Is it possible that a plant could change your life forever?
Yes it is possible that one plant could change your life forever and it could be just about any plant.
I really do mean that.
We had a very successful plant sale slash St. Patrick’s Day party this weekend at Mike’s Plant Farm here in Perry, Ohio and I had a bunch of Canadian Hemlock, botanical name Tsuga Canadensis in the field that had to be dug for the sale. As I was digging the plants I was thinking about how many opportunities just this one plant could provide for a person looking for something that is fun, rewarding and profitable.
As I explain what I mean I am going to put some photos in this post to show you how much fun we had and at the same time call out my assistant Amber. That’s her in the Leprechaun getup and no, I didn’t force her to do that. I suggested that we needed a Leprechaun for our party and next thing I know Amber had a box full of Irish party favors, decorations and a Leprechaun suite. That’s Amber!
But more importantly Amber and Cathy (remember this video) both have been incredibly important to my nursery this year. At the beginning of spring we did not have one single plant in a pot. Everything was in the ground. Today we have thousands and thousands of potted plants, tens of thousands of cuttings rooting and this past weekend those small plants sold like hot cakes. And for the most part, Amber and Cathy have done all of that potting and making and sticking cuttings.
Thank you so much both of you! You are the best!
Digging these trees is really hard work but at the same time it is very satisfying and peaceful and there is really nothing like being in a block of trees by yourself. The smell of the trees, the smell of the burlap, the sweat, the rain and the soil. And the reason that I am clearing this area is to give The Donkeys more room to graze.
You Should be Growing Canadian Hemlock from Seed.
As I was digging these Hemlocks I was thinking to myself; “I need to buy some more Hemlocks!” And that’s where you come in and that’s where this idea that a single plant could change your life forever comes from. You need to understand people like me, and there are thousands of us, are not willing or interested in growing plants from seed. We’re too impatient for that. We need to turn our plants over faster than that. We would much rather buy a plant that somebody else grew from seed, plant it out in the field and grow it on from there.
So this week I need to get on the phone and order some Hemlock seedlings. While I’m at it I’ll probably order several hundred White Pine Seedlings, several hundred Concolor Fir Seedlings along with several hundred Canadian Hemlock seedlings. Not to mention the thousands of other plants that I’ll buy between now and next spring. On the wholesale market you don’t sell a few plants at time. You sell hundreds of plants to people you’ll likely to never meet in person. All you do is pack them up in a box and ship them off.
Think about that. One phone call and I will place an order for about 600 plants and I’ll probably pay about $1.50 each for them. You could be the person getting that money, if only you had nice plants to sell. And here’s the thing. When I call to order plants, I almost always get carried away and end up ordering hundreds more than I intended to. And I’m never sorry later because they always sell.
This Canadian Hemlock is in my landscape. Once a year, usually late summer, I trim it up tightly so it doesn’t out grow the landscape and at the same time the more I trim it the tighter and fuller it gets. You’ll notice in the other photos the Hemlocks that I am digging haven’t been trimmed since last fall and they have that soft, feathery look to them.
The Hemlock that I dug this week are from 36″ to 48″ tall but as I was digging them I was thinking how easy it would be to sell them right in the ground if only I had grown them on to a size of about 7′. It’s really hard for landscapers and re-wholesalers to find big evergreens because most growers dig and sell them at smaller sizes. So the larger trees really bring a premium price. And since they are so scarce you can often find a buyer that is not only willing to buy them, but they are also willing to send a crew to your nursery to dig them.
Many times I have sold plants right in the ground. I tell that story here.
All you do is grow them, keep them trimmed, sprayed if needed and cultivate around them so the weeds don’t ruin them. If you have really nice trees, some wholesale buyer is certainly going to be interested in your trees and willing to arrange to have them dug. At least that’s the case around here, but truth be told, these wholesale buyers will travel a long way to find the plants they need if the price is right. It’s not at all unusual for them to go into another state to get what they need. Actually, it’s pretty common.
But . . . that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about today. Today I want to keep it simple and explain to you how easy it would be to sell Canadian Hemlock seedlings if you had them. Seedlings are great because they take up very little room and all you have to do is grow them, harvest them, pack them in box and ship them off to your customer.
Canadian Hemlock are Easy to Grow from Seed.
1. Get yourself some seed. There are two ways to get seed. You can buy seed, there are companies that sell all kinds of seeds and several of these wholesale seed suppliers are listed in the Wholesale Directory that come with My Backyard Growing System. Or you can collect the seed yourself from trees in your neighborhood. Canadian Hemlocks produce cones like pine cones.
The seeds are trapped inside of those cones. In the fall the cones start to dry out and open and as they do the seeds are released. Be careful not to harvest the pine cones too soon. You have to wait for the seeds inside of the cones to mature. As the cones start to change in color from a light green to a brown the seeds are mature. Collect the cones and place them in a brown paper bag. When the cones dry and open the seeds will be released into the bag where you can easily collect them.
Hey! How about I throw in a digging lesson while I tell this story?
2. You have to stratify the seeds before they’ll germinate. When the seeds are released from the cones they are in a dormant state and need a little wake up call. My recommendation is to soak the seeds in warm (not hot) water for 24 hours, take them out of the water and spread them out on paper towels and let them dry for about 24 hours.
3. Fill a flat with potting soil that drains well. Sow the seeds on top of the soil then gently press the seeds down so they make good contact with the soil in the flat. Sprinkle a light layer of soil over the seeds and place the flat outside in a shaded area. Gently water the flat, making sure that the soil is nice and moist. Keep in mind, you are doing this in the fall. The seeds will not germinate until spring, but leaving them out in the cold is part of the stratification process.
4. This is important! Cover the flat with a piece of window screen or hardware cloth. Use bricks or something else heavy to hold the screen in place. The purpose of the screen is to keep critters and varmints from digging in the flat and eating the seeds. Over the winter keep the seeds watered as needed. Not soggy! Just watered as needed so the potting mix is moist but not wet.
5. Come spring remove the screen so the seedlings can grow.
6. Once the seedlings are a few inches tall they can be transplanted out of the flat into small pots or into a bed. Be careful not to damage roots when transplanting. If you want you can just leave the seedlings in the flat until late fall. By then they will be hardened off and will be getting ready for winter so transplanting them will be less risky and even if you do break some roots it won’t upset them like it would during the growing season.
Keep in mind, when trees are grown from seed they like to make one long tap root and that’s not really what you want. When a wholesale buyer buys tree seedlings they want plants with nice full root systems, a nice little root ball is what they are looking for. Not a seedling with one really long root.
On a seedling a root ball is created by root pruning, or transplanting your seedlings. Growers love to buy seedlings that have been transplanted at least once if not twice because the more times a seedling has been transplanted that means that the roots have been trimmed that many times, assuring a nice full root ball.
Today growers who produce the best quality tree seedlings grow them in pots that automatically root prune them via a process known as air pruning. Some of these pots are bottomless, others have large slits in the sides. As the roots reach these openings and start to grow through the openings the air actually kills the tip of the tiny roots which is the same as the root being pruned. But it’s done at the earliest stage possible and really at the ideal time because the roots never get a chance to start circling the inside of the container which creates a root bound plant.
Each time the tip of the roots is killed via air pruning that forces more lateral roots within the root ball which is exactly what you want, and exactly what your wholesale customers want.
4. Another thing to keep in mind is that not only do wholesale buyers want a seedling that has a nice full root ball, they also want a plant that has tight, compact top top growth. Compact top growth is achieved the same way, by pruning the tops as need so you don’t end up with a 15″ tall seedling that is so lanky it just falls over.
Growing Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga Canadensis from Cuttings.
Canadian Hemlock are not typically grown from cuttings because they are difficult to do from cuttings. It takes them many weeks if not months to root if they root at all. The best way to do them from cuttings is in the late fall or winter when the growth has hardened off. But even then, you really have to use bottom heat to heat the rooting medium but not the air around the top of the cuttings.
Bottom heat is usually creating using soil warming cables or horticultural heating mats. I suppose if you got good at doing them from cuttings there would be a nice market for rooted cuttings. However, I’m not one for reinventing the wheel so I just pay close attention to what the established wholesale growers do. They do lots of things over bottom heat but Canadian Hemlock is not one. And I can assure you, there’s a reason for that.
I can assure you, the market for good quality tree seedlings is huge, bigger than you can possibly imagine. And as is the case for all kinds of rooted cuttings. Evergreens, flowering shrubs, fruit plants etc. The possibilities are endless.
Here’s a million dollar tip. Only bring with you to the field enough pinning nails to do the job. Never, ever carry a full box of nails or a pail of nails into the field. Know why? I’ll bet you’re wrong. First person to guess why that’s such a valuable tip gets
a free copy of my book “Easy Plant Propagation”.
See the chair in the middle of the field? It’s there for two reasons. One, I’m 57 years old and delighted to be able to dig all of those trees at my age, but I do rest when tired. Secondly, the first day I started digging these trees it was 94 degrees in September. The chair got a lot of use that day! Oh, and I see I must have hung my hat on a sprinkler. Better go get that.
I’ve got two videos that are related to the digging of these hemlocks. As soon as we get them uploaded to youtube I’ll link to them right smack here. I was on a mission to get these Hemlocks dug because this winter I will be expanding the donkey pen, they need room to romp around. I already said that didn’t I? I forgot because I’ve spent hours on this post editing photos etc.
Questions, comments? Did you see my little challenge? Do you have the answer?