On the first day of spring, greenhouse workers’ hands were busy mixing, potting and planting, even though their workspaces are still flanked with several feet of snow.
“To get our greenhouse plants going, we’re doing a lot of transplants. We get our hands in the soil and have the sunshine on our back,” said Susan Jordan, owner of Fireweed Herb Garden Greenhouse in Kenai. “We’re here, even with five feet of snow outside.”
Jordan, who owns the greenhouse with her husband Porter, said that despite the harsh winter, they are on the same planting schedule as usual.
“Come the first of June, people are still going to want to plant their garden. … I’ve done 100 trays with 50 plants each. So, I’ve already touched 5,000 plants and it’s just the first day of spring,” Jordan said.
At Trinity Greenhouse in Soldotna, owner Ron Sexton spent the first day of spring overseeing potting soil production and checking in on the germination of about 6,000 nonstop begonias. Like Jordan, Sexton is maintaining his normal schedule.
“We don’t change because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Sexton said.
Last year, the warmer spring weather brought people into Sexton’s greenhouse looking for vegetable plants as early as March.
“That just doesn’t happen yet,” Sexton said. “Generally speaking, this time of year we’re selling potting soil.”
Despite this year’s snow, the greenhouses are green and full of flats and pots of plants, but local gardeners have to be patient.
“Spring is just what we have outside now. It will start moving into the break-up and the sloppy ground, the thawing ground. It’s a while before everything gets up and running outside,” Sexton said.
Earlier in the season, customers can find small potted tomato plants for their windowsill, Sexton said. Gardeners with greenhouses of their own will be starting them up around mid-April and outdoor gardeners should look to get their plants in May.
Jordan recommends those with outdoor gardens take some time over the next few weeks to remove snow from the plot area.
“If you shovel the snow off of your garden plot, it will warm up quicker,” she said. “Use a snowblower, shovel it out or throw some dark sand or coffee grounds on that area so that it will melt sooner and will warm up sooner.”
Once the plot has thawed and is ready for planting, gardeners have to remember to harden off their plants to acclimate them to the elements.
“To take a plant from the greenhouse and plant it outside is pretty hard on them. We recommend that you spend at least a week hardening them off,” Jordan said. “Put the plants out in the shade, in a covered area away from the wind, for at least a week. You can set them down in a tote and either cover them with a lid at night or bring them inside.”
Those with a garage can keep their plants in the garage with the doors open during the day, Jordan said.
Both Trinity and Fireweed Greenhouses emphasized the importance of caring for plants at every stage of the growing process.
“You have to have a nurturing attitude to grow plants, these are all babies in here and I worry about them all,” Sexton said. “We try to have the highest quality we can grow, so it’s a seven-day-a-week job for me.”
Sexton invites those without a green thumb, or without the space to show it off, to visit Trinity Greenhouse and enjoy the different foliage and blooms on display throughout his grounds.
“We have a lot of plants that aren’t for sale and it drives people crazy,” Sexton said. “But we want them on display here for people that don’t have a balcony or a space to grow, so they can come in here, enjoy walking around our facility and smell the roses.”
Trinity Greenhouse officially opened for the 2017 season on March 1. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fireweed Herb Garden Greenhouse opened on March 13 and operates Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.