Monday, May 26, 2008

Lily Beetles

Good evening from the mountain above Peacham Pond. Not much strength left in me after 12 hours of lugging pots to the truck, from the truck, as we move to our new nursery. About half way done but it seems like a forever thing. Michelle and Mike from down the road volunteered to help today so with their hands and a pickup with a trailer, things went faster. All but a few hundred daylilies have been moved and that's a welcome sight.

I continue to be bothered by the presence of the lily leaf beetle. I wrote about it in the past and much of that has been recreated at the University of Vermont Hort Farm site. I just released a series of pictures on The Vermont Gardener so take a look at the pictures. Once the eggs hatch, this is what you will be looking at:

I am interested in how many of you who enjoy lilies have noticed this beetle in your gardens this year. Please let me know.

From the land of great tiredness,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Saturday, May 24, 2008

First Shade House

Saturday Morn'

May 24, 2008

A quick good morning wish as I head out to the nursery with a truckload of astilbes. Time is limited and I haven't been able to keep the correspondence going. Wednesday we started this 20 X 60 foot shade house and Thursday it was finished off. Austin helped me on this one and although he had never done this before, it all went well. Yesterday we put the top on the 20 X 30 foot house we moved from Peacham Pond Road and today we will try to get the 15 X by 70 foot used house up that I bought last month. That one will hold most of our astilbes.

If you are out and about this holiday weekend, stop by our new property on Route 2 just west of the village heading towards Plainfield. Gail has some nice hanging baskets for sale although they may be a little wet this morning after a heavy rain last night. All visitors are welcomed!

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Roof, New Lessons

Monday, May 18, 2008

Cold, raw morning here at Vermont Flower Farm. The wind is blowing and last night's rain has made it feel a lot colder. Aching muscles will not get working as fast this morning.

The roof is now on both sides and the only part to finish is the roof vent. Buildings must have a means for allowing internal air circulation but some builders forget the importance of this. Houses with multiple levels and sections need to be vented externally and internally for good flow. For a building the size of ours, the important part is circulation over the 2/3's that will be the office but we are venting the entire roof.

Roof vents come in plastic material which nails to the roof peak. They come in 20 foot rolls or separate pieces 4 to 10 feet long. The builder needs to remember to leave space on the top course of plywood and also be sure that if using GRACE for waterproofing or just traditional felt paper that the roof peak remains open so air can flow. I had a house once where the contractor put the vent right on top of the water proofer and it took forever for me to figure out the problem. t wasn't too handy a thing to fix after the fact.

We continue to work on the daylily display garden. Richard Ducharme from Hillcrest Nursery in Cabot is closing his nursery and doing stone work and Adirondack furniture full time so he is selling all his stock. Gail and I bought a truck load of trees the other night including some weeping crabs, a couple Korean Lilacs, four ninebarks and some weeping pussy willows. If you look closely at the preceding picture you can see the pots layed out with a bench in the middle. This is the center of what will eventually become an American Hemerocallis Society certified display garden.

Right now I have to load up the truck and get going. Austin, a UVM student on summer break, will help put up the 20 by 60 foot shade house this morning. We'll see how good his math skills are figuring the third dimension of triangles. Shade houses are a series of 2" pipes in 10 X 20 foot sections. To keep them square and tight, you have to understand a little geometry. Guess we'll see.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where two wild turkeys are pecking at something in the lower daylily garden. If you stop by to see Gail, walk down that way and catch a glimpse of the Trillium grandiflorum and the Trillium erectum. Special this year as are the hellebores.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm Check out the astilbes and hostas on our site. More available at the nursery.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Motionless morning

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A dark and quiet, almost motionless morning here on the mountain. The birds are quiet but the tom turkeys off in the field are calling in their hens and strutting with full displays of plumage and colorful mating season head colors. Karl,the wonder dog and I had a quick walk this morning because there's much to do today and little time. He was obviously bothered by an abbreviated walk when there were so many good smells from last night's animal traffic.

Gail and Alex leave for Jericho just after 7 and the potting crew will be here by 9 so I have to get clicking. Michelle will lead the crew today and I'll try to clean up some of the loose ends around here. Time is very short and Memorial Day is fast approaching. We still have one shade house to be disassembled and three to be rebuilt at the new location. Not difficult work but not something that goes quickly. Holes to auger into hard clay soil and lots of ratchet work with bolts and arm braces.

The new construction is really advancing with the encouragement Gail and I need. It seems as if not a day goes by but what there is something I have to run to the store for and just keeping ahead of Lenny and Kim is not easy. They are no-nonsense workers and when they quit their regular granite worker jobs for the day and turn into carpenters, it's best not to get in their way.

Last Sunday the rafters were all up and by Tuesday we began installing the roofing. Plywood should come with some built in levitation process because after the first sheet, each new 4 X 8 foot sheet gets heavier and heavier to lift and push upward to someone standing at the wrong angle pulling upward at a disadvantage. That's construction.

Even though we designed this building to sit on 6 X 6 pressure treated timbers, it is being built so it won't go anyplace. The roof will hold big snow loads and the walls will stand straight. I placed the windows so building occupants can get light and air and not have to deal with customers looking in to see what's going on. The interior ceiling will be high to allow for good air flow and it will all be insulated.

Probably one of the more difficult parts so far has been installing GRACE on the roof. This is the name for a rolled asphalt product originally designed for roof valleys where Vermont winters might cause ice build up and penetration of water under the flashing and shingles. In older days tar paper which was really asphalt impregnated felt paper was used but it dehydrated over time and leaked. This new product is exceptional. The nature of it's components allows every nail hole to immediately close in and the entire roof is waterproof. That's the good news.

GRACE is the name of a giant conglomerate that in the old days controlled all the vermiculite mines in America. Vermiculite was used for years as pour-in insulation which you dumped by the bag on top of the rafters above your ceiling. It was light weight and just sat there preventing heat loss. Trouble was that vermiculite was mined in the same location as asbestos and that's the story that needs no explanation. This new roof coating is the company's money maker and it's probably doing a good job helping pay off the law suits from the asbestos problems. We can't hold the absence of medical research against a company as for long years no one knew what asbestos could do to humans. But that's the past, not the current installation problem.

GRACE comes on 200 square foot rolls and sells for about $90 a roll. The product comes on a peel off waxed paper just like those strange tasting fruit roll ups you buy in the store. You unroll about 6" of the product and stick it over the side of the roof with the plan of keeping the roll parallel to the bottom of the drip edge and then moving upward, one roll width at a time. But rolling the product across the rood if not easy. One person has to roll what starts out as a very heaving, awkward roll while the other person pulls the paper covering from underneath the roll. You have to keep everything centered and once the stuff sticks, sorry folks, it's there forever. The product must be kept cool before you start and a hot day is not the type day to learn to install it because it gets even stickier in heat. Installation sites should be absent of children and women who claim not to have ever heard profanity. The flow of expletives, although not included in the warning on the box, is colorful.

As of this morning, the GRACE is on, the face sure boards have been primed, painted two coats, and have been installed along with the drip edge. Everything is ready for the shingles and roof vent. I have half the ship lap siding (above) stained with Cabot's cedar stain and we've already installed it on the end where the electrical and data/telephone entrance will be. Tuesday night we framed in the peaks and the window framing materials are all cut. Progress is good.

We are down to about 3000 plants which need to be potted. Today I hope to see us get about a third of those out of the way. We'll miss Gail's speed at the potting bench but I'm positive we'll do well if the rain holds off. Gail has hired an additional person for the summer and that should help us along. If anyone has seen our friends Harold and Leila from Cross View Daylilies in Morrisville, kindly remind them how to get to our house. They are good planters and often leave their own business to come help us.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where two turkeys are looking curious in front of the office window. I noticed a large moose had walked through a neighbor's newly seeded lawn last night. Footprints are nature's message that creatures like to know what we do.

If you have some time on your hands today, report to the Marshfield Inn and volunteer to work with the Friends of the Winooski River as they complete some riparian plantings along the Onion River in an attempt to solidify the river banks and stem erosion problems. This is a very worthwhile project and I hear that Tracy will be in the kitchen helping with treats of encouragement.

Have a nice day outside!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Physical Construction

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A damp, raw day here on the hill with a gusty wind and heaviness in the air suggesting that last night's rains have no intention of vacating the area for some time. It's 38 degrees this morning, two degrees colder than yesterday and 10 degrees worse than when I wrote here last.

Karl the wonder dog and I walked out into the back field this morning. His sniffer was in full operational mode as spring time encourages wild life to travel lots and Karl finds one scent trail after another. We heard a male partridge drumming across the road when we left the house and then in the back field saw a large tom turkey identifying his presence and telling other turkeys to leave his hens alone. His beard is about 10 inches long so my estimate is that he weighs about 20-24 pounds. Turkey season is under way here but he's safe from me as my "things-that-must-be done" list does not include turkey hunting.....only turkey watching.

I'm lame today because yesterday started at 5:30 am when the morning light allowed me to load tools in the truck and head to the new nursery. Kim and Lenny were scheduled to begin construction on our new building and it's a good thing they are outdoor guys as the wind, rain and temperature were not pleasant.

We were at the property by 6:30 and unloaded fifteen minutes later. As soon as thing were clear on who was dong what I returned here to get things prepared for Gail's planting crew that were arriving at nine. It was a mostly "work for barter" type crew of folks who appear annually at a phone call from Gail and work diligently despite some bad weather to help us get things potted. Vermonters still do a lot of bartering and frankly it establishes an interesting relationship that goes beyond getting plants and labels in pots.

Over time, Gail's informal groups have become known as "potting parties" where people show to work for hours or days and in the end everything is ready for sale. The events include some kind of a treat at coffee break time in the morning and then a super good lunch usually long after traditional lunch time. Gail has this philosophy that well fed workers don't work as well so she gets the main work accomplished before she brings out the food. People laugh, seldom complain and in the end everyone comes back to do it all over again.

As soon as I returned to the nursery, I saw that Kim and Lenny had the 6" X 6" pressure treated timbers in place and bound together, and the 2 X 6 X14 pressure treated floor joists in place . Conceptually this building will be 28 feet long, 14 feet wide with the first 12 feet on the right side as you face the structure, open and lacking a floor. This will be the wrapping and sales area so there will be a packing bench and a dirt floor. The infamous "money Box" (" will be located here until we can afford a cash register. Entrance to the 14' X 16' office will also be through this room. I say "dirt floor" but it will be compacted Stay Mat, that crushed rock, coarse sand mixture that packs and hardens well. It will absorb water from freshly washed plants and is a cheaper way to go.

Kim and Lenny work well together. They have known each other since they were little kids and now they both work full time in the granite industry in Barre. They both have exceptional skills and are in demand for their ability to do any production job with ease. It is a pleasure to watch people who know what they are doing. There is limited communication but each takes visual cues from the other and completes the next required step without conversation. They seem tireless in comparison to me but I know they feel the same way at the end of the day.

When we closed down for the night at 6 PM, the two long walls were framed and in place. The area on the right shows where a garage door will be installed. The window in the back wall will be a sliding window so we can help customers in the shade houses out back or pack web orders. Directly in front of that window will be the kids sand box where customers can leave their kids while they shop. The other two windows on the left will let us see who is entering the business if we happen to be in the office, on the phone or computer, sending a fax or working on an order.

Today if the rain is not too heavy, the end walls and the one internal wall will rise. The weatherman is less than positive and I fear we will get washed out at some point but time will tell. Here on the hill I have to get things set up for today's potting crew. Yes, it is Sunday but the nursery business is open seven days a week in Vermont's short season. Come join us if you wish.

Writing from the hill above Peacham Pond where trilliums abound in the woods, hellebores are in full blossom, bloodroot hold their petals closed tight this time of day, and sadly, hepaticas begin to go to seed. If you drive by our new location, check out how the building is coming. We have a long way to go before the sign maker installs Vermont Flower Farm on the roof but it's all very exciting to us.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm where web sales of astilbes are exceptional this year, probably because of mention in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.