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!