Post-Mother’s day is usually a slump where smart people use the time to catch up on greenhouse maintenance projects – fixing plumbing issues, weed management, potting up liners that have been chilling, waiting patiently for attention. Tending to critical issues that came up during the Spring rush that had to hear “it’ll have to wait.”
Meanwhile, there’s me.
I find the most solace in propagation. There’s something about the focus that’s deadening. Just find something ready to chop and chop it. Stick it in sphagnum and set it on the “settling” bench for a couple of weeks before sorting it out to its proper bench. It’s a great way to unwind from the rush and tumble that’s processing orders, but it also presents a terrible conundrum – too many plants. For a nursery owner, it’s a good problem to have as long as you don’t associate it with slow sales. Propagation is a critical facet of nursery life, but it’s also something that doesn’t need to occur nearly as often as I do it. It’s that little dopamine rush with decapitation that defines the fine line between horticulturist and psychopath.
Of course, it takes a true plant lover to find therapy in cultivation – it’s not just a product you’re offering. It’s the difference between a passion and a job. I enjoyed plants long before selling my first one and it will take work to maintain that relationship. So many hobbies-turned-business end in dismay. What once brought you great joy is now associated with stress, bills, and unhappy people. I’ve always kept the peace between the two because of the joy I find in propagation. Find something ready to chop and chop it. Aerial root present? Node fully formed? Chop it. Stick it. Prop it. Happy. Check on it in a week. Two weeks. Three weeks. It’s happy and growing. Dopamine rush. I am the master of the greenhouse. Mother Gaia.
At least in my head.
On the outside I’m stressing about a million little things and one project looming on the horizon is cascading toward me like a sandstorm. This nursery is 99% complete. It’s got all the bells and nearly all the whistles. Can’t complain. Except for one thing I had before. And that’s a big one in this state.
This nursery specialized in “classic” crops. Hedera, Epipremnum, a few Maranta, Pilea, and Monstera adansonii. Pretty much Pothos and Ivy. The high tunnels operate as intended. Hot air rises and travels to gable vents where it’s theoretically removed from the greenhouse. Of course, Pothos and Ivy are pretty resilient in even the hottest temperatures. So the nursery did not come equipped with any fans or cooling whatsoever. As the days grow longer, the daytime temperatures grow hotter, and the nights stay warm and wet, heat stress on certain varieties will be unavoidable. Thankfully, growers of past have figured it out. Evaporative cooling is an efficient, effective method of keeping greenhouses cool during the hottest parts of the day. The basic mechanism includes a corrugated cellulose pad (think a big honeycomb wall) that has a spray bar running over it, dripping water over the pad. At the bottom of the pad is a gutter system that returns the dripped water to an underground reservoir where it can be pumped back to the top of the pad.
On the opposite end of the greenhouse are exhaust fans. Big ones. Usually 36″ minimum. They pull air through the drippy wall pads on the other end and cool the tube of air. Part three to the system is a sealed greenhouse. Right now, the mechanism is open air flow which is not very effective when the air is 100 degrees outside. So in order to install and utilize evaporative cooling, the greenhouse has to be sealed, meaning the mesh material that’s composing the walls will be replaced with either plastic sheeting or (preferably) polycarbonate panels. Holes must be repaired and doors must remain closed for there to be enough pressure to pull air through the cooling pads and not through a point of lesser resistance. It’s a sizeable project with a hefty price tag, but a necessary one if I want to keep happy plants through the Central Florida summer.
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