Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tough to grow seedlings this year

Seedlings from Wagner's greenhouse
I've got to appreciate the beautifully-grown seedlings that a professional greenhouse sends me. The trays are perfectly uniform with a lovely plant in each cell, every cell filled and growing. Now it is up to me to take this beautiful plant material and grow it on to size. Wagner's Greenhouse in Minnesota is one cell-tray grower that shipped me beautiful stuff. To the left are pansies, gerbera and silver heart cyclamen. My idea of growing something for the Valentine's Day holiday has slipped out the window but I'll have these as potted plants for late winter or early spring. Timing is so critical in the nursery business - I'll eventually get my timing right.

Silver Heart Cyclamen

To the right is a lovely tray of Silver Heart Cyclamen. They are supposed to be mixed colors, rose, red and white - so I'll see once they begin to bloom. Each leaf is a definite gray-silver with a green picotee edge. Gorgeous. I have never grown cyclamen in pots before - but there's a first time for everything isn't there? I'm putting these in 4" round pots - some are heavy and nice for tabletop display. I've also started looking for squares of florist foil to ultimately put around the finished plants.

Delphinium seedlings

Meanwhile the seedlings from the big greenhouse go limping along. To the left is a tray of teeny delphinium seedlings started in early December. My other delphiniums have been sown in moist soil and are sitting in the crisper drawer in the fridge. Am told they germinate better when they go through a cold period of about four weeks. I'll take them out mid-February and sow them then. 
Trays of seedlings in my greenhouse
 Took nine trays of seedlings from the Oakland County Greenhouse to see if the warmth from my new seedling mat will pop them into sprouting. Some success, I have seen a few more green sprouts. Waiting on new hoses to arrive as my big hose outdoors is frozen solid. Have to fill the watering can in the kitchen sink and take it out to the greenhouse. So far, not a bad chore, since the greenhouse is only half full.

Seedlings with frost cloth
The seedlings in the Oakland County greenhouse are currently swaddled with frost cloth and a couple flats are sporting clear propagation domes to increase humidity. The only problem about the frost cloth is - it's pulling off labels from the seed trays and I am starting to have a few anonymous trays. It's tough to tell what a seedling is when it is so tiny - I hate to think I'll have to wait until they grow up to figure out what it is!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

First day working in the greenhouse

Me filling seed trays
Today was cold outside but balmy in the greenhouse. First, Pam and I went to the big Oakland County greenhouses to water and fertilize and to take soil and markers to Vicki's - greenhouse 1. Was our first day working in Greenhouse #1 and it was a balmy 58 with the heat going. It was 25F outside but lovely, take your coat off weather inside. Fired up the space heater and started filling seed flats. The objective is to grow fresh greens for the winter market to sell. Sowed spinach, mesclun, lettuces, golden purslane, and a few other greens. Am hoping they'll grow in the flats as a cut and come again crop. If they are still good by the end of the season we can plant them outside in the nursery bed just back of the greenhouse. So many plans!
Pam filling flats

Fired up the heater in my greenhouse - greenhouse #2  and it went down to a reasonable 44F last night. Fired up the seedling mat that I purchased from a chicken place - meant for incubating eggs. It is kind of cool - just a mylar piece with electric running through it. Went to the OC greenhouse and got 9 seedling  trays that had not sprouted yet to see if I can bump them into growth at my little house.

Pam basking in the winter sunshine
We then loaded primrose, sweet william and daffodils into the van for me to take to Vicki's tomorrow back at my house. I'll take them into greenhouse #2 and see if I can coax them into growth. Lunch and a coffee break were in order and after we took dog, Griffin, for a walk we had a little nip of homemade Kahlua. Man do I take care of my employees or what? A good day was had by all!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another productive day

Completing greenhouse #2
Detail of roof vent
Detail of panel clip
Missing panel
Today was a good day. Spent most of the morning and afternoon putting in panels in my new Harbor Freight 6x8 greenhouse. The roof vents were a bit buggery but I finally got them sealed. Paul is coming back tomorrow to finish off the vents....he put the handles in backwards.

Above is a shot of the panel clips. They were a bit challenging to get the hang of - but once I did it went along smoothly. Hope they hold in some wind - on the web many people were saying that with any wind the panels blow out and that they should be caulked in. We'll see.

The view from the kitchen

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dumped the gravel...finished the floor!

Whew! The day started out at a bitter two degrees above zero and topped out at 17F, but today we worked outside and shoveled gravel to finish the floor in the greenhouse. We switched off shoveling and dumping with raking duties. It only took us less than an hour and a half to move a yard and a half of pea gravel. Wow! We are good!

Lounging after the work

Pam at rest

The gravel looked like a mountain and when half of the greenhouse floor was covered, we still had a huge pile...But, we shoveled and dumped, shoveled and dumped and voila! The stuff got moved.

Pam and I rested at the end of the day and kept pinching ourselves to think we built this. Now it is time to fill it.

Finally got an order in for cyclamen, gerbera and pansies and we'll be starting greens seeds on Saturday, when the weather is supposed to moderate a bit. Here we go...can't wait until spring!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In the works - Greenhouse #2

The mess of the build greenhouse #2
Greenhouse #2 is in the works! So glad - this one is in my backyard, 6x8 - roomy enough for starting seedlings and overwintering tender plants. Came from Harbor Freight Tools and was inexpensive. Not as well built or as strong as the first greenhouse, but it is extruded aluminum with double glazed polycarbonate panels for walls. I'm excited to move the small houseplants, which have outgrown their space in my tiny kitchen, and all the bloomed out amaryllis to the space once it is done.

Detail of base
Pam, friend Paul and I spent yesterday getting the base frame built and put up the framing. This time , directions were in Engliah, but there were few diagrams to help us. Paul knocked it out - with a few arguments from me....

Corner view
The base is sturdy and, once attached, this baby is not going anywhere. The base is treated 2x12 with a 4x6 on top. The greenhouse gets attached to the 4x6- which, by the way, are heavy! Pam and I did our best to shim it up and try to get it level. It's close. Got to run the electrical cord under the base and then fill the base with gravel.

Pam an Paul - hiding from camera - working
Paul working on door framing
It really wasn't too hard to build - just had to have a lot of helpers to hold the sides up while you are trying to stabilize them. Today, Paul and I will put the panels in and it should be a done deal, save for the gravel. Have bought two 3-tier shelving units to go in it - each will hold about six flats. I also have an eight foot propagation mat - enough for 9 flats on the opposite wall and I'll put an eight foot bench over that. So this little house will be filled up quickly.

Meanwhile the first greenhouse is empty. Vicki is a bit loathe to put the heat on so soon and I'm inclined to agree. Single digit temperatures are predicted for the next couple of weeks so, I think we'll fire it up in February. Oh, after I write that I take it all back! Pam and I will be shoveling the gravel into it this next Wednesday and we plan on starting some greens seedlings while we wait for the gravel truck. We'll have to fire the heater up then... Just want to keep the heat high enough so it won't go much lower than 50F for nighttime temperatures. All the greens I'll be growing are cool-season crops and can take a bit of chill.

Trying to get the greens going for market sales. I want to sell bags of baby organic lettuces for about $3 or $3.50 at the Oakland County and Old Winery Markets. I have a space for the Old Winery Market reserved for April so I'm shooting for that.

Meanwhile I've ordered some color. Want to try Cyclamen and Gerbera for the first time and try to get something going for Valentine's Day - but it is a longshot. Have ordered a mix of Gerbera, Cyclamen and Pansies to pot up and grow on. And Pam thought she'd be retired for the winter! The flowers should come in a week or so. I've tried to stress the urgency of the order to my sales rep - but we'll see. Had to buy cell trays with quite a few plants, so we'll be moving those to Vicki's once we get them potted.

Exciting happenings at the new and growing Sage Advice Nursery!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oakland County Greenhouse 1-17-2013

Bed #2 with blooming peas

Edible Nasturtium flowers
The greenhouse beds, with the exception of the seedlings, continue to grow well. The aphids are finally under control and have virtually disappeared. I decided to spray anyway for the few aphids that were left. Using an insecticidal soap.

Peas flowers
Bed #1 pretty well picked over

The peppery nasturtiums have finally started to flower, as have the peas. The pea variety , "Sugar Sprint", a veryearly variety at 55 days - has finally started to bear at 90 plus days. I tell you, this greenhouse is kept so chilly, even the peas are slow!  But, Vicki, Pam and I have been supplied with salad greens so far this winter. The tomatoes have barely grown an inch, I think I am going to pot them up and take them to my greenhouse once it's built.

  By the way, Greenhouse #2 is coming tomorrow! It is a small 6x8 aluminum and polycarbonate house that I am putting in my tiny, already packed backyard. Pam will be coming by on Saturday to help me start to put it up. The feedback on-line says it takes about 4-5 hours to put up, so I figure we'll have it built in two weeks! Am so excited to put it to use. Ordered cyclamen, gerbera and pansies for it and I'm trying to produce something for market by Valentine's Day. It is a longshot, but at least we'll get a start on growing some flowers for market.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Now It's Complete

Pam hammering pins for the greenhouse
View from Vicki's driveway

View from the backyard

The empty greenhouse - not for long!

Margaret with the finished product!

Pam posing in the new greenhouse
When I wrote my last post - I wasn't far off about completing the greenhouse - but we still needed to pin it to the ground somehow. So, Pam and I spent the day yesterday doing just that. It took us all morning to finally get the hardware and hacksaw blade that we needed. We struggled with too big a pin that we had to cut with a hacksaw, so we finally got a narrower gauge pin to put in and it worked much better. When we finally got all the stuff it only too us about an hour an a half to finish the job.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's finished!

Amen! The greenhouse is finally finished! Hired friend Paul Manning to do the last engineering on the greenhouse. Paul is good at figuring out things on the fly - he works on farm equipment - without a manual - for a living. We had to disassemble to doors and put them back together and had to buy a few more bits of hardware to complete the project but - sigh of relief - It's done!

Paul finishing the roof vents
The greenhouse is really quite a large growing space - friend Janet suggested we put in a couple of chaise lounges and have one of those tall drinks with the umbrella in it until the space fills up. It will be such a blessing to have a space to get out of the weather, to keep tender things growing in the winter and to generally enjoy. Vicki's neighbors wondered if she is taking up growing wacky tobacco. I told her she should take them on a tour through it and sell some plants to them. The more customers the merrier - and curious neighbors are a great start!

Have a min/max thermometer coming and I still need to bolt the greenhouse to the ground. That's next step for Tuesday with Pam. Buying some threaded rods I can cut to length and a wing nut to go on the clips for the greenhouse frame.Vicki brought out a solar light and I think we will put it inside the greenhouse. It will come in handy for those early dark mornings when I am trying to load stock. I think the seedlings may come to the house earlier than I anticipated because they are keeping the Oakland County greenhouse so cold. Am moving the seedlings Tuesday to an interior bed and covering them with frost cloth to try and gain a few degrees of heat.

Paul working on the greenhouse
Now we will need to order a load of pea gravel to put down for flooring. I'd like to keep the floor dry with a layer of gravel over the weed mat. So one step at a time it is nearing completion - and ready for plants. Thinking of digging up the tomatoes that are in the bed at Oakland County and potting them into two gallons and seeing if I can get some early tomatoes. They are suffering so from the cold. They have turned purple as they can't take up any phosphorus - so I've been fertilizing regularly

Tomorrow I go to the Oakland County greenhouse - need to fertilize the garden beds. Will take a harvest - as I am out of salad greens , thin and water. I might sow some more lettuces in the beds by the vents, have been trying to get enough to harvest and take to market. Bagged , fresh organic greens should be able to find someone who will want them for a good price. Will also be ordering some cyclamen and cineraria to grow on - trying  to get something to offer for Valentine's day - but I don't know if I have enough time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A forest of Amaryllis and other nursery news

A  forest of Amaryllis

Here I sit, way too early in the morning - so I figured I'd write a bit of news for the blog. A forest of red-hued Amaryllis sits on the kitchen table. I wanted to take these to market, but wound up not having enough stuff to make a booth. So I am blessed with the prolific display. Gorgeous.Shows how much I have a need for the greenhouse to have some space to grow these babies on and overwinter them for next year.

Me with the new shelves
Meanwhile the greenhouse at Vicki's struggles on. Contacted the supplier about directions for building the roof vents and he said to call him for more info. Will call him this afternoon and hopefully get enough direction to be able to help Paul tomorrow finish it off. The new shelves got built this week and here are some pictures of me and Pam with them. They were so easy to pop together. Finally, something easy to put together!

Still have some space in the greenhouse even with the shelves. 10x20 is a lot of room...half the size of my teeny house! There will be plenty of space right now for Pam and I to set up the folding table and chairs for potting. Have just found a blog Dottie Pants Journal - very sweet stories about a woman and her greenhouse and garden exploits in Georgia. Very nice - check it out if you are a greenhouse fan. She has the same fantasy as I do - putting a sweet tea table and chairs in the greenhouse and furnishing it with beautiful plants. Pam and I are a bit more utilitarian - potting table for stuffing the greenhouse with baby plants.

Pam with the new shelves
Meanwhile the veg gardens at the big Oakland County Greenhouse complex grow on. The beds have done well...growing only cool-season stuff. Found out the greenhouse is kept at only 55F -65F - no wonder it is so chilly in there. They told me when I first started that the greenhouse would be kept at 75 during the day and 55 at night. So much for that theory. Have got my first baby pea pods forming and have just seen last evening my first nasturtium bloom! So exciting to see the garden develop day after day. Gives one a good feeling in the winter to see green growing things. Vicki, Pam and I have been getting good harvests off the two beds, keeping us in greens for the winter. It will be good to get some snap peas for a different vegetable. Hopefully I'll be able to collect enough to share with my brother Christoper - a vegetarian that I cook for once a week - he can't seem to bring himself to chop vegetables for a fresh meal, preferring instead to eat out of cans. Maybe if I introduce him to snaps , he'll have another easy vegetable to prepare...

The babies at the cool, cool greenhouse are suffering next to their extremely cool vents in the windows. Marty, greenhouse technician, offered another unused bed in the interior of the greenhouse which is much warmer. Hopefully this will give the babies a boost to get going for the season. Marty also suggested frost cloth to give them an extra layer of protection. Maybe though a few of these ideas I can get these children going so they'll be big enough to go to Vicki's someday soon...

All the news, fit to print, for now. Will take some pics at the OC greenhouses so you can see the progress of the gardens and babies and hopefully friend Paul will complete the greenhouse tomorrow. Pics to come!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Not yet done - arrgh!

Pam playing Vanna White with the new greenhouse
Vicki with the new greenhouse
Me sitting down at the end of the day
The greenhouse project goes on... We put all the panels we could in and secured them, but can't figure out the directions for the roof vents...ARRGH! The inscrutable Chinese directions just show a vague picture that barely lists the parts and doesn't show how the pieces fit on the roof vent. All four of us - Vicki, Pam, Michael and me all took a good look at it and couldn't figure it out. I took the directions home with me and plan on meditating on them until insight is reached. Pam and I are going back Wednesday to try and see how far we can get - we also plan on building the shelves - six four tiered shelves for the seedlings that should be ready by March. Maybe I'll contact Paul - if Pam and I can't figure it out. He is pretty good at winging it with directions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking back on 2012

It was a good year in 2012. Had a major life change with my Mom passing to the next life and with me starting up the nursery. Spent too much money getting the nursery off the ground, but the year was filled with good hard work and I am a job creator, employing a couple of friends part time. We made lots of new friends at the markets I went to and are looking forward to a great new year.

Have finally made most all of the improvements to the nursery that I have wanted to. Have built benches and cold frames and are in the midst of constructing two new greenhouses. Getting a great jump start on the 2013 garden season by renting the space in the Oakland County greenhouses and am starting to slow up on getting more new varieties for the coming year.

Goals for the coming year: Spend less money and sell more at the markets. Stay positive about the future. Help friend Pam get a car so she may provide her own transportation. Eat healthy and try to stay fit. Manage my stress by spending more time with friends and animals. And my New years resolution for the past 20 years - Laugh Loudly Every Day. Try and laugh at mistakes and misfortunes.

May 2013 be a great year for you, your friends and family. May you be blessed with health, hope and happiness in your life for this coming year. Happy New Year from Sage Advice Nursery!