Friday, January 27, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - January 27, 2017

The unusually warm, wet weather while not enough to bring trees and shrubs to life because of their cold requirements, it has caused a small push to the thousands of daffodils and narcissus planted around the nursery as well as some hosta in Wolf Creek Gardens to the north.

In the winter storage huts, while plants are still dormant because of the cool and sometime cold nights plus short days and low light levels, root systems in the containers are growing! In the 2006- 007 winter, temperatures were eerily warm until January 27, 2007 when 40 mph winds swept in with a cold front and dropped temperatures to -4º F. Early the next spring, much damage to the plants occurred in storage by evidence of the root system. The once tender growing roots in many cases were killed by the sudden shock of extreme cold. That year was like deja vu when in 1992 temperatures were abnormally warm in February only to drop suddenly March 1st for several days again causing plant damage on the outside. While widely fluctuating temperatures in winter are a nightmare for the orchardists, gardeners, farmers and nurserymen, there is nothing that can be done about it.

On another note of interest, the folks at Wolf Creek Winery about 1 mile north of the nursery have spotted a pair of Bald Eagles hanging out along the shore of the Barberton Reservoir. How strange to have such birds of prey as the eagle around when not too many years ago it was pushed to the brink of extinction by the ravage of the pesticide DDT and relentless hunting! With the passing of the Endangered Species Act by Congress in 1973 which protected the birds as well as other endangered  species, the eagle began to recover very slowly. Then too, Congress outlawed the use of DDT that same year resulting in more chicks hatching from the formerly too fragile eggs of the birds. Hopefully the eagles will thrive and multiply around the reservoir but as their numbers grow,  anyone with chickens will soon get wise as to what the birds do best - eat.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - January 20, 2017

Winter is a busy time in a greenhouse nursery operation!

It may not look like much is going on from the outside, but winter is a very busy time of the year in a greenhouse nursery operation. With the cold, short and bleak days of January and February, the  behind-the-scenes activity of a greenhouse nursery operation is anything but slow. In the greenhouse, the rooting of thousands of flower cuttings begins in December and lasts throughout the winter and early spring months. The rooted cuttings which are referred to as “plugs” must be hand transplanted to larger pots and hanging baskets for product to be available during the peak selling season in the month of May. Even in the depth of winter, disease and insect pressure on the greenhouse crops must be controlled with a variety of insecticides and fungicides. A warm, humid greenhouse is not only an ideal environment for plants but for harmful insects and diseases, as well. Therefore, disease and insect control products must be applied weekly with a fogger or hydraulic sprayer and in some cases results in a considerable expenditure of time.

In the huts covered with a white polyethylene film, shrubs and herbaceous perennials stored over winter must have ventilation when temperatures exceed 28º F in order to prevent disease called Botrytis, which will grow on dead and live plant tissue causing major plant damage. Conversely, the huts must be closed when temperatures are expected to fall below 28º F. This open-close scenario sometimes is repeated every day depending on weather conditions. Vigilance is necessary to prevent rodent damage from mice, in particular, that just love tender plant roots and the live bark on a wide array of shrubs and herbaceous perennial flowers. Mouse traps with sunflower seeds must be reset with new bait weekly as the old sunflower seed bait becomes moldy as a result of the more humid conditions in the storage huts. On the outside, at least weekly inspections are required to assess any attack on the stock from browsing deer or gnawing rodents such as rabbits. Maintenance to equipment including but not limited to tractors, loaders, RTV’s and trucks needs to be performed along with any needed repairs during the winter months. It goes without saying, working equipment for the busy spring months is crucial as there is no time to perform repairs or maintenance on the equipment.

In summary, winter in a greenhouse nursery operation is a busy time except that sales in most of the smaller operations are at a slow pace, or non-existent all together resulting in little or no income!


Friday, January 13, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - January 13, 2017

Even though January is that long, seemingly non-ending winter month at the nursery, the somewhat slower time allows for a “look-back” of what went wrong and definitely needs improvement. As in any operation, the goal of perfection is for sure elusive; however, the strive is for excellence and continuing improvement which are never ending. One major “push” to improve the greenhouse operation using almost all bio controls has been underway now for a couple of weeks. Hours of study, meeting with greenhouse operators and speaking to various vendors about using bio controls such as nematodes, beneficial fungus and beneficial predatory insects and mites is needed to get the program underway by February 1st. The goal is to control insect and disease on the stock better without using harmful chemicals which are not good for the person applying the products or the customers from the residue left on the plants. Even though we eliminated the controversial neonicotinoid class of insecticides three years ago, this step was only one in a longer process that will be complete by the spring of 2018.

January has allowed time to reflect on what the customers want and not just what we think they want when they come into the nursery. With a number of surveys returned in December, the news was not all compliments. Many areas that need improvement in the area of customer service were identified with suggestions from customers on improving the operations. A prioritized list is now being developed so that many excellent suggestions from the survey can be put into effect as quickly as possible. The “regular chores” at the nursery still continue with tax reports and budgeting, ordering and product review, a Drug Free Workplace required meeting, greenhouse production and equipment maintenance without any money coming in!

In summary, the “respite” of January is a time of reflection and a time to get things moving to improve the nursery and garden center operation for everyone working here and for all those we work for - the customers!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - January 6, 2017

Even with nothing growing outside and the nursery closed except for seminars, that begin February 4th, the work at the nursery never ends! Much of the work at hand concerns getting ready for the spring and sometimes 3 years ahead or more.

Purchase orders are generated, plant and hard good orders are being tweaked, descriptions of new plants are written, and new signs are designed and printed.

Then the greenhouse propagation and transplanting is a little behind with thousands of more flower cuttings coming next week to be rooted for transplanting later.

Maintenance is an ongoing job but takes on a more important role in winter as equipment greasing, oil changes, filter changes, and any repairs are performed before the busy spring season.

Hiring of full and part time employees will be the mode in late January and February which then leads into employee training, safety seminars, a drug free workplace seminar, and pesticide safety seminars. Ongoing too is the development of an information Kiosk for customer use and the design of a new color digital catalog!

I think sometimes there is almost as much to do in the winter as in spring!