Monday, June 9, 2014

Plant Sale

Technically to sell plants, you have to be certified by the USDA.  Unless you’re going to sell online or start a nursery, etc., you should not have any issues.   That said, inspect your plants for pests, disease, fungus, etc.  If in doubt, throw it out.  Not only do they risk your reputation, you spread potentially large problems.

I have “plant sale” signs I put out, sometimes in conjunction with a yard sale.  The earlier in spring, the better, so if you have a greenhouse, even a small one, make use of it.  A lot of people spend their plant budget early.  Summer is not bad, but most people do not buy in late summer or fall.  If you are willing, let people know you always have plants out; I have even had people leave money in the door for plants when I was not home.  I have a reputation and people like my plants - the variety, the price, how they look and grow.  They also like my knowledge; take the time to know about what you have and share it, the good and the bad.  It is worth not selling a plant to gain trust.  Some people will just come for your knowledge, but they also bring friends who buy plants.

You can use butter tubs, yogurt containers, plastic cups, etc. for pots as long as you poke holes (hot nail works well) for drainage.  Put up a sign asking for pots.  I had one with the recycle logo saying something like, “Help keep plant prices down.  Donate old pots.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.” You would be surprised at how many people hoard nursery pots hoping to find someone to use them!  I would get big garbage bags full, so many I ended up donating to the botanical garden I worked at.  I have not had the sign in years, but still occasionally come home to a stack of pots someone dropped off.  You also frequently see them in the trash.  Blind slats make great plant labels and are also frequently found in the trash.

It is worth buying quality soil, usually something that says “professional” on it.  You can get cheap stuff, but the plants will struggle in it.  If it feels like a brick in the bag, it will be like a brick in the pot. Happy plants = better sales.

What plants?  First off, anything that says “PP” or “PPAF” is a patented plant, so propagation is prohibited and selling is bootlegging.  What sells in stores I frequently can not give away.  Day lilies and mums are good examples.  While some people like to try different plants, things that are not somewhat heard of sometimes do not sell well.  Sedums are pretty well known, easy to propagate, and fill in fast = good seller.  Hostas are well known and popular, also a good seller. Until I learned what sold or not, I put a variety of plants on the table as I divided or propagated them.  Even people who did not buy anything stopped by to see what was new.

I have the easiest propagation methods I have found for various plants at The Obsessed Gardener.  Plants usually transplant better if you cut them back and a pot full of new growth is more appealing.

Having a nice display of plants in your yard makes people say, “I want that!”  If you do not have any potted up but do have some to spare and know it will transplant well, pot up a start and sell it on the spot.  If you are not sure how well it will transplant, get their number and tell them you will contact them when it is ready.  Again, your reputation is everything and you do not want to sell plants that may not survive.  Photos of plants not in bloom, either from a catalog or that you have taken, are also helpful.

Keep it cheap.  Everyone likes a deal and you are competing with box stores.  It is easier to sell nice looking plants, and the longer they sit, the worse they look.  It is better to sell a lot cheap early on than have a lot to tend through the season, overwinter and risk losing.  $2-$3 based upon size is where I am at for most plants.  Much more and you are competing with box stores.  Most people see the size and price of the pot, not the value of the plant.  Once in awhile you get a serious gardener who knows it is a deal to get a particular plant for that price.  You will not necessarily make a lot, but it is nice to get paid for doing something you love and money to buy more plants.

Take advantage of the time during your plant sale to relax or work in your own garden.  I always greet people and tell them if they have any questions, feel free to ask, but do not smother them.  I hate sales people hovering around or talking as I browse, but do like knowing they are nearby if I need something, so extend that courtesy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Running a Temporary Water Line

We do not have a large yard but we have a lot of gardens with paths running between them.  I do not water a lot, but when I do, threading the hose around then winding it back up is a lot of work. Jim, always looking for ways to make things easier came up with a plan.

He put a Y connector on the back water facet.  On one side a water hose is connected for close by watering, a washing machine supply line is connected to the other side.

The washing machine supply line runs to a short PVC pipe fitted with a connector and elbow.  At the other end of the PVC pipe is another elbow connected to PVC pipe running underground the desired length.  Since it will be disconnected in the winter, freezing is not an issue, so it is only buried a few inches deep to be out of sight.

A box buried in the ground and lined with pea gravel provides a place for the other end of the PVC pipe, fitted with a water facet, to come out.

A water hose and nozzle are connected and kept nearby.  A piece of scrap wood provides a cover to prevent accidents.  Water is turned on and off at the main faucet.  It is definitely easier to move two separate fifty foot hoses than one hundred foot one!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Stop the Insanity

The weather has finally warmed, and like everyone else, I am taking advantage of it.  It can be a bit harder for me to work outside without distractions as I am the neighborhood go to person for plant questions.  My neighbor has a row of shrubs forming a hedge and decided to clean them out. It was a bigger task than she had anticipated, so she asked me if it would be okay to cut them back to about three feet. Being full of old, unproductive and dying wood, I recommended taking them down to about six inches.  I got a look from her and her husband as though I had said to take them out.  I reassured her that that is what I do and she sees how mine turn out; they put out new growth from the ground rather than being top heavy and naked at the bottom.  She proceeded to cut them back to about three feet with horrible, jagged results.  My son asked why she did not cut them back farther and she said she was afraid of hurting them.  I have seen this happen many times with many people.

Rewind a few years.  The same neighbor, knowing my stance on circumcision, decided to brag to me of her son's.  She told of how she could hear him screaming all the way down the hall and thought, "that's my boy!"  I have also heard variations of this (usually horrified by the screams, but still undeterred from circumcision) many times from many people.

What is wrong that people put more thought and caution into cutting old shrubs than perfect newborn boys? Plants need to be pruned, children do not.

For more information on circumcision, see Don't Mess With Mother Nature.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why I Do This

Why do I do this?  It takes a lot of time to take and post pictures and update blogs and websites.   Gardeners are in general a different breed of people and enjoy sharing.   Sure, it would be nice to have recognition and make money, but I do not distract with watermarks and paid ad options or limit with copyrights.  Why?  For one, gardening sites that do are a turn off to me, especially ones that start off free, rely on user input, then start charging a subscription fee.   Besides, if someone wants to steal my work, they are going to regardless.  A bigger reason?  You do not have to look far or pay a fee to find negativity and ugliness in one form or another that depresses, angers or encourages disrespect.  I want to make a difference.

Look at a picture of a beautiful flower or garden and feel the happiness come over you.  Walk through an overflowing garden and feel the tranquility it brings. Smell a rose and become intoxicated by its fragrance.  Bite into a garden fresh piece of produce and feel the delight of the flavor.  Dig your hands into beautiful soil and feel the connection with Earth and All That Is.  Watch a seed sprout and you have witnessed a miracle.  The garden is a wondrous place and I want to help bring its joys to the world by inspiring and educating.

"I've waited in the sun and listened to every one of the questions that you posed
and I have found the answers in the petals of a rose."
(from "Show Me The Way," sung by Liam Clancy)

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Cottage Garden = Functional Gardening

As the new year begins, gardening catalogs are sent out to inspire and take advantage of gardeners' dreams of the perfect garden.  Now is a good time to consider stretching your gardening boundaries.

I have always been drawn to the cottage garden.  Informal, inviting, lush, bountiful, overflowing, beautiful ... functional.  Functional?  Yes!  And as I plan next year's garden, that is becoming more important to me.  I have a small yard.  Too small.  I want more roses.  I want more vegetables.  Why should I have to choose one over the other?  Why can they not live together in peace and harmony?  It is not as though the gardening police are going to come arrest me if I decide to allow Tam Jalapeno  Pepper to live next to Graham Thomas Rose.

That is what a cottage garden is all about!  Though in recent years cottage gardens have become something more akin to organized chaos, they were originally making the most of limited space. Peasants only had a small amount of land, so in the space of their vegetable and herb gardens, they would grow ornamentals that had been passed along or propagated from the gardens of their masters.

What do you have when you plant herbs next to ornamentals next to vegetables?  Companion planting!  The biodiversity repels pests and attracts beneficial insects.  It keeps fungus and disease from jumping from plant to plant.  It aids organic gardening.  It creates interest.

For now I will keep my designated vegetable gardens for larger growing vegetables, but so those plants have more room, there is no reason to not tuck plants such as herbs, peppers, eggplants and okra (a relative of Hollyhocks and Rose of Sharon) in amongst the flowers.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What I Have Been Blessed To Do

I am not a religious person, but very spiritual, and I have been blessed in many ways.  I have grown a lot in the last ten years.  I will not say I was led by God because that insinuates that I am special in a way that other people are not, that I received help while others still struggle.  I will say that I reached such a low point in my life that I questioned everything and listened to hear the soft voice that is patiently waiting in all of our hearts to lead us to where we are meant to be.

I left a bad marriage, began volunteering at a botanical garden where my skills were recognized and I was offered a job, I was referred to help others in their gardens and I eventually found love. Taking care of my Mom and Grandma eventually became a bigger job and I quit the botanical garden.  Almost a year ago to the day, taking care of Grandma became a 24/7 job.

In the last year or so I began questioning where I should be in terms of gardening.  Did I still want to work in others' gardens or devote all of my time to Jim and our garden?  Our time together on Earth is limited and we enjoy each other's company so well that it is lonely being apart even for a few hours.  Then came the gardening season of 2013 that I could not leave Grandma's side; I devoted myself to her completely at the expense of myself.  From time to time some of the ladies I work for would contact me, not so much to see how things were, but to see if I was available yet. At least that is how it felt from my perspective. Not my friends, just seeing if Grandma was dead yet because they needed my help.  I could almost hear the disappointment in one lady's voice. On May 31st Grandma passed.  I did a few little jobs, but after the five months of abuse I put my body through, I needed to take care of myself emotionally and physically.  Still feeling sorry for myself, I decided I was going to quit the gardening work.

I have read in a number of places that whenever you are recovering from something, building your body back up, you should expect to spend about twice the amount of time you spent abusing it. Five very long months of no more than three hours of sleep at a time, jumping up and running on an adrenaline rush all through the night, eating fast food or whatever other garbage I could grab in a hurry to keep myself going, and of course, the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one.  Six months later, halfway through my estimated recovery period, brought the Holidays and a mixture of emotions that were hard to deal with.  I was so far off track.

I do not turn the television on a lot and I am not an Oprah fan, but last week Mom found something called Super Soul Sunday.  I listened as I worked around the house and was occasionally drawn in by something a guest said.  One guest, Rob Bell, did more than draw me in, he inspired me.  He spoke of finding your true calling and of a man, a house cleaner, who felt he was privileged to be allowed into peoples' homes to bring them cleanliness and organization.  A bell (no pun intended) went off and that different perspective played in my head as I anticipated the 2014 gardening season.  How could I have forgotten that lesson?  I planned on tuning into the next Super Soul Sunday in hopes of more inspiration, and I was not let down.  There were several good interviews, but Marianne Williamson was just what I needed.  She said so many noteworthy things, but the reminder I really needed was that the more we give, the more we receive.  It is in serving others that miracles occur in our own lives.

I am an introvert.  I am more than content with my close little network of loved ones.  From my perspective, if people expected more of me socially, I would feel overwhelmed.  I was feeling sorry for myself and looking at the whole situation from a negative standpoint rather than the positive.  I have a gift.  I know plants, not just academically, but have the ability to make them thrive and love doing it.  I have worked hard and earned an excellent reputation.  I am honored that there are people who entrust me to work in their gardens.  To them it is a sacred spot that they spent many years, maybe even a lifetime, building and growing. There are few people they would allow to step foot in their gardens, yet they are eager, even impatient to pay me work with their most valued plants.  I enter 2014 feeling inspired to do what I have been blessed to do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Great Point Experiment

I love garden experiments; when successful, they are amongst the most rewarding endeavors.  I have never bought Poinsettias ... too seasonal, too much work, not long enough lasting.  I had always tried to keep them going without success.  For several years I had one small, struggling stick of a Point that I had saved from the botanical garden I worked at.  Last year Jim bought one for the holidays that still looked fairly decent come spring.  I decided then to give them one last shot, something different than I had ever done.  Normally I would have repotted and fertilized them with minimal results.  This time I put them straight in the ground in an area they would have a decent chance in.  If they were still struggling as the weather cooled, into the compost they would go.  Though hopeful, I was nowhere near expectant of the results.

I cut them back hard before planting them in the ground and did nothing more.  By September when I potted them up, what had not been much more than a couple of twigs were the lushest two-feet-tall Points I had ever seen.  As the weather cooled, they went into the garage, the door being opened and shut morning and night for light.  Before the first freeze, they came in and were put into an unused room.  To make shuffling around easier and to protect the floor, they were put onto a wheeled platform.  To begin with we put them in a closet at night, but then I questioned the need for absolute darkness, especially when they did not always have a lot of light during the day.  On sunny days when we could have the front door (southern exposure) open, they were wheeled into the living room.  Special attention had to be paid to watering.  They needed a lot and do not want to dry out, but they cannot be kept soggy either.  Some of the inner leaves shed, but not enough to effect their beauty.

Another great idea is to cut the Point back to one stem and grow it into a tree.