Friday, October 31, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - October 31, 2014

The gorgeous weather of this past week has enabled us to accomplish much needed  maintenance of the grounds, irrigation, painting and a general cleanup. Now with a freeze coming up, the irrigation system must be shut down including the pulling up of the heavy  intake pipes. The entire three plus miles of pipe can be drained by gravity by the opening  of several valves which will release water into the irrigation pond from which it came.

Large balled and burlapped trees have arrived and will remain in the fine gravel beds all winter if not sold this fall. Unfortunately, sales in the fall are much slower than in spring although fall is a great time to plant most trees and shrubs. Last winter’s severity has caused extra caution and hesitation in fall planting although the “new and revised” forecast is for a more “normal” winter.

Flower bulb planting for a spring show can go on through mid-February as long as a  shovel or bulb planter is able to get through crust of frozen ground. War on the invasive non-native garlic mustard will continue into next spring and also on the Roundup resistant weed called mare’s tail that fortunately is easy to pull by hand.

Although most trees and shrubs in containers have been put away into winter storage huts, they still are available that they may be retrieved for customers to view and/or purchase.

The last day of October is a reminder that colder and wetter weather is coming soon but looking back some years, temperatures dropped quickly to 12º F in early November of 1991 after a long hot, dry summer. No doubt, this year and next will be no exception to wild swings in weather although a nice blanket of snow all winter would be a blessing for farmers and gardeners.

Some of the fall color that remains at the nursery is of Oxydendron arboretum (shown below, left) with its bright red oval leaves with some of the white spent flowers called racemes still hanging on the tree. Another fall beauty is the Weston’s Lollipop azalea (shown below, right) with flaming red foliage which has so far remained on the plants for 3 weeks! This deciduous azalea has extremely fragrant pink flowers in early summer plus the spectacular fall color show! Who needs burning bush?


Friday, October 24, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - October 24, 2014

With the hard frost of last week, tree digging will begin next week on our array of shade trees that will be “planted” into the nursery holding beds in which small gravel will secure the trees for not only winter, but during the spring selling season as well. The gravel is especially effective for balled and burlapped rhododendron in that the quick drainage allows no free standing water around the root balls of the plants except during heavy rains. If water does stand too long around the root balls of most trees and shrubs, necessary oxygen is cut off from the root system and in the case of some plants such as rhododendron, an organism sometimes present in the soil called Phytophthora that enables it to swim in free water toward the root system in order to infect its host plant and eventually cause the death of the plant.

Enough progress has been made in placing the nursery stock in storage huts so that next week the trees and shrubs that are in pots above ground will be shoved close together in a cold frame that will be covered with a 3 ml thick white polythene plastic film that will reflect the sun in the day and yet create a warm environment during cold nights as the sealed structure keeps out cold winds and is warmed only by ground heat. Conversely, the structures need ventilated by opening the entrance doors when temperatures are above 28º F or even lower temperatures when the sun is shining. The ventilation also lowers humidity levels which help to check diseases such as a gray mold called botrytis.

Poinsettias in the greenhouse are beginning to color and the transplanted cuttings of geraniums and evergreen azaleas are ‘comfortable’ in the greenhouse as well. The geraniums will be ready for the first batch of cuttings to be stripped from these stock plants just before Christmas with subsequent cutting taking going on in early February and mid to late March.

Timely “to-dos” in your own yard include soil testing in your lawn and garden, applying lime (if needed) to the lawn at the last mowing, planting of spring flowering bulbs and finally the fall planting of trees and shrubs.

Remember not to apply tree guards and deer repellent too early. Usually late November and early December is a good time to accomplish the above. Enjoy the good weather while it lasts!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - October 17, 2014

Much progress has been made this past week on the large new addition to the annual production greenhouse that will greatly expand the product line of the retail greenhouse during the frenzied May selling season. The hanging basket drip lines are going up now to be followed by other waterlines for hand watering and then with the final step of the self-watering benches that will definitely take a long time to construct as they must be level, fitted with water and drain lines and finally the gluing together of numerous ribbed fiberglass panels on which the plants sit in order to be watered.

Last Saturday, the killing frost finished off the flowers along the road and the big annual pots along the driveway but not the petunias in the gutters of the Owl market or Calliope geranium hanging baskets. The flowers will survive until temperatures drop below 28º F although the short days and cool nights have slowed their flowering and growth. The unofficial temperature at the nursery was 30º F so that the evergreen azaleas had to be covered to preserve the flower buds on the top portion of the plants. There too were a few perennial plants covered as they were not potted until late August and early September and are in need yet of the foliage to feed the root system before winter arrives. One of the Heucheras not covered, as it is well established, is the new Proven  Winners variety called Cinnamon Curls. The wavy, cinnamon colored foliage is thick and vibrant even after the freeze. This variety should be a major hit with gardeners next spring.

Hopefully the leaves will color up with last week’s frost but there is not much time left in the leaf- viewing season. Just as road trips to view the spectacular leaf colors are popular here, in Japan during the eighteenth century, special parties were hosted to view different varieties of Japanese maples. Unfortunately, many of the old cultivars have been lost as they were cut down and burned for firewood as the Japanese people tried to keep warm during the dark days of World War II.

Adequate rainfall is still elusive in that the rear irrigation pond at the nursery is at least 1 foot low which translates into at least 2 inches of rainfall that is collected over about 20 acres of land  including the runoff from the buildings and parking lot. The somewhat dry weather though has not stopped the spectacular red and yellow fall color of the Virginia creeper vines on the trees in the woods and also that notorious vine known as poison ivy that must be “enjoyed” at a distance.


Dayton "Dirt" - October 10, 2014

The cloudy and windy nights have kept the frost away so far but the usual first frost for northern Ohio is October 10th. While the trees are beginning to color, more vibrant colors will be on display with a hard frost to signal the various pigments in the leaves to get going.

With the long range forecast not looking “too bad”, lawn repairs can still go on except where major renovation of tall fescue lawn grasses are concerned as tender emerging seedlings of tall fescue can be killed by a severe cold snap such as was the case about 10 years ago on a young lawn in Wadsworth that was planted in early October. Temperatures plunged to 14º F with significant wind and no snow cover on Thanksgiving Day. The entire lawn was killed and had to be resown in the spring! So too it goes with winter wheat that must have some snow cover to survive. The winter here of 2010-2011 was not exceptionally cold but quite snowy in February and March. While many folks here complained about the snow, China had very little snow and lost 60% of the winter wheat crops!

In the Akron Beacon journal this past week, the Great Lakes Commission has called for a 40% reduction of phosphorus to the Great lakes especially shallow Lake Erie. With new calls to correct the algae blooms in the lake caused by the Toledo water shut-off, farmers especially in the Maumee River Valley will be “taking the heat” because most of the problem is occurring because of runoff from farms. With Lake Erie as an important water source for millions of people and its reputation as a paradise for fish and other aquatic life, the call for clean up has been greatly accelerated so that hopefully in 10 years or less, toxic algae blooms are a thing of the past.

Lawn fertilizers and failing septic tanks are to blame as well and probably will fall under the scope for clean up once the process for clean water gets under way. According to Dave Shetler of Ohio State Extension, a small job that would help fertilizer runoff from lawns would be to sweep off fertilizer granules from the sidewalk and driveway after an application in order to prevent it from washing into the storm sewers or into the street!

Preparation goes on for winter although reports of a severe winter as last year somehow now are greatly exaggerated in that a new radio report last Wednesday has suggested that some “experts” are predicting a warm winter. In my opinion, several below zero days aren’t bad as long as there is a cover of 6 inches of snow or more. A good idea though is just to prepare for the worst. Do prepare for spring by planting flower bulbs from Holland now and next month in order to come alive in the spring.

As a reminder, remember to spray Liquid Fence on deer susceptible shrubs around Thanksgiving and again during a late December or January thaw. For emerging tulips in spring, a spray of the product over the leaves when they are about 3" high will stop munching deer right in their tracks.

Get planning, planting and going!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dayton "Dirt" - October 3, 2014

The Mum Fest in Barberton was a huge success especially with the warm sunny weekend. Previously cool weather though did play a factor in the earlier bloom of the mums so that the gardens were a little past prime. In all I don’t think that many fest goers noticed.

With mum season winding down, tree and shrub planting can go on in order to establish the plant’s root system before next summer. So far, enough rainfall has been lacking for the past few weeks which increases the vigilance necessary for watering newly planted stock. A late “bloom” of  powdery mildew has shown up on a few shrubs and even Japanese Maples which will not damage them permanently but does render them less desirable. A few weeks ago, even homeowners had been coming with cases of mildew and apple scab on trees and shrubs and a question of treatment. The correct treatment is to do nothing as the previously wet humid spring and summer created the conditions for all kinds of foliar plant diseases so that trying to eradicate and or mitigate them now is a waste of time and money. A foliar disease has caused an early defoliation of the wild black cherry trees in the woods surrounding the nursery so that in late August the trees resembled their normal state of early October.

A final weeding (is it ever final?) before winter of the nursery stock has been completed on the plants that will be “put to bed” starting about 3 weeks in order that the over-wintering huts can be covered in early November. This year there is even more work as the larger greenhouses used to grow and display annuals and perennials have not had a change of polyethylene plastic for five years! The poly is actually a 4 year type that finally weakens due to its breakdown from the  ultraviolet rays of the sun. With new construction getting ready for winter and the other “normal” chores, October is a very busy month at the garden center.