Horticulture Achieves Much with Minimal Funding

February 17, 2011

With March on the horizon, Horticulturist Ken Johnson and his crew shift from their cooler month responsibilities of growing plant material in their greenhouse to maintaining approximately fifty city-owned properties and gearing up for the spring/summer months.

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Plant material grown, from seed and cuttings, during the recent cold months will be planted in beds all over the City.

From March to October, Horticulture crews are responsible for the planting, spraying, weeding, mowing, edging, weed-eating, pruning, fertilizing and mulching of trees and shrubs, and irrigation maintenance in the properties shown on the map below. In addition, crews are charged with the design/planting/maintenance of new landscapes on city properties. To get a jump on the spring rush, which is the busiest time for the Horticulture Division, staff has begun tilling and preparing the annual beds throughout the City of Prattville.

Horticulture Maintenance Sites 02182011
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Horticulture employees do all the minor maintenance on their equipment, such as changing spark plugs, fuel filters, air filters, cleaning carburetors, sharpening blades, and other regular maintenance to the equipment they use primarily in the warmer months.

The importance of the greenhouse to the division’s operations cannot be overstated. It has allowed Horticulture to grow 90% of all plant material to be installed on city properties this spring. Much of the greenhouse’s 2011 production was created from seeds and cuttings from the 2010 material. By recycling the previous season’s material, the division saves $10,000 to $12,000 each year. Staff members continue to take cuttings from materials grown over the winter months and rooting them to create even more material for landscaping all over the city.

Trays ready for more planting as efforts to produce plant material continue in the City greenhouse.

To begin preparing for the spring, Horticulture employees have “shifted up” greenhouse material from a 606 cell pack to 4 inch cups or 10 inch baskets. This allows the annuals to be more impactful at first planting. It also takes fewer plants for the same presentation. Once the threat of frost has passed, planting will commence. Downtown will not be landscaped until after CityFest due to high pedestrian traffic in and around the beds.

Donations have been an ever-present component of the work Horticulture accomplishes for the city. Between donations and the greenhouse operation, this division operates on a shoestring budget. Horticulture is funded through the Planning Department. During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, non-personnel expenditures that can be attributed to Horticulture’s operations totaled $80,134.23. Of those expenses, $24,073.32 was used for capital purchases of a used pick-up, a used van and a new mower. The remaining $56,060.91 was spent on operating material and supplies. Items purchased included uniforms, Christmas decorations, replacement tools and power equipment, and consumable materials such as mulch, soil and fertilizer. Horticulture began fiscal year 2009-2010 with 10 employees, 8 full-time and 2 part-time. Over the course of that time, they lost 2 full time employees. Those positions were not filled due to the current hiring freeze. Personnel costs for the division for the same time period were $191,504.66 in salaries and wages and $90,067.02 in benefits. Total costs to run the Horticulture Division were $361,705.91 in fiscal year 2009-2010.

With the possible upcoming reduction in personnel, participation of local businesses, organizations, and private citizens may be necessary to maintain the same aesthetic standard everyone has become accustomed to enjoying in historic downtown. The hanging baskets and concrete planters are watered and maintained on a daily basis (7 days a week) by the two part-time employees. Any reduction in staff will also affect greenhouse operations. Duties will have to be shifted to maintain operations, which allow the division to achieve so much with very little expenditure.

We get many compliments regarding the efforts of the Horticulture Division. The City of Prattville is very proud of these employees and congratulates them on a continued job well done.


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*Note: Related Article: The End of Summer Signals a Change in Direction for the Horticulture Division