It finally happened; that is a killing frost with sustained temperatures of 32ºF or below. Three earlier frosts were not enough to knock out the annual flowers around the nursery although last Saturday we removed and dumped about forty huge pots of tropical plants and annuals. Some of the customers on Saturday were surprised we would not save those plants; however, our only heated spaces in winter are for production areas which could be infected with insects carried inside along with the plants.
To prepare for the freeze on Thursday morning we had to cover the house with the evergreen azaleas as the temperature was too low to protect the yet tender flower buds from freezing. Under an intense regiment of fertilizer and irrigation to promote growth, there is a delay in flower buds hardening-off in order to withstand a timely freeze. In the protection of the covered overwintering structure, the plants are not allowed to freeze until November 10th at which time the hardening-off process is complete.
One of the new grasses from the Proven Winners people is the Little Bluestem grass called Blue Paradise. The color is a steel blue in summer with strong stems that grow to about 2½ feet high . Now, the cooler days of fall has touched the grass with a hint of burgundy. What a sight to behold!
The sales yard now looks desolate as the nursery stock is nearly all put away in the winter storage huts although the stock is still available for sales. After all the nursery stock is put away and the sales yard cleaned up, the next chore is to begin working on grave blankets by collecting pine branches first and Colorado spruce branches about two weeks later as the spruce has a tendency to shed needles if the weather should turn warm and sunny. Collecting the branches reminds me of cutting Christmas trees with a hand saw then dragging them out to along the roadway where they could be baled for transport on our truck from near Indiana, Pennsylvania to Ohio. Most of the young men that would go on this Christmas tree harvest would not return for a second round as the work was long and arduous.
As the irrigating of plants draws to a close around Thanksgiving, major repairs to our pump station will be underway to improve the pump intake area to avoid the pick up of sediment from the irrigation pond that might overload the self-washing filter. Then from next week through Thanksgiving will be the planting of approximately 6,000-7,000 tulip bulbs to fire waves of color into the nursery landscape from late April through mid-May. What a job it is for just for some more spring ambiance. Only winter and frozen soil ceases most of the outside work.