Nearly Spring in the Greenhouse

Posted: March 7, 2016

In Pennsylvania, spring seems to come just a little later than we all want it to, and usually not before the weather roller-coasters us from the low 20s to the high 70s and back, tossing in snow, sleet, rain and sunshine, sometimes all in the same day. Looking forward to spring’s arrival, Western Pennsylvania greenhouse growers gather in early March each year for Penn State Extension’s Nearly Spring Greenhouse Night-Lighter.
Area greenhouse growers tour the greenhouses at Michael Brothers Nursery, Cheswick, Pennsylvania.

Area greenhouse growers tour the greenhouses at Michael Brothers Nursery, Cheswick, Pennsylvania.

The Nearly Spring Greenhouse Night-Lighter starts just before sunset, with forty to fifty growers and industry representatives touring an area greenhouse operation, networking, comparing notes on early season problems, and swapping tips. Later, over dinner, university specialists and other experts provide updates on research, products, and current issues.

This year’s Nearly Spring Greenhouse Night-Lighter was hosted by Michael Brothers Nursery, located just north of Pittsburgh. Highlights included:

  • Behind the Scenes: Participants got a thorough tour of Michael Brothers’ busy propagation areas, annual and perennial houses, and retail store. Michael Brothers Nursery retails 100% of their greenhouse plants through their garden center.
  • Best Marketing Tip: Owner Dan Higgins described their Spring Preview Party, an event designed to feed the “nearly spring” hunger for plants his customers are feeling even when it is too soon for outdoor planting. This open house event is held in early April, and participants are invited to tour through the greenhouses to preview hanging baskets, flats, combo containers, and other floral products that will be ready for sale in a few weeks. Dan feels that this event has really strengthened customer loyalty and contributed to increasing their spring sales.
  • Start Early and Combine Strategies to Manage Thrips: Dr. Raymond Cloyd traveled up from Kansas State University to remind growers to use a combination of management strategies in the perennial battle against Western flower thrips. This is especially true early in the season before populations have built up. He emphasized the need for managing resistance by rotating between insecticide classes and proper timing of applications to target susceptible life stages. Beyond insecticides, Dr. Cloyd discussed the use of various biocontrol agents (e.g. Amblyseius, Orius, Botanigard and other fungal insecticdes), sanitation, and mechanical methods (e.g. lots of yellow sticky tape) for controlling thrips. More information can be found in his recent article, Developing an Effective Western Flower Thrips Management Program.

Nearly spring in the greenhouse: it’s a great time to see what your peers are up to, feed your customers’ hunger for your products, and plan for managing your most important pests using research-based strategies.

Contact Information

Lee Stivers
  • Extension Educator, Horticulture
Phone: 724-228-6881