Friday, December 30, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - December 30, 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, most attention is about reflections of the outgoing year as the new year of 2017 dawns.

For some reason, my reflections return instead to the year 1990 when construction first began on the garden center on August 1st of that year.

The construction of buildings, greenhouses, irrigation lines, driveways and parking lots commenced all at once during that summer and fall when the rains were never ending.  Every day seemed to bring a new challenge as trenches dug for irrigation lines filled up with mud and water.

Grading and excavating fell behind as sand and gravel from the rear of the property had to be mined and hauled toward the road in order to make a well-drained area for the buildings and greenhouses.
For months as the site buzzed with heavy equipment, carpenters, electricians and general laborers, the project inspectors from Bank One would slowly tromp through the mud and mayhem to be make sure the project was proceeding on schedule.

Old Farmhouse
The original farmhouse, built around 1870, was ready for my occupancy in September of 1990 although I honestly debated whether or not to push the house over with a bulldozer.

Roof leaks destroyed some of the plaster and rotted the front door off the hinges.

Two, six foot long Black Pilot snakes occupied the storm cellar that contained a 60 amp fuse box from which knob and tube wiring emanated.

More than 100 years of layers of wallpaper were peeling from the walls as paint on the outside as thick as putty began to flake and fall off the siding.

To make things more “interesting”, no heat was vented to the upstairs rooms that contained only a light bulb in one room each, with no electrical outlets. A calendar with the date of April 1958 hung on the wall.

To top things off, the old house had no insulation which made for a cold stay for the first few years.
As the new construction of the garden center drew to a close in February of 1991, opening day became a reality on March 1st of that early warm spring.

As the years have gone by, the old house has been significantly upgraded with a new roof, plaster, paint and insulation while the other buildings have been continually upgraded and new ones built.
For me, the most notable changes are the growth of the trees in which planting was begun in October of 1990 has continued even today.  In particular, two Dawn Redwoods of a height of 3 feet were planted in the front yard of the store building into soil that was so compacted by excavation equipment that the planting hole needed the aid of a mattock to break up the soil.  Now the two trees are at least 50 feet in height with a trunk diameter of at least 2 feet.

In conclusion, the cliché of “how time flies” is literally true and the adage of “I will see it when I believe it” is true as well.


Happy New Year to all

Friday, December 23, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - December 23, 2016

Today is just a little brighter as the sunlight slowly returns after the winter solstice on December 21st.
With the long winter still ahead, another spray of a deer repellent on deer susceptible plants would be a good idea at the first thaw.

In February, a cold day with no snow would be an ideal time to overseed a lawn as the progressive freeze and thaw of the ground will work the seed in so the germination in April is successful.


Hungry rabbits will gnaw tender bark off young trees and many shrubs especially when snow cover is long and deep.

Rabbits will stand on their hind legs on top of frozen snow to strip a tree of bark.

A solution to the above problem is a spray of 1 tablespoon of Frank’s Hot Sauce in a gallon of water combined with about 13 ounces of Wilt-Pruf concentrate in the same gallon of water.

The hot sauce will be distasteful to the rabbit while the Wilt-Pruf polymer will prevent the mixture from working off too soon.

With Christmas only 2 days off, many of us in the Christian religion remember that Christianity is a religion based on charity and the great commandment of “love thy neighbor as thyself”

Christmas also recalls the prophetic words of Isaiah to describe the Messiah:
Wonderful Counselor
, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - December 16, 2016

With the abnormally low temperatures, extra precaution is needed for the protection of herbaceous perennials in the winter storage huts. Since no supplemental heat is applied in these huts, a covering called microfoam made by the Dupont company covers the plants by the means of a suspended frame over the stock. The ¼” thick microfoam definitely helps to seal out cold and to preserveground heat that will prevent the plant’s root systems from freezing too hard. Microfoam acts like a protective blanket of snow over the plants that are already in hunts covered with a white polyethylene film. The only other enemy of the plants besides the cold are hungry mice and fungus problems. Amazingly, mice will chew through the bottom of the plastic pots to feed on tender  rootsystems or they will sit on the top of the pot to gnaw off the live bark of the shrubs. Over a hundred mouse traps and a supplement of poison bait will keep the mouse population under control but not totally eliminate trouble. Fungus problems that can eat away foliage and the plant crown is controlled by sprays of fungicides when the weather warms so that the microfoam cover may be lifted and the huts open to exclude the humid air.

Although the cut Fraser Fir and Scotch Pine trees left are few in number, there are still some gorgeous 6-9 feet tall Fraser fir that look fantastic. All the trees, live wreaths and roping are significantly discounted now as they have no value after December 24th! Although  grave decorations are not discounted, there are still a few that are ready for immediate pickup or immediate delivery. Most of the blankets can still be customized to suit individual tastes but now are made with Fraser Fir branches instead of Colorado Spruce since the spruce branch supply is gone.

The tedious task of cutting and sticking geraniums in the rooting plugs is still going on so that the result will be fully rooted plants  by early January that will be transplanted into 1 gallon nursery pots and hanging baskets for spring sales.



Hopefully this below normal cold snap does not signal the beginning of an abnormally cold winter.

Tom

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - December 9, 2016

Winter has arrived with lows now in the teens overnight and temperatures for the day about freezing or a little below. A “healthy” layer of protective snow would be beneficial for plant life but the Akron area is mostly too far south for the snow machine from Lake Erie to reach. Even  Buffalo, New York at the eastern end of the lake does not usually get as much snow as areas just south of the city due to the direction of the prevailing winter winds across the lake. For gardeners a more even, colder temperature than last winter would definitely be welcomed than the random ups and downs of abnormally warm days followed by cold.

This past Easter Sunday at the end of March saw temperatures soar to 75º F only to be followed by nights in the teens the first week of April! Too warm, too fast caused damage to fruit crops and landscape plants after a warm winter and beginning of spring.

At the nursery, the poinsettia crop has thinned out with customers selecting some of the more unusual varieties of parti-colored plants instead of the ever popular red. The flower bracts have finally stopped expanding so that the greenhouse heat can now be decreased from 68º F at night to about 62º F which tends to make the colors more “crisp.” Strangely, the gorgeous cyclamen along side the poinsettias are selling slowly even though a 4½” pot full of beautiful foliage with a bouquet of flowers on top is just gorgeous at $4.99 each. Cyclamen, although very beautiful, are just not associated with the Christmas season like poinsettias. A similar situation is the case of the Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus compacta) for fall color. Although this non-native species has its attributes such a brilliant red fall color, it can be somewhat invasive and prone to spider mite damage and used in places where it tends to overgrow its selected space quickly. Many native plants such as Virginia Sweetspire , blueberry bushes, chokeberry and then some by most accounts will provide brilliant fall color but are not high up on the list for selection like the lousy Burning Bush!

Grave blanket sales have slowed down as most folks have ordered their selections for delivery or pick up although we are ready to construct new decorations as orders might come in even up to and including Christmas Eve!

Now it’s back to the greenhouse with tending the newly stuck cuttings and the annual application of lime on small azalea. Years ago, my good friend and mentor John Ravenstein, Losely Nursery’s head propagator, advised liming the plants when root growth or top growth was lacking. Upon our  measurement of the peat moss pH in which the azalea were planted, the results were one of 3.6 which is extremely acidic. After applying lime, the pH rose to 4.1 in about two weeks and the plants began to grow vigorously again! How strange it seems to apply lime to an acid-loving plant.

For those who don’t like winter and cannot escape south for more warmth, embracing and enjoying the winter weather will result in its quick passing.

Tom

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dayton "Dirt' - December 2, 2016

December 1st although much cooler has come in like a lamb; that is, comparing it to other cold snowy Decembers that have come and gone.  At the nursery, cut Christmas tree sales have been brisk with the largest ones of 10 feet plus almost sold out.  After a lull in the grave blanket business after the Thanksgiving rush, orders have picked up again so that a fourth cutting of fresh pine and spruce branches is necessary.

Unrooted cuttings of annual flowers have arrived from Guatemala and have been stuck into small pre-made cells filled with a peat-perlite mixture.  These “Fertiss” plugs as they are called are manufactured at the Smither-Oasis company in Kent, Ohio.  The rooting media in the plugs is well-drained as not to remain too wet that would cause the rotting instead of the rooting of the cuttings.  After about 10 days, roots will begin to appear on the previously unrooted cuttings with a complete rooting in about 3 weeks.  The temperature of the rooting media is maintained at
72º F by means of a small boiler system.  After rooting, many of the propagules will be planted in early January for use next spring.  Next comes the cutting of stock geraniums from the Sygenta Corporation for the purpose of six inch pots, hanging baskets and packs of 6.  Other non-patented stock will be similarly cut and stuck again as necessary.  All patented flowers cannot be reproduced (legally) so that if more are needed, the only way to increase numbers is by more shipments from Central America.

As the cold weather and snow settles in for winter, work will continue on our new digital color catalog and our interactive Kiosk that hopefully customers with many questions will find helpful.

Happy December.

Tom

Friday, November 25, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - November 25, 2016

Although Thanksgiving Day’s weather was not warm and sunny like last year, the day was a blessing as here in Ohio we received some much needed rain and the southern states have received some to help slow or even extinguish the ongoing wildfires that have been raging.

At the nursery, the cut trees from southern Ohio are ready to sell with many stood up for viewing except in the case of any tree over eight feet as they are quite heavy and unwieldy.  Wreaths, roping, branches, poinsettias and cyclamen lend a Christmas feel to the otherwise desolate grounds with all the landscape shrubs placed in the storage huts.  What a rush last Wednesday to deliver all the grave decorations before Thanksgiving Day!  Construction on these grave blankets did not start until November 13th as the product delivered must be fresh.

With the arrival of somewhat cool weather, tree guards to prevent rabbit damage have been placed on all trees that will be stored outside.  If the guards are placed on too early when the temperatures are warm, a microclimate around the tree trunk with a tree guard will tend to make the bark tender which can lead to the splitting open of the bark during fluctuations in winter.  This phenomenon was demonstrated by Dr, Hannah Mathers  from Ohio State University.  Dr. Mathers (formerly from Oregon State University) conducts experiments concerning the growing of nursery stock.  At a conference in Portland, Oregon in 2001, she spoke on water quality and reducing water runoff from nurseries.  As a result many of the practices of which she spoke are in practice here today at the nursery.

Today too is the spraying of a at least 6 gallons of deer repellent on the foliage of rhododendron and azalea in the garden as two does and a young buck were checking out the garden for later forage!

Some snow and no temperature below 0º F would be a great winter followed up by a slow, easy start to spring would be ideal. Unfortunately, when does Mother Nature ever listen!

Tom

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - November 18, 2016

With Thanksgiving next week, construction of grave blankets for delivery and pickup has accelerated as many customers prefer the decoration delivered or for pickup before Thanksgiving in order to place on the graves of their loved ones who have passed on.
 

The flower bulbs (6,000 in all) have all been planted during the sunny, dry weather of the past couple of weeks. One thing for sure is that the ground is somewhat dry again and in need of rain and snow. In general, about 5 inches of snow would be equivalent to 1 inch of rain that would readily be absorbed by the thirsty ground. In 2010, a similarly dry summer and fall season did not end until an all day cold rain on Thanksgiving Day. Snow would be the most effective way to replace water in the below ground aquifer as it would slowly melt from below due to the ground heat. Snow is also important to the crop of winter wheat in order to protect the tender shoots from the severe cold and wind of winter. Literally feet of snow is needed in the mountains of the western United States to serve as a reservoir that feeds streams and lakes later in the year as the snow pack slowly melts.Freshly cut trees arrive next week from southern Ohio and greens, roping and poinsettias are ready to go now. Come early to pick out your perfect tree! We'll hold it for you until you're ready for pick up or delivery.
 
 
As Thanksgiving approaches, the day is a reminder of the many blessings and miracles that surround us every day. As far as the thankfulness part goes of Thanksgiving, everyday should be celebrated like Thanksgiving.

Tom

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - November 10, 2016

Finally after almost two weeks of unusually warm weather, some of the cold for November has arrived. At the nursery even though customers are few in number, the work of winter preparation still goes on as a few details concerning the overwintering huts need finished. Another unfinished chore is the taking and sticking small cuttings of Euonymus ‘Goldburst’, Azalea ‘Ethelwyn’, Rhododendron ‘Aglo’ and Rhododendron ‘PJM’. While summer rooting would work, fall is a good time for rooting them as long as “bottom heat” is applied to maintain the rooting medium at a warm 72º F which is accomplished with a hot water boiler system.
 
           

Another beautiful native shrub Rhododendron calendulaceum known as the Flame azalea can now be propagated from small seeds that will be ripe in about another week or two. This deciduous azalea is native to the Appalachian mountains and is known for its brightly colored flowers of  yellow, orange, melon and red that adorn the shrub in mid to late May. The seeds sown this November will grow into saleable plants for the spring of 2018.Weed spraying with Glypsophate (Roundup) is in full force in order to not only kill the weeds before they set seed in early spring but to accomplish this task in the slower time of the year instead of neglecting the weed control because of a busy spring. Weeds such as the invasive Garlic Mustard, Bull Thistle and Hairy Bittercress are visible now and waiting to explode into growth at the first push of spring.
The winter seminar subjects have been posted on the website.  We hope the various, “fun” topics  will interest the audience. These seminars are a welcome break from a long winter as the short cold days seem to hold on after the winter solstice in December.
In summary, as chores go at the nursery, it’s prep time for the Christmas season and the spring season simultaneously.

Tom

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - November 4, 2016

At the nursery, this past week has been a frenzy as we gathered the remainder of the nursery stock and perennials in pots into the storage houses in order to cover these houses with a white plastic film that repels the sun’s rays that would heat up the houses if the plastic were clear.
Peonies have been potted for spring sales with some new introductions of the Itoh peonies in a bright red called ‘Scarlet Heaven’ and the bright yellow ‘Canary Brilliants’. Another non-hardy flowering plant that has  just been potted to grow for April sales is the Cyclamen known as the Laser Syncho mix (shown) that is ideal for small 4" pots. Cyclamen add a splash of color to any home in the late winter or cold early spring as the hope of spring flowers and warmer days is still a few weeks off.

The next project now that the huts are covered and everything is tucked in is the cutting of pine branches for grave decorations and decorative pots. Spruce branches are cut later as the needleson the branches begin to shed if the branches should be cut too early such as before November 15th. Then after branch cutting comes tulip time as 4,000-5,000 bulbs will be planted to set the nursery on fire in early May with a kaleidoscope of colors. While not long lasting (about two weeks) the beauty of the flowers in such a mass is well worth the expense and work.

Poinsettias are changing so quickly that the plants should be on display by November 20th just in time for Thanksgiving. Even now as the bleakness of November encroaches, a photo of a Julia Child rose that a homeowner sent us is still in beautiful bloom even though the days are short and the nights are cold. The Julia Child floribunda rose is a clear yellow displayed on disease free foliage which is not normally the cars for a floribunda that is not sprayed regularly. Julia Child roses  will be available in abundance at the nursery beginning the second week of May. This hardy almost care-free floribunda rose is certainly one of our top favorites as evidenced by the show it performs during the last days of October.

Happy Fall.

Tom

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - October 28, 2016

At the nursery, an arrival of balled and burlapped trees of Maple and some American Elm (shown below) have added to stock for the fall and next spring. Most likely very few of theses beautiful trees will be sold this fall as still there is a perception that spring planting is superior. With a few exceptions, almost any plant may be fall planted to get a headstart on root growth that will push out new growth of the plant’s above ground parts. Spring planting is superior with species with fleshy root systems such as dogwoods and magnolias except if the trees are already dug or potted which would not disturb the fleshy roots as would digging them out of the ground. Many trim fleshy roots when cut in the fall have a tendency to rot and otherwise deteriorate when they are fall dug , or dug too early in spring. Dogwoods, magnolias and fragrant viburnum tend to thrive with transplanting performed just before growth is ready to begin which in most years is between April 1st and April 15th.

Much of the container stock at the nursery is now put away in the over-wintering huts and is still available for purchase throughout November although it will be more difficult to view once the huts are covered next week. Balled and burlapped trees and container trees in the ground sockets will brave the winter as the roots will be in the ground shielded from the worst of the winter cold.
The worst enemies of the stock during winter storage are rabbits that may dig into the warm houses to eat bark and stems of shrubs and the ever present mice that can gnaw through the bottom of a plastic plant pot to access the root system of a numerous variety of shrubs and perennials.  Even in winter, the plants need to be babysat.
Tom

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - October 21, 2016

After a taste of Indian summer last week, the cooler rainy weather has returned that is probably more typical for October. The leaf show is at its peak affect, albeit it does seem later than usual.

Once clue of the later than usual turning of the leaves this fall is the Autumn Blaze Maple planted near the equipment barn in 1998.

Every year, the tree has begun to display its brilliant red fall color late September with the finale of a bare tree around October 20th. This hybrid tree (Silver Maple x Red Maple) this year on October 21st is just past its prime in coloration.

Other Maples such as the Sugar Maple and Red Maple at the nursery are only now in full color as they typically turn color later then the Autumn Blaze cultivar.

My favorite tree for statue and fall color though is the slow growing Sugar Maple that is the favorite tree for sap collection in order to process sap into maple syrup. The orange, yellow and red on the Sugar Maple at the time of the year make a spectacular show over a wide swath of the Northeast United States.

Fall color are enhanced by frosts intensifying the various pigments in the leaves to yield one of the most spectacular fall display in the world!

At the nursery, a gigantic Sugar Maple at the edge of the woods stands out among other trees.

Sadly, it’s twin was cut down about six years ago, because of the rotting of its heartwood that would have caused this tree to fall at any time.

Counting the growth rings on the remaining stump, the grand maple was born in 1905.
Only the Red Maple next to the old house is older because of its presences in a photograph from 1890 when it was a “baby” of only ten feet!
 
        

Fall fertilizing can now commence on all varieties of trees and shrubs in the landscape before root growth shuts down in late November.

The timing of the fertilizer is late enough in that it will not push new growth that would be susceptible to winter kill. Tree and shrubs planting and transplanting can now be accomplished which will give these fall planted plants a head start compared to spring planted ones.

Falling leaves literally are like gold for the garden when they can be incorporated into the soil after being composted for several months.

In fact, several nurseries in Lake County Ohio have a leaf deposit area so that homeowners will drop their unwanted leaves that the nursery men can then incorporate into the ground to improve the “health” of the sandy soil.

Next week the nursery stock will be gathered into over-wintering houses so that the plants can be covered with over-wintering white plastic in early November.

Just how did the year go by so fast!

-Tom

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - October 14, 2016

It’s finally happened, the frost has come although it has been very light here at the nursery. With this first frost about October 10th week, the growing season is officially over and the date coincides with the historical average of northern Ohio’s first frost. The cooler temperatures and frost has greatly accelerated the coloring of the fall foliage and so much so that an almost daily change is noticeable.
Mum time is beginning to wind down at the nursery although there is still a broad selection of trees, shrubs and some perennials that will remain on display at least through the weekend of October 22nd and after which the stock will be moved to overwintering houses before being  presented again in the spring.

Rooted cuttings from azaleas have been transferred to 4½” pots filled with Canadian Sphagnum peat that will enable these small plants (only taken as unrooted cuttings late last July) to grow in the greenhouse until June. Then these plants will be potted to a trade 1½ gallon pot that will become saleable in the spring of 2018 with a 3 gallon size available in the fall of 2018.

Poinsettias are just showing a hint of color with October’s increasingly shorter days with Cyclamen planted in mid July starting to bloom as well in colors of red, purple, pink and white.


Time is moving quite fast so that we must move fast as well to complete all the new projects and regular chores before the snow is fixed on the ground.
Tom

Friday, October 7, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - October 7, 2016

For the first week of October the weather by all accounts is perfect! The plentiful sunshine and warm, but not overly hot temperatures makes for a great planting season and simply enjoying the weather. Last week’s rainfall of at least 2 plus inches that fell slowly over a few days time finally put the damper on last summers drought conditions.

Most chrysanthemums are bursting forth now in their full glory although the Cheryl varieties from Yoders is just showing color when normally this series would be in full bloom now.

Planting at the nursery is still in swing with the arrival of Helleborus and peonies from Michigan and geranium plugs (as they are called) to plant into 2 gallon nursery containers to use as stock plants for taking cuttings in order to produce more plants.

Just freshly dug last week from Lake County, Ohio are gorgeous, true blue Baby Blue Colorado Spruce that are eerily uniform. This seed collection has been developed over several years time in Canada and was selected for its intense blue color. In fact, once the trees receive one or two trims to shape them at a very young age they are left on their own to develop beautifully.

No doubt a frost is near but as the legend goes, this good weather is not an Indian Summer as that must wait until after a hard frost.

Happy Fall

Tom

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - September 30, 2016

Last weekend’s Mum Fest in Barberton was a smash hit especially with cool fall weather and sunny skies. The acceleration of the opening of chrysanthemum flowers is nothing short of amazing with the accompanying cool nights of below 55º F.

Cool nights and ample moisture are now ideal for planting all kinds of trees, shrubs and perennials as root growth will expand significantly until the ground temperature falls below 40º F. Conversely, as light levels and the day length decreases, top growth of these plants slows and eventually ceases and seems to contribute to the acceleration of the plant’s roots as long as the soil temperature is sufficient for growth. The advantage of fall planting is that before a hot, dry summer the result will be an explosion of healthy growth in spring due to the establishment of the plant from this fall planting.
Beginning in October now that the soil has cooled is a perfect time to plant spring blooming flower bulbs such as tulips, narcissus, crocus and hyacinth among others! It’s amazing how soon after planting that roots shoot out of the bulb to anchor in the soil. After 12-13 weeks of chill (40º F or lower) a chemical change inside the bulb will signal it to grow quickly and eventually bloom in spring. Without the chilling of the bulbs only some or none of the potential growth and bloom would occur.

At the nursery, a repair, cleaning and organizing mode is in swing so that all the overwintering houses will be in good shape to house trees, shrubs and perennials during winter.

The apple harvest has been underway and so too the Cider Fest in Norton will be in full swing this weekend at Columbia Woods Park. The Cider Fest was once held in northern part of the city known as Loyal Oak around Knecht’s Cider Mill. The Cider Fest back then in 1990 was begun  with snow flurries! The apple was once maligned as an evil fruit due to its use in the production of hard cider. In fact, President John Adams would “entertain” himself with a drink of hard cider every morning!

Fall, full of festivals, mums, apple picking, cool temperatures, changing colors of trees and enough sunny days is a great time of year to be in Ohio.

Tom

Dayton "Dirt" - September 23, 2016

Well another year has passed and despite the weather, a very busy Fall Festival was the case last Saturday.  While mainly for families with children, the adults seemed to enjoy the hayride and polka music as well as the food demonstration in the Owl Barn Market.  Parking for 88 vehicles was very tight for a few hours as the festival goers seemed to stay awhile finding plenty to do.

Hopefully in a few weeks, construction will start on the solar panels that will eliminate charges on one of two electric meters. The clean alternative energy fits with our program begun in 1999 of good environmental stewardship concerning the reduced use of pesticides, herbicides and water recycling.  If all goes as planned, most if not all of the nursery will receive its power from the sun instead of the dirty power produced by coal.  Another program which has proceeded almost too slowly is the one to eliminate insecticides in the greenhouse by replacing them with beneficial mites and insects to manage thrips, whitefly, aphids and harmful spider mites.  More studies and trials are needed before we go “whole hog”.

Tomorrow the mum city, Barberton, will celebrate it’s125th anniversary with the theme “Art in the Park” during the Mum Fest this coming weekend.  A special event called “Tuscany on Tusc” will feature food and wine with a special lighting ceremony of Tuscarawas Ave. in downtown Barberton.  On Saturday morning, tune into our radio show Ready, Set, Grow on 1590 am WAKR to find out more about the festivities during interviews with the Mayor of Barberton and officials putting together the Mum Fest as they have done for the past 25 years.  Mums, music, art, food and lots of fun will be centered around Lake Anna with free parking and free admission!

At the nursery too is mum madness with displays of the oh-so-dependable Igloo Mums created by the Aris Company (formerly Yoder Bros.) In Barberton, Ohio.  Let us not forget either the blessings of the recent much needed rainfall and cooler weather.

Mum is the word!

Tom

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - September 9, 2016

Finally, with a few cooler nights the chrysanthemums are showing more color. There have been other years too when bloom has been significantly delayed such as the hot, dry year of 1991 that ironically became abnormally cool in early November when temperatures plunged to 12º F! Although some relief from the drought has arrived in rainfall and somewhat cooler temperatures, more rain would be needed to end the dryness deeper into the ground.

With the hot weather, insects have been producing more generations of young which in turn has caused problems with plants. One significant insect is the lacebug which attacks azaleas (deciduous and evergreen) as well as small-leaved rhododendron such as PJM. The adult which appears  to be a small clear-winged fly, can be found on the undersides of the plant’s leave’s. The nymph stage of this insect does the real damage as they pierce the underside of the leaves to extract the plant’s fluids while it turns the leaves to a bronze-like color instead of the usual verdant green. This invasive bug was a problem for the south for years as it was first observed in mobile, Alabama in 1927. About 10 years ago, I first observed an infestation of this insect on some beautiful Azalea Boudoir in Barberton, Ohio.

For heavy infestations, spraying the plants now with an insecticide containing the active ingredient called acephate will kill adults and nymphs with the acephate’s systemic qualities. A follow up spray about 10 days later will finish off the second generation that will hatch from eggs as the eggs are not affected by the acephate. Afterwards, the plants must be sprayed right after bloom in spring and another repeat spray about ten days later to keep them free of the lacebug. One such trade name for acephate is called Bonide Systemic Insect Spray that is a concentrate to be diluted with water at a rate of 1½ fluid ounces of Bonide to 1 gallon of water to be sprayed on the plants to the point of runoff. Other brands of this insecticide might have different dilution rates due to varying amounts of concentration so that with any insecticide it is imperative to follow the directions on the container.  Another plus to using acephate is that it is not a neonicitinoid that will harm beneficial pollinators such as honeybees and bumble bees that might visit blooming plants.

For sure the chrysanthemums will color beautifully but it remains to be seen if Ohio will be painted with colorful changing leaves or if the dryness of this summer will affect the color.

Que sera sera.

Tom

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - September 1, 2016

Friday is the first day of our fall sale with many items (but not all) marked down 50%.  Almost all perennials, roses, some trees and shrubs are in the sale and those that are not are from this spring’s and summer’s production so that these plants are for next spring’s sales although they can be sold this fall.  As always, the first four days of the sale will only be open to garden club members only and then everyone may take advantage of the sale prices after Labor Day.  Many items are limited so that on Friday , many or most desirable specimens probably will be sold.

How strange it is that even the Igloo mums are barely showing color as these Dendranthemums typically are in peak bloom about a week after Labor Day.  For many varieties of chrysanthemum, it looks as though the bloom period will be two or even three weeks later so that mid September  through October will now be the riot of color these plants will display.  At the nursery, colored signs accurately show color on the Igloo mums with the individual plants tagged according to variety.  Even our large 12" garden mums will be tagged according to color.

The storms last Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday nights have dropped almost two inches of rain that surely does give relief from the drought.  Some more of at least another two inches would be great but this weekend at least looks sunny and not overly hot.

Enjoy the good weather this Labor Day weekend!

Tom

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - August 26, 2016

Late August is the time that many trees and shrubs have been brought out of the growing area to the sales area that will give the nursery the appearance of a full look that has not been seen since last June. The first of September will bring another flush of trees and shrubs such as arborvitae, pyramidal boxwood and Green Giant Western Red Cedar in a variety of sizes.

Our biggest sale of the year will start Labor Day weekend on Friday, September 2nd and as always garden club members will have the first pick of the sale items including trees, shrubs, roses and perennials. This garden club member sale only will run through Labor Day with the sale open to everyone after Labor Day. To become a garden club member, just fill out the form in person or online to get the sale price the same day even if you’re not currently a member. Please remember to use any of your Dayton Dollars by August 31st as afterwards the value will be zero.  While much will be on the 50% off sale, some items will not be on sale because they just came out of back stock or have been freshly dug. Please look for the 50% off sale signs to indicate which items are on sale as those without the sign will be the price as stated on the tag.

Mums, (including Igloo types) asters, ornamental kale and cabbage will be in good supply although most of the chrysanthemums will not be in full color due to the warm nights which has caused the phenomenon known as heat delay. Compared to last year, the heat has delayed flowering from about 10 days to 2 weeks! Most likely, mid September will be the time for brilliant mum color. Remember too that Chrysanthemum morifolium, known as the garden mum, is a tender perennial and may or may not return again in spring. A more reliable, almost sure-to-return mum is the Dendranthemum or more commonly called the Igloo mum which is much more winter hardy than the garden mums. New colors in the Igloos are available this year so that this color palette keeps growing in the genus.

The approaching month of September will bring sowing of new lawns and lawn renovations as September is the month for it.

Happy planting.

Tom

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - August 19, 2016

As August rolls on, all garden club members should remember to use up their Dayton dollars they have received as they are no longer valid after August 31st. These dollars can be used to purchase product just like cash as they are our thanks to you for your past purchases earlier this year. This time of year the inventory selection is not as wide as in spring; however, stock on perennials, trees and shrubs is still quite broad as more and more stock comes out of the growing area in back.  This coming week will begin mum time as the plants begin to show color from cooler nights and shorter days. Then too are perennials asters in their mainly hues of pink and blue which are a favorite of friendly honeybees. Chrysanthemums are defiantly a way to enliven any landscape with color especially after a hot dry summer has been rough on annual flowers.

Again, come on in and spend those Dayton dollars before the expire!

Tom

Friday, August 12, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - August 12, 2016

The weather this past week has continued quite hot so that the end of August and September will undoubtedly give some relief from the scorching heat. The owl Barn market is stuffed with produce from the local farms especially Seiberling Farms where the sweet corn is developing so quickly that the staggered patches of sweet corn that were meant to ripen in succession are running together. Tomatoes are in abundance as well as beans, cucumbers, onions and new potatoes. Harold in the Highland Square area of Akron has planted grafted tomatoes into a pot with nothing but the product Sweet Peet used as the planting mix. Sweet Peet is nothing more than mainly composted horse manure that has a slightly alkaline nature. Would Sweet Peet be okay for other potted  vegetables? That remains to be seen after more experimenting is done. It’s strange that the local manufacturer of Sweet Peet does not recommend its use as the sale component of a potting mix. The proof is Harold’s experiment in which we have photos on our website showing his fantastic success.

Until early last week, the shade portion of Wolf Creek Gardens was doing  well for water but then the various trees and shrubs planted on the high gravelly soil began showing signs of water stress. A good 3 hour soak from the automatic sprinklers seemed to bring the plants around. For days on end water is still coming in from Van Hyning river to supplement our collected rain water for irrigation. Three inches of rain would lift the water level in the irrigation pond to almost 18 inches but still would not quite fill it. Keep on watering!

Tom

Friday, August 5, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - August 5, 2016

By now, most gardeners know that a favorite shrub for summer color are the myriad varieties of hydrangeas with their kaleidoscope of colors of summer blooms for full sun or partial shade depending on the variety.

Along the road at the nursery next to the white post and rail fence is the paniculata type hydrangea known as Vanilla Strawberry. Vanilla Strawberry will eventually attain a height of about 6 feet and a width around 4 feet. These hydrangea were planted 3 years ago in November and this year have finally come into their own. Just this past week the pure white flowers have begun to take on a partial strawberry-colored blend; hence, the name, Strawberry Vanilla. Behind the fence are about  20 perennial hibiscus of white, pink and the ever popular deep red color. Some of the plants are big and bulky having been planted almost 10 years ago while others are a mere 2 or 3 branches having been planted only last fall. Soon, all the hibiscus will just peek over the hydrangea and provide a multicolored back drop for the Vanilla Strawberry. Annual flowers are in the foreground to display another riot of color.

At the nursery, another exciting development is the soon to begin installation of solar panels on the main store building. The first phase of construction will cancel out one of the two electric meters on  the building. Within 3-5 years, another phase of construction will eliminate all the other charges from the meters on the property. Even with a long payback period of about 9 years, the solar energy produced will greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the nursery operations and move things closer to the ultimate goal of true sustainability. The solar energy makes good business sense too as the ever more costly electricity from the First Energy Company is becoming too much of a burden on operations. After 9 years, the solar panels will pay nothing but dividends. The hope is that in a few years, an affordable safe battery that can store large amounts of excess power generated in the day will be able to provide power at night to enable the possibility of getting off or almost getting off the grid. Ultimately, the goal here at the nursery is to provide products to beautify the environment without placing a burden on that environment.

Tom

Friday, July 29, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 29, 2016

The Cicada damage to trees is quite evident with branch tips of several species of trees dying as a result of the female of the species slicing the tender branch with her ovipositor in order to deposit eggs that will hatch into larvae for the next generation. The spottiness of the cicada presence was amazing as many areas had some to none of the critters while others had a quite heavy presence.

While the media reported and somewhat sensationalized this 17 year phenomenon, it is unfortunate that the same attention was not given to the ash tree killing, non-native Emerald Ash Borer that now has just about completed its spread throughout the eastern United States. Fortunately, the woods surrounding the nursery mainly consists of the wild black cherry and maple with only a small percentage of ash that are now dead or nearly dead from the larvae of this borer feeding on the  phloem tissue of the tree. Another native tree susceptible to this borer is the White Fringe tree that is a native of southern Ohio. This tree was first noticed as being attacked in Yellow Springs, Ohio as fringe trees planted along the road were dying and were found to have this borer. Other replacement shade trees for the ash would include maples, oaks Tulip popular, American Elm (disease resistant strains), Gingkos and many others. The health of forests with life giving trees is not a common topic of concern of the general public. The loss of any species of trees is a natural disaster as it is well known that trees produce oxygen, provide food for wild animals (American Chestnut) store water by preventing excess runoff and resulting floods and provide shade and oxygen for us.

A more efficient and quick reporting system of governmental action must be developed (with adequate funding) to combat future infestation of non-native pests as the present government bureaucracies are too slow to attack a problem in its early stages. In the presence of the constant din of other threats to the national interest, any meaningful change most likely will come very slowly unless billions more of our trees are attacked. As Theodore Roosevelt stated in his 1907 address to the school children of the United States on Arbor day which is partially reproduced here below:

For the Nation as for the man or woman and the boy or girl, the road to success is the right use of what we have and the improvement of present opportunity. If you neglect to prepare yourselves now for the duties and responsibilities which will fall upon you later, if you do not learn the things which you will need to know when your school days are over, you will suffer the consequences. So any nation which in its youth lives only for the day, reaps without sowing, and consumes without husbanding, must expect the penalty of the prodigal, whose labor could with difficulty find him the bare means of life. A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless; forests which are so used that they cannot renew themselves will soon vanish, and with them all their benefits. A true forest is not merely a storehouse full of wood, but, as it were, a factory of wood, and at the same time a reservoir of water. When you help to preserve our forests or to plant new ones you are acting the part of good citizens. The value of forestry deserves,  therefore, to be taught in the schools, which aim to make good citizens of you. If your Arbor Day exercises help you to realize what benefits each one of you receives from the forests, and how by your assistance these benefits may continue, they will serve a good end.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 22, 2016

Again, the dog days of summer have arrived with high humidity and oppressive heat. In the afternoon on Thursday and today, clematis vines for next year’s sales are being potted which is a good way to limit exposure to the hot sun. The clematis will grow this summer and early fall and then overwintered until they begin to grow in late February when a hard trimming to the surface of the pot is accomplished. After the hard trimming, shoots will even emerge from below the surface as on set of growth nodes has been planted below the surface which also is the proper way to plant them at home.

Next week plants (plugs as they are called) of creeping phlox arrive that are so small that 128 plants will fit into a 10" x 20" tray. Growth is rapid in late summer and fall until the phlox shuts down for winter only to explode into growth in early April to be followed by their legendary spectacular color of magenta, white, purple, pink and blue. Only rabbits are the plants enemy when they are young as the rodents will eat the tender foliage if the phlox are not placed in an open structure with sides to keep out the critters.

Rainfall for everyone is needed badly especially with the heat. Surprisingly, in the shade garden of the Wolf Creek Botanical Garden the soil that is sandy and gravely is not dry! Decomposing pine wood chips and rotting fallen leaves of the past few years serve to keep in the precious moisture while providing an ideal environment for root growth for the rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas which once were far apart when planted in 2006 but now are massing together.

Saturday too brings the arrival of Seiberling sweet corn to the market. The Owl barn will offer the same price for the corn as the farm and the same freshness for those that don’t wish to travel to the farm even though it is only 2 miles west of Norton center. How strange it is the Europeans think that corn is only fit for hog food!

Tom

Friday, July 15, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 15, 2016

Unfortunately, last Saturday’s rain was only ¼ inch as reported by Chuck Seiberling of Seiberling Farm in Norton. The dry weather has made it difficult for gardeners as much extra watering is needed for newly planted flowers, trees and shrubs. Farm crops too are being irrigated for those fortunate to have an irrigation set up and the source of water with which to irrigate! The crops at Seiberling’s seems to be doing well as almost everything is irrigated with tomato and pepper plants  under water-saving drip irrigation and the sweet corn under overhead sprinklers. Most likely about July 20th week, the sweet corn will be ready.

At the nursery, the seemingly endless chore of potting plants goes on and on as well as the never ending maintenance of the grounds and facilities. Next week too will be propagation time for azaleas and many other shrubs grown here at the nursery. Intermittent mist of 6 seconds of mist every six seconds keeps the unrooted cuttings alive until roots form in 3-6 weeks depending on the plant. The warm days of summer ensures the rooting media is warm to foster rooting.

Let’s all hope for some relief from the abnormally dry summer. Two or three inches of rain would be nice even if it spoils the weather for some of those giving the forecast on television.

Tom

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 8, 2016

The dog days of summer have certainly arrived this week with steamy July days. It’s surprising that humidity levels are high while the lawns, gardens and farm fields are parched for lack of water. The benefits from the two inches of rainfall from June 23rd and 24th have literally evaporated. Hopefully today and tonight, some relief will come in the form of thunderstorms with a slower, somewhat sustained rainfall.

Tomorrow is our fifth annual Blueberry Festival as the berries become ripe with the early variety, Duke, the first to be ready followed by the most popular variety ever called Bluecrop and finishing the season with Elliot. Food, music and hayrides will be the norm tomorrow and even better yet, it’s all free, well all except for the food.

The native blueberry was never a cultivated crop until about 1900 when Elizabeth White of New Jersey read a government article about the cultivation of blueberries. Soon, research followed on the White farm in New Jersey and the rest is history with thousands of acres of blueberries in New Jersy, Michigan, Oregon and other states across the country. Southwest Michigan with its sandy, naturally acidic soils and plenty of water makes for prime blueberry country. Mike DeGrandchamp of Southhaven, Michigan has stated that birds are not a problem as they cannot even make a dent in production due to the almost endless acres of blueberries.

Be sure to listen too to ‘Ready, Set, Grow’ tomorrow at 8 a.m. on 1590 WAKR as Chuck Seiberling from the famous Seiberling Farms in Norton talks about sweet corn production and other things grown on the farm just two miles west of Norton center. Seiberling sweet corn is a staple of the Owl Barn Market when it is available about mid-July through mis-September. I’m sure Chuck along with other farmers and gardeners is hoping for some relief from the dry weather.

Tom

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - July 1, 2016

This 4th of July conjures up images of parades, fireworks and other celebrations to do with the founding of the United States. Although our founding fathers were wise politicians, many were farmers and gardeners.  Most notably, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, planted over 1,000 fruit trees on his farm in Virginia.  In addition, when he was President he would spread the plant samples sent by the Lewis and Clark Expedition all over the floor of the White House to view and study them.  Then, in the last year’s of his life, Jefferson sat in  a chair to read as he overlooked and enjoyed his perennial flower garden.  His love of gardening is evident in the letter he wrote in 1811 to his friend Charles Wilson Peale that is reprinted below.

“I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden! Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest, a continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden.  But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

Thomas Jefferson to Charles Wilson Peale
August 20, 1811

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - June 24, 2016

Here we are in the long days of summer that conjures up images of picnics, swimming and wonderful Ohio sweet corn! The owl Barn Market will open this weekend with “maybe” some Marietta sweet corn that is picked at night in order to be shipped to distribution early in the  morning. Marietta tomatoes too will be the standard in the market until the northern Ohio ones become available.  **update - no sweet corn until next week

The approximately 2 inches of rain last week certainly helped to end the mini-drought but even with all the rain, another inch would have helped ever more.

At the nursery, about 25 varieties of daylilies are in bloom or coming into bloom with the varieties Stella Supreme, Happy Returns, and Stella d’oro showing the most color. Garden phlox too is popping out in color with shades of pink, coral, white, purple and magenta. Summer is the time that the perennial garden seems to come alive! Other activities this past week at the nursery have included the potting of no less than 2,000 of our evergreen azaleas for next spring sales and the cleaning, additional plantings and trimming of the somewhat neglected Wolf Creek Gardens for the Master Gardeners tour going on Saturday. While the garden is in no way “manicured”, its natural setting of woods and open exposure does much for the ambiance.

Soon it will be vacation time as sales at the nursery will wind down for summer although even more trees will just be ready to sell for the July 4th weekend.

Tom

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - June 17, 2016

So far, June has been a very busy month for not only sales but attacking weeds on the grounds with not only Glyphosate (Roundup) but old-fashioned hand pulling. One such weed that has taken hold in some areas is a vining weed commonly called Bedstraw that winds it’s way along the ground and onto shrubs. When pulled, the foliage and stems feels like trying to pull apart velcro. This nasty weed has even found its way into the production greenhouse!

Flower planting has been the mode for this week too with all kinds of geraniums, calibrachoa, petunias, sunpatiens and argyranthemum being planted. It would be unimaginable for a summer without flowers at the nursery. Over a hundred gorgeous and heavily budded Hydrangea  ‘Bloomstruck’ are just about ready for sale. Although the plants were potted up in late March, rooting into the potting mix is slow so that even though the plants look great they cannot be sold as the root ball will fall apart at planting should they be sold before they are ready.

Free fertilizer seems to be a big hit in the greenhouse and as always everyone is welcome to fill up containers of the 20-10-20 liquid feed fertilized with iron.

Well, it’s back to work as there is so much to be done and so little time.

Tom

Friday, June 10, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - June 10, 2016

Soon it will be the summer solstice with its long days pushing growth on all kinds of plants. The vegetable gardens will make phenomenal growth with maybe the first ripe tomato appearing by August 1st. There are 15 elements at least that must come together to accomplish that fresh-picked tomato taste that cannot be found in those that are greenhouse grown or shipped thousands of miles. The Cleveland area was once known as a major area for tomato production in winter with acres of  plants growing in glass greenhouses. Sadly, the energy crisis of the mid 1970's and the resulting spikes in fuel to heat the energy inefficient houses all but shut down the greenhouse tomato industry.

At the nursery, more shrubs and trees from the production area are becoming available. This week, perennials from Michigan have arrived that will be potted up next week and will not be available for sale until April of 2017. Early planning is necessary to have a steady supply of some plants as their development sometimes is painfully slow.

Flower beds around the nursery are just being worked up in order to plant annual flowers at the nursery. Sweet Peet again will be worked into the beds to give them that consistency of “chocolate cake”.

In Akron, one of our customers that gardens to the “max” spent thousands of dollars on just bed preparation and drainage before planting roses, annuals and shrubs. The results are evident with healthy growth and  vibrant and prolific flowering of the plants. As the search for a vaccine for tuberculosis began at Rutgers university in New Jersey, one scientist believed and was later provedcorrect, that the answer would  come out of the soil. So too is good gardening: The answer is in the soil!

Tom

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - May 27, 2016

A cool May has now suddenly become a summer with warming soils pushing the growth of vegetable plants and flowers. 

Tomatoes and peppers just love the warm nights, too. There is a noticeable growth sprout that plants undergo as their cells divide and expand quickly.

Especially important at the nursery is a necessary constant check for blocked or maladjusted overhead sprinklers around the nursery stock as the 80º+ weather and wind increases the transpiration of water through the plants leaves.

So far, the irrigation water supply is more than adequate although at least one inch of rain per week would be enough to keep it replenished with collecting all the runoff from rain and irrigation.
Memorial Day strangely has been the signal for the start of summer even though summer is more than 3 weeks away! Memorial Day rituals not only include picnics, visiting and decorating the graves of loved ones passed on but also includes planting the veggie garden.  In fact, the entire month of June is ideal for vegetable planting except for maybe the cool loving crops of broccoli and Brussel sprouts.

At the Seiberling Farm in Norton, successive plantings of sweet corn continue even a few days after July 4th!



Coming up in June, too, is strawberry time with roadside stands full of quarts of freshly picked Ohio strawberries only to be overlapped and continued with luscious raspberries and blackberries.

Then there is August for planting turnips, parsnips and carrots as these root crops store nicely in the ground with a layer of straw over the tops to protect them from the bitter cold of winter.

Happy Memorial Day and planting everyone!


Tom

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - May 20, 2016

Last Sunday morning was certainly cold but was devoid of frost as the wind kept the air from stratifying and leaving frost on the plants.  Again, Monday morning only a very light frost was avoided as the temperature dropped to only 36º F at the nursery and again because of a light wind.

The powerful 20 horsepower electric water pump again came in handy with its 670 gallon per minute pumping capacity that keeps the frost at bay as the warmer irrigation water keeps the plants from freezing and “burning” the new growth on the stock.

The tea, floribunda and knockout roses are budding up nicely and without a hint of disease or unwanted bugs.  The greenhouse too seems to be largely free from mildew and the dreaded botrytis blight thanks to the extra ventilation during cold dark days that favor disease.  Unfortunately, heaters sometimes do automatically turn on but the extra expense is worth it to have higher quality flowers.  The larger annual flowers and huge geranium will have the weather to finally come out of the greenhouse to the display area in front of the store.  Beautiful, compact plants are the norm with an abundance of several radiant colors.  The geraniums from which several batches of cuttings were taken are now about 2 feet wide and full of bloom.  How strange that only 6 weeks ago the plants were cut back to nothing but stubbs and now are gorgeous.  Perennials too have “fluffed out” with more and more different varieties coming on stream from the new Salvia ‘April Night’ and more almost foolproof Igloo mums in the 4½ inch pots that will bloom early this fall.

Soon more of the ever popular Chicagoland Green boxwood will come “out of the oven” as it is growing faster than expected.  Maybe just maybe, there will be no more frost.  We can only hope.

Tom

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - May 13, 2016

With a couple of cold nights coming up and a danger of frost in open rural areas, gardeners will for sure be covering susceptible plants or at least rising early in the morning to soak the plants with water to preserve the plant cells from freezing and bursting.

Tropical plants and hanging baskets should be brought inside as even if they are not coated with frost, the bloom and new growth production could be stunted for a short time.

Almost everything that we could possibly bring out from the growing area in back has now been displayed so that more stock to fill voids must come from Ohio's nursery belt in Lake County.

Some greenhouse product is already running short from vendors and from our own greenhouse. This is surprising especially since the prime planting season has not yet begun.

The evergreen Azaleas are now on the downside as far as bloom in concerned.  The Rhododendron and Mountain Laurels now just coming into bloom and taking up the lack caused by the Azaleas.

The Korean Lilacs are coming into bloom with their heavy fragrance that soon will be followed by blooming roses of all kinds and colors.

Next will come the pink and blue tones of the macrophylla hydrangeas to be followed by the white and pink tones of the panicle group.

For the next 2-3 months at least, you could say its nothing but a bloom fest at the nursery!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - May 6, 2016

While the weather has been somewhat cool with cold nights the first week of May, unusual it is not.  What is unusual is that most areas here have not experienced a severe frost which may be creating a sense of “planting” security for more inexperienced gardeners.  Normally, the last for sure frost free date for northern Ohio is May 30th which about 2 weeks earlier for southern Ohio.  While seeds and cold tolerant vegetable plants such as broccoli and cauliflower should go in now,  tomatoes and peppers are better planted at least after the middle of May.

In the greenhouse we had a very localized infestation of an insect called a thrip which we were able to wipe out over a two week period by isolating the plants and treating them.  This nasty insect can quickly get out of control and ruin flowers and even kill plants.  Our scouting program in which we search for insect, disease and spider mites makes it possible to react quickly to get the problem under control as one of the worst aggravations for a customer is to have purchased plants with bugs!

With Mother’s Day weekend coming up and expected beautiful weather, the nursery should be quite busy so that we’ve opened up at least 20 more parking places and have extra help on hand to help customers load their vehicles.  The month of May is everyone’s favorite gardening month as  the cooler weather, usual sunshine and the incredible beauty of spring is on display that excites everyone.  Almost 100 years ago, the spring was much cooler as photos of the old farm house dated May 10, 1923 show children standing on the north side of the barn with their winter coats  and boots on which appears to be at least 6 inches of snow! It is unlikely we’ll experience anything like a deep snow in May although I’m not betting on a frost free may either.  Let’s just enjoy the weather whether it’s rain or shine.

As we all know, gardening can be addictive but as always. It beats watching television!

Tom

Friday, April 29, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - April 29, 2016

The end of April has finally seen the opening of the annual flower greenhouse. The fulfillment for us is the evidence of all the hard work that began last September with the rooting of flower cuttings, the transplanting, the trimmings, the spacing, the removal of old flowers, the insect and disease control. Well, I think the picture is evident as John Ravenstein, the famous propagator for Losely Nursery in Perry, Ohio once stated “ a greenhouse is worse than a baby. If you have a kid he goes away in 20 years but the greenhouse is still there!” What he was referencing is the fact that annual flowers in a greenhouse must be tended constantly and very carefully or the results will not be good.

The azalea in bloom are gorgeous with the colorful blossoms creating a huge kaleidoscope of color that will be followed by blooming rhododendron, later blooming azalea and gorgeous mountain laurels. Then too, the Eastern redbuds continue to bloom along with flowering crabapples and emerging dogwoods.

As one of the nursery’s radio commercials touts, “there are flowers everywhere in every nook and cranny! Come see for yourself this beautiful display of spring.

Tom

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - April 22, 2016

Needless to say it but the weather factor, for mid-April, has definitely had a “ wow” factor in it. At least 2 inches of rain fell on April 11th that was quite a blessing and more has fallen this past week among the long stretches of sunny weather. Cool nights in the upper 30's and 40's have made it ideal hardening-off weather for the perennials so that they are able to get used to the cold nights when they are planted outside in their new homes.

The annual flower house is bursting with growth with the sun and warm temperatures but will not open until Saturday, April 28th which even then I think is too early. A few years ago I received a call from a Wadsworth resident that planted out flowers on April 20th only to be distraught that it looked like the several flats of annual flowers she planted appeared as though they were dying on April 24th. I replied that it is from the hard frost we received on April 23rd. She asked what she should do and I said “nothing”. Fortunately, she did not buy the flowers from the nursery as the greenhouse did not open until May 1st of that year.

This week and through mid-May seems to be creeping phlox week as the ground cover has exploded into bloom with shades of pink, purple, blue and pure white! In 2009, the boulder wall on the north side of the colorful groundcover was planted and every year since then sets the hill ablaze with patches of pink and blue. What’s so amazing is that this seemingly delicate groundcover has taken the blasts of winter directly from cold northwest winds in the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 with never a problem. Creeping Phlox is even salt tolerant so that it can be planted close to the road!

The azaleas are showing color now also which is a week earlier than normal but I think plenty of color will be displayed for Mother’s Day.

At the nursery the behind-the-scenes activities seem to be never ending!

Tom

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - April 15, 2016

Last weekend was quite miserable for April 8-9th with the persistent cold. Strangely, as the sky began to clear at about 7 pm on Saturday, the temperature was 31º F and continued to fall slowly to about 28º F at 10 pm. Most likely the low temperatures reached about 20º F briefly but that is much better than the weather prediction of 16º F for Akron-Canton airport that would most likely have resulted in a low of about 12-13º F at the nursery! Needless to say, we are behind in setting up the outside sales yard due to the weather conditions but are hopeful by the weekend to have a presentable display. Work will continue on the set up at a feverish pace while the potting of azalea,  mountain laurel, Japanese maples and other trees is performed by another group. The amount of payroll including everyone’s wages plus taxes owed by the company is staggering especially when there is not much income because of the nasty weather!

I must make a correction though as last week’s blog stated that the first Earth Day was April 20, 1970 when in fact it was April 22,1970. On April 20th @ 6:30 pm the Summit County Farm Bureau will present a program called “Backyard Chickens” in the Owl Barn. To register for  this event on raising chickens, please register with the summitcountyfarmbureau.org

While the daffodils and hyacinths having emerged early took quite a beating from last week’s bitter cold, the emerging Darwin tulips look as though they have survived nicely. Most likely they will begin to bloom in earnest next week to be followed by a later group about May 1st through Mother’s Day. In 2012, the Tulip festival in Holland, Michigan had sheets printed with “Stem Fest” as by the time the festival was held in early May the flowers were spent with only the stems remaining! Que sera sera!

Tom

Friday, April 8, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - April 8, 2016

Well, it has happened; that is, the cold snap after everything was pushed ahead by the abnormally warm weather! It reminds me of a few years ago when the weather was “too warm” for March and then on April 7th a cold front came in and dropped the temperature overnight to 19º F with 35 mph winds! The high for the next day was only 35º when a remote broadcast of our radio show “Get Ready, Set, Grow” was going on at the main library in Akron for an event called “A Garden Affair”. These weather ups and downs is why the nursery sometimes is not set up as quickly as the customers might like it to be. The weather is causing considerable extra work and expense but that is nothing new.

Potting of perennial plants is about done and will not resume until late May when we begin to plant again for our late crops in summer. Some bare root shrubs still need to be potted with small pots of shrubs coming in the week of April 14th to be planted in larger pots for summer sales. Among all this planting activity is the rush to set up the sales yard by April 15th although I think because of the delay of this past cold week, it may be closer to April 20th which ironically is Earth Day with the  first Earth Day being April 20th , 1970. Needless to say, this time of year the work at the nursery is never ending and must move fast while in winter the struggle is finding enough things to do to keep busy!

No doubt, everyone that visits the nursery in the later part of April and May will certainly think it is a Garden Affair!

Tom

Friday, April 1, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - April 1, 2016

Last Saturday morning, a low of 24º F was the result of a clear night. Unfortunately, some of the Forsythia that bloomed early and magnolia blossoms were killed or severely damaged since they were pushed out about 2 weeks ahead with the abnormally warm weather. Stock is still arriving making it quite difficult to set up the nursery properly as it looks somewhat messy as trees and shrubs are continually unloaded, untied and tagged for later sales. Then because of the massive amount of bare root trees and shrubs arriving from Lake County and Minnesota, a fresh batch of 75 cubic yards of pine bark potting mix had to be processed. One of the worst scenarios is to have a production line of workers potting the stock and then having to shut down because the mix had run out!

Actually some cold weather or more normal weather would allow us more time to set up the “mess” properly and to finish our potting of stock as the customers, excited by the warm weather keep “interrupting” our work! The reality of the situation is that satisfied customers are the life blood of any business including the nursery business and without them, the work we do really does not matter!

On Saturday, February 13th the low temperature at the nursery was -9º F and now it is April. It is literally true that time does fly!

Tom

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - March 25, 2016

For sure spring is here but you wouldn’t know it from the snow and cold on its first full day. With the vernal equinox now past, the duration and brightness of light will continue to grow resulting in the life giving warmth of yet another Ohio spring. This past week has pretty much worn everyone out on 5 tractor trailer loads of nursery stock arriving along with more bare root trees and shrubs. Still the potting of perennials goes on and numerous annual flowers which will culminate in the opening of the perennial and annual flower houses at the end of  April. I remember a few years ago when on Sunday morning in early May a customer was observant enough to notice a somewhat anxious look on my face after the greenhouse filled with customers within 10 minutes of opening. I explained to this observant man that I was quite nervous about our salespeople to adequately handle and serve such a crowd. He explained to me that I needed to expect such a rush in that there are so many pretty things at the nursery that people just want to come and see them.

With Easter so early this year, it has been a challenge to fill the greenhouse with color as bulbs, lilies and a few other colorful perennials have to be forced along with more heat than normal. Then there is the opposite problem outside of the heat forcing the season somewhat early!

Our last seminar of “What’s New” finishes the winter seminar season and even now one interesting speaker has been lined up for next spring on a specific topic about herbaceous perennials. Whatever goes on here at the nursery, advanced planning definitely helps.

Tom

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - March 18, 2016

While the expected March winds arrived with a wallop this past week, a general cool down for the next few days is in store and will serve as a brake to the roaring spring that we’ve had so far with the soaring temperatures that are more like mid-April than mid-March.

At the nursery, more annual flower plugs, bare root shrubs and trees as well as thousands more perennials are arriving in abundance. The trouble with all of these plants arriving at once is that each of these legs of production must be performed quickly as the plant groups mentioned cannot sit for long as they are quite perishable in the bare root or small plug stage.

A bright spot in the work this spring is that the work crew is excellent especially when compared to last year in that when necessary, the workers will join forces as a cohesive unit in order to quickly accomplish every task.

Tomorrow is the last of our winter seminars on the always popular topic, what’s new? Oodles of new perennials, trees and shrubs will be “on the shelves” this year.

Then on April 20 at 6:30 pm, which happens to be Earth Day, the Summit County Farm Bureau is sponsoring an informational seminar on raising backyard chickens. While this program is free for farm bureau members, the general public is welcome also for free or long as you register in advance by calling the farm bureau at 330-456-4889. Seating is limited and refreshments are provided.

Such is a busy spring and only to get ready for April and May…

Tom

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dayton "Dirt" - March 12, 2016

With the weather this past week and the forecast next week it looks as though spring is on a rapid march in March! Looking longer term, cooler temperatures would definitely “work” better as early warming will cause new growth and early flowering of many plants only to be nipped by frosts. One hopeful aspect of the unusually warm temperatures is that at least there is some rain and the ground is not beginning to crack from dryness such as was the case in 2012.

This weather now reminds me of the year 1973 when temperatures like now were very warm at the tail end of February and early March with the warm up ending the 17th of March with a 1 foot snowfall. Afterwards, the warm up was then gradual resulting in a beautiful spring albeit that May was extremely rainy.

Work at the nursery is speeding up too with operations in full swing on multiple fronts such as in the greenhouse perennial potting, rose potting, the receipt of some balled and burlapped nursery stock and the clean up of perennials in the over-wintering huts.

Two more winter seminars are scheduled including one by Judy Semroc who will present The Life and Decline of the Monarch Butterfly. The good news this year is that the Monarch is on better footing with the “luck” of more favorable weather during their migration and over-wintering in  Mexico. The bad new’s is that the Monarch is still below the numbers needed to have a stable population that would not be wiped out from a severe “hit”.

Let’s hope for somewhat of a cool down so that spring will arrive slow and easy instead of coming in like a lamb and going out as if it were the month of May!

Tom