Burnett: Early greenhouse days could be stressful during the winter

When this sort of wintery weather arrives, I often think of the time when we had an acre of greenhouses to manage.

So here we go again with winter following the first real snowfall in the Central Okanagan last weekend.

I was beginning to think summer was going to carry on forever but reality has prevailed.

Gardeners should be thankful for the white stuff as it moistens the soil after a parched summer and provides protection for plants when the cold weather arrives.

The more snow we get in the hills the better, helping to provide an abundant supply of water in the reservoirs next spring.

When this sort of wintery weather arrives, I often think of the time when we had an acre of greenhouses to manage, demanding a regimen of sealing all the spots where the cold could get in or heat might escape.

For one thin layer of glass did not provide much insulation.

If the temperature dropped below -30 C with a wind chill factor, the old gas fired boilers had their work cut out for them.

I remember one winter when I was 14 years of age, when I was called into action to help stem a disaster after the gas boilers were overwhelmed by the cold.

The greenhouses were full of poinsettias, azaleas, hydrangeas and tropical plants and losing them to the cold would result in a huge financial loss for my family.

The boilers were going 24/7 and only able to keep temperatures slightly above freezing once the wind kicked up.

So my dad rushed down to Kelowna Builders Supply and bought them out of all the three mil polyethylene (plastic) they had, then picked up   half a dozen Bostich gun staplers. Meanwhile, my mom got on the phone and called as many people she could to help out with the installation of the poly inside the entire greenhouse range.

In those days, all our greenhouses were glass with wooden sash bars, so we were able to staple the poly in place.

I remember the panic involved but I also recall the feeling of thankfulness my parents had when so many people jumped in to help.

Harry Nakayama was one of the first to arrive. He lived just across the street on Ethel Street with his wife and young family. He worked for my dad for a while before he went to the City of Kelowna.

Bas Jennens was next to arrive and I believe his son Stu as well. I can’t remember everyone who was there but the feeling of community was awesome and the experience was one of the memories I will have forever.

By the time we got the plastic installed the temperature in the greenhouses had risen by 10 degrees and all was well.

That exercise taught us to be prepared, so in subsequent years each fall we would install a layer of poly around the inside of the greenhouses and tear it down in the spring.

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