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Angie Wieck, Published May 06 2012

It's My Job: Baker greenhouse manager offers tips for gardeners

FARGO – Sheri Steckler, greenhouse manager and garden maintenance supervisor for Baker Garden & Gift in Fargo, didn’t always think she would work with plants for a living.

She studied other subjects in college, but after working in greenhouses for nearly 20 years, she realized she was doing what she wanted all along. So she went back to school to study horticulture and landscape architecture.

Steckler recently talked about her job at Baker’s and offered up some tips for gardeners.

What do you do at Baker’s?

I am the perennial greenhouse manager, so I order all of the perennials in the fall. I order bare root and plugs that we’ll get in March. Then we pot them to sell.

I help customers a lot in the store. They often bring in pictures of their house and ask me to help them pick out plants. It’s fun to help them and give them advice, especially the people who are just starting to dabble in gardening. It’s fun to give them a vision of what things will look like and teach them how to put things together.

I also visit people’s homes to make suggestions about how to improve their landscaping. I do one-time consultations as well as ongoing work for repeat customers. I let them know if things appear overgrown and need to be trimmed or if I see places where they could add pops of color with perennials or annuals.

Do you see any trends in landscaping?

People are popping in annuals all over the place. If some plants do not look good later in the summer, it’s easy to swap those out with fresh ones. Fall planting is also huge. We can bring in mums and different fall blooming plants.

The popularity of ornamental grasses is also on the rise. It started out more for commercial landscapes, but it’s becoming a residential trend as well. There are a growing number of hardy ornamental grasses, such as Huron Sunrise and Miscanthus, that will thrive here.

Is it safe to start planting?

That is the most commonly asked question right now. I’ve told people who are really eager to plant now that it’s OK, but if temperatures are going to be near freezing they should cover up their plants with things such as tarps, sheets or buckets. They should also bring any containers into their garage.

People could also use this time to clean up their flower beds, do trimming and amend the soil, which means turning the soil and adding things like compost or peat moss.

It’s a great way to get in the garden without putting flowers in the ground right away.

Do you have any watering advice?

The main thing is not to overwater. When it’s really hot and windy of course you’re going to need to water more. Mulching really helps on how much you’re going to have to water. Cocoa mulch has really become a favorite of mine.

Do you have any advice for new gardeners?

For people starting out, I tell them to try a variety of plants and perennials that bloom at different times in different colors with different textures. Incorporating shrubs is always great.

Add splashes of color with annuals or containers.

What do you like best about your job?

There is nothing like firing up the greenhouse in March when there is still snow and ice on the ground. The smell of sterile soil and fresh plants – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501