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Business in bloom

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Greenhouse adds retail option for local gardens

RANDOLPH - When a plant outgrows it’s pot, it’s uprooted and re-planted in a larger area so it can continue to flourish. Much like the vegetables and flowers they grow, Tim and Brooke Schmit have uprooted their greenhouse business twice and have now planted themselves in a more permanent location in their own backyard at their rural Randolph home.

The Schmits have been growing flowers and vegetables for retail sale since 2008 but this spring built a 40-by-60-foot greenhouse on their property, opening this season as Country Blooms. More than 90 varieties of vegetables and flowers are laid out in colorful rows on flood tables, with hanging baskets and overflowing pots along the perim eter. Most are annual bedding plants and are sold at Jim's Food Center in Randolph and Ken’s Hometown Market in Coleridge. Customers can now stop out at the greenhouse as well about four miles southeast of Ran dolph. Hours are Monday through Friday, 4-7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Plants, and arranged baskets and pots are also posted for sale through social media. Tim credits his late grandmother, Carol Helsing, and his high school ag teacher, Dennis Bazata, for his steadfast appreciation for horticulture. “We (Tim and his brother, Jason) started growing stu for mom and grandma and it just grew from there," he said. "At one point, my grandma had 99 pots around her house. Twothirds of the greenhouse was for grandma." The most challenging part of the business is trying to determine in advance which varieties customers will buy as well as when customers (and the weather) will be ready. “Some of it is based on what sold and didn’t sell last year," Tim said. "It's trial and error. You look through catalogs and get an eye for what people want." Local favorites include petunias and regal geraniums. In fact, regal geraniums have been so popular they can be dicult to find. “Somehow the box stores still have them but none of our suppliers can get them for us,” Tim said. So, the Schmits literally took matters into their own hands, taking cuttings o of five geraniums and propagating those cuttings into new plants. In past years, the Schmits would use plugs to start plants as is the typical industry standard. However, due to shipping delays, canceled orders and spilled product, more and more of their country blooms are started by seed. The Schmits also endured a devastating aphid infestation earlier this year that wiped out most of their zinnias. To combat the pest, Tim re-homed 10,000 ladybugs into the greenhouse. It's just one example of how the Schmits strive to run a chemical-free greenhouse. "You can definitely have a flower that looks absolutely perfect if you use all the chemicals and everything," he said. "Sometimes ours might be a little taller than others or whatever but they're also chemical free so when they go in the ground, they are ready to grow. They don't have those chemicals that restrict them." The greenhouse retail season will come to a close in the next two weeks. But Tim is always cultivating ideas even in the o-season. Next year, he hopes to have a few tropical plants and he's already begun experimenting with growing produce year round. "Our goal is to have produce ready around November, December time, in time for the holidays. And then again in maybe April, May, when people are starting to think about fresh garden produce," he said. "They (winter-grown produce) taste just as they would in the summer. Not quite as big but nice and juicy." He enjoys the balmy greenhouse conditions in the heart of a Randolph winter. "When you start seeding, it's 75, 80 degrees in the greenhouse with the sun shining in the middle of January," he said. "When I go out and do chores, it's five below zero." Brooke jokes that Tim dragged her into the greenhouse business but that’s she’s grown to enjoy it, especially seeing the progression from seed to full bloom.

"I like walking down the aisle and looking at all of them, pointing out, this one bloomed today; this one looks bigger," she said. "It's rewarding."