November 30, 2015
Greenhouse and Cold Frames

The Heritage Herb Garden at the Ozark Folk Center graces the park with visual colors and textures, sweet and pungent aromas, and helps us to interpret the history of the human use of plants.

The gardeners of the Heritage Herb Gardens have been hopping-to the past couple of weeks as temperatures fell below freezing. First, the tender plants must go in to the greenhouse and cold frames. Decisions about which plants are moved to the warmth of the greenhouse, nestled into cold frames or sent to the compost pile are based on value, available space and the health of the individual plant. Some plants are very tender, some are semi-hardy and some are very hardy but are planted in clay or cement pots that will break if the potting medium becomes frozen.

Hardy perennials in plastic pots are protected in unheated cold frames. The roots are not as hardy as the tops of these plants so the pots have to be sunk in sand, bark or wheat straw mulch. Our cold frames are made with arches of bent PVC pipe and protected from freezing winds with a covering of UV treated plastic. The ends of the cold frame hoops are left open for good air circulation unless the temperatures get down in to the low 20s. Our native plant collection, as well as thyme, winter savory, sage, hibiscus, roses and hardy flowering perennials spend the winter in the cold frame because they do better if they are allowed to go dormant. Insect pests are not as active on plants left in the cold so we can concentrate pest control methods on the plants in the warmer environment of the greenhouse.

Tender perennials such as rosemary, sweet marjoram and Confederate rose are placed in the heated cold frame. This unit has a floor of sand with a heat cable buried about two inches below the surface. The thermostat is set at 50° F and, with the plastic covering, the environment inside feels just like spring all winter. Plant roots are kept at a constant warm temperature while the tops are somewhat cooler; depending upon how cold it is outside. This keeps insect pest damage at a minimum. All we have to do is keep the cold frames watered and open and close the ends of the hoop framing.

Inside the greenhouse is where the fun work happens. Daytime temperatures can get into the 80s and 90s on a sunny day. Pests don’t go dormant and must be controlled with a scouting and spraying schedule. Dead and dying leaves are cleaned up on a daily basis.

Right now we are giving each plant a good pruning, spraying and a new pot as we organize the benches. Puttering in the greenhouse is one of our favorite activities! Regardless of the weather outside, the greenhouse is warm and bright inside. Winter is a time to relate to greenhouse plants as individuals. Healthy, vigorous plants start from healthy, vigorous parent plants. Seedlings and cuttings are propagated on heat mats and under mist. Next season’s garden plants begin their lives in the greenhouse.

If you wish you could play in the greenhouse with us, please call (870) 269-3851 and let us know when you can come! We appreciate willing hands and will train you and answer questions as we work.

December 11 and 12, 2015, all sorts of herbal products, books and calendars will be on sale, along with other handmade arts and practical, useful gifts at the Ozark Holidays Craft Show at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. The hours are 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and admission is free!

For the next three months, we will be grooming plants for our gardens and market. Many of them will travel to The Arkansas Flower Show which will be held in the Little Rock Convention Center on February 26 through 28. Mark your Capsicum, Herb of the Year 2016™ calendars now! This year the theme of the Arkansas Flower Show is “25 Years of Gardening” to mark the anniversary of this annual harbinger of spring event.
Intensive herb and gardening Ozark Folk School will take place in March. The Medicinal Herb Hike and Workshop is scheduled for May 6 and 7. The Herb Harvest Fall Festival, October 6, 7 and 8, 2016, we will explore Capsicum and the herbs and flowers of Central and South America.

In the Heritage Herb Garden, this winter is a time of celebrating, thankfulness and preparation for the New Year 2016. If I don’t see you in the future, I’ll see you in the pasture!