A Day For Green(houses)

Once upon a time (a few weeks back), my phone rang.  Boy, am I glad I answered…because on the line was the opportunity of a lifetime (or at least, the offer of one).  A family at church was shorthanded and wondered could I come help them through planting season (they operate a small greenhouse).  All my life I’ve wanted to work in a greenhouse.  So of course I said yes.

For those of you who, like me until last month, know little about the innerworkings of a greenhouse, let me introduce you to one:

It all starts with this huge bale wrapped in black plastic.  And by huge, I mean HUGE (you’ll see in a minute).  Guess what’s inside this bale?  DIRT (peat) that they mine (yes, for real, they mine dirt) in apparently endless supply from Canadian peat bogs.  Go figure.

What you’re seeing here is the HUGE dirt bale (I told you it was big!) being loaded into the dirt machine.  I’ll tell you about the dirt machine in a minute, but first I’ll introduce you to that big stack of black on the left of these pictures:

These bad boys are plant flats.  The greenhouse goes through hundreds of these things in a day, so any downtime we workers get between planting and, oh, planting…we spend assembling these stacks.

Now back to the dirt machine:

On your average planting crew (and by average, I mean the only planting crew I’ve ever been on), one person loads empty flats onto a belt, which then whisks the flats deep into the bowels of that frighteningly red metal giant: the dirt machine.  The dirt machine’s job is to dump dirt into the flats, so that when they come out on the other side, they look like this:

See?  All nice and full of peat.  Yay!!  It’s big news in the life of a flat, people, because THIS is where the plants come in:

The planters stand along the conveyor belt just on the other side of the wall from the dirt machine.  Along come the empty flats and WHAM the planters jump all over them.  Like this:

Check out that planter in action!  She (and by she, I really mean I) uproots the ‘plugs’ by their leaves (they’ve already been ‘punched’ out of their seed trays by a machine that looks remarkably like a stiff-bristled brush ((each bristle matches up with one of the little holes you can see on the left of the above picture))) and pushes them into the loose peat with her forefinger (one plant per pot).  The only trick is that the whole time she’s doing this, the belt is MOVING!  So it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.  Especially for one who’s never planted before.

After being planted, the plant trays move on down the line to get ‘tagged’ with a label like ‘petunia’ (that’s what you see above).  During the course of my three week planting stint, we planted petunias, impatiens, dianthas, snap dragons, and maybe even pansies (I can’t remember). 

Then the planted, tagged trays get loaded onto carts…

…and distributed throughout the greenhouse, where they’ll be given lots of sun, water, and growth hormones.  Grow, babies, grow!

I loved it, and I’m so glad Andy and Tammy let me come!  If you ever get the chance…try it some time.

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  1. #1 by Grace on March 17, 2011 - 6:20 pm

    Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwww, that’s awesome. All those little rows give me a feeling of satisfaction, and I wasn’t even the one working there! Way to go! 🙂

  2. #2 by Sally on March 17, 2011 - 11:48 pm

    Whoa! That’s a lot of work! Sounds like you had to work fast to get all the plants in before that flat was down the belt and out of reach. I’m glad I wasn’t the one having to do it. It sounds stressful.

  3. #3 by Laura on March 18, 2011 - 1:07 am

    What a lot of work, but fun! The second to last picture is almost exhausting…but as Grace said, satisfying too!

    • #4 by Cristy on March 18, 2011 - 9:50 am

      By the time planting season was done, all the empty space to the right in the second-to-last picture was full, too. It was quite a sight to see. They say it smells so good when everything starts blooming.

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