Propagation Update Part 1 - State of the Facilities

Hi Dave, this post is especially for you.

My beautiful greenhouse, built by my wonderful Rat. Patio by both of us.

David Sauter was my esteemed professor in last quarter's Foothill College class on greenhouse and nursery management, and he allowed me to do the practical portion of the course at home, thus allowing me to combine work and school. Before I get to the seedling report (in another post), I'm going to step back and take a look at how things are going in and around the greenhouse.

If you want to see the whole saga of the greenhouse planning/building project, Dave, you can search using the label "greenhouse" but my favorite post is the one where Dusky Footed Wood Rat and I serendipitously found the free glass windows. That was so much fun.

Inside the greenhouse: potting bench on the right, prop. benches on the (south facing) left. Three of the windows on the right open. The floor is hardware cloth covered by thick wood mulch. So far it's worked well. No larger critters indoors, just spiders and such.

Every greenhouse I saw while on the course had horizontal fans up high. Our dog spins around in here sometimes, creating a horizontal draft ;-D. But no fans otherwise. The two roof vents open when it's warm, due to expansion of wax.

We may want to add a fan in one wall. It can get really hot in summer, and even in late fall. I don't use the greenhouse much in summer. Temperature regulation is an issue. I lost a whole batch of  seep monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus, seedlings last year due to an unexpected hot day while I was away at work.

The roof and back panels and bit above the door are made of Solexx, which we have found to be just excellent - it provides diffuse bright light, and is very easy to work with. It's made of polyethylene, which I understand is easier to recycle than polypropylene.

Also all the greenhouses I saw this quarter used bottom heat. I finally started using a bit of heating under the flats - the orangy thing there is the heating pad, the green box behind is its thermostat.

Two pots of plants have responded so far to the bottom heat, and they had already germinated. I cover this area lightly with a plastic sheet because the heat dries out the planting media. Heat is set at 85, as suggested on the instructions. I'm new to this and. I don't really know what I'm doing. Should I set the temperature  lower at night?

One giant wake robin seedling, Trillium chloropetalum, germinated! I'm very excited! At least I think it's a giant wake robin seedling. And since adding bottom heat it has perked up considerably. It's one of the local wild seed mysteries I sowed this year from forays in earlier years., when I was clearing out my seed collection.

The other thing that put on a burst of growth was this mystery. I still don't know what it is.

I was also interested in the lectures on pests and IPM. So far I've just seen some tiny flies flying around the plants. I don't know if I should be concerned. They are enjoying the warmth and moisture, I'm sure. They don't seem to be causing any problems so far.

On the potting bench: all the junk, tidied up a bit I admit for this photo op.

It is really not a good idea to combine potting shed activities with greenhouse activities. It's a bit humid in the greenhouse and you want to keep other stuff nice and dry. We've been in discussions, about this, Rat and I. Negotiations ongoing. Also the potting bench shouldn't have that junk on it.

Under the potting bench: unused bulb growing boxes (built by Rat) on left and various media ingredients - peat, potting soil, vermiculite, fertilizer, sand. Perlite and re-usable media are in the bins at the end (see picture of interior).

I have a bit of a shaded area between the greenhouse and the fence (thanks again to Rat). Here I have wetland plants a-propagatin' for use in the natural pool conversion project (search using label Pool conversion for details). There's iris leaved rush, and wild ginger, and coltsfoot, and redwood sorrel, and a sedge and a rush and other things - some IDs only approximate.

My other prop. area is on the east side of the upper deck that wraps around the house.

Here is where plants "grow out," new term I learned in class. Right now there are mostly things left over from last year with, in some pots, their re-seeded seedlings. The four boxes on the right are bulb boxes in their second year.  It gets pretty packed up here later in the season, if the seedlings thrive. Here the plants are safe from the many and varied critters below, and it gets afternoon shade. We have a shady disused horse corral that might be put to good use one of these days.

In the bulb boxes are: soap plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum; fairy lanterns, Calochortus albus; Fremont's star lily, Zygadenus fremontii; and a mystery. Advice: don't use Sharpies for labeling things - labels are now pure white. I'm only sure which one is soap plant at this point (above). Three of the four boxes are showing green shoots.

On the deck, one of the few nursery-bought natives I'm propagating from cuttings - Catalina currant, Ribes viburnifolium, one of my favorite partial shade foliage plants - stays nice and green all year. I lightly pruned them. I'm trying to get better at formative pruning.

One of last year's thimbleberry plants (Ribes parviflorum) - pruned. I hate formative pruning. It feels so - brutal. I need to understand the pruning guidelines for the different plants. Always more to learn..

One thing I've learned is that people in my neighborhood don't want more trees. Big surprise. -- Neither do I. I'm going to stop propagating ceanothus and madrone and toyon - or propagate them on demand, or for people in the Valley - where I had some takers when I put these extras on offer via the Gardening with Natives forum.

Instead, I'll focus at least initially on perennials that are attractive for use in the garden, and in wilder areas visible to the home, and for erosion control. Also clarkia. Surely I will fill the place with Clarkia purpurea over time!

And manzanita. The endemic species here is brittleleaf manzanita, Arctostophylos tomentosa ssp. crustacea. It's the only local chaparral shrub that everyone likes. I was talking to the owner of a local winery where they are going to put in a California native garden, and that's the one plant he knew he wanted there. Dave, your lectures certainly sharpened my sense of "the market" - who is going to want the natives I propagate. I tend to propagate just to see if I can.

(Click to enlarge)

It would take a while for my seedlings to get this beautifully twisted, and maybe they wouldn't. We cleared away the rest of the shrubs that were intertwined with this manzanita (fuel reduction, fire safety) and this is what was left!

Well, that's the tour, Dave, hope you enjoyed this look around my nascent nursery and ongoing propagation efforts. Thanks for the solid grounding in nursery and greenhouse basics. I know I've got a long way to go, but so far it's been a very pleasant journey and I'm looking forward to the next leg.

I'll do another post on the state of the seedlings, but I think I've rabbited on long enough for one day.


I have to admit to being more than slightly a bit envious of your set up.
Country Mouse said…
Susan, I have to pinch myself frequently! I do appreciate this place, and, of course, my dearest Rat who enables my addiction to native plants with his carpentry skills!
Congratulations on the Trillium germination! Bottom heat can make the world of difference for germination, and we use heat mats extensively, especially for our vegetable starts.

If you need to combine potting shed/greenhouse activities, as we do, I find that keeping the potting ingredients stored in standard metal garbage cans with tight fitting lids keeps them quite dry, and helps to keep the greenhouse tidy too. I made sure to set our bench height high enough for them to fit underneath. For smaller volumes of materials, or very heavy materials like grit, I love the 10 gallon size cans. A few feed scoops help too for scooping up soils from the bins at potting time :)
Country Mouse said…
Hi CVF - I hadn't thought of just smaller cans for underbench. I've been meaning to look for bins like I saw at Foothill College - very tidy indeed: roll out, lift up lid, roll back. Oblongish. Thanks for your tips!
Nat said…
Beautiful greenhouse setup you got there, and a deck full of plants, I like! That manzanita looks very similar to our Arbutus arbutus menziesii, I wonder if they're related. Great photos, I'm also addicted to propagating.