In this week’s GreenTalks newsletter, Scott Titus with Windy Meadow Nursery, Ferndale, Washington, made this interesting statement:
I operate a wholesale greenhouse with many organic inputs and produce the highest quality in the region. But I could not produce the same quality without calcium nitrate, as it gives a better-toned plant in our low-light conditions of the Pacific Northwest. To rely on only organics for our nutrition, too much ammonium-type nitrogen would cause our plants to be weak stemmed, requiring applications of plant growth regulators, which is neither organic or sustainable. The nursery has managed to grow at 9% a year for six years in good times and bad because our branded plants sell faster at retail than our competitors, requiring two deliveries a week to several independent garden center customers. This simple fact has allowed us to shrink our delivery area and concentrate more on local sales while still maintaining growth.
(The logo pictured is from Mid Del’s Farmers Market in Oklahoma – http://middel.locallygrown.net/)
Scott pretty much nails it on how wholesale greenhouses have to deal with the “Organic” demand. For any large wholesale operation to produce their plants to the specifications that the IGC’s require, the growers have to use fertilizers, PGR’s and sometimes spray insecticides to fight a pest outbreak.
Speaking for us specifically, we use plastic pots made from recycled plastic which have a lower carbon foot print to product compared to producing a biodegradable pot which has a 2-3 time higher carbon foot print to produce. This year we have switched to Daniel’s Plant Food which is organic based but not fully organic. We fungicide our plants to prevent diseases and root rot. We only use plant growth regulators and insecticides as needed.
Some consumers and garden blogger seem to have gotten the idea that growers use plant growth regulators, insecticides and fungicides as often and as purposely as possible. This can’t be further from the truth. The simple fact is that applications of these chemicals cost money and to keep costs down, growers only use as little fungicides as needed to produce the best plants possible. Yes, we do use chemicals but we use them as labeled, safely and sparingly.
Growers can’t produce the quality of plants on a large scale to meet the IGCs specs without chemicals. Organic production has come a long way in the past few years but it still has a long was to go before large growers can go completely organic. Alternatively, growers can be more sustainable by servicing the garden centers close to them. Locally grown product is much more sustainable than organically grown plants. Take vegetables for example, is it more sustainable to buy an organic tomato shipped 1,000 miles to you locale or is it better to buy a locally grown tomato from a farmer who may not be certified organic but has a great tomato? (I read that example somewhere but cannot find where to give the person credit. My apologies to whomever I just plagiarized.)
Regarding bedding plants, our biggest competition in our region around Arkansas is plants shipped here from Michigan, Illinois, Georgia and Texas. If a garden center’s customers are concerned about sustainability, I would argue that local product is ultimately more sustainable than organic products.
Just saying. 🙂
Now for some pictures.
These are young comb pots and a young begonia basket. These will be ready in a few weeks.
#4 Bell Pepers and Caliente Geranium baskets ready now.
This is a bay of #12 Confetti Garden pots, #12 Confetti Garden baskets and at the very end of the left pic the #12 R&B Petunia baskets. The Confetti Gardens need at least another week to ten days to be nice enough to ship.
#6 Marigolds and Dahlias starting to color up along with #4 Quartz Mix Verbena looking very colorful.
These are the new Rhythm and Blues Petunias. We are growing them in a 12” basket. The baskets pictures are the same baskets but with the pictures taken from a different angle. As you can see the R&B Petunias are going to be like a lot of the other trailing petunias and be light on color in the center. However, if displayed at a little below eye level they will look like the picture on the right. These are really eye catching and should sell well. I have put them on the availability today.
Great Lakes Mix Wave Petunia hanging baskets (my current favorite Wave Petunia Mix) and some #6 Wave Petunias in full color. Last is a White Wave Petunia hanging basket.