PLANTS

Green­house op­er­a­tor busy pre­par­ing for the sea­son ahead

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY JULIE COLLINS jcollins@cb­post.com

Spring in the air at Earl’s Green­house.

Earl MacPher­son has his own piece of heaven right here on earth.

It hap­pens to be his place of work and some day’s tem­per­a­tures can reach 26 C, but you won’t hear him com­plain­ing.

MacPher­son has op­er­ated Earl’s Green­house since 1973, af­ter he bought the busi­ness from the Munn Broth­ers right out of high school.

“This time of the year when the sun is get­ting stronger, I don’t have to take vi­ta­min D. When I’m work­ing in the green­house I get lots of sun.”

He doesn’t usu­ally bring his work­ers back to the job un­til later in the spring, and by that time, the seedlings and trans­plants are well on their way.

Dur­ing the busy sea­son he em­ploys up­wards of eight peo­ple, de­pend­ing on the de­mand.

“When you find a job that you just love to be at, that’s your life. If it’s an ef­fort for you to go to work ev­ery day, it’s not a very good job. Re­ally at the very least, it’s not the job for you.”

MacPher­son said over the years he’s had his fair share of ups and downs.

“Life hasn’t al­ways been smooth but then again noth­ing is per­fect. I do look for­ward to when the work­ers are here, there’s a great at­mos­phere and the cus­tomers love to stay and chat.”

MacPher­son feels for­tu­nate to have a few friends who like to spend time at the green­house.

“That’s a big help when you have peo­ple who en­joy be­ing busy and don’t mind giv­ing you a hand be­cause it is labour in­ten­sive work and can be chal­leng­ing at times. Right now the bulk of the work is get­ting things grow­ing and I’ve pretty much got that cov­ered.”

Be­cause they take a longer time to grow than most other plants, MacPher­son plants his pep­pers in late Jan­uary and early Fe­bru­ary. He also has trays of pan­sies in var­i­ous stages of growth.

“I’ve al­ways loved pan­sies and who wouldn’t. When they are in bloom it’s like look­ing at a sea of smil­ing faces.”

Each year MacPher­son said he sees more and more peo­ple mov­ing to­ward con­tainer gar­den­ing.

“It seems like peo­ple don’t have time any­more to get out in the gar­den and plant. Most peo­ple have decks on their houses and that’s where they spend their time,” he said. “There are still folks who have flower beds and veg­etable gardens, but that trend is on the de­cline as more de­mands are put on peo­ple.”

When MacPher­son started work­ing in the green­house over four decades ago, it was all glass.

“Around 1973 as oil started in­creas­ing in price, op­er­a­tors went more for a tun­nel-style struc­ture, bend­ing pipe into arches and us­ing lay­ers of plas­tic. Now we have poly glass or poly­car­bon­ate sheet­ing which saves a lot of work be­cause plas­tic tends to tear.”

He ex­pects to have his re­tail shop open by late May or early June, adding that most plant­ing shouldn’t be done un­til about mid-June when the threat of frost is over.

MacPher­son grows a wide va­ri­ety of flow­ers in­clud­ing mums and gera­ni­ums and veg­etable trans­plants — ev­ery­thing from beets, leeks and va­ri­eties of pep­pers to cauliflow­ers, toma­toes, beans and the squash fam­ily.

“I like to watch the plants grow and I guess I get to show off my cre­ative side when it comes to mak­ing bas­kets and cre­at­ing com­bos. I also try and keep up on new va­ri­eties as they come out.”

Year af­ter year he finds that the mil­lion bells bas­kets are pop­u­lar, as are the pan­sies and marigolds.

“Some­thing I am look­ing at is au­to­mated wa­ter­ing sys­tems. It is get­ting more time con­sum­ing to do a lot of the wa­ter­ing and it’s some­thing that has to be con­stantly mon­i­tored. Even with an au­to­mated sys­tem, you would still have to hand wa­ter some plants.”

JULIE COLLINS PHOTOS/ CAPE BRE­TON POST

Earl MacPher­son wa­ters trays of mixed seedlings Mon­day at his green­house op­er­a­tion on Seav­iew Drive in North Syd­ney.

Seen here is a mil­lion bells hang­ing bas­ket at Earl’s Green­house in North Syd­ney. It is left over from last sea­son that will be used for re­pro­duc­tion.

A favourite at Earl’s Green­house ev­ery year with­out fail is pan­sies that bloom in a wide va­ri­ety of bright colours.

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