Kathy Martz's Greenhouse

The Putnam County Master Gardener Volunteers Present: Gardeners of Putnam County. This is the second in a series appearing in the Sentinel every other week into October. Each article shares the experience of a different Putnam County gardener, focusing on a particular garden project or feature that brings the gardener joy.

PUTNAM COUNTY — Master Gardener Volunteer Kathy Martz’s large private greenhouse is a stand-out in the sunny landscape of her home north of Leipsic. Kathy and her late husband Dick built the structure in 2013, a project born of Kathy’s love of tropical plants and Dick’s love of seeing Kathy in her happy place. While Dick would be mowing their expansive lawn, Kathy would be tucked away in her greenhouse, feeding, splitting, repotting and caring for her plants. Today Kathy says, “The weather can be nasty outside, but inside the greenhouse it’s always enjoyable.”

Measuring 40 ft. x 15 ft. x 7.5 ft. with a concrete floor and sturdy insulated plexiglas windows to withstand Putnam County winds, the greenhouse is filled with a wide variety of tropical plants, plant starts, and plants over-wintering within its humid warmth. During the cold months, two propane heaters keep the temperature at 50 degrees. Adjusting to slower evaporation in the cool indoor temperatures, Kathy cuts back on watering to once a month for succulents and once every two weeks for the others. Her water supply comes from a cistern filled by rain water from the gutters of a nearby out-building. From there, a pump moves the water to several large barrels inside the greenhouse, ready for use. Kathy feeds her plants with a granular organic fertilizer and a line of water soluble fertilizers specially formulated for different plants. A large, solid potting table that Dick built stands to the left of the entrance. Over time he added conveniences to help Kathy with her craft. “In my opinion,” says visitor Mary Jo Bockrath, “this table is a gardener’s dream—everything you need within easy reach.” Among the many and varied topical plants that Kathy over-winters are large and small succulents, a euphorbia known as Fire Sticks Pencil Cactus, a mangrove, a variety of aloe, and a 3.5 ft. tall, very round lemon tree sporting two good-sized lemons that look ready to use. Also sharing the warmth are a large pink dragon wing begonia and pink and coral hibiscus, happily flowering in their large pots. “Many plants seem to have an ON/OFF button when they’re brought indoors,” Kathy says. As the days shorten, their growth slows down, and when the days lengthen again, they wake up and shoot new growth. As spring gets closer, Kathy busies herself starting plants from seeds and cuttings, with a 50 lb. bag of professional-grade potting soil at hand. She shares space with neighbors and family so they can start their vegetable gardens early. A member of the Dooryard Garden Club, Kathy cares for plants that other members pot up from their gardens in April. She tends them until their annual plant sale in mid-May.

Once the weather outdoors is reliably warm—and the temperature inside the greenhouse is witheringly hot, Kathy moves her plants, pots and all, to outdoor garden beds, patio and pond area, where she says they are much happier in the abundant sunshine. The only actual shade plant in Kathy’s collection is a pretty Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a gift from a fellow garden club member. This year she is thinking of easing her outdoor workload a bit by doing more gardening in containers than in-ground.

Seeing the beautiful, vibrant colors of her tropical plants, one can easily understand why they have a special place in Kathy’s heart. The success of her hard work and dedication is evident in the beauty that surrounds her in her happy place.

Master Gardeners are Ohio State University Extension-trained volunteers working with county Extension personnel to provide educational services to their communities. For more about the Master Gardener program, contact the Putnam County Extension Office (419-523-6294) or go online to mastergardener.osu.edu. Watch for an announcement in the Sentinel about Master Gardener training classes.