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April 26, 2014 - Wojo’s Greenhouse

Joe and Mike Wojciechowski opened a roadside stand in 1983 selling produce. They worked hard and it continued to grow into what is now Wojo’s Greenhouse, with over 275,000 square feet of greenhouse space on 25 acres selling everything from trees and shrubs to veggies, annuals to perennials. We were lucky enough to have the owner, Joe Wojo, take a good-sized group of us on their Spring Garden Party Tour on Saturday, April 26, 2014. We were going to see one of the most fascinating mechanized greenhouses in the country. They give three tours a year and we were in for a treat because things were blooming. An added bonus was a free 6 pack of pansies on our way out for each person on the tour.

While waiting for the tour to start, we milled around the Wojo retail area enjoying rows of tables of beautifully colored flowers that seemed even more spectacular after being in the drab, post-snow, pre-spring, grayness of our current outdoors for the past couple of weeks. Some of the things that became increasingly apparent as we toured the facility was how huge it is and the large amount of automation involved in managing the plants from seed or cutting to retail-sized potted plant. Some highlights and things we learned during the tour included:

• Pansies can withstand minus 20 degree temperatures. This winter did not effect this year’s plant growth.
Traci showed us a flat-filler machine that puts soils/seeding mix in small flats that have 512 slots each for seeds. These were fed into a “nibbler” that indents each of the 512 small soil cups, inserts the seeds, and waters them. Each click meant that it was dropping seeds into the tray and it clicks when it is finished. There is also vermiculite at the end of the process for some seeds. See our photos and video.

• There is propagation station where plant cuttings sit for 3-5 weeks to root. Joe demonstrated taking a cutting with a sweet potato plant. They had in progress six plantings of petunias two weeks apart. There are grow lights that are on from 5-10 pm because they need a full day of daylight to propagate properly and be ready in time for sale in Michigan. The cuttings are misted every hour for one week, then four times a day, and gradually weaned off of the misting. The misters are programmed and automatic, moving down the tables on their appropriate schedules, using water that is relatively iron-free to prevent staining the plant leaves.

• They have 20-30 employees which ramps up to 120, then back to 20-30 during the year. This greenhouse is a year round operation allowing them to sell their plants to other greenhouses that close for the winter. Their natural gas bill for the winter was about $80,000, but switching from propane was a good investment because that had previously cost them about $170,000.

• There are eight miles of 27,000 hanging plants, each with its own drip watering system.
Flood benches use recycled water that absorbs from the bottom up with adjusted pH and nutrients added. This saves water and keeps the leaves from having to be continuously watered with potential staining. It takes five to seven minutes to fill the benches and two to four minutes to drain. Drier plants grow shorter so keep them on the dry side.

• Wojo’s has been named to the list of the most innovative greenhouses for 10 years.

• They have 75 bays, many with retractable roofs, and 12 free standing greenhouses on about 25 acres, with six acres under cover.

• The seed flats filled by the nibbler are transplanted by the Filling Production Crew. Steve demo’d the new equipment that fills the 12-plant trays with soil, levels them, and smooths them with a brush. A Rapid Transplanter then removes the plants from the 512-seedling flat, pokes them into the larger trays and cements them into place with a water spray to prevent them being lost when moved water machine cements them in.

This greenhouse is amazing and, if you are anywhere near the area, you should go on one of their tours.
Coming up at the Wojo Greenhouse is HGTV star and host of ”The Outdoor Room,” Jamie Durie on tour! You can sign up for this at
Other events being held at Wojo’s are listed below, in this link:

Wojo’s Greenhouse
2570 Oakwood Blvd.
Ortonville, MI 48452
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