Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 14, 2014

DIRT ON GARDENING: Manuevering through snow can be tough for garden centers

By TOM YODER
Master Gardener

---- — Count your blessings.

Be glad you are a buyer of flowers and not a greenhouse grower of flowers this year when it comes to dealing with all this snow.

Growing operations are beginning their year and the maneuvering has to be a nightmare for these growers — from greenhouse to greenhouse with pallets of growing medium, plastic pots and liners and most importantly the tender green plants.

We observe the mountains of snow in parking lots of big box stores and even our own drives and sidewalks and I think “how are these operations going to even maneuver.” Even tractors and “all-terrain” forklifts will find it extremely difficult dealing with moving these heavy pallet-loads without getting stuck.

I remember one year in particular at Everett’s Garden Center when we had an unusually heavy snow in February. It became too much for me to handle with our small tractor with a scoop (normally I could create a path and then dump buckets of snow over our fenced in area), so I needed outside help. A friend with large earth-moving equipment saved the day by creating a wide circling path around the interior of the fenced complex. Once that was achieved (and hopefully no more extreme snowfalls), I was able to keep up with any additional amounts.

Even though we had an all-terrain forklift, which I dearly loved, sometimes it became too much trying to get through some of the heavier snowfalls.

This French-made Manitou lift-truck with its rectangular/box shape was somewhat of a relic but perfect for our operation. The rear tires were waist/chest high with somewhat smaller tires on the front and had a capacity to lift 5,000 to 6,000 pounds. The maneuverability of this machine was outstanding and proved to be perfect for our small area.

I could lift a pallet of topsoil (2,500 pounds) vertically 8 feet and drop it in-between two existing pallets of product with no problem. This was a daily occurrence (sometimes hourly) as we sold five 18-pallet truckloads of dirt products yearly — a big job for this old Manitou.

Parts became a problem because it was French made, but we finally found them through a Texas dealer thanks to an Elkhart fork lift dealer. I always wondered what became of it after we closed. It was a great machine and I had many dealers and entrepreneurs tell me they were interested in buying it if we ever wanted to sell it.

Thinking back to 1991 when I was called to manage the garden center, the garage/chemical house was north of the supermarket next to Bill’s Heating Co., as was a frame greenhouse. In the next couple of years the garage was moved across to the south side of the road and a new greenhouse erected next to it. An implement garage was then constructed at the back to house equipment and supplies.

Shortly after that, 10 strong men hand-carried the 20-by-40-foot frame greenhouse across the road (in one piece) and placed it next to the new greenhouse. Believe it or not, it all held together. We used this building mainly to house our newly planted “bare-root” roses that could withstand cooler weather. If it got too cold we fired up a “bullet” kerosene heater to keep temps above freezing.

With business increasing in leaps and bounds this building was eventually replaced with a modern 30-by-100-foot greenhouse that more suited our needs.

Each year the compound was scraped of old material and a new layer of chipped bark gave everything a fresh look.

This cold and snow has to eventually stop doesn’t it?