Friday, October 30, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - October 30, 2015

No doubt about it now with two hard frosts that the growing season is over. The evergreens are beginning to shine as the deciduous trees continue to lose their foliage. One such evergreen at the nursery is the Western Red Cedar called Green Giant. The Green Giant - Spring Grove screen at the nursery has grown rapidly at the north side of the parking area since it was planted in December of 2002. The Western Red Cedar, a native of the northwest, does well here in Ohio. This amazing  genus is so versatile as it naturally grows in bog and swamp areas up to elevations of about 2500 feet. Snow, wind, ice and deer don’t faze Green Giant cedars plus the fact that growth (up to 3 feet per year in Ohio) makes for an excellent visual screen and windbreak as it attains a height of about 50 feet after 20 years. That this species will tolerate wetter soils and moderate shade makes it advantageous for areas previously difficult to do an evergreen screen.

The nursery stock is all put away except for the trees that will remain in the pot-n- pot section that will protect their roots from the extreme winter cold. The greenhouse is gearing up in that poinsettias are coloring up fast and will be ready for sale right after Thanksgiving. I  must confess that I did spray the plants with a Neonicotinoid to kill a small infestation of whitefly. Neonicotinoids are effective whitefly killers and are low in toxicity for the applicant. I reasoned that this product would not be detrimental to foraging bees as there are no bees that I know of that visit poinsettias. Combined with the insecticide called Tristar was an insect growth regulator called Enstar that  controls pesky fungus gnats and the immature stages of whitefly. Enstar interferes with the molting process so that the young insects do not mature into egg-laying adults.

On the outside, the planting of thousands of flower bulbs is still going on along with a continued general cleanup such as killing weeds, pressure washing nasty looking greenhouse walkways and the final cleaning of the self watering greenhouse benches. Very soon it will be branch cutting time for grave blankets as we enter into the Christmas season.

Another event of note is the presentation of art of the Impressionist painters as it relates to the garden at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dahlias, irises, water lilies, flowering trees and so on decorate the landscape in the paintings. Claude Monet famous French Impressionist and avid gardener stated “I perhaps owe it to flowers that I became a painter.” The Monet to Matisse event is well worth seeing before it closes in February.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - October 23, 2015

The traditional Indian Summer after a hard frost has come true with temperatures in the 70's and plenty of sunshine. The beautiful weather has made possible small projects as well as the picking up and entering inventory of thousands of shrubs and trees as they go into their long winter storage. Much of the old stock of perennials has been swept away for winter storage as it will be “bumped up” to a larger container size in spring or divided up for planting in a 4" pot or 1 gallon container. Root bound plants do not grow robustly in spring so that root expansion is necessary to produce beautiful vibrant top. No where is the above rule more evident than in the production of geraniums. For months during the winter, stock plants from which several batches of cuttings are taken for rooting new plants to be sold in spring. These 2 gallon geraniums look very “tired” by the first of March. When these same stock plants are transferred to a 12" diameter container or more, a  transformation takes place within about 2-3 weeks of explosive growth due to a pot bound root system exploding into growth. It just goes to show that this root growth scenario can be applied to any plant in which the size of the hole is usually more important than the soil amendments.

Years ago I marveled when I delivered a 6 ft. pink dogwood to my great uncle’s house in Franklin Township about 5 ½ miles south of the nursery. When I arrived, a 6 foot by 6 foot square hole about 18" deep was waiting for the tree with a 4 cubic foot bale of Canadian sphagnum  peat moss.Truly, the 6 foot diameter hole was overdone for such a small tree but after a few years, the tree grew as if it were on steroids.

While fall planting will go on for at least another month, it is essential that trees and shrubs are well watered in this somewhat dry fall. Evergreens such as pine, spruce and hemlock typically don’t show water stress until it is too late. The enormous amount of green foliage transpires large amounts of water that will leave a newly planted tree’s root system high and dry to the point of death if not watered adequately.

Maybe Indian Summer will continue for awhile with some good rain.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - October 16, 2015

A recent federal court ruling has at least temporarily haulted the EPA rule of W.O.T.U.S. (Waters of the United States) in which a summary of the rules appears to give EPA broad powers over bodies of water, creeks, streams, drainage ditches, etc. on private property as it has to do with  runoff that would adversely affect water quality such as the case of farming. The new broad powers of the EPA has worried farmers especially because of the tons of fertilizer used to grow a variety of crops, especially the commodity crops of soybeans and corn. In particular, northwest Ohio farmers  have received much of the blame for the recent algae blooms in Lake Erie in which a 2014 bloom of toxic algae shut down Toledo’s water system as the water with the algae toxins cannot be used for anything. For certain, farmers and other large landowners have reason to worry about the great expansion of the 1972 Clean Water Act as strict implentation could make farming prohibitive with greatly increased costs.

With or without EPA, water contamination from farms, malfunctioning septic systems, sewer overflows, road salt, lawn fertilizer, residues from asphalt and even wear from tires still remains. Without the “overreaching” W.O.T.U.S. rules, what actions will farmers and even the general public take so that water pollution is at least significantly mitigated. Will some herald an eventual repeal of W.O.T.U.S. and then do nothing? Most likely, a more reasonable set of rules will replace  W.O.T.U.S. if it is permanently repealed by the courts; however, it is up to the public at large to get on board to curb the problem that originates on the farms, municipalities and even the backyards of homeowners.

The first frost of the season will most likely occur early Saturday morning with a weather prediction of at least 2 more frosts or freezes which for sure will end the 2015 growing season. The fall planting season though will continue for another month as root systems continue to grow.

Happy Fall


Friday, October 9, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - October 9, 2015

The chill of October is in the air with the trees getting ready to color. At the nursery there’s now a flurry of activity in moving stock to its proper place for winter storage and even now, more planting is going on.

Poinsettias in the greenhouse are coming along nicely with no trace of any whitefly or powdery mildew on the leaves although they still will have to be watched closely for the next month as it is difficult to get rid of any critters or disease once they begin to color in early November without damaging the plants.

The newer condensing boiler that was a headache last season is working just fine although it will be shut down shortly in order to make some additions to the system to use it to full capacity in that most of the greenhouse product grows better when the heat is where the plants are. Heating pipes and tubes from the hot water boiler enable the root zone of the plants to stay warmer compared with overhead heat with the result being more robust growth with the warmer roots. Some plants like cyclamen, evergreen azalea and a few others do not like overly warm roots so that their section of hot water tubing has to be shut off.

Some repairs to the buildings and greenhouse need to be accomplished before winter before moving inside when inclement weather will be more the norm. It seems like yesterday spring was here and now how fast the seasons have changed!


Friday, October 2, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - October 2, 2015

While the rain this past weekend held off for the Mum Fest in Barberton, two weeks have passed since then of the much needed rainfall on September 12th.  One benefit of the dryness is that trees and shrubs are hardening off before winter.  Hardening-off is a term used in the greenhouse and nursery industries that pertains to the cessation of lush, soft growth and instead that of slower more sustainable growth.  For example, greenhouse grown flowers and vegetable plants are at risk for scorching from the hot sun and strong winds that are not present in the greenhouse especially since greenhouses are shaded in late spring with a white compound that is sprayed on the glass or plastic to cool the structure on the inside.  Therefore some flowers and even vegetable plants will suffer when exposed suddenly to the outside elements.  Outside with the trees and shrubs, lower light levels and a shorter day length, cooler temperatures and typical drier conditions of late summer naturally harden off plants.

At the nursery, irrigation of much of the stock is lessened in September and October to slow down growth.  On some plants such as evergreen azaleas, irrigation is withheld to the point of actually causing the plants to wilt.  According to Dr. Hannah Mathers at Ohio State University placing tree guards on tree trunks of young trees to protect them from rodent damage will actually cause a splitting of the trees trunk if the tree guard is put in place too early in the season.  After carefully controlled experiments, Dr. Mathers found that the tree guard created a micro climate around the tree’s tender bark preventing the bark from hardening off and causing the split.  When the guard is placed on the tree when temperatures grow colder such as after Thanksgiving, the tree’s bark is ready for winter.

Next week begins the consolidation of the nursery stock in the back stock area to ready the plants for winter storage.  Some trimming, weeding and moving of the trees and shrubs into the overwintering structures precedes the covering of the steel framed houses with a single layer of white polyethylene which will give plants protection from cold winter winds and wide ranges in temperatures.  The white plastic actually provides 70% shade so that these storage structures do not overheat when bright sun is the mode.

Enough about winter!  There’s still plenty of good weather ahead and lots to do with the lawn and garden and in enjoying the beautiful fall season.