I’m about to start building an ark, but I’m not because I know it’s going to stop raining soon, and then we will be begging for it to rain again. As Frank Arnosky says, “Texas weather is drought with an occasional flood.” The last few years it’s been floods with an occasional drought.
These floods can certainly tests your stamina as a grower and your growing structures. I’ve been growing in my greenhouses since the 1980s and the unending storms are showing the age of my greenhouses. As each week and each storm passes there is usually a question of “What now?”
Lots of these surprises could be softened by better maintenance but as a female grower, I tend to be more focused on what’s in the structures than the buildings themselves, which is leading to some real issues.
We never meant for the greenhouses to last forever, but I’m not ready to throw in my trowel, so we are in major fix mode. We have a six-bay Agratech greenhouse, for which, if I had done better maintenance and observation, I wouldn’t have some major structural issues going on. The gutters, which we normally clean out once a year, have rusted through in several places and have to be replaced before we can even think about recovering. “No problem,” I thought, “I will call the greenhouse manufacturer and get a few more pieces of gutter and replace them.” Well, guess what—not so easy. They don’t make this kind of greenhouse anymore. They switched designs so now I have to get more gutters made by a local machine shop. We’ve jumped that hurdle and they are being made and soon will be replaced. My point here is, if you have gutters, check them for debris, low spots where they tend to hold water, and coat them before it’s too late.
Our next problem is that many of the vertical support posts are rusted apart at the ground and strong winds can move them and cause sways in the gutter, collecting pools of water. This is an easy fix for us as we get them level with a jack, build boxes around the supports, and fill them with bag cement. They stay in place, above the ground level, and don’t rust off anymore. The fertilizers and moisture in the greenhouse can be very harsh on them.
We also have four 30’ X 120’ greenhouses, and over the years the bows have rusted off at the ground and when rough storms come through, the rusted bows will move out of place. We really don’t have a fix for this but we have figured out a way to just make them stable enough to use as a shade structure for now by using steel posts and slick barbed wire to tie them to each other so they will stay in place. This house was our first tragedy for the spring when a storm totally ripped the plastic off. It is now a shade house with broken bows. We have plans to rebuild this house, hopefully this fall.
The storms we have experienced have some real strength to them and manage to do all kinds of damage. One morning I walked out and the greenhouse that had a lot of my beautiful best crop of lisianthus in it had its top ripped off from the west side and was still connected on the east side. We had just replaced the bolts on the side rails so it left the ones we replaced, and ripped the boards off that had old bolts. High winds can do some strange things. So we waited a couple of days for the storms to finish and then on a quiet early morning pulled the plastic back over and reconnected to new side boards and, voila, back in business. Now it’s not connected in the front or back but we pulled shadecloth over it since we need it now and it’s good till fall when we can recover with new plastic.
You can’t stop Mother Nature, but better maintenance would stop a lot of these issues from happening. I’m one of those who doesn’t fix a problem until it is a problem, and that’s not good. I should have taken more time on the structures and maintained them before they were in this shape. Now I want each and every one of you to go check those gutters, support poles, and bows, and stop issues before they become an issue. That old saying that hindsight is 20/20 is sure true.
When I’m not out fixing my problems, I’m looking for snakes and fire ant piles while trying to pick flowers in some of the grassy beds. The never-ending rain makes it impossible to keep up with weeding in the garden beds. My greenhouse beds, on the other hand, are nice and kept up because it’s been so wet that we have plenty time to work inside since we can’t work outside.
I’ve been spraying Zerotol on the zinnias and sunflowers to keep them from getting leaf problems with all the moisture, but it’s also been a challenge to get a spraying done where it doesn’t rain on them right after I spray. I have decided I would take the drought over all this rain. I also just got three kittens to help with controlling snakes from my daughter who has some snake-eating cats. My granddaughter is so funny. She says “Nana, the one cat will bring a snake up to the porch and here comes the other cats and they all just feast on the cat and voila it’s gone.” Her little facial expressions and hand gestures are so cute as she is telling the story so I’m sure hoping they work well for me.
Most of us post beautiful pictures of our flowers, but there are plenty of pictures of leggy seedlings that didn’t get planted, or beds that were planted but all the seed washed away. Beds of seeds that rotted and didn’t come up, beds of sunflowers eaten off by the deer, dahlia bulbs that rotted in beds, celosia seedlings that are in serious need of sunshine, and the list goes on. Yes, these are all my bad photos but we just keep plugging along.
Many of you are thinking, “Why exactly did I choose to grow flowers?” Each of you has a different answer and know it’s very rewarding work, which I get so much pleasure from despite the hurdles.
The National Conference program is posted on the website. I hope to see many of you in Grand Rapids to polish up your skills at flower growing. Happy growing until next time.