Friday, February 27, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - February 27, 2015

Is there any relief from this bitter cold!  The days are not quite noticeably longer with the vernal equinox only about 3 weeks away and yet the month of February may end up being the coldest since 1875 surpassing the cold February’s of 1984 and 1978.  Only in 2011, moist weather streamed into Ohio from the Gulf of Mexico which resulted in one of the wettest years in memory.  The jet stream’s direction certainly does dictate the weather patterns everywhere so that now there is drought in California and most of the west, abnormally warm temperatures in Alaska and record cold over the eastern half of North America.

 Even so, spring is not far off and the nursery will indeed open sometime next week.  Except for in the production area, the greenhouse adjacent the store are empty and only will begin filling up during the last week of March with the Advent of Easter on April 5th.  Perennial plugs (small plants) were due to arrive this past week but were delayed due to the abnormally cold weather.  So too were a shipment of hydrangeas to grow on for Easter and Calla lillies along with small gerbera daisies.  Next week too is the arrival of roses to be potted and to be placed under heat with just enough warmth in order to keep the plants above 28º F to foster root growth.  All of the delays plus the scheduled shipments to plant are unfortunately going to create a log jam that will have to overcome one way or another.

All the “behind the scenes” work is a challenge almost every late winter and early spring.  For gardeners, or anyone having to do with agriculture, the weather does truly dictates the tune.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - February 20, 2015

With the Arctic weather this past week it makes one wonder if spring will ever arrive. The low temperatures of about -15º F have killed the flower buds of the evergreen azalea above the snow as -10º F is the limit at which the flower buds can survive although the shrub in the Gable and Girard hybrids can withstand temperatures of -20º to - 25º F.

Last Saturday’s Hydrangea seminar was surprisingly well attended with the beginning of frigid winds and drifting snow. This week’s seminar is with Michelle Riley of All About You Landscape Design that will enlighten everyone on the planning of the garden and/or landscape to be one of interest in all four seasons of the year.

A spider mite attack in a small corner of the annual flower production greenhouse has so far been successfully repelled with a traditional miticide. Now the trick is to wait the required 2 weeks for the residue to dissipate so that at least one species of a predatory mite can be released to keep them in check. Another mite then will start attacking thrip insects which are sure to follow. Then there as always fungus gnats flying around in which the larvae love various plant roots for their fodder and that will be killed with an insect growth regulator to be followed by a spray of a deadly bacteria; that is, deadly to them but not to the people or animals. Biological warfare occurs naturally in nature but is not as effective in keeping “bugs” under control in the greenhouse due to the controlled environment.

In the greenhouse, the beneficial organisms that prey on insects, spider mites and even disease just need a little help to do their jobs well. With the elimination of neonicotinoids, these beneficials are necessary in pest control in our greenhouses. Let’s keep our “eyes on the prize” as spring is not far away.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - February 13, 2015

Last week’s seminar on the relationship between insects and plants was quite informative.  Especially interesting was the mimicry and coloration that adult insects such as butterflies and their larva apply to fool birds and other predators to keep from becoming a meal.

The ice last weekend after Sunday night’s rain has made it difficult to get around the nursery especially to haul potting media and other supplies to the greenhouse.  An additional section of the production greenhouse was opened on Monday although how good it would have been to hold off for another week in order to wait out the new cold wave and thus the burning of natural additional gas.  On the nursery property is a gas well that sends its gas to the East Dominion Company line along Cleveland-Massillon Road.  Unfortunately there is a contract signed by the Popadich family, the former property owners, stating no natural gas can be pulled from the well for commercial purposes.

This summer, the boiler system of heating pipes will be expanded as these heated pipes tend to keep the heat down where the plants grow and results in better growth because of warmer roots and less heat near the roof to escape from the double layer of polyethylene plastic.

The next seminar on Hydrangeas will be this Saturday in the Owl Barn so that during this cold snap, the building will be as they say ‘warm as toast’ as the boiler system of the building is in the floor and like the plants in the greenhouse keeps the heat where the people are which is nearer the floor than toward the roof.  Let’s hope this is the last severe cold snap as now we’ve all had enough!


Friday, February 6, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - February 6, 2015

By the looks of the forecast the cold weather will come again starting February 13th. The only thing worse would be a too early a warm up that would push out growth on trees, shrubs and flower bulbs early only to have them “fried” when the next cold wave would come in as such was the case with the warm February of 1992. On a historical note, the family Bible of George Washington has his birth recorded on the fifth of February of 1731 although we were all taught in school that he was born on February 22, 1732!

The second bay of the greenhouse is just about ready to be opened as space is at a premium with all rooted cuttings of annual flowers ready to be shifted from small rooting cells to larger pots and hanging baskets. Then too will be the time to figure out the rotation of an insect control program that will ensure that the pests such as thrips, European two-spotted spider mites, whiteflies, aphids and so on to not develop resistance to the spray materials and in the rotation of  materials controlling the bugs without the use of neonicotinoides that may be harmful to our pollinator insect friends. No doubt the bugs are in the greenhouse now even though my careful scouting has not turned up anything; however, I know they’re somewhere in the greenhouse.

Tomorrow is our first seminar with Judy Semroc on the relationship of plants with insect pollinators. Then my hydrangea seminar follows on the 14th so that I’ll be refreshing my knowledge of this wonderful genus!

Let’s all hope for a slow, measured and gradual warm up starting in early March so that maybe, just maybe, spring will finally open up “normally”. Whatever normal is.