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.
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.
, This post is for Jen. With winter officially here in our neck of the woods it’s time to start heating.
People heat for different reasons. Some heat just enough to hold over their semi hardy plants like fuchsias and geraniums. Some want that tropical feel year round. If you want the latter then install a good quality hanging propane or gas heating unit with a power vent to carry out the unburned gas. You can find these units in any greenhouse supplies catalog.
If you don’t happen to have that extra thousand dollars to throw at the problem this post gives examples of what I use in my 10×40 and 20×40 greenhouses
Having 6 greenhouses of differing sizes I use a variety of heating methods. At this time of year I am using only two houses. One for holding over and one for my greenhouse manufacturing shop. The house I use for holding over also has my citrus and lots of succulents and cactus plants that I will be selling next year. The cactus, succulents and the new cuttings that I am starting are in the front half of that greenhouse. The citrus and some of the plants I am holding over are in the back of the greenhouse. To accomplish two heat zones I simply drop a piece of cheap thin plastic down from the ceiling to the floor at about the middle of the greenhouse. Now I have the warm 20′ zone on the front side of the plastic and the cooler side (around 10 degrees cooler) on the back side.
My primary heat is a 4000 watt 220 volt electric heater called the Hot Shot. This heater will keep the whole 40′ house up to around 50 degrees even when it’s 20 degrees outside. This year I have also been experimenting with a portable propane heater called the Blue Flame that I got from someone like Amazon. They put out 30,000btus which seems to be more than enough to heat the entire house. I am using mine though as kind of a backup to my electric. I set the thermostat on the blue flame to come on when the temp gets below 50 degrees or so. It runs a few minutes heats the area up to about 58 degrees then shuts down. A couple of the things I like about this unit is that it has a manual thermostat, you turn it until you hear it click and kick in then you leave it alone. It also has a thermometer in the top that shows the ambient temperature around the heater. This thermometer doesn’t work if the power goes out but the heater does keep working since it has a standing pilot. This is huge, if the power goes out at night and you are all toasty in bed this heater will keep your babies from turning to popsicle. Another nice thing is that you can run this unit on a propane bottle as small as 10 gallons. That way you aren’t trapped paying the high delivered propane price you can pick up your propane at the local farm store or propane place.
For my shop greenhouse which is a 20′x40′ greenhouse I use a salamander, rocket type propane heater with a huge blower on it. They come in 60,000btu to 250,000 sizes. I went with the 125,000btu size as it is the smallest one that comes with a thermostat. I am able to set this one at 65 degrees or so and it will keep cycling on and off and keep the house at a pretty constant temp. I do vent the house once in a while and I also am going in and out constantly while I work so I’m not too worried about carbon monoxide. I have however gotten a slight headache after working in that house for most of the day. I plan to get a carbon monoxide detector today and installing it in that house then cranking the heat for a couple of hours keeping the house at 80 degrees or so to see if it is set off by carbon monoxide.
I also have one of these type of heaters in a 60,000btu which I got at Home Depot for $99. It hooks up to the small barbeque size bottles and can be used to take the chill off of a house in just a few minutes if I want to work in there. This one doesn’t have a thermostat but is useful for a quick heat and is very portable.
Ventilation. For me that’s more of a summer thing. My philosophy is don’t build your greenhouse super tight and you will have enough air coming in to support the heating unit. As far as fumes damaging your plants. The orchid that I posted a picture of is about 6 feet away from the heater and has suffered no ill effects from the propane.
Air Movement. We’re talking fans here. I use the cheap 16″ box fans that you can find at the thrift stores at this time of year for $5. I locate one of them sitting on the floor a few feet in front of my heat source and have it pointing toward the back of the greenhouse. I then have one hanging from the ceiling at the back of the house blowing toward the front. This helps mix the heated air as well as keeping the moist humid air mowing. Most greenhouse plant diseases begin with moist air settling on the plants leaves.