February has always been a busy time at the garden center. From applying a mixture of 50% varnish/50% paint thinner with a paint roller to seal the concrete store floors, to unloading truckloads of 80 pound bags of ferti-lome lawn food (by hand) for the season’s lawn care needs, there are many big things happening here to prepare for spring!
I can still picture my Grandfather Orie in his retirement years sowing seeds by hand for our bedding and vegetable plant sales. Our transplant crew consisted of my cousin Cheryl and neighbors Theresa Smith, Alice McCauslin, Ruby Phillips and Ruth Knotts. They would carefully transplant each seedling into pots arranged into wooden flats.
However, before all of this happened, we spent months preparing our special potting soil mix for our home grown bedding plants. I love retelling the story of our potting soil recipe to our employees; now you get to find out about it!
Our friend Scott Wise from Gard’N-Wise would deliver a truckload of RePeat peat moss - not Sphagnum peat moss, but Hypnum peat moss. Hypnum peat moss is darker in color than sphagnum peat, and it is composed primarily of Hypnum moss. It has a finer texture than sphagnum peat. RePeat was packaged into wax paper tubes sewn on the bottom and wire tied at the top. We'd spread the large 4 cu. ft. bags 4-6” deep over a layer of perlite and topsoil. Once we'd rototilled this together, we’d sterilize the mixture by filling up our heat sterilizer one shovel full at a time, which would heat the soil to 160 degrees. The rectangle sterilizer measured 2’ x 3’ x 4’ and would be filled 4-5 times a day, all summer long. It sure kept my brothers Wes, Linden, friend Bill Jackel and me busy!
Once the winter transplanting season came, we’d back the truck up to the pile and again, one shovel at a time we’d fill the truck up, take it to the transplanting room and unload it. The dirt grinder would transform the soil to a light, fluffy mixture ready for the gals to transplant into. Much love and labor went into our ‘Johnson’s Potting Soil Mix’ decades ago. I think we moved the soil five times, one shovel full at a time.
These days for production we receive a professional growers' mix on a pallet. It’s a compressed bale measuring 3' x 4’ x 8’ tall. It’s loaded into a bale buster which fluffs the soil and fills our flat filler, ready to be transplanted into containers. I’ll share a video of it in action soon!
Now is the time to get your seedlings started at home. Our seed starting department has seedling media, seed displays, heat mats, containers and ferti-lome water soluble fertilizer for your seed starting needs. See you soon!
Your friend in the garden,
Owner - Johnson's Garden Centers
P.S. - Many of you know about my love of bicycling and bicycle adventures. You may have followed my previous adventures riding my bike from Banff, Alberta to the US/Mexico border at Antelope Wells, New Mexico. I hope you’ll follow me and my two good friends, Tyler Branine and Cassidy Cheray when we ride the route again this summer. We head out June 14th. We have a special mission on this ride for HumanKind of Wichita. Read more about it here.