Sunday, December 30, 2012

Almost - but not quite there yet

The unfinished project
My goodness, spent Saturday in the snow with a few good friends and some extra help. Pamela Epler, Vicki Landsman Peterson, her son Michael Peterson and friend Thomas Gentile wound up in the cold and snow working some more on the greenhouse. We thought we had it built - because it looked like the directions, but realized it was too short and we had a lot of extra pieces left over. We got the greenhouse looking just like the diagram, but thanks to the inscrutable Chinese directions we realized that there should be more length to it. With help from two guys with very good spatial relationship skills we finally got the six bays put together. I was ready to fold and put all the pieces in  the garage and wait until spring, but was talked out of it by the crew.

Me with part of the crew

Several frozen feet and hands later we, with a lot of help from the taller guys got it standing and put together - quite an accomplishment for any time of year.

Vicki, Pam and Michael with the standing greenhouse!

Glad we may only have one more Saturday - with help from the guys and I think we will be finished. Still waiting for my greenhouse to come in. I think we will be shoveling quite a bit of snow to put that one up - we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Things Still Grow in Winter

The Amaryllis bloomed for Christmas, the houseplants still grow and the seedlings still continue to emerge. The  greenhouse is taking shape as well.
Pam and I worked yesterday on continuing to assemble the structure.  We got further but it started to snow in earnest,  so we called it a day  and spent two hours driving in the mini blizzard.
We had to start climbing a stepladder to finish the task  so we will be at it again on Saturday.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Learning Curve

Yesterday Vicki, Pam and I worked again on the greenhouse. After we sorted all the structural parts and put into piles. Pam and I built an end wall together in a record two hours. We also put together four roof vents and they went together easily. Pam is so cool, she is so proud of herself at building something. She had never done anything like this before. She was our champion screwdriver - putting all the connectors in the roof vents. We then turned the page to see what the next steps were and were boggled by the complex directions.
There is no writing on the directions as the structure was made in China - just picture diagrams that are not rendered in a lot of detail. It took us about four tries to finally get the last pieces on the end wall but we finally did it!

Went to "The Lodge" - a restaurant here in town for an early dinner. Had a coupon good for buy one get one free, so we feasted after all our building energies were spent. Will get back at the project the day after Christmas and will attack the mind boggling page when we are fresh. Will take some more pictures and post them next Wednesday.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

First babies showing signs of life!

Oh my gosh. I was getting worried. After spending lots of money and time on planting seeds, I saw no sign of life after a week and a half., and that includes rapid germinators like arugula...Finally, yesterday, I saw the sweet green spouts of achillea summer berries and such a promising sign of life it was. I can only surmise that we sowed against the cycle of the moon. Really, I find when I sow at the point where the new moon has just passed, seeds come up quicker. This time we sowed right when the moon was going into its new moon phase and seeds tend to go dormant at that time.

The moon has quite an effect on the life cycles of plants. Root growth tends to be dominant in last quarter, while at new moon all growth tends to go dormant. Top growth becomes stronger as the moon waxes with peak flowering often occurring around full moon. Try observing the lunar cycle in your garden and think about timing some of your garden practices like pruning and seeding with the moon. I think you may be amazed at the results.

Pam and I spent the better part of yesterday working on the greenhouse. After what seemed like a long struggle we finally managed to finish the one endwall of the structure, with Pam praying for results as we went along. I am beginning to pray for the mercy of well-fitting greenhouse parts as well! Hope to get this greenhouse finished before the snow really gets thick. Need the structure for all the babies that are in the greenhouse and I want the greenhouse at my place to house the spring bloomers that I plan to bring to market in late January and February.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Saga Begins - putting up the greenhouse

10x20' landscape cloth
The journey begins. I didn't know how hard it would be. After about four hours in the cold and wet trying to put the greenhouse together today - I am exhausted.Vicki was great - she was the organizer - getting us parts and pawing through the boxes for parts. Pam was a trouper, not having done anything like this before, she was intimidated a bit. I was the mover - saying "no, let me do it", but, after all the work we got one half of one end wall done and the two dutch doors.

First, we measured out the landscape cloth and put it into the ground with landscape staples - big 6-8" u-shaped pieces of thick wire. Then we opened all the long boxes, looking for the instructions. No writing, just diagrams.

Vicki pawing through the cartons

Vicki went to work - took the instructions and set about finding the parts for the first project. It began to drizzle, a steady, cold rain. It was about 45 degrees but felt more like 35. We all set to work, with one putting together while another found parts, while another worked the instructions. Glad we had as many people as we did. I'd still be opening the cartons had I done this alone.
Pam putting together parts.

Mug shot : Margaret

Mug shot: Pam

Mug shot: Vicki
We finished the doors and I deemed it time for a coffee break. Above are all our "Mug Shots"... After the coffee break - me with wet knees and all of us getting tired and soggy, we went about assembling the end wall. After what seemed like a lot of trial and error. We finally snapped together the last piece of half of the end wall. We now need to open up the boxes of panels and start inserting those. We decided to call it a day, glad we did as when Pam and I drove home it began to rain in earnest. Whew! What a day. Pam and I will be back at it on Wednesday and I hope experience has taught us a bit and it will get a tad easier.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The seeding continues

Nasturtium foliage
December 13th, Pam and I went to the greenhouse to do some seeding after we moved some of the greenhouse parts to Vicki's. At Vicki's we also had to move all of the pots to the middle of the yard. Much better configuration, now only one large row to cover. At the greenhouse we worked for a couple of hours seeding new perennials and annual fruits from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It truly is tedious work trying to put one tiny seed in each cell.We then came home to happy hour and consumed some of my homemade Kahlua and cream. Yum!

The greenhouse beds continue to grow and flourish, but the battle against the aphids goes on in earnest. I have been spraying nearly every other day with Neem Oil and made an insecticidal soap. Made the soap from dawn dish detergent and garlic and onion. The vegetables were a bit chunky and have now clogged the sprayer. Geez. It is always a battle.

Greenhouse bed 1

Greenhouse bed 2

Saturday, December 8, 2012

First seeding of perennials

Tiny seeds of Goatsbeard
Today went to the greenhouse and made my first sowings of perennials.All of the seeds were from  Specialty seeds. I like their generous seed count, low prices, unique varieties and no-nonsense sowing directions on each packet. Sowed 36 cells of each variety, but most of the seeds were so small that I dropped several seeds per cell. Did 19 varieties from Heuchera or coral bells to Gypsophila or Baby's Breath. Tried to grow things in more colors than blue, since I am such a fan of blue in the garden - but there were a few varieties - Bellflowers, Columbines, Great Blue Lobelia and Delphiniums.

A forest of labels

It took me several hours to complete the tedious dropping of seeds, but Pam and I will be going back to the greenhouse on Wednesday to do more sowing. Since we have two garden plots, I figure that is enough space for 60 plus flats apiece - so 120 flats total with about 240 varieties. Whew! We'll have space in the new greenhouse for all the resulting seedlings and Pam and I will have a warm and dry place to work. Looked into cyclamen plants for Valentine's Day today with little success. Will have to shop around more.The paperwhites are doing well and I have decided to go to the Oakland County Farmer's Market on this coming Thursday the 13th - with dish gardens, paperwhites, amaryllis and greens. Come visit me and I'll give you a dollar off coupon!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Big happenings at the nursery

We are expanding rapidly. Vicki has consented to put up a greenhouse in her backyard, so I went to measure. First had plans for a 20 x 60 foot greenhouse. Measured the area. No, maybe a 20 x 48. Well, Vicki went and called the township and found out you can only put up a 20 x 10 foot greenhouse and have to obey all setbacks. Oh well, not to be set back I have gone ahead and ordered a 10 x 20 Harvest hobby aluminum and polycarbonate 4 season greenhouse, heater, landscape fabric and pins. It will take a lot of pot moving since I want to put it where all the pots are now, but it will be worth it. I now can grow cyclamen for the February markets and hold the tender seedlings in there in March and April. I think it is a good investment and oh my gosh I have always wanted my own greenhouse - even though it is in someone else's backyard!.

We have also purchased two new garden plots at the greenhouse. I got two of the handicap enabled bed by the front door for ease of access. Since they are at waist height it should be great for starting the seedlings in trays as we won't have to be bending over the beds all day. I have what seems like a million seeds coming in to grow so all this extra room is a godsend. We'll be able to get a lot more nice and interesting plants out to you, my customers this year. And of course we'll save a few for the display gardens as well.

Vicki is really on board with being Sage Advice location 2. We are going to really improve her gardens next year and we're talking about putting up some raised beds in the front yard to grow vegetables. I'd like to start offering some organically grown produce at the market - so this is my first year trying to figure out how I can do that economically. Ordered some ziplock bags from the dollar store to put the greens in I'm going to harvest off of greenhouse bed 2 and hope to be selling them for 3-4 dollars at the market this winter. Have been keeping 3 household in salad greens so far this year. Wow every time I eat a green salad I just feel like I am getting healthier!
Pam with the two new greenhouse beds.
Margaret with greenhouse bed 1

Monday, December 3, 2012

TAH DAH! We're done!

The final potting awaiting shipment to Vicki's

FINALLY! We have seen light at the end of the tunnel and Pam and I have finished our last potting of the year. We did a record 235 pots in less than 3 hours yesterday and got all the pots safely potted up and watered in. Now comes another day of nursery work, taking the pots to Vicki's - probably about three loads, and tidying up and cleaning up the nursery for the winter. Pam is going to organize the potting area while I attack the mess that is inside the shed. I'd like to find enough room to put the mower in there and take the Christmas tree out for decorating. We have achieved! What a great feeling and a good way to wrap up year's end.

Work isn't over though, just on hiatus until January. Meanwhile, the greenhouse continues to grow and blossom a spectacular crop of greens and aphids. I sprayed this week in an effort to knock down the little pesky creatures. Used Neem oil as it is approved organic

Started the website about a month ago and very pleased with the results. Got to update it though, since I don't think I am going to go to many markets this December. Ready to take the holiday season off and was so disappointed with the results of selling at the Oakland County Flea Market. No one bought any of the nursery stuff, all they bought was Mom's old CD's.
Margaret with pots at Vicki's

Poor Skipper, my horse has not been ridden for weeks. I fell off in a freak accident a couple of weeks ago and think I cracked some ribs. They have been so sore. Finally I got an ace bandage to wrap them up for work today. Friend Janet Macunovich also cracked a rib and was recommending it. I hope to be on the mend real soon and will get back to it when the snow flies. Winter riding in the snow can be magical.

After January first, we'll start seeding in the greenhouse. Got a ton of seeds to sow, probably 50 varieties and want to give it a try. Was so successful with them in the nursery this summer that I am inundated with foxglove and sweet william. I know some of the other perennials are a bit harder to germinate but we'll see what happens. Currently I have some replacement vegetables and herbs in flats at the greenhouse to be put in pots or to fill up spaces in the beds.,
Pam triumphant about potting her last pots
Hope the holidays aren't too stressful for you. The time is better spent with family and friends enjoying a slower pace and reflecting upon the year that has gone past. May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weather Problems

Well, I hope we get all these pots potted up before the snow flies! Pam and I tried to pot this last Sunday and we were faced with freezing conditions and cold. We took a snowy load over to Vicki's and came back raring to go. Pam went to fill the pots and I got a bunch of perennials to use. I took one out of the flat and tried to get it out of its container. No luck, frozen solid. I called Pam and told her no more work for today... SOL.

So we went back to Pam's in Rochester and had a great dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers that her daughter had cooked. Yum. I helped Pam on the computer - she has the use of my laptop and has really never been on a computer before. And, I helped her re-learn knitting. She is a great student.

We also got our portraits taken and both are being used as our facebook profile pictures. I think they came out pretty good!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Time to take stock of the garden

As the gardens are put to bed and the final potting is being done, I feel it is time to kick back and take stock of this last growing year. It is the season when all good gardeners should take a look back at their journals or notebooks and decide what was worth planting this year. If you don't have a garden journal, notebook or blog, I encourage you to start one. It helps you note the climate, the varieties of plants, when the insects or disease was bad and so many other things that happen in the garden.

As you can imagine, having a nursery I try and keep good records of what I planted and when. It sure helps when deciding what to grow for next year. I can see what varieties I have sold and what I am sitting on. Sometimes I am just plain stubborn and grow a variety that the public may not want but I am a fan of.

Right now, I think it is too late to do more dividing in the nursery, but I am making a list of what I'd like to divide and move or pot up for next year. The pulmonaria got scorched where I put it and the blue hostas lost the color in their leaves due to too much sunshine. The epimedium and liriope have gone to town and I can afford to pot up a bunch without losing my stock plants.

I also want to grow a better vegetable garden this next year. The tomatoes did well in their new spot and I think I can grow a few more things in pots without dog Griffin bothering them. I just read an article on how to best grow the most money-saving crops in your garden. I am starting to think this way more and more as I set my sights on bringing some of my produce to market. By growing my own vegetables, I like to think I am saving some money, rather than buying them from the store. Of course, knowing how they are grown and what I have used in terms of sprays on them is certainly priceless.

I really got into canning this year for the first time and want to make a better plan for that. I guess it sort of goes with the territory that you have to preserve the crop when it is ripe, but I had such a flurry of activity late in the season, I think I would like to spread the work out a bit more. I also think I need to jump on the produce when I first see it. I didn't get to can peaches as the crop was a miserable failure this year, same for the apples. So maybe I can do a better job at timing the work I do next year.

With all that said, I hope you can take some notes on your gardens, whether you grow flowers or vegetables. It so helps in the following seasons. But the most important thing to remember is to have fun while you are doing it. Never make gardening a chore.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The fall work continues

Pam schlepping pots
Worked yesterday with Pam potting up the spring bulbs. Took it easy after the surgery and only did 40 or 50 pots but we got them all tucked into the new cold frames. Pam was a trouper and got all the soil - 15 heavy bags - out of the car by herself. What a gal!

Planted today and tucked in a few more perennials: veronica, coreopsis, mums, peony, forget me nots and primrose into a few bare spots. Also put in a few daffodil bulbs, Golden Harvest and one of my favorites - Professor Einstein. Should have great color and variety all season.

Bed one after six weeks
The green house beds continue to produce lots of greens. I figure if I don't have to buy any lettuces or greens all winter the beds will have paid for themselves. The other harvests are just a bonus!

Bed two after two weeks
Bed one is pretty lush even after the severe thinning that Vicki gave it. I'll have to sow some more arugula as Vicki kind of almost wiped out the patch and it is my favorite green. We've still got an aphid problem though, despite spraying by the greenhouse managers. The little buggers are down in the whorls of the leaves and very hard to get to.We've got lots of golden chard, baby spinach,dill, basil and thyme, a few radishes and lots of lettuces. Been having a salad every night thanks to the bountiful crops.

Bed two is looking good as it starts to grow in earnest. I fertilized this week with a fairly high nitrogen fish emulsion and kelp mix. The peas are about an inch or two tall and the lettuces are just starting to do their thing. Carrots and scallions are slow to emerge, but the beets and kohlrabi are on their way. Can't wait to get a harvest from something other than the greens, it should be exciting. Love snap peas, they probably won't make it out of the greenhouse!

The flats are making out a little slower. I wonder if we didn't cover the seed on this last sowing if that made the difference. The tomatoes are just starting and I just cleaned up the outdoor tomato beds so now I can repurpose the couple of tomato cages I want to use.

Gotten a lot of nice comments on the garden totems. I still want to visit a few estate and garage sales looking for odd pieces of glass to make a few more. Wish I had the gal's name from the Armada Flea Market where I got these two and I'd promote her great craft, but we just knew eachother by "hello".

Think I'll be setting up Thursdays at the Oakland County Farmer's Market until Christmas if the market proves successful for me. Friend Janet Macunovich, dropped off a giant load of fresh evergreen boughs that are just dying to be made into wreaths and swags. Looks like I'll make my own roping this year. I just need to get faster at crafting these things so my time can be a little more cost productive...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The new 2013 catalog is available!

Sage Advice Nursery catalog is here!
Well as I look through my grow list I see I am awfully ambitious. I plan on growing over 150 varieties of perennials and groundcovers plus another 22 varieties of herbs. That doesn't even count the miscellaneous varieties I'll add as the season goes along because I just have to have this or that plant.

I am sending the catalog and pre-order form out by e-mail. The pre-order form is for those people who would like to reserve plants for the 2013 season. This doesn't tie you into an order but it gives me a better idea of what to grow and how much. Most of my varieties will be grown in limited quantities as my backyard nursery is so small. Even with the generous offering of friend and employee Vicki's yard the nursery is tiny by anyone's standards.

The catalog is organized by Latin name for each variety. Sorry for those of you who are not fond of Latin, but the common names are sometimes regional and so confusing, learning Latin is just a part of horticulture. The color and bloom height of each variety is noted and in most of the descriptions I have noted bloom time. The list is followed by lists of plants for shade, plants for sun and even plants for cut flowers and hummingbirds You can get the catalog by e-mailing me at or by signing up on the Sage Advice Nursery page on Facebook at I can send anyone a hard copy, but I've got to go out and buy paper and a stapler! Oh boy, it never ends...

Hope you all are well, putting your gardens to bed and starting to dream of spring in 2013. After a week of cloudy weather here in Michigan, I am at least dreaming of some sunshine!

Monday, October 29, 2012

First Flea Market at Oakland County

Dried statice and strawflower wreath
So, packed up the van with all kinds of stuff and tried my hand at the Oakland County Flea Market yesterday. Vendors there were really nice and welcoming. If it weren't for the vendors swapping stuff I would have very little to show for my outing.

Foot traffic was really slow - I would say we had 25 cars but the vendor count was up.The vendors told me not to get discouraged, that the foot traffic gets going as the weather gets colder. But, we're competing with the big Dixieland Flea Market right around the corner from us - so I've encouraged the market master to do some more promotion.

Sales were strange. Had a nice selection of nursery stuff - bulbs, houseplants and dried flowers, but the stuff that was selling was my CDs, books, jewelry and yarn! Oh well, at least I sold that, I think I'll raid Mom's house for some more old goodies for next week.

Bulbs at the flea market
Houseplants at the market

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Harvest at Greenhouse

Went to the greenhouse two days ago with friend Janet Macunovich, who by the way has a great garden site called , check it out, it is a great site for information and has a nice forum in which you can get your garden questions answered. Anyway - Beth, the greenhouse manager, asked me to thin my bed since they are spraying on Sunday and want to get full coverage of the plants. We fertilized with fish emulsion and kelp and watered. Went back last night to spray Bacillus thurengiensis, a bacterium that paralyzes the gut of leaf-eating caterpillars for the cabbage loopers and picked my first harvest of greens. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that I am getting a harvest on the beds. They were sown and planted with seedlings almost a month ago - my time flies when you are having fun in the garden.

The first harvest was of greens - even though the Kale was infested with aphids! Will wash them well but who minds a little extra protein anyway? I got three big gallon ziplocks full of Kale, Pak Choi, arugula and lettuces. I may even have enough to start selling the bags of mixed greens at the market for about $2.00 a bag. A great price for organically produced greens compared to the 3.99 or 4.99 you pay at the supermarket. I will take them home and wash them well and have greens for the next week and a half!

Vicki and I are meeting at the greenhouse tonight to water and sow herbs in flats for the future markets. I've found that you really need to think ahead and schedule things fairly carefully. I sowed catnip in flats about two to three weeks ago and it still has barely sprouted and I would like to offer herb starts if I get into the winter market in Farmington, so I need to get started now as that is only six weeks away. I'll take another ziplock for Vicki tonight so she can share in the harvest, but I think she is a little grossed out by the aphids - oh well, we'll avoid the kale and offer her some arugula and lettuce.

Starting the Oakland County Flea Market this Sunday at the Farmers Market Facility on Pontiac Lake Rd. in Waterford, just west of Telegraph Rd. Will be offering a fresh selection of bulbs, houseplants, and I have a smattering of CDs, books, maybe yarn and fabric and the dried flower creations I have been working on. Trying to get costs down on my dried flower stuff - we'll see how it goes over at the market.

So, that's the recent update on how the greenhouse venture goes. In the nursery Pam and I spent the day potting up 4" pots into one gallons and took about 100 of them over to Vicki's for overwintwering. The pile of pots over at Vicki's keeps growing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bulb Planting Time

grape hyacinths, lily and scilla

It takes no small amount of hope to take a gnarly knob of a bulb, stick it in the ground and hope for a daffodil in the spring...but I find bulbs, especially in their first seasons, fairly foolproof. There are all manner of bulbs to choose from - early spring bloomers like crocus, grape hyacinth and scilla. Later spring bloomers follow - plants like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. Alliums and lilies take up the slack for early summer. Planting bulbs is really a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck in a small amount of space.

The old rule holds true - try to plant bulbs three times deep as they are tall, and make sure you put the root end down - that's the hairy end. Bulbs can be planted now through ground freeze, but the earlier you plant them (to a point) the sooner they can make a root system to carry them through the winter. Bulbs are alive whether they are dormant or not, so try to store them away from a lot of heat or frost. If you have to hold them for any length of time, try putting them in the refrigerator where they will be kept cold not freezing.

Forcing bulbs is fun for anyone who has an extra fridge - pot them up now and set them in the fridge for a couple months. Pull them out and slowly acclimatize them to the warm temperatures and you can have blooms for the late winter. For those of you in a condo missing the garden experience, try forcing some paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis - they take no cool temperatures and can be forced on a windowsill or table. Forced hardy bloomers can be planted outside when spring weather begins to break.

Sage Advice finally got its first bulb shipment and is offering a small selection of varieties at the Oakland County Flea Market on Sundays. Not sure of the prices yet but they will be reasonable and you can buy one or twenty, bag 'em yourself. The flea market is located in the Farmers Market facility on Pontiac Lake Rd. just west of Telegraph in Waterford. Call me, Margaret, at 248-622-6527 for more information or directions.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Planting Greenhouse Garden Bed #2

17 varieties of vegetables
Last night Vicki and I went to the greenhouse and planted up the new garden bed #58. Vicki was all tired from work and fighting an infection so I wanted to make it easy for her. We made labels out of popsicle sticks for our 17 varieties of greens and vegetables and set about planting in the bed. I am excited I think family and friends will be having a great harvest this winter.

Vicki planted the entire package of snap peas. Four rows of the delicious little fellows. We did carrots, scallions, beets, bush pickling cucumbers, radishes, kohlrabi, greens galore and five kinds of lettuces. We'll be eating well this long, cold winter.

Then I sent Vicki home to get some dinner and relax while I watered and watered the bed. It still is so dry. Beth, the greenhouse manager also pointed out to me that the greenhouse is having a few pest problems and I had noticed that something was nibbling on the pak choi but couldn't see the culprit. Beth pointed out a baby green caterpillar hidden among the foliage munching happily along. That didn't last long as I applied the squish method of control. I asked Beth if I can spray some BT - a bacterium that paralyses the gut of leaf eating caterpillars. I know she'll get back to me soon.

Aphids are also sucking the lifeblood out of the plants and a leaf miner is tunneling around on another plot's spinach plants. The greenhouse program is to try and spray proactively on Sunday night - when it is closed with Mycotrol - an insecticide and Actinovate  - a fungicide. These materials are non-toxic and I think are approved for use in organic plots.

5 varieties of lettuces
two kinds of radishes
lots of peas and carrots
Harvested a bit of the baby Kale and the arugula in my plot #51. Yum - I am determined to make myself get a taste for Kale this year and baby size it is tender and flavorful but not overpowering. The arugula - one of my favorites - is sweet and nutty - best harvested small before it gets too hot and spicy. With all the watering we've been doing, I think the veg and greens will stay nice and tender and won't get too bitter.

Wow. Whirlwind two days at the nursery and in the gardens. Looking forward to winter when I can just collapse and vegetate!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Road trip to Hortmark

It was a glorious blue-sky day. The colors on the trees were fabulous. We took a ride up Rochester Rd. to the tiny town in the thumb called Dryden and hung a right, shot across the brown soybean fields and corn to the farming community of Capac, Michigan. As promised, we visited Hortmark, my greenhouse supplier and purchased - gulp!- 900 one gallon pots to size up the plants left in the nursery for overwintering.

Stacks of pots at Hortmark

Greenhouse storage at Hortmark

900 pots in the van
Hortmark has been around for years, I used to buy from them 20 years ago when I had my farm in Riley Center, Michigan, and is run by two characters, Ken Day and Dave Ludwig. They were there cutting up and having a good time as Pam and I took on our load of 900 pots. I decided not to get soil but did stop by their place called, originally, The Store, which carries lots of garden stuff and critter feeding supplies. Great selection of birdhouses there. Bought birdseed and kitty food for Jo-Jo and we were on our way to find Louie's Family Restaurant and had a couple of great and very reasonable omelets.

As you can see Hortmark wouldn't win a beauty contest but it has most of the stuff I need to grow things, and is run by two very nice guys with whom I've been doing business for a number of years. The prices are quite competitive too.

Got back to the nursery and started in on the potting. Pam said she felt like all she was doing was filling up the soil bin time and time again. We got all the bare root material that Janet Macunovich had dropped off for us. Did Hosta Aureo-maculata, black mondo grass and some nice Japanese banner grass. Wound up with a load of about 50+ pots to take to Vicki's. We dropped off the load to the growing ranks of pots in her backyard. We then took a trip to Home Depot for composted manure for the new greenhouse bed.

Dropped Pam off in Rochester and came back to the nursery and then to the greenhouse. Loaded 240 lbs. of soil and compost onto the garden bed, worked it in and waterered, watered and watered. The greenhouse is dormant through the summer months and so it gets closed up and temperatures reach as high as 140F. The soil is just dusty dry and baked. Vicki and I plan on planting seeds tonight so I was trying to get the seedbed moist enough for that. It will take several more deep waterings to get all that peaty compost wet again.

So it was a big day for both Pam and I. Looking forward to a day off(?) - where I will clean the house and do some more canning and probably make a few more flower wreaths. I guess that's a day off!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The greenhouse beds

Vicki with the new greenhouse bed
Vicki is excited. Splurged and got another greenhouse garden bed for Vicki and I and Sage Advice Nursery. Aside from just growing food we will now have a place for starting perennial seedlings this winter. We have to clear out by April 15 but I figure by then the weather will have broken and I will be able to harden off the seedlings in the cold frames outdoors.

We plan on growing tomatoes and greenhouse pickling cucumbers, green onions, shallots, romaine, radish and broccoli.
We'll keep half of the garden in short term crops so we can pull them by January when it is time to start the seedlings. I am excited too. I spent a few hours ordering seeds for the perennials from Jung Seed, Specialty Plants and Jellito Seedsmen - a german company well known among growers.We have exciting stuff. I was going to order double Hellebore seed for customer Robin, but it turns out it has to go through an extensive cold then warm just seemed like too much of a hassle. I think I'll order the double Hellebores as plants.

Margaret with the garden bed, planted Sept. 28th!
The garden bed is almost ready to harvest for baby lettuces. Fertilized last week, Sunday, and I can see the pak choi has really beefed up. Need to thin them but I think I'll do so when I am ready for some more salad greens. The basil tops can be picked to make the plants branchier.

I'm going to pick up Pam today and we'll be travelling up to Hortmark for more pots and probably a few bags of soil if I decide I can afford it. Was kind of appalled when I went out and counted the plants for overwintering and potting up...850 of them! Eek! So we definitely have our work cut out for us in the next few weeks.Vicki has generously offered the use of her backyard as a nursery storage area for overwintering which is a godsend as I am already out of room.

Paul came to build the new cold frames against the fence, but weather intervened and we were unable to work. He'll be coming this Saturday to try much money going out, I'd better make it up in the spring! Janet Macunovich stopped by to dig a hosta up for a garden presentation on digging and dividing plants. She is a well known speaker on perennial and other gardens in the midwest. We used to have a radio show together called "Green Side Up" on a local radio station back in the late 90's - geez was that nearly 20 years ago? It just can't be!

Gearing up for the indoor flea market. Made my first dried flower wreath for the first time in a long while. It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. Will never get back what I have put into it - or I'd be selling it for $40 which I know I can't get. We'll run these dried flower wreaths and swags up the old flagpole and see who salutes.

So even though the nursery is officially closed there is still much work to be done. Check in with the blog periodically and you can see our progress this winter season. Enjoy this beautiful fall...the colors are spectacular

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oakland County Parks Moving Community Gardens Indoors for Winter

Oakland County Parks Moving Community Gardens Indoors for Winter: Metro Detroit has grown a national reputation for urban and community gardens. There are hundreds throughout Metro Detroit, but the vast majority of those gardens go dormant in the winter. Now Oakland County Parks is taking the concept of Community Gardening to the next level and is moving the gardens indoors for the winter months. WDET’s Amy Miller speaks with Mike Donnellon, Chief of Parks and Facilities Maintenance for Oakland County Parks.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sage Advice Nursery: Up and Growing

Sage Advice Nursery: Up and Growing: Bed 51 continues to grow. Have been meeting people in the community greenhouse - Natalie, the accountant, whose bed is so neatly designe...

Up and Growing

Bed 51 continues to grow. Have been meeting people in the community greenhouse - Natalie, the accountant, whose bed is so neatly designed, Linda , the gal who lives in a condo who gets people to help her plant up the bed and Jan, the first timer trying her hand at the greenhouse. The community is starting to gel.

I have said it before but if you have never grown a plant from a seed you have missed one of the true great miracles of the Creator. All my plants are seed grown and they are up and doing their thing. Greens and herbs with golden purslane and siberian kale being a few unusual favorites.

I'm also growing Stevia - the herb with the sweet leaves and I'll try to harvest a few to tuck into my iced tea. The basil is also doing well and if I have a surplus of anything I think I'll take it to the flea market and try and sell it.

Golden Purslane
Siberian Kale

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Potting with Pam

Had a big day today. Went to pick up Pam. Trying to get her enough work so she can afford a car! Went off to the farmers market and did a bit of shopping then went to Vicki's to scope out her backyard for overwintering plants. After a mid-morning coffee break, we went out to pot up the rest of the 36cell seedling trays and put them into one gallons.We finished up the miscellaneous sweet william and forget me nots and primrose - going to hopefully have some nice pots for spring. Ahhh, there is always hope in the nursery business. We also potted up a load of phlox 'David' a white, four-foot, fragrant variety into the one gallons, and watered everything in.

After a filling lunch of potato-cauliflower soup out of the crock pot, topped off by a cherry crumb pie we took another break. At Sage Advice, I think we are famous for our great employee coffee breaks. Then, we loaded up the van for a trip to Vicki's to line out the production for the day. We didn't pot up as much as we did Saturday but we ran out of the one gallons so we are trekking to Capac to Hortmark next Tuesday for more pots. I need to count the stock left in the nursery, but I wager I have about 500 more plants to pot up before the start of November.

Still waiting on bulbs. Want to sell a few at the flea market in bulk bags. Got mostly daffodils - 100 each variety - and some scilla and grape hyacinth in my favorite blues. May get some more bulbs from Vandenberg if the bulbs sell well. The market master tells me foot traffic at the flea market is pretty lame, but I am going to try it to keep my hand in over the winter.

Bought some 3" houseplants to sell at the flea market and bumped them up into 4" pots. They are nice and beefy so I will grow them on for a couple weeks. Got a couple of little Norfolk Island Pines that would make a sweet little Christmas Tree for the kitchen table. May have to keep one and make some quilled paper ornaments for it.

Been buying the nicest triple scented soy candles at the Armada Flea Market from a vendor who gets the from Bonnie Lass out of Lapeer. My brother also got some goats milk soap from them that I also like. I'd like to see if I can can establish a wholesale account with them and offer the very fragrant candles at the flea market. So far I have indulged in honeysuckle, coffee bean, lemon zest and a piney version called "Up North". When burned the candles fragrance the whole house.

Wish I had some pictures for today, but we were so busy potting and running around that it really slipped my mind. Before taking Pam home, we stopped by to water the greenhouse garden, so Pam could get her first look at the new babies growing. She was impressed with how the beds had progressed. Some of the other beds are really doing well with beans up about 6" and doing well. It is great to see the variety of things that the other folks have chosen to grow. Think I'll loan Vicki the registration fee for another bed so I'll have some room to start seedlings for the nursery for this spring.

So that was the day at Sage Advice Nursery - very productive and enjoyable. We have been blessed by some great fall weather and here's hoping we get all our work wrapped up by November!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sage Advice Nursery: Getting Ready for Winter

Sage Advice Nursery: Getting Ready for Winter: Employee Vicki working hard potting So I am out of space for all the plants I want to carry over for the winter already. Employee number...

Getting Ready for Winter

Employee Vicki working hard potting
So I am out of space for all the plants I want to carry over for the winter already. Employee number two Vicki Peterson has generously offered her backyard for more space. I'd like to expand and have been wondering where I can get some more property for a cheap price.

Yesterday we were potting up the 36 ct. flats and 4" pots into one gallons. I don't think I can overwinter the 4" very successfully but I may be forced to do so. Went last week to my greenhouse supplier Hortmark in Capac, MI and got more pots and we've already used half of them. Looks like another run for supplies is in my future.

We potted small foxglove and sweet william from the 36's. Also potted up the terribly expensive "Hot Papaya" Echinacea or coneflower so I can get a better price on them. Even at the rock bottom clearance prices I haven't been able to sell enough plants. Thank you to Judy for supplying us with the earthworm compost that we have been adding to the soiless mix. Been reading about improving the biological activity of a soiless mix and it was recommended to add something like this. Ran out of the earthworm poop and am starting to use my composted manure bags. We'll see if it improves plant growth in the spring. Had trouble feeding plants like delphinium which are such heavy feeders. I hope this new mix helps hold nutrients in the soil.

So I think I'll take Vicki up on her offer and start trucking plants over to her house as we pot them up. Also have to get some frost blankets for the plants to help insulate them for winter. All the plants are cold hardy so the philosophy is to freeze them and then keep them cold through winter, thawing them out gradually in the spring.Pam - employee number one is coming over Tuesday and we will be potting some more 4", so I think we'll make a few runs to Vicki's house, which is conveniently only about 5 miles away, with our new transplants.

So I'd have to say the first season of Sage Advice nursery has been a tentative success. After starting in what one grower told me was the slowest time of the season, we did fairly well for a newcomer at the market. Starting to develop a few regulars who always stop by and look to see if I've brought anything new. I really appreciate those folks, they stop by and chat about their gardens and it makes for a more pleasant time at the markets. It is gratifying to help make others worlds more colorful and interesting. Here's to a bang up start for 2013!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Greenhouse Garden - Planting Seedlings

Kale and Pak Choi seedlings
The baby seedlings are finally out of quarantine. So last evening went to the greenhouse to plant them up. To the left is a shot of the kale and pak choi seedlings - I'm sure I didn't leave enough space for them and in a few weeks they'll be crowding each other out. The greenhouse was busy last night with a few gardeners planting and watering their pots. Have only talked to a couple of them so far and I don't really feel like I'm part of the community yet. I suppose it will come.

Basil and Thyme

Have planted so far - Basil, one lonely sage plant, thyme, stevia - the very sweet plant whose leaves you can use like sugar, kale, a couple of different pak choi, golden chard, a golden purslane - yes I know you know it as a garden weed but it really makes a nice salad green if you try it. I've also got a few winter lettuces - and I think I did a mesclun mix. The lettuces should be ready in a couple of weeks as I will treat them like a cut and come again crop. Shearing them off for baby greens and letting them regrow again.

A few of the seeds on planted Sept. 28 are coming up - to the left is a shot of the baby arugula sprouts. So exciting to see the seeds sprout - to me it is always a miracle to grow plants from seed. I've never gotten over my fourth grade fascination with it. So far the sprouters are arugula, radishes, golden chard, some lettuces and mesclun mixes, spinach and the pak choi. The herb seeds always take longer I have found. You can wait for weeks before you'll see parsley seedlings. I think the basil should be sprouting soon, it is one of the few herbs I have grown which is usually a quick grower.

So I am over my buyer's remorse at spending so much money on the greenhouse plot. It seemed like an awful lot of dough for a little space. But I am certainly enjoying my time there. Now I've got to start using all my produce!