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Outdoor greenhouses begin sprouting after cool, wet month

Kay Buckalew unloads a pallet of shrubs to the garden center at her family's East Grand Forks Hardware Hank store in East Grand Forks Thursday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

As the Grand Forks area recovers from a drawn-out winter, a sure sign of spring has emerged: Local businesses are setting up outdoor greenhouses.

Hardware Hank employees in East Grand Forks were unloading a truck of trees and shrubs Thursday afternoon, and just down the street, Shopko was preparing for a shipment to arrive this morning.

“People are waiting for it to open,” said Jon Borgen, Shopko manager. He was in the store’s parking lot inspecting the rows of mulch, potting mix and clay pots Thursday as they prepared to open the greenhouse.

While high temperatures are expected to be above 50 degrees for the next few days, lows Friday and Saturday could dip to the mid-30s, according to the National Weather Service.

April 2014 was the 9th coldest on record in Grand Forks and generally cool and wet, according to weather service’s monthly weather summary. The average temperature was 37.3 degrees, 5.2 degrees below normal.

The month set a record low for April 2, when it reached minus 6 degrees. Rainfall records were set on April 23 and April 28.

Getting set

Kay Buckalew, a co-owner of Hardware Hank, said they’re getting the greenhouse started a little later this year than they typically do, but at about the same time as last year.

“Last year was actually colder later (in the year), because my pallets were still frozen to the ground,” she said. “And that’s why I didn’t get my greenhouse put up until the first.”

“But I think this winter has been longer… so I think people are especially anxious this year,” she added. Buckalew anticipates her flowers will arrive next week.

Borgen said they will use portable heaters in their greenhouse to keep the plants warm during chilly nights. He said that’s common practice during the early weeks of the season.

“It’ll keep it up to the temperature … so that they don’t freeze,” he said.

Buckalew said they used to use barbecue grills in the greenhouse to keep plants warm, but now they use portable heaters.

Keeping plants warm in cold conditions is nothing new for All Seasons Garden Center, located on South Washington Street in Grand Forks. Georgia Heitmann, an employee there, said they have a furnace system in their permanent greenhouse structures that helps keep their plants warm year-round.

She added that customers are excited to get outside after a long winter.

“They’re anxious for color and to see some things growing,” Heitmann.

Even so, it may be a little early for some plants to go in the ground, Buckalew said.

“A lot of people will buy and hold onto their plants, just so they get the ones they want,” she said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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