Chaotic weather makes for unsure growing season at Crow’s Nest Greenhouse
PRICE’S FORK, Va. — As the busy season for greenhouses winds down, one Montgomery County, Va., horticulturist is amazed by the challenges of 2018 to his business and the surprise of record sales as May drew to a close.
Jay Smith who has been in the retail greenhouse business since 1997 operates his in this small community just outside of Blacksburg, growing the majority of the plants he sells.
“It was really nerve-racking,” Smith said of the winter and spring weather that kept growers guessing and racing to keep ahead of problems.
He said in February it looked like an early spring was coming, but then March and April happened.
“It was challenging,” Smith said.
He said the cold wind was the worst part in keeping the plants safe and looking good.
“Wind did more damage than anything,” he said.
He said sales were down and truck drivers who deliver plants to nurseries and retailers lost a month of shipping.
In April, sales stayed down and everyone was kept busy covering plants, pulling covers, bringing plants in to keep them alive and well.
Then the rains of May came and deadheading and spraying to fight disease caused by too much moisture called for a lot of work.
But the first weeks of May also produced record sales, especially on Mother’s Day weekend, Smith said.
Since 80 percent of his sales occur in the spring it was a big relief for Smith who was looking at a dismal season until then. He said this was the situation with most all growers and retailers.
He said weather hurts his business more than the economy. If the economy is down, people may spend less on such things as vacations but most will buy at least a few plants. He said people seem to just have the need to plant something in the spring, to grow food or plants.
Smith added he sees two keys to success in his business. Providing a wide variety of plants and equipment and good customer service are his goal. Situated just outside the village in a fairly rural area, his greenhouses, displays of plants, shrubs and trees placed around his store, a mocking bird singing in a nearby tree, and a rooster crowing in the chicken pen all add to an inviting atmosphere for spending an afternoon shopping for beauty.
Smith has four 30-foot by 96-foot greenhouses growing his plants and one small hoop house, 17-foot-by-96-foot that he uses as a cold frame. He grows annuals and hanging baskets and offers fruit trees and shrubs as well as perennials.
“People love their natives,” he said.
At one time vegetables were grown at Crow’s Nest but currently only a half-acre is devoted to growing asparagus. He stopped growing labor-intensive pumpkins as well.
As the spring season winds down, Smith is preparing to plant chrysanthemums in mid-June to be ready in September. In August they will start planting pansies for the fall and poinsettias for Christmas.
Smith, a Virginia Tech graduate holds a degree in biography and says he just fell into the business. His first job after graduation was at a nursery and he has stayed in the business, aiming at being good to his customers and having a good variety of plants.
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