Friday, January 30, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - January 30, 2015

One week from this coming Saturday will be our first winter program concerning the pollinators relationship within the natural world and ultimately us. The program is presented by Judy Semroc and as always will begin in the Owl Barn at 11 a.m. with refreshments served. Then on  February14th, I will present a detailed program on hydrangeas in which the genus is changing every year with the addition of more and more interesting varieties to embellish our gardens. No doubt the Hydrangea genus can be quite complicated but I’m hoping the seminar will reduce this genus to a manageable size so that all the gardeners have to do is fill out a checklist as it has to do with color, size, re-blooming and sun or shade needs of the plant’s attributes.

In the greenhouse,18,000 plus cuttings have just finished rooting followed by another shipment containing New Guinea impatiens. Next week too will be the shipment of young hydrangeas from Michigan to be used for forcing which is a term denotes the heating of the plants to push them ahead of their bloom schedule in order that they might be ready for sale for such holidays as Easter or Mother’s Day.

The recent snows have piled at least 3 feet of the white stuff along the sides of the overwintering houses giving the plants an extra insulated blanket which works to seal in ground heat keeping the plant’s root system warmer although still frozen. Soon it will be time to spray the weed infested hostas in storage with Roundup once temperatures in the daytime rise above freezing for at least a week to push the weeds into life that will ensure the material in translocated to the weed’s root  systems but not the root systems of the still asleep hostas.

Repair and maintenance continues on the various pieces of equipment and structures so that downtime from breakdowns might be minimized in the busy spring.

So much to do and so little time!


Friday, January 23, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - January 23, 2015

With winter marching along, the warmer weather has given a reprieve to the array of perennials, trees and shrubs in winter storage that makes it easier on the root system which was not the case last winter.

The geranium cuttings taken just before Christmas have now all been transplanted into hanging baskets and various size pots.  The stock geraniums have grown almost exponentially so that now they are ready for another trim so that the resultant cuttings will be transplanted into a 6½” pot.  Finally yet two more trims are due on these large geraniums in order to fill a 6 pack tray with plants for sale in early and mid May.

Now too is the time for my review of new fungicides and insecticides for rotating with older chemistry to control “bugs” and diseases. Many of the new products are not harmful to beneficial insects that are useful to control the problem ones.  Then too, the new chemistry is more readily broken down by sunlight and has a “caution” on the label instead of the “danger” as with the older formulas in which a very small dose absorbed through the skin or ingested could spell death for the applicator.

Last Saturday when temperatures were above 40º F, another application of deer repellent was applied to the rhododendron-azalea garden as tracks in the snow were evidence that the deer were indeed checking out the plants.  Hopefully temperatures this winter will not drop below -10º F as this is the borderline temperature that will be enough to kill the azalea flower buds not covered by snow. So many evergreen azaleas are nestled in front of the larger rhododendron that a mass of red, white, purple and pink blossoms will blanket the garden along with the sprays of color from dogwoods and redbuds in a variety of at least 10 different cultivars.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - January 16, 2015

The snow last Monday should be welcomed by gardeners for its protective insulating blanket on plants and for the long term benefits it will provide as the result will be more water in underground aquifers on which many of us and even municipalities depend for water supplies.  This week too was a radio report on National Public Radio that the city of Des Moines, Iowa is threatening to sue three county governments nearby that are in control of drainage water coming from farms that drain into the Racoon and Des Moines rivers that the city uses for drinking water. It seems that water from the field drains contains a high level of nitrates which leaches through the soil to the drain tiles  on farms.  The nitrates are the result of farmers fertilizing their crops and the fact the nitrogen readily leaches through the soil. Nitrates have been increasing the last few years and can be found at  high levels even at the mouth of the Mississippi River as it winds through millions of acres of farmland along with its myriad tributaries.  The city of Des Moines contends that to filter the nitrates from the drinking water is expensive so that their demand is that the counties manage the farm runoff to reduce the nitrate levels. 
High levels of nitrates are not only detrimental to human life but are devastating to aquatic life.  The threat of the lawsuit places the problems squarely on the county governments and ultimately on farmers as they must come up with a plan to reduce the runoff from farms.
Here in Akron, Ohio is the forced cleanup of the Cuyahoga River by the federal EPA and a federal judge due to the city’s discharge of sewer overflows into the river after heavy rain because of miles of combined sanitary and storm sewers.  Toledo, Ohio too was in the national spotlight as phosphorus from farms in the Maumee River Valley caused massive toxic algae blooms in the area of Toledo’s water intake pipes in  Lake Erie causing the city to lose its water because of the deadly  toxins produced by the algae.  What is known as non-point source pollution of water is coming under more scrutiny as it seems that more legal battles will be not only be fought in federal court but mandates will also be put into place by the state and federal governments as they  scramble to protect ground and surface water systems.
There is no question that the protection of such a valuable natural resources water for drinking, irrigation, recreation and healthy aquatic life is of a top priority.  The only question is : Who will bear the cost?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - January 9, 2015

The cold weather this week is like deja vu as the first in a series of polar vortices roared in last year the very same week.  As a precaution, all the small perennial plants and grasses in the cold storage huts are insulated with a thermal blanket which when laid over the plants, tends to hold in the ground heat in order to prevent the root system from receiving the brunt of the cold blast and thus killing the root systems.

On our thousands of evergreen azaleas in another cold storage house, a thicker blanker of ¼” thick foam is laid over small cold frames made from electrical conduit.  The suspension of this microfoam over and down around the plants prevents the sometimes wet microfoam from coming in direct contact with the plant’s leaves which tends to produce leaf burning when the azaleas are uncovered in March.

In Columbus, the garden center-landscape trade show had many interesting speakers on a wide variety of topics such as that to do with marketing, production and so on.  Many of the speakers are from various universities and actual business people that combines researched knowledge with practical experiences.  I especially remember a talk by Dr. Hannah Mathers about managing water quality for the irrigation of nursery stock.  Much of what Dr. Mathers related is still in practice at the nursery today.

Next week comes another batch of annual flowers and perennial cuttings from Costa Rica that again will be stuck into prepared cells of rooting media and then placed on the heating tubes in which hot water circulates.  The temperature at the rooting zone is maintained at 72º F by a boiler in which rooting will begin in one week and completely finished in another two weeks.  Next week too is the commencement of transplanting newly rooted geranium cuttings to hanging baskets and 1 gallon pots that will be ready for sale around the first week of May.

Even now, approaching the depths of winter with so much to do, the month of May is not far off.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Dayton "Dirt" - January 2, 2015

The weather department continues it’s easy ride into winter without the severe winds and cold that roared into Ohio during the first week of January last year.  Ventilation of the cold storage houses is still necessary on a sunny day to prevent fungus problems on the closely spaced plants in storage.  Now is the time everything is geared to getting ready for spring including receiving of shipments of hardgoods, transplanting in the greenhouse, cleaning, painting, producing signs for plants and the new catalog...  There is no time for any of us to relax on the beach in Florida!

Some of the new technologies for this spring will be weatherproof boxes containing a screen that will project informational videos on plant care and new products and remote scanners that will operate up to 300 feet from the checkout counter in order to speed up the checkout process.  New products will include more new plants than ever especially in the perennial and annual flower line that in itself will create the problem as to where to display all the new plants!

A new seeder with a germination chamber will now make it possible to offer even more varieties of vegetable plants in 4" pots.  The seeder is a closed cabinet that is thermostatically heated by a heating element submerged in water that creates at a warm temperature of about 72º - 75º F which increases greatly the rate and the percentage of gemination so much so that the seed flat in the chamber rarely would need the chambers environment for more than a week.  Other changes are hidden or not easily seen but will serve the goal of better products and better service for all.