May 1st is here. There is still some planting going on, but the majority of the work in wholesale is moving plants. Plants have been getting moved from planting lines to benches to houses and finally outside. Even once set down in a house, they often get moved once or twice – as some things ship out, and small spaces open in various areas, plants get moved to consolidate and create larger open spaces – only to be filled within 30 minutes by another set of plants.
Another significant group of plants getting moved around are all the tropicals. Over the past 4 weeks, at least 7 trucks (large 18-wheelers) have arrived loaded with tropical plants from Florida. Each time a truck arrives, the crew first has to move anything and everything out of the loading dock to make room for the new material. Then the truck gets unloaded. These plants do not arrive in boxes, on carts, or on pallets that can be rolled off the trucks. Every plant in a pot larger than 6 inches has to be carried off the truck manually – one at a time. It can take hours with many people helping to get everything off a truck. And then each item needs to have the brown paper wrap removed to identify the plant and get a label on It. At first, the plants are packed tightly together to make sure everything gets off the truck. Then the plants get moved again to be spread out. And many get moved again to be placed outside before the next truck arrives.
This is a prime example of why teamwork and communication are important in any operation, and our team is one of the best.
Planting, planting, planting…. Lots of that going on at the wholesale farm. Since January 1st, we have had more than 3 million plants ship into our facilities, either as unrooted cuttings (URC) or as plugs.
For the last few weeks, we have been planting the summer annuals into 4-inch, 4.5-inch, and 6-inch pots. The 4-inch and 4.5-inch pots are planted as one plant per pot – and that means a lot of pots. Lots of pots mean lots of trays. The trays and pots arrive to us packaged separately, so before planting anything, the trays have to be stacked with empty pots. That alone keeps an entire team of staff working nonstop when planting is taking place.
Once planted, the trays need a place to be set down where they can get sunlight and be watered. The Greenstreet farm is not large enough to accommodate everything we plant in the spring, so we rent space at three additional farms. After planting the plants at our own facilities, they are loaded onto carts, rolled onto the Greenstreet trucks, and shipped to these other farms. Every tray on each cart is counted before it leaves Greenstreet – varieties & colors are tracked so we know exactly which flowers are at which farm.
These last few weeks planting has been taking place 7 days a week – including this recent Easter Sunday. During these weeks of high-volume planting, the biggest challenges are running out of pots to plant into and running out of empty carts. Some days when a truck returns from delivering to a farm, our staff is already waiting for the empty carts. When that truck pulls into the loading dock the entire team pitches in for a “quick turn” – everyone lines up to pull the empty carts off the truck to get them to the planting line and get the next batch of full carts onto the truck so there is room in the loading dock to load more full carts.
At this time we have 11,019 trays at one farm in Western Maryland, another 12,321 trays at a farm in Southern Maryland, and 19,001 trays at a farm across the Bay Bridge on the Eastern Shore. Our drivers have been putting in some long hours to get these plants wherever they need to go, and in about a week or so we will reverse the process to bring them all back.
This past week, our team also make a HUGE donation to our local schools! Over a thousand Simply Salad Mix plants were donated to Lothian Elementary, Tracey’s Elementary, and Deale Elementary – students from each school were given a plant to take home & plant for themselves. We hope this will encourage some of the children in our community to start their interest in gardening young and to grow something themselves that can be enjoyed by everyone over the summer!
Fall is approaching quicker than you know! We have started on our mum production and finding the right amount of room can be a challenge! Our fall 9-inch mums were planted in one area close together to make planting, tagging, fertilizing, and watering as efficient as possible. Now those mums are getting moved and spread out in other locations on the farm to give them room to grow.
For the past 10 days, the wholesale crew has been prepping various fields around the farm: mowing the grass short, laying LOTS of black ground cover, installing pipes to run water to the irrigation lines, and running miles of black irrigation tubing. The mums then get placed on a wagon cart by hand, moved to those locations, set down by hand, and then meticulously placed under a hole in the tubing to get the drip irrigation.
The crew has been working steadily through these hot humid days. They have moved about 8,000 mums so far – almost 1/3 of the crop. This year we will have over 25,000 9in mums. 54 different varieties across 7 different colors: 5 varieties of Bronze, 10 Orange, 6 Pink, 7 Purple, 8 Red, 7 White, and 11 yellow. Different varieties will bloom at different times – based on their genetics. When they bloom will be driven by the days getting shorter and cooler. Some are categorized as early blooming – others mid-season and others late. Even if planted early or later than others – they will bloom when their genetics tells them to.
Among the early bloomers – there are many whites and yellows. Very few purples or oranges. The bronzes, reds, and oranges come strong mid-season. The late season also has more oranges and purples, along with yellows. This year we are trying a couple of new purples and oranges that should bloom earlier and a new pink and a new red that should bloom late season.
Here’s to a successful mum crop this fall season!