Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - Behind the Scenes at a Local Grower

These past several years, I've shown you lots and lots of plants.  Herbs, vegetable plants, and lots and lots of flowers.

Have you ever wondered how the bedding plants, herbs and vegetable plants you might buy each spring get grown?  I have, and today, I had the opportunity, with others, to take a "behind the scenes" tour at Nanticoke Gardens, outside of Endicott, New York.

Thank you to Broome County Cooperative Extension for hosting this Farm Tour.  Nanticoke Gardens was one of the stops.  The tours, if you are able to come, continue tomorrow.

Nanticoke Gardens grows almost everything they sell - but how do they do it?  In short - it's a lot of work, and a lot of it, more than you might think, is done by hand.  And, like so much of farming, it's a gamble - a gamble on the weather, a gamble on people's likes and dislikes, and a gamble on changing trends in what people in upstate New York want to grow.

The co owner of Nanticoke Gardens showed us parts of their operation where the public isn't normally allowed, and allowed me to take some pictures.

The plants they sell are propagated in several ways - seeds, unrooted cuttings, and rooted cuttings.
Seeds are planted by hand, and grown in small cells at first.  Meanwhile, the unrooted cuttings (which include the Million Bells I love so much) must be misted and given water in the correct amounts to "bring out" the roots. What you see in the back are rows covered in "reemay" row covers - which we have used ourselves in our gardening.  The co owner demonstrated the automatic sprinklers for us.
These are some of the "unrooted cuttings", more grown up.   Some cuttings, the co owner explained, they can only get rooted, because they don't have the licenses to allow them to grow unrooted cuttings.  Although he didn't get much into the issue of licensing, it is a topic of some interest.

We watched a woman transplanting tiny seedlings, like these, into larger pots.  Part of the work that is done by hand, I don't think I would have the patience to do hundreds of these at one time.

Fungicides must be used in commercial propagation.  Where possible, Nanticoke Gardens uses a biological fungicide called T-22 to reduce their reliance on other fungicides.

Nanticoke Gardens is one of a small number of commercial nurseries still growing their own begonias.  Many are now grown in the Southern United States.  Begonias need a long growing season to get to selling size, and a lot of heat.  These are started in November.
And, in the back, room for expansion.  Nanticoke Gardens grows seedlings for some local small farmers, and also grows poinsettias for the Christmas market.

We were also told that the demand for herbs has been exploding the past four years or so, and they are increasing their supply of herbs. That's the one area I wish they would actually even have more available for sale, especially with scented geraniums and specialty basil.  Maybe one year....

An interesting view "behind the scenes".


  1. This is awesome. I love gardening and planting stuff and its so cool to see how the pros do it. :-)

  2. Stopping by from Facebook/UBC. I do find this fascinating and I'm a little more aware of this "behind the scenes" reality because my oldest daughter has been involved in Farmers Markets and has managed a vegetable farm. She is now a field scientist for a company working on sustainable solutions.

    I joined a local farm share last year and am excited that a farming family will be opening a new market close to where I do my grocery shopping, with all their fresh vegetables and fruits.

  3. I think it's so important to try and support local produce the best that you can. We buy the majority of our fruit and vegetables from a local green grocer. :)


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