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A New School Year….Deja Vu

September 2021

This has indeed been a long year. About 19 months long and still running. I can tell from your emails and voices on the phone that your job description expanded two-fold as you continue to absorb numerous challenges and demands that you never saw coming.

With the demands and expectations of the administration, parents, students, and let us not forget the actual curriculum.., you have been pivoting or even spinning in circles from week to week trying to keep all under control and in line with what was going on at that time. Your job description morphed from what it once was just a short time back to that of what was once considered two jobs. Teaching in-person / remote / both / neither / what?! From one week to the next has been and continues to be a challenge. And probably not a lot of empathy came your way since many want to think you all work 5 days a week, 7 hours a day with all holidays, weekends, and summers off. Correct?  We all know better.


Throughout all this, though, most of you adapted and made the best out of very challenging situations. Taking virtual avenues in multiple aspects of your job from faculty meetings, parent conferences as well as plant sales, you were resourceful and, in many cases, you may have found better ways of doing things.

You all made the effort to teach and inspire your students as you coached them to better handle challenges, deal with adversities, and numerous other life lessons throughout the year. As an AG Teacher, I think you were fortunate. The greenhouse is a great conduit for living out such lessons including preplanning, challenges, and deserved rewards.

Hopefully, your students were paying attention. Because of your efforts and inspiration, they will become better people. As they move forward and address future challenges, the lessons, and experiences from this last year will make them better able to deal with what lies ahead in this brittle world in which we now live.


Fundraiser Success:

As you are aware, the horticulture industry is booming but not without numerous growing pains along the way. Just about everything, from procurement of supplies and plants to the logistics of getting them to you has made an already challenging job even more difficult. While frustrating, it is also encouraging. Many people have been reintroduced to the world of horticulture. Others have found it for the first time. It is a feel-good comfort during these stressful times to surround yourself with beauty and nature. There is no better therapy here than gardening. And gardening they are…

I would imagine most of your fundraisers were fast to sell out. I know some of you had record sales. This high demand along with what it will hopefully turn into was indeed the silver lining to a rough year. I would really like to know about your experiences this past spring. How did your spring season and fundraisers go? Were these in person or on a pre-order basis? What were your biggest challenges? If you get a chance, please feel free to share these challenges and successes with me in the email below.


In the past, we have discussed a myriad of topics such as water, bugs, fertilizers, greenhouse maintenance, crop scheduling, etc., but I thought I would do something different this time. I know your experience levels run from first-year AG Teachers who have never stepped foot in a greenhouse before to some of you who would rival professional growers. I always try to keep these articles focused on more of a beginner level to better help those who need the help most.

These discussions then hopefully offer at least something for all reading them regardless of experience. For instance, I have attended numerous poinsettia-growing seminars. Even though I know how to grow poinsettias, there is always something new that can be gleaned from any new presentation if one is paying attention. I’m hoping this is indeed the case here.

What I would like you to share with me is what you’d like to see in future issues. I would be happy to discuss any greenhouse topic you would like more information on. This topic can be large or small. If there is an urgency, an email will get an immediate response. As many of you mentor new AG Teachers, I am sure you’re aware of common questions and issues that are often a source of angst. If we can discuss them here that would help many others at the same time.


Mums:

I cannot go through one of these without including some growing thoughts in the writing. Many of you have fall mums in color at this point. The summer has been brutal for mums. Monsoon systems lasting for several days straight, to searing heat, both day and night, lasting for weeks. While the most crucial stage in the mum crop is when cutting is received and timely planting/fertilization during the first few weeks, the need for vigilance never leaves. It’s a crop that many thinks grows itself. That is a fallacy. Many who grow a crop for the first time are often successful and think that the next crop will be as well. It is in the following years where one can be humbled quite quickly if Mother Nature plays mean or if you become complacent. This year malfunctioning irrigation systems (anything “automatic” needs oversight) and late-season caterpillars made crops much more challenging.

Poinsettias:

Some of you have had poinsettias growing now for about a month. Hopefully, they were off to a stress-free start and the pinch has taken place or is coming up soon. Continue to keep your eyes open for whitefly and to make sure the crop is getting adequate nutrition. Poinsettias, like mums, are hungry feeders and need a good fertilizer regimen to be happy. I’ve always said that they are the most predictable crop to grow but also the most unforgiving.


Again, I ask that you send me ideas for future Helpful Hints. Nothing is too simple or too complicated. If you’re wondering about something I can assure you others are as well.

For those of you who are attending the FFA convention in Indianapolis, please take a bit of time to visit our booth on the convention floor. I’ll be at the Fairgrounds, working with the Nursery and Landscape CDE testing most of the week but hope to make it to the Convention Center soon after this testing is complete.

As the year, once again ramps up, please take some time to reflect on how much of an impact you’re having on your students, their future contributions to society, and thus, a better world. And in the short term, the beauty that your greenhouse fundraisers and the efforts of your students inject into this broken world is something to be proud of. I hope you have a sense of pride for what you have accomplished and the examples that you have set for all others to follow.  I love this industry and I am sure you do as well. My hat’s off to you. Job well done.


Disclaimer!

If you are doing something with your poinsettias that is different than what is shared above, and all is going well, please continue to grow as you have. Perhaps modify, experiment, and consider other options, but be cautious before changing something that works. Successful growing is not a black and white science. It is the result of general guidelines, one’s own experience & observation, as well as a plethora of many other variables. Some of these variables we have control over and some we do not. The above is only meant as a guide to be considered with caution and a watchful eye.

Questions/Concerns?

If you need help or elaboration on any of the above topics, please feel free to contact us. If you need a source for or advice on annuals, perennials, pH or EC meters, soil or anything else, I can help you with that as well.

Happy Growing!

Mike Hellmann
Plants and Cuttings Manager

P.S. Curious about my background and how I got to Hummert? You can find out more here.

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