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.


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.


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.