Greenhouse operator busy preparing for the season ahead
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.”
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.