by Murray Thompson,
To Family, friends, fellow gardening
enthusiasts, and fellow members of the Canadian Chrysanthemum & Dahlia
Society and some dahlia and chrysanthemum enthusiast friends around the
world.... and before I go any further, I wish you all a great 2010, good
health, God's blessings, and that you will have an opportunity to
extend a hand to someone less fortunate!
A bit of a
newsletter on my attempts to learn how to operate a greenhouse, some
dahlia talk, and getting some chrysanthemums properly started this
year..(Hey, I continue to hope!)
Greenhouse came out
second best ..
As some of you know, I lost my original greenhouse this summer - it came
out second-best in a collision with a falling Manitoba Maple branch.
After all discussions were complete with my insurance folks, a new one
arrived in a box in October, and with engineering talent from Al Dormer,
we got the new kit up and useable in the two weeks following...and moved
the November-blooming mums (gigantics) inside - kinda late, but better
Some thoughts on
preserving dahlia tubers
Talking about late, I was hoping this year to bury some dahlias in the
garden this year, in a few different ways, just a bit under the soil, and
cover with about 18" of leaves - just to see the potential for having
viable tubers for next year. My belief is that some should
survive. I was able to get some unfrozen earth from under about
10" of leaves even after a two week period of temps between -7C and
-16C. I know that straw would be better than leaves (due to the
tubular nature of straw) but I don't have any. I also think that
covering the leaves with a plastic sheet would be beneficial, just to keep
the melting snow running to one side. My dad once stored a
wagon-load of cabbages under straw, and I was amazed how many survived...a
little icky on the outside, but the inside was superbly crunchy & well
I was amazed this year with
the results of having left a dozen and a half dahlias outside through
several -7C nights - after growing all year in 6" pots. Instead
of leaving them as pot-tubers, I opened up half the batch, and only one
was slush - the rest all looked quite good. We will see in the
spring if they remain viable - and I'd be optimistic.
My Propagation box
Then fast-forward to my New Years' Eve - Using the end of a 12' box which
brought me some greenhouse piece-parts, I assembled my home-brew version
of a propagation box...which is just shy of 4' long by just over 2' wide,
giving me about 8 sq feet. The cable was rated for 7 sq ft if used
outdoors, and up to 12 sq ft if used inside...so this box will potentially
be a little warmer than the next one, which will be the same width but a
directions said I was to put gravel or coarse sand in the bottom for
drainage (so will need to make drain holes yet) then use earth, not
sand, on top of the gravel to surround the heating coils and the
machine-cloth both top & bottom. Damp earth is to spread
the warmth. The heating cables are attached to the underside
of the mesh, to prevent any tools used from cutting the cable.
The metal mesh also helps to distribute the heat. The
thermostat is just over a foot inside the box, following the cord
from the spot where it enters the box (near the green criss-crossed
wire) There are two short blocks attached to the mesh near the
center, because I thought it might be better to keep the mesh more
horizontal - not dipping in the center. Anyway, the whole
center piece drops into the larger box.
| As Al
points out, I will need higher sides before I can put a glass top in
place. Rating of cable is 100 watts, and is intended to keep
the heat in the low 70'sF.
State of the Lates
Next - the state of my Lates in their 3-gallon pots (I just cut the old
stems back, did not repot). Just the area on and under the table -
not the houseplants off to the right, and not the occasional Aloe Vera or
I'm told I can start taking
some cuttings of these lates - and I am going to try to be more dilligent
in record-keeping this year. Also to spread the taking of cuttings
over a greater period than last year. Some of the lessons learned
after a near brush with disaster last year...when I thought the whole crop
was lost for blooms. While it was a long way from exhibition
quality, at least I got some nice blooms, and I was grateful for that
Life at last in Early
Then there are my boxed stools for the Sept & Oct blooming mums.. just
starting to show a little green at this point...
Got home Saturday
night about 9:45pm, outside temp abt -12C, and inside temp at 0.4C at
shelf height inside - about 2' off the floor. Two flats and 3 pots
were lower, but they should do OK.
Installing Natural Gas
The Natural Gas line was installed in the 2' deep trench I dug about 10
days ago - got a bit cold - the last 60% of the trench was dug after frost
set in, so I had to chip out the earth with a pick. Then we got one
day with a +5C day two days after the pipe went in, and I was able to
backfill, although again, a lot of frozen chunks will need to settle
later. The heater is due to arrive sometime this next week, and the
technician will be back from holidays about Jan 14 to install it.
Hopefully we can get a sunny day to help keep the greenhouse temp above
freezing as we cut in the vent holes and gas-feed line. So far, I
have been able to maintain minimum temps with two ceramic
heaters. I was pleased that after I placed the 1"
styrofoam insulation on the exterior of the wood base, and caulked it in,
a single ceramic heater was sufficient to about -7C. Much better
than last year. Still I will be happy to get off electricity and
onto nat-gas. This will pay even larger returns when the meters
become replaced for one of those 'Smart-meters" (Sorry, Cedric,
but I can stay retired only if I am 'frugal')
Just checked the remote, and
the greenhouse temp on the bench is still just over 7C, with the outside
temp at -13C on the back deck.
A further note.. my wife
Sharion was very pleased to be able to cut some fresh spices for her New
Years' dishes - Some sage, rosemary and thyme are out there in pots, and
while I wouldn't go so far as to say they are exactly thriving, they are
certainly growing and are useable. Very much still a novelty!
The exchange of Gifts!
My Christmas present to her was a Nintendo DS - her Christmas present to
me will likely arrive about the end of January.. a drip-irrigation system
which connects to a garden-hose, and will feed about 35 individual pots in
the greenhouse - it uses small hoses connected to a main poly-hose.
There is an external timer, which you can turn on/off up to three times a
day, and for settable intervals. I am told that in the summer, the
control portion can be removed, and transferred to a garden hose.
Fortunately, the days are
getting longer now, and with the calendar out, we see these events
coming.... so can spring be all that far away????
Warmest regards to ward off
Whitby, Ontario, Canada
Early Season Events
Feb 06, 2010.................: Seedy Saturday - East Shore Community
Ctr., Pickering, Ont
2010.................: Jump On Spring - Toronto Botanical Gardens
2010...........: Home & Garden Show - GM Center, Oshawa, Ont
Mar 18 - 21,
2010.........: 18th Successful Gardening Show - International
April 09- 11, 2010
........: 'For the Love Of Gardening', Evinrude Center,
April 17 & 18,
2010 .....: '6th Annual Scugog Garden Show' - Reach Rd., Port
May 08, 09, and 15, 16 ...:
Murray's annual plant sale, (It's NOT going to rain either weekend
2010................: CCDS Annual Plant Sale -9am- at the Toronto
Botanical Gardens , (It's NOT going to HAIL this year!)
B. - my regrets about using only English. La plupart des regrets
sincères, mais je pensais que vous auriez plaisir à être inclus.
Je vais vous voir bientôt en classe.
Buddy Dean, in Cashiers, North Carolina - I hope to have some stock to
send to you this Spring when the weather warms - I have assurances from
the Dept of Agriculture the method is easy to follow to get a phyto
certificate for mums (they are just hard to import)
Johnson, Dahlia hybridizer, in Australia - I know you marvel at temps
under 0C, so thought I'd include you in this note - From my viewpoint, 35C
is unbearably hot, yet you routinely talk of your temps over 40C for days
on end. I'm amazed you can keep things growing. It's also a
little hard to grasp the reality of your going out hoeing in your garden
over the Christmas break!
Barlow, in Aberdeen - great info on your site - our CCDS members
Roy Fox and Al Dormer were quick to have me put a link to your site on our
website, and I just wanted to say thanks! You grow some amazing
Stock, dahlia hybridizer in Bournemouth, UK - I miss hearing
from you on the dahlia websites, old friend - I admire you for how you
support your wife during her illness.
Cornelius, Niagara Showhouse - a magnificent Chrysanthemum show this
year....our small party almost didn't make it, due to an 'adventure' with
my vehicle en-route this year. Fortunately after two hours in a
Canadian Tire garage, we were on our way again! Hope you enjoyed
your vacation, but I was sorry to have missed you there at the Showhouse.
images in thumbnail form
Propagator -early stages
Plants potted on
More plants potted on