Hometown Gardener

Paul and Nila Dowlearn-Owners of Wichita Valley Nursery. Paul’s recent books, “The Lazy Man’s Garden” and “Touch the Earth” are available at the Nursery, 5314 S.W. Pkwy, Wichita Fall, Texas.

Now we go from the hottest day of the year to the earliest Alberta Clipper on record. This is one serious cold front that comes racing down the Eastern Slope of the Rockies. More typical of December/January, we over two weeks away from fall (officially). It is still summer. Have mercy.

Just be thankful we don’t live somewhere like Denver. Like us, they will be sweltering in high 90’s for Labor Day but behind the front, due on Tuesday, they will drop into the 30’s for daytime highs. There will be snow and ice. Their overnight lows will be in the teens… Yeeeesh!!

Meanwhile we will be spared the frozen stuff. Our highs will be 60’s and 70’s and lows will likely go into the 40’s. Seems like a good deal for us but at least a month early. Pleasant weather for humans and cool season stuff for certain. Remember the “sweet spot” for warm season veg is 80 to 95(f). Outdoor tomatoes and squash are done for in Denver. The frozen precip line will get as close as Northwestern Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

You may recall that last year we had an early freeze in mid-October. Our plants were not hardened off yet so there was some damage as we quickly dropped into the teens. In spite of this, we still had a pretty mild winter. Right now, there is a heat wave cooking everything west of the Rockies. Temps are at 110 and above in parts of California. Fires are abundant in those states. That heat wave is headed our way as our weather moves from west to east across our country. Best we can hope for is one of these strong cold fronts will moderate the heat. Always the optimist… Eh??

So our long range forecast is still for above average temperatures this fall and winter. Our average first frost falls in mid-November. Our average temperatures in early September should put us squarely in the “sweet spot.” This cold front is definitely an anomaly and not the beginning of a very long, cold winter. Or is it?

Well… At least we got a nice warm day for Labor Day. I hope everything went well for you and yours. P.J. cooked a nice roast for us while Nila and I rested. The nursery will be open Monday for those who are not at the area lakes. My policy has always been work is available if you want it but by all means, take the three day weekend if you’d rather. At my age I’ve finally come to realize the value of time as opposed to money. Sure we need to pay the bills but just as surely we need to relax and pay ourselves.

I mentioned last week that we had finally realized the dream of producing nearly everything we sell ourselves. I owe this to the diligent work of our employees. Martha Davis has been with us 25 years, more or less. In that time her skills at plant propagation have surpassed most other folks that I know. She keeps an eye on our stocks and knows just when and how to make cuttings or collect seed. Often as not, when I ask if she has any particular plant rooting she will say yes. I love it when she beats me to it. This is remarkable in today’s work place. An employee who does not need constant supervision or reminders of what their job is. Martha has become family and has our complete faith and trust.

While Martha does most of the shrubs and flowering plants, I handle the trees by collecting seed and deciding when to pot them and which ones to pot up in larger containers. This is done mostly during winter when the trees are dormant. Pretty much everybody gets a hand in this sooner or later.

Landscaping installation is accomplished by me, Bailey Gray, and Tyler Spring (yes that is his real name). We do landscaping in every month except when the weather just will not allow us to work outside. Unfortunately that does include the heat of summer when the ground is dry and hard. There have been many years we have been obliged to have our customers water deeply before we can plant or we do it ourselves. I hope Bailey and Tyler are both at the lake with their families right now. I know they are happy as Labor Day is considered the end of the really hot stuff and the beginning of our second growing season. I share those feelings.

Landscaping embraces all other skills. We sometimes do outdoor lighting, masonry, and carpentry. Irrigation requires basic plumbing skills. Our particular favorite has always been water features which involves all of these skills along with knowledge of wet ecosystems, plants, and fish. Add to this the daily maintenance of our trucks and trailers, buildings, greenhouse, and all that goes with it. So my guys have to wear many different hats… And they do.

On weekdays the nursery is being run by our son P.J. who is a decent mechanic and learning to weld at present. P.J. also handles the accounting and keeps track of ordering supplies. I am there in between jobs and on rainy days. Saturdays the landscape crew is at home and I am available all day for consultation.

Recently we hired a young woman named Alex Nelson. She is currently working on her degree in botany at MSU. Also doing some student teaching as she goes. We were obliged to cut her hours as school has started back. I did not like to have to do this but did the same for Martha as she finished her biology degree from MSU. That has rewarded us many times over.

Meet these people. Especially if you have grown weary of the poor service and lack of knowledge often found in the Megamarts. You will be pleasantly surprised. Come on by!

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