Saturday, July 31, 2010

eBay's latest "Rules Change" - UGH!

One of these days I'll figure out why eBay does what it does - that day just isn't today!  Historically eBay allowed a seller with multiple bidders to send a 2nd Chance Offer to all non-winning bidders.  A 2nd Chance Offer allows non-winning bidders the opportunity to buy the item being sold at the non-winning bidders last bid price.

That certainly seemed to be a win-win for both the seller, the buyer and eBay (they get their 12% cut).  I guess eBay saw it differently.  eBay now only allows a seller to send ONE non-winning bidder a 2nd Chance Offer.

So, if you happen to bid on a listing of mine from time-to-time, don't hate me if you don't get a 2nd Chance Offer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Follow my hybridizing...coming soon!

I am in the process of creating a new page which will document the journey of a couple of my recent crosses.  The crosses have been made, the seed pods have matured and were recently harvested.

The page will document the life cycle of a hybridizing effort from initial pollination through the final selection of any seedlings worthy of continuing to propagate for potential naming and release.

I think you'll find the page to be both interesting and informative.  The goal of the page is to:

1.  Educate growers on how to successfully make a cross should they want to try it at home;
2.  Educate growers on how to anticipate what the end result of their crosses might be so they can strive for a specific result;
3.  Bring awareness to growers on the actual effort required to bring a new variety to market.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Violets are worth more than $3.40

I thought African Violets might be spared "Wal-Mart" discounting on eBay but I see that isn't the case.

In addition to African Violets I also sell gifts and collectibles on eBay and I am amazed at the number of sellers who will sell products at or below wholesale.  How exactly does one make a profit with that business model?  I tell my family and friends if you didn't buy it on eBay you paid too much!  And it's the truth.

Consider for a moment what it costs to do a transaction on eBay for an item that is being sold for $3.40.  

Insertion Fee:  .25 cents
FVF Fee (12%):  .41 cents 
PayPal Fee (5.5%):  .19 cents
Total Fees:  .85 cents

Gross profit from the sale of a $3.40 plant is $2.55.  Now consider the other costs associated with raising a plant to an age where it can be sold:

Potting Mix
Wicking/Matting materials
Light stands
Shipping Labels
Shipping Boxes
Packing Material
Plant Labels
eBay Store Fee

Conservatively speaking I would estimate these items add at least $1.00 to the cost of selling the plant.  So now we're down to a net profit of $1.55.  What about labor?

Lets assume the average length of time required to produce plantlets from leaf cuttings is 4 months.  Add another three months before they are mature enough to ship and then divide that by our net profit of $1.55.  In the end, the seller of the $3.40 plant is making approximately .22 cents a month for each plant raised and sold.

So, for every 1,000 plants sold the seller who is selling plants for $3.40 is making $220 or about $1.00 a day.

Question.  Who would care for 1,000 plants for 7 months for $1.00 a day?  If you know of anyone willing to do this please send me their resume!  Boy do I have a job for them!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Packing Day!

If I'm honest, my least favorite day of the week is packing day.  Until you've pulled, groomed, rolled, packed and shipped a few thousand plants, you don't know what you're missing!  It is a tremendous amount of work that is tedious and time consuming.

Funny thing though, as soon as I've packed the last shipment for the week I'm right back upstairs getting my next auctions ready.  I'm a gluten for punishment!

The photo below shows a few plants that I've pulled in preparation for a long day of packing.  I shipped over 100 plants in that sitting - UGH! 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Clearly" a better way to propagate leaves!

I'm often amazed that after 30+ years of growing (I started when I was 14) I can still uncover a bit of knowledge that I did not possess the day before.

During one of my regular trips to California I stopped in at the Smart & Final store to see what goodies they had that could be repurposed into a violet related accessory.  What I found on this trip were clear two ounce and rather shallow cups (a.k.a. Pots!).  I thought they might actually take up less room in my trays then my three ounce Solo cups so I threw caution to the wind and splurged $2.00 for 150.

Once I got them home I quickly realized while they were shallower than the three ounce Solo cups, their diameter was a tad bit wider so the net benefit was the big goose egg!  Since I had already taken my soldering iron to the pots to create drainage holds I decided to pot up a tray of leaf cuttings to see how they'd perform in the rather shallow pots.

What I noticed a couple of months later was the leaf cuttings in these pots produced plantlets that could be harvested sooner (about 30 days), produced more plantlets and there were virtually no underdeveloped plantlets in these pots as compared to leaf cuttings propagated in non-clear pots.  Why you ask?  I theorize that the clear containers allow light to hit the soil, roots and developing plantlets which allows them to mature much sooner.

Fluke?  Give it a try and let me know if you don't experience the same end result.  Here's a picture of what those leaf pots looked like in three months.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

No Experience Necessary!

It has always puzzled me why some growers can grow African Violets for 30 years and never raise a truly spectacular specimen while others with little to no experience put together beautiful specimens right out of the gate.  Such was the case this past November at the Lone Star African Violet Council show in Kerrville, TX.

The plant pictured, Shirl's Hawaiian Lei, was exhibited by Ken Muzalewski.  As I understand it he's been growing African Violets for a short period (2-3 years...maybe a tad more/less).

Now, if this were the only high quality plant he entered in the show I probably wouldn't be writing this blog entry but it wasn't.  Everytime he opened another box of plants he had transported to the show you could see the quality.  He had miniatures, semiminiatures and some really beautiful standard size African Violets.

Why do some growers hit the ground running while others don't?  I wish I knew.  But its nice when they do because they create some spectacular plants to admire!

Premier Pro-Mix HP versus Premier Pro-Mix BX

Try as I may I can't find Premier Pro-Mix BX in Colorado.  Yes, I can find it in every other state in the Union but not this one!  I've been shipping it in from California but as you can imagine the shipping almost doubles the price of the product.

A new business opened in Denver that "said" they carried Premier Pro-Mix BX.  Well, I made the drive up to Denver (about 80 miles round trip) only to discover they sold Premier Pro-Mix HP not BX.  The HP stands for "High Porosity".  I reviewed the ingredients and honestly couldn't see any difference between the two formulas.  In theory, the HP formula should work very well with African Violets and other plants that prefer a porous growing medium.

Curiosity got the better of me so I cracked the bale and sifted some of it to see its construction.  I immediately noticed the HP formula has a lot more perlite (hence the High Porosity description) than the BX formula.  Other than perhaps reducing the amount of perlite I add to the mix, I don't see that I'll have to make any other adjustments.

The cost was $42 which I thought was a bit high for a 3.8 cubic feet compressed bag.  I was paying $34 in California.  Fluffed out, it makes 7 cubic feet of potting mix which will fill about 2,000 3 ounce solo cups.  I figure when I add a little extra perlite my "recipe" costs me about .03 cents a pot.

I've been using Premier's products for close to 20 years and I honestly wouldn't use anything else.  If you're not using Premier Pro-Mix for your violets, you might consider doing so.  Pro-Mix is available in smaller quantities so don't feel the need to buy a 3.8 cubic foot bale!

Want to learn more about Premier Pro-Mix and where to find it in your area?  Click here and I'll send you over to their website.

Happy Growing!