General

Resources for Retailers

May is the busiest time of year. It can be difficult to answer all of your customer's gardening questions, but providing this customer service, and distinguishing your garden center as a source of knowledgeable staff is important. Here are some resources that may help you to answer your customer's gardening questions.

In Connecticut University of Connecticut Home and Garden Education Center Toll free phone 1-877-486-6271 Web Address: www.ladybug.uconn.edu

Fertilizing Plants in Outdoor Retail Yards

Plants may need to be fertilized while in outdoor retail yards. Rainfall and watering with plain water will leach out nutrients and plants will exhibit deficiency symptoms such as yellow or reddish foliage. Note that reddish foliage could also be due to recent cool temperatures. If no additional fertilizers are applied, plant quality will quickly deteriorate especially plants that will not be transplanted, such as hanging baskets. Plants in packs, 4-inch and other small containers are also susceptible to nutrient deficiency.

Growing Herbs Organically

Growers have expressed interest in growing herbs organically. The US Department of Agriculture has developed a set of standards that food and plants labeled "organic" must meet. To become organically certified, a government approved certifer inspects the farm to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. The USDA National Organic Program web site provides a listing of certifying agencies.

Here are a few general guidelines to consider:

Preseason Cleanup

Greenhouse sanitation and disinfecting are steps that growers can take now to prepare for the spring growing season. Clean as early as possible to eliminate over-wintering sites for pests to reduce their populations prior to the growing season. Greenhouse pests will over-winter in weeds and protected areas in unheated greenhouses and especially this year with unseasonably warm temperatures. Remember that pests are much easier to prevent than to cure.

Soil Testing and Disease Diagnostic Laboratories

Prevention and correct identification of insect, diseases and nutritional problems can help you save money by reducing crop losses, improve the quality and marketability of your crops and prevent the application of the "incorrect" pesticide or fertilizer. Here is a listing of the laboratories in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Massachusetts University of Massachusetts, Amherst Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory http://soiltest.umass.edu

Field Trials Midsummer Ratings

Plant trials are important tools. Pack trials provide you with a snapshot of how new plants perform in the greenhouse. That's valuable information for your production process. Field trials, on the other hand, offer a view of how plants perform in the field. That's valuable information too, because it provides an assessment of how your customers see plants.

Problems With Using Unvented Greenhouse Heaters

A frequently asked question (FAQ) is "Can I use unvented heaters in the greenhouse, either for back-up or as a primary heat source?

An unvented heater is one that is designed without a flue connection so that the heat and products of combustion are exhausted into the greenhouse. Dumping these flue gases into the greenhouse may improve the overall efficiency rating as compared to a conventional heater but the pollutants and added moisture from combustion may put your plants in jeopardy.

Biological Control of Western Flower Thrips

There are a number of biological control agents that may be incorporated into your pest management program for western flower thrips. These include predatory mites, entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes. UK researchers have developed a "Keep Down Strategy" for biological control of thrips in potted crops. The first step is to correctly identify the species of thrips (although WFT is the dominant species, other species such as onion or eastern flower thrips may be present), then anticipate (based upon past scouting records) when thrips are likely to occur.

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