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!