursery things are ready for the Christmas season with wreaths, roping, grave blankets, poinsettias and of course Christmas trees. Some of the poinsettias “acted” somewhat strange this year as they were a little late with the full extent of their color with some even now not quite ready to “pop out of the oven”. Growing plants for sale is much the like preparing a delicious meal from the addition of ingredients in the correct amounts, precise timing in the oven or on the stove, stirring, mixing . . .

In the plant world, fertilizing on time, trimming, keeping insects and disease at bay, soil supplements, watering, the withholding of water (sometimes) and so on to have to go together to make a quality saleable plant and the actions taken must be timely as in cooking in which one missed essential step could ruin things.

After a flurry of activity of customers ordering their grave blankets and other cemetery decorations in order to have them in place by Thanksgiving, construction is still going on of the blankets and pillows as the later placement orders come in along with keeping the ready to go stock area full for those that want to pick up and place their own decorations.

Other coming-up chores will be the shipment of a few thousand un-rooted cuttings that will have to be prepared for sticking in specially made rooting sells that we set on the heating tubes from the hot water boiler. With the soil temperatures kept at 72º - 73º the cuttings will begin to root in 1 week and will be lifted from this bottom heat in 3 weeks to prepare for geranium cuttings from our stock plants purchased last October. Even in winter the greenhouse needs attention. Plants in cold storage need attention and then there’s always something that needs fixed or painted or cleaned.

A major remodeling of the main store building seems to be going along smoothly although the building will not open until spring so that the Owl Barn market is open through the Christmas season and for the winter seminars coming up.

Time to go while the weather holds from winter’s icy grip. Instead of Black Friday, remember our many blessings that continue year round after Thanksgiving and of which we are in the habit of taking for granted.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - November 21, 2014

This past week’s early cold snap while aggravating is nothing compared to this week’s New York snow avalanche from the Lake Erie snow machine. As I have written before, snow is an excellent insulator for plants, winter wheat and a much needed supplier for the ground water but not 6 feet or more as in New York! At least in the mountains, I think the people of California would love to have New York snow as it would be melting during the spring and summer to replenish streams that have dried up as California goes into its third year of severe drought.

At the nursery, additional insulating covers had to be placed over perennial plants and the small azaleas that will be sold next spring. The insulating cover called microfoam (a Dupont Company trade name) keeps the azaleas relatively warm since it is 1/4" thick which seals in ground heat. This early in the season the plants are still hardening off since they have been grown all summer under high fertility and the “softness” of these beautiful plants is why we don’t sell them in fall.

As it warms up, tree guards must be applied to the trees that remain in the sales area to protect against rabbits and liquid fence will be applied to the rhododendron-azalea garden as the deer, by evidence of their hoof prints in the snow have been gathering around the plants to check them out for a later meal.

Grave blankets, wreaths and roping are all available later today with grave blanket deliveries starting on Monday. Branch collection has been a little more difficult this year but I think that it will be more in the future due to lack of supply of “branch trees”.

The Owl Barn is the only building open this Christmas season while the main store of the garden center is undergoing major renovations of lighting, flooring and painting. With Thanksgiving so late this year, the Christmas season will seem to run shorter of days up until Christmas Day.

While our cut trees will be available for viewing on Tuesday, November 26th after some are selected for customers that want a tree as soon as they come in. For us it’s back to work.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - November 14, 2014

The cold snap this week is a reminder of what’s yet to come and has placed a damper on the yard work before winter truly sets in. Leaf removal off lawns must be accomplished or the results in spring with a deep leaf cover over grass is not pretty.

The relatively rare Magnolia tripetala is a tree with such huge broad leaves that even in late October the grass beneath it will suffer unless the leaves are raked off quickly. City dwellers must deal with leaves later into the season because of street lights delaying leaf drop as the trees are “fooled” by the extended day length. A good example is the damage of the trees in mid-November of 1996 when a heavy, wet snow fell on the Cleveland suburbs weighing down and snapping branches because of snow piling up on the leaf laden trees.

At the nursery, branch cutting for grave blankets has been accelerating as well as the construction of the blankets so that November 20th many will be ready for viewing, pick up or delivery. Spruce, scotch pine and white pine are among those that we currently use except that in the future white pine may have to supplement the ever growing scarcity of scotch pine. Christmas trees will not arrive from southern Ohio until just before Thanksgiving although wreaths, roping and boughs will be ready earlier . Sandwiched in between the grave blanket business, general outside cleanup and still some late flower bulb planting is the on going construction of the inside of the new greenhouse addition and if enough is not enough the original store erected in 1990 is now torn apart for the replacement of old energy inefficient light fixtures with ones that are brighter and consume 30% less electricity. The old tile floor is going to be replaced by a concrete textured floor with softer earth tones.

The last major renovation of the store building was 20 years ago so that come spring, the interior of the building will have a whole new look with the new lighting, floor and warm colors on the walls instead of the sterile white color.

On November 10th, twelve turkeys paraded out of the neighbors woods into the blueberry patch in the nursery’s back field. What a sight to behold especially with Thanksgiving on the way.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - November 7, 2014

While the weather has been beautiful earlier this week more outside work has been accomplished that would normally have been performed in late winter or spring.

The flower bulb planting is finally done with the addition of a new variety of the genus called Allium that is the genus of the onion family. Allium Globemaster is the bulb and quite the price tag to go along with it. Only a total of 18 of the alliums were added to the spring display as the bulbs wholesale cost was a whopping $4.00 each before shipping. Globemaster Allium sports a round onion-like flower on top of a tall flower stalk in late May or early June with the globe-like lavender flower the size of a cantalope or even a soccer ball. It’s a long seven month wait but hopefully the fantastic display will help mitigate the pain of the price tag.

The branch cutting for grave blankets is going a little slower than desirable because of the quality of branches of scotch pine seems to be declining as fewer and fewer scotch pine have been grown for Christmas trees beginning 15 years ago and more. While scotch pine has good needle retention once cut, the favorites are the firs and most notably the fraser fir with its classic “christmas tree” shape and soft dark green needles. Unfortunately, fraser firs are more fussy about the soil and other factors of the site that might affect their growth as compared to Scotch pine.

White pine too has fallen out of fashion in that the long needled trees have quite the limber branches when trimmed heavily for sale as a cut tree. The extra long needles of the five needled pine and the limber branches can make decorating the tree difficult especially if the ornaments are heavy.

Next week starts the cutting of spruce branches for the larger grave blankets as the spruce needles tend to shed more quickly than pine especially if they are cut too early.

The last mowing of the lawn is here which also goes for the last fertilizing of the lawn and trees and shrubs. November is actually a busy gardening month with “putting everything to bed” for winter but also planning for the rebirth of a really not too distant spring.