Sorry for the lack of posts, but posting to a blog while your baskets shrivel up and almost die didn’t take priority. Did I say it had been a sucky year? It has. I learned a lot too though. I learned that fertilizing because your baskets are starting to look a little ugly after having just fertilized a week before is not a good idea.
Long story short all of my calibrachoa and fuchsia baskets are finally coming back. Just in time to donate them to the local nursing homes. I’ve been using a 25 pound bag of fertilizer since last summer. You know how there is always a clump in your fertilizer? Well I worked around that clump for over a year and when all the other stuff in the bag was gone I started breaking down that clump and using it in my normal (10 ounces to a 33 gallon barrel) way. Turns out that that clump had just sat there absorbing more and more moisture until it was a clump of mostly soluable salts that they use to deliver the man made nitrogen to the roots of your plants. Turns out that when it’s a concentrated block of mostly salt it has a way of plugging up your roots like cholestorol does your arteries. Guess what, this causes the roots to not be able to take up anything and the plants quickly begin to show the effects. Veining in the leaves, necrosis in the leaf margins then basically death of the leaves. So as soon as I noticed this problem I being a good steward to my plants what did I do, you got, it I fertilized some more. (so much for making a long story short huh) They got worse and I got madder.
I finally sent off a couple of samples to different diagnostic labs and they both said that they plants were stressed. Thanks I can see that so am I. I started drenching with plain water to wash out the salts built up in the pots and they started to heal up It’s been two months now and most of my stuff is back to almost normal. I cut back a lot of the baskets and they are looking really nice now. The only evidence is the old dead leaves left over at the bottom of the plants.
Another thing I re-learned is that if you have a white crust or film an the bottom of your 4″ pots around the drain holes that you have a build up of salts in that pot. Pour the water to them for a while before you feed them again.
I also found out from the manufacturer of the fertilizer that I was using too much at a time. I was shooting for 300 ppm nitrogen (that’s what I have been using for the last 20 or so years) Now I am aiming for 100ppm which is about 4 ounces of my soluable per 33 gallon barrel.
That’s it for today I’ll post some pics tomorrow.
Here are a few new pictures of the begonias and others as they have grown. In a problem solving mode at present. Trying to figure out where the fungus came from that attacked the calibrachoa baskets and working to clear it up. may have to cut back a BUNCH of cali baskets and let them start over. Just frikkin great. Didn’t I tell you in the beginning of this blog that growing is for masochists? Seems there is some major setback or outright failure every year, how much fun would it be if everything went as planned.Not too many aphids this year though. There that’s the silver lining to my present cloud.
Golden Picotee Illumination Basket
Orange Illumination Baskets starting to fill out
Peaches and Cream Illumination
Cali Pink with an eye, about half grown
a few hundred white bacopa at $2 each( I know too cheap)
Love my Sanvatallia great trailing plant for baskets
That’s it for today. Sorry for so few posts, thought I would have more time to share this stuff while it grew. I don’t. Happy planting
More places to sell your product. Contract growing is a market I haven’t chased after. Contract growing can come in many sizes. You can dedicate your whole nursery top one or two buyers or you can just contract grow as a sideline. The problem for growing for one or two or even three retailers is that if you are into production and say that store or retailer goes out of business or sells out to someone new you may be stuck with all of their product and no market for it. You should ask for some deposit when you enter into the agreement. I would ask for at least the cost of the product you are going to have to buy in to fulfill your end of the deal. That way if they do quit business at least you aren’t out the whole amount. Don’t think it won’t happen to you, even the biggest stores can get bought out or go under, it happens more often than you think.
I once had a chance to grow fuchsia and petunia baskets for a large retailer in our area called Fred Meyer (now owned by Kroger) I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter deal,lots of baskets close to home and a good price. I started to figure out the space I would need to grow for them and it looked like I would need most of my greenhouse space. Then while in the planning process I realized that they had a supplier before me, what happened to them? Then I started thinking of just how easily they could cancel our agreement and realized that if they did my income would drop by about 80%. I considered this for a couple of days and believe me it was hard to call them and tell them I wasn’t interested.
What I consider to be small contract growing is growing for local landscapers or local motels or restaurants. Also think about hospitals churches, office complexes, school districts your parks departments, city county and state, and florists.
Every town has a florist that wants nice baskets the week before Mothers day. I had one such florist in our area that never wanted to have us grow for them but they would show up the weekend before Mothers day and want to buy our best baskets, at a discount of course. I would tell them the price was already on the basket and I would not have a problem selling all of my best baskets retail by the next weekend. They were offended (every year) why couldn’t they buy my baskets at 60% of retail so they could double the price after holding the basket for maybe 5 days. You have to consider every angle before selling at a discount. Once you have a good reputation you should never have to sell at a discount to your retail prices. Keep your prices reasonable and your quality up and you can turn away the folks looking to cash in on your considerable efforts.
Fund raisers is another type of market. If it’s a fund raiser aimed at a specific holiday or season you can plan well in advance. Schools all over the country used to use fund raisers to buy uniforms and sports equipment. I am seeing a comeback in this idea for hard up fund raisers. If you can plant the seed at the schools churches and other service organizations and show them how to best plan for their function it could pay some good dividends. Gift certificates and silent auctions comes to mind too.
Okay I’m starting to run out of gas here. I don’t have a book to turn to about starting a nursery this is all coming off of the top of my head each day so I’m just filling pages with my experiences if you have suggestions or questions please leave them in the comments.
Calibrachoa plugs for planting into baskets
Three tiny plugs to a cell
3 plugs per pot I will put a white lobelia in the center later
About 250 baskets so far
A bunch of plugs, some are mine some are for the city
I should be done planting baskets soon. Then I can get ready for the Begonias next week.
Here we are a three weeks into the new year. Lots of tomato starts up as well as a newer pansy variety (plentifall mix, trailing pansy) already seeded and sprouting. We’re waiting for our first plug delivery only 6 days away. Waiting for plugs to a nursery person is like Christmas to an 8 year old. All of the plans, orders and dreams made back in September of last year will begin coming to light this week. It’s like the nurseryman/nurserywoman experiences a rebirth every year at this time. A new chance to repopulate our local environment with another batch of amazing flowers.
First I need to make room for my flats and baskets in a clean greenhouse (the clean part took 2 days). Then start filling the flats for the incoming plugs. 25 pots to a flat 4 flats equal 100 plants. First shipment is 932 plants of trailing petunias. Also the same day an order of Begonias, Fuchsias and Lewisia. That’s 37 flats for the petunias alone.
Above are the first flats for the Calibrachoa’s. This is where an old dog learns a new trick. After filling this many flats with soil so that I can get the Cali’s off to a good start I realize that I am going to use 3 bales of $30 soil. That’s .096 cents per pot worth of soil.These bales are costing more and shrinking every year. It used to cost right around 5 cents to fill a pot. This is where the new trick part comes in.( I’m the old dog by the way)
Screw it, I’m going to plant directly into the baskets this year. I used to do it this way years ago but fell into the habit of starting in 3 1/2″ pots over the years and like a crappy bank I have stuck with it. Well I now have a nice local bank that I can put the money that I save on soil into. I emptied all of those pots into baskets and will plug directly into them.
This method will save some money but has some of it’s own problems. When you have a larger mass of soil it stays wet longer thereby giving those tender rooted cuttings more of a chance to rot. I will water in the baskets this week so that they will have a chance to settle in and let the top dry slightly. Then when I plant the plugs I can water in each basket lightly. This will help me control the dampness (I thinks that’s a word) in the top couple of inches of soil. I will incorporate a fungicide into the first watering to help stave off any fungal disease. Then it’s a matter of keeping the air moving constantly in the greenhouses. I use a box fan at each end blowing in opposite directions.
I have been guilty of saving money on heat and over the last couple of years I have paid for it by having my production slowed greatly. I am used to running the greenhouse temps at night between 50 and 55 degrees. After talking to the begonia expert at my supplier I plan to hold 60 to 65 this year. He says the begonias will jump out of the pots at 65. We’ll See.