Time Investment in Greenhouse Production Reaps Rewards

March 13, 2017

Urban Management has long produced plant material in their greenhouse on Ridgewood Road. As noted in previous articles, Urban Management produces 90% of the plant material needed for the beds, baskets, trash can toppers, and planters around town. This 90% is grown from seed, cuttings, digging and dividing, and plugs. All that material not grown from seed is taken from last year's beds, replanted to grow new plants for the next season. The remaining 10% is purchased. Those starter plants finish growing in our greenhouse under the care of our staff.

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Here's a basic rundown of greenhouse operations:

  • In September, they take cuttings from plant material in the existing beds to propagate for the next season.
  • In October, crews prepare Canna and Caladium bulbs to overwinter; begin looking at trial data from the past year for plant selection in the upcoming spring season.
  • In November, they finalize and submit the plug order for spring; step up cuttings from the field into larger pots that will be used as "mother plants" for future cuttings.
  • In December, bed layouts are drawn and designed.
  • In January, crews begin potting Canna and Caladiums; take cuttings from "mother plants" to start for the spring; prep hanging baskets and pots for plugs.
  • In February, spring plugs arrive.
  • In March, growing in plugs.
  • Planting begins in April!

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"In 2017, our goal is to produce/grow 100% of our plant material in the greenhouse," stated Urban Management Superintendent Deven Peek. "We are trying not to buy any fully grown material to plant in the ground and we should be very, very close to reaching our goal."

Greenhouse data:

  • The cost of 1 plant bought fully grown is $2.81.
  • The cost of 1 plant bought as a plug is $0.15.
  • It takes approximately 6 weeks to grow a plug into finished, ready to plant bush, flower or other plant material.
  • Approximately 5,000 plants are grown from rooted cuttings.
  • Approximately 5,000 plants are grown from plugs.
  • These plants will fill 44 hanging baskets, 37 concrete planters, 15 trash can toppers, and 90 beds encompassing nearly 10,000 square feet
  • Plant varieties used are Canna (4 varieties), Alternanthera (2 varieties), Mexican Petunia, Mandevilla, Ogon Grass, Elephant ears (3 varieties), Dwarf banana, Mahogany splendor hibiscus, Purple majesty millet, Bird of Paradise, Pentas (4 varieties), Coleus (6 varieties), Cuban Oregano, Bounce impatiens (3 varieties), Vinca (4 varieties), Cascading vinca (3 varieties), Begonia (2 varieties), Zinnia (2 varieties), Sunpatiens (2 varieties), Blue daze, Purple heart secretia, Creeping jenny, Silver falls dichondra, Geranium ivy, Melampodium, Petunia (3 varieties), and Sweet potato vine (2 varieties).

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As an aside, for the past seven years, Urban Management has recycled Christmas trees, chipping them into mulch. This effort produces material used in beds and cuts down on their operating costs, much as the greenhouse operations have done.

Urban Management also started a compost pile with the fall plant removal (parts that cannot be reused after clippings were taken) and will continue to perfect this for soil usage in the greenhouse at a later date. They are currently running a test on the pile and just need to get their nutrients correct.

These were planted from plugs as dated on the tags with same slow release fertilizer and same water source, but different results.
As they get the nutrients corrected in the compost pile, the results should level out.

We are proud of Urban Management Superintendent Deven Peek and his team for making Prattville exceptionally beautiful while keeping costs to a minimum. Job well done!