Friday, February 24, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - February 24, 2017

The weather has been to say the least, enjoyable although it’s not typical for the end of February. Last week, the bud scales on the lilacs in the storage huts are already falling off which is definitely a  sign of the plants wanting to push out growth. All the storage huts for a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials are well ventilated including the provision of roll up sides to keep the houses even cooler with the warm weather. Unfortunately, growth will “push” to early anyway that is for sure to cause problems later on when a sure-to-come hard freeze will occur later on. Even outside, daffodils are popping up everywhere soon to be followed by trees and shrubs starting to “wake up” as their cold  requirements have been achieved for the breaking of dormancy. The warm weather too is a wake up call to perennial weeds such as henbit and the troublesome hairy buttercress as it grows quickly and then blooms with its tiny white flowers that will soon fade to be followed by countless  seeds to pop up again everywhere!

At the nursery, planting of annual flowers is proceeding at a feverish pace with now the arrival of perennial flowers from Michigan that must be handled quickly as they will not keep well in their small cells if not transplanted soon to larger pots. In addition, bare-root roses have arrived from California and they too will not keep long in their shipping boxes as they will be subject to destructive mold should they remain only a few days sealed up.

Now the clematis vines potted last summer are showing a little growth which means they must be quickly pulled from winter storage, trimmed, fertilized, spaced and weeded before they become tangled in a mass of early growth of the twining vines.

It’s only the beginning of the wild side of spring. In June, we’ll reflect on spring and think how did it pass so fast!


Friday, February 17, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - February 17, 2017

While the weather department still behaves like a roller coaster, the extended periods of warmth are mimicking last year’s relatively warm winter.  With some exposed vegetation from the lighter than normal snowfall, deer browsing at the nursery is less than it had been in the two recent previous cold winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.  In Wolf Creek Botanical Garden, the deer repellent called Deer Stopper was applied to many of the shrubs susceptible to deer such as the evergreen azaleas and rhododendron about Thanksgiving.  During a thaw in late January, the repellent was applied again as the deer had found their favorite azalea called ‘Herbert’ which ironically is a dark double purple that is quite winter hardy and easy to grow except in the case of deer. It seems the animals prefer the flower buds of this variety even though Herbert is surrounded by Azalea Boudoir, Stewartstonian, Cascade and Elsie Lee which are deer damage free!  Who would have thought that deer would be picky about what variety of plant suits their taste within a species!

Part of next week is filled with safety seminars, a Drug Free Workplace seminar and one on the new expansive regulations rolled out by E.P.A. on January 2, 2017, which is aimed at protecting workers and applicators from exposure to pesticides that are sprayed in greenhouses and on the grounds.  This update of the WPS 1992 Standards although somewhat cumberson, is designed to protect workers and prevent pesticide poisonings in the work place.

Tomorrow I will be giving a seminar entitled “Lovely Lilacs” that will not only give the “dos and don’ts” when planting and caring for this genus and reviewing the various hybrid groups and varieties within those groups.  Recently, Father Fiala near Medina, Ohio was known for his breeding and selection of many varieties.  Sadly after the priest’s death, the property was sold and divided up into housing lots due to the zoning violations having to do with all the traffic resulting from all the activities having to do with his lilac display.

As always, join us for this informative seminar beginning at 11 a.m. this Saturday.  See you at the seminar.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - February 10, 2017

As February rolls along, work in the greenhouse intensifies as rooted cuttings now must be transplanted into pots and hanging baskets while more unrooted cuttings are to arrive from Costa Rica and Guatemala. Strict sanitation controls are in place at the foreign greenhouses where
the stock plants for the plant cuttings grow.

In 2013, a virus called tobacco mosaic virus or TMV was found in our greenhouse on petunias grown from cuttings in Central America resulting in their disposal after the plants were potted and growing nicely. The Dummen company sent out a warning that some of their stock that they had  shipped tested positive for the virus that is evident by a slight streaking or mottling of the normally evenly dark green leaves. The virus is spread by handling the cuttings while sticking them into the  rooting cells and then by trimming the plants. TMV will cause a collapse of the plants when the weather begins to warm up in spring. This collapse during warm weather is similar to a once common malady that geraniums are prone to call Xanthomonas. This geranium killer is actually a bacteria that is spread by water. Some plants, such as vining geraniums show little or no signs of the disease and yet can be a carrier that results in the infection of the zonal (regular) geranium. Today with virus testing and better sanitation methods, disease like Xanthomonas and TMV are relatively rare.
In the greenhouse too continues the application of the microscopic worms called nematodes. These small creatures move in water so that the foliage of the plants must be kept wet for no less than 2 hours so they are able to hunt down and kill the destructive thrip insect. Surprisingly, there are no restrictions by EPA as far as entry into the greenhouse once the nematodes are applied as they already exist in nature and are completely harmless to humans. Soon the hanging baskets just recently planted will need to be hung up so that two small packets of predatory mites will have to be attached to the plant’s foliage. These packets called mini-sachets contain two mite species called Amblyseius californicus and Amblyseius curcurbitae. The californicus mite seeks out the nasty European two spotted spider mite while curcurbitae prefers the lousy thrip insect. Everyday several of the mites walk out of a hole in the sachet for a total of 6 weeks that will protect the plant from destructive greenhouse pests without chemicals! With the help of a technician form the Biobest Company that produces and supplies these critters to the greenhouse and food crop industry, the complicated process of using “good” bugs to “fight” bad bugs should be well under  way this spring.
With more and more greenhouse growers and possibly farms using beneficial predators will pesticides largely be a thing of the past? I hope so.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Dayton "Dirt" - February 3, 2017

With the passage of the coldest month of the winter and even the fact that Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, this winter season will be short. Right? I am wondering if anyone really believes if the famous groundhog doesn’t see his shadow that the winter will be shorter than usual.

For gardeners, farmers, nurserymen and those in the orchard business, the return of more normally cold weather is a blessing. One type of weather not needed though is like that of February 2015 that was relentlessly cold. In fact, that February was reported by the National Weather Service to be the coldest February as far as average temperatures have been recorded by Cleveland since 1875!
By the middle of this month, the days grow gradually warmer and the average temperatures in Ohio for January have been on the warm and wet side for the most part. The folks in the Portland, Oregon area have received several inches of snow and somewhat colder temperatures than  normal. For the most part, Portland is known for its mild winter due to the Pacific climate which is very similar to the effect the Gulf Stream has on northern Europe. Once in a great while though, a cold front will appear out of nowhere dropping temperatures into the single digits. I remember talking to an old lady when I visited Vancouver, Canada and related to her of how beautiful the weather in summer is in Vancouver and that the winters are so mild. She replied that while my  observations are true the depressing fact is that the skies are mostly gray all winter and accompanied by a cold, almost never ending drizzle. In fact, when Lewis and Clark spent their first winter along the Oregon coast they had written in their diary about the never ending winter rain  and how some men in their party were quite depressed.
The first in our series of winter seminars is tomorrow with Judy Semroc from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History on the subject of damselflies and dragonflies. As usual, all seminars begin at 11 a.m. and finish up at 1 p.m. Hope to see you in the Owl Barn.