Chesapeake Nursery welcomes visitors to field day
QUANTICO, Md. — More than 100 members of the Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association drove from as far away as western Maryland to attend a field day held in two locations in Wicomico County on June 27.
Greg Langley welcomed members as they gathered at Chesapeake Nursery and outlined the tours available in the morning.
John Marshall of Marshalls’ Riverbank Nurseries Inc., on Pemberton Drive in Salisbury explained that he and Greg had grown up together, and that their fathers had been partners.
The second generation, however, agreed to split the operation.
Marshall said his family last hosted the field day 10 years ago.
Readers of the Mid-Atlantic Grower will have a look at the Marshalls’ operation in next month’s issue.
Before tours commenced, industry updates were given. Kim Rice, program manager of Plant Protection and Weed Management at Maryland Department of Agriculture, acknowledged a row of nursery inspectors seated in the audience.
She said four plants will be added to the Tier 2 list as of July 24 under the invasive protection law, requiring yellow signs be placed near retail displays.
The plants are golden bamboo, yellow groove bamboo, callery pear and bee bee tree.
Except as approved by the Secretary under this regulation, a person may not propagate, import, transfer, sell, purchase, transport, or introduce any living part of a Tier 1 invasive plant in the state.
For the complete list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 plants, click on Invasive Plant List at http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Pages/maryland_invasive_plants_prevention_and_control.aspx
Rice continued, “Boxwood blight has not been seen in our laboratory, but has been found in the landscape.”
A relatively new pest, spotted lanternfly, has been found in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Maryland is starting surveillance, and experts expect to find the pest. Full information is posted on MDA’s website. If you see signs of the spotted lanternfly, call 410-841-5920 or visit DontBug.MD@maryland.gov.
Tal Coley, who was hired as director of government affairs at AmericanHort a year ago, listed as the three most pressing issues immigration, the Farm Bill and trucking regulations. Immigration bills that have been considered “had a lot of good things,” but the whole issue is “messy,” Coley said.
The Farm Bill has since been passed by both House and Senate and will now go to conference committee.
“We want the Senate version to be the one that prevails,” Coley said.
Truckers are frustrated by new regulations and having difficulty getting clear guidance — “and it’s not just our industry,” he said. He has tried to get clarification on the service exemption for agriculture, but “the agencies are running us in circles on this. My best advice is to contact your state DOT to see how they are handling it. Give me your input and I will use it to advocate for your industry.” (Email TalC@AmericanHort.org).
“It is essential that you guys get involved. You can’t just sit back. … Congress does track phone and email comments!”
Paul Spies represents agribusiness and energy at Maryland Department of Commerce. “It’s exciting to talk to an industry that is growing,” he said. “Maryland is open for business! We want ag industries to expand.”
Spies works with the Work Smart program which works with community colleges to offer training that develops Maryland’s work force. “Please give us feedback on what you need,” he requested. Phone 410-767-6370; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vanessa Finney, MNLGA executive director, wrapped up the information sessions with a request for companies willing to host a future field day, and a plug for LEAD Maryland, a leadership development program, which is accepting applications through the end of September.
For tours, attendees were divided into four groups for tours of the operation. Jim Sego, production manager since 1994, led a bus tour of some of Chesapeake Nurseries’ 1,300 acres. The nursery was started in 1962 and since the mid-80s has been converting to a container operation, growing in greenhouses and hoop houses. “Labor to dig (in-ground plants) was an issue,” he said. Conversion was completed by 2011.
More hoop houses are being added. Some will replace the 70 or more houses lost in a 70 mile-per-hour wind this year. The county’s permitting process is becoming a nightmare, Sego said. It takes more than three years.
Known for top quality broadleaf evergreens, Chesapeake grows more than 150 varieties of azaleas, barberry, boxwood, hydrangea, Ilex, nandina, ornamental grasses, pieris and more.
Irrigation is mostly from ponds. “We reclaim every bit of water,” Sego said, with all water draining back to a pond. The ponds are healthy and full of fish.
Each pump puts out 1,200 gallons per minute. “Filtering is a nightmare,” Sego said. Filters clog and must be cleaned once a month.
There are wells, dating back to a time when the land was used for field production. The nursery uses 300 acres; a farmer tills the rest. The wells are used in drought situations.
A key rule is to never let feeder roots dry out. Watering is done daily for 1.5 hours, perhaps more on really hot days when the plant is putting out new growth.
An Agrotech sprayer rig can rise above the hoops for application of granular herbicide or chemicals in solution. Previously, that task required four men in protective white suits walking through a house. “This is the biggest money saver we have ever had,” Sego said.
Another time saver is the Big Foot Baler which recycles plastic, compacting it into a 3-foot by 3-foot bale.
In the potting area, Sego explained that sometimes fancy equipment is not the best choice. An automated system for filling pots required too much time for repairs. What works is “a guy with a drill with an auger,” who makes a hole in a freshly filled pot for insertion of a liner plant.
Chesapeake Nurseries mixes its own potting media of pine mark, Micromax lime and a few other additives. A cat loader does the mixing, right on the ground, 36 cubic yards at a time.
Sand is not added because when the bark breaks down, the result is “mush” in the bottom of the container.
Also, weight is an issue with 15 to 20-gallon pots, which are difficult to lift.
Bob Phillips described the shipping process. “Our goal is one day’s worth of shipping coming in and another leaving.” The shipping area is a busy one, with trucks coming and going and fork lifts buzzing around.
There are six checkpoints to make sure each load is accurate. Plants are selected and tagged, pulled, loaded onto pallets, assembled in the shipping area, lifted onto the dock and gone by the next day. Chesapeake Nurseries has 25 semi-trailers and two straight trucks. “We like to average 10 to 12 trucks per day in the spring,” Phillips said.
A year ago, the company purchased 16 identical trailers, all at once. Maintenance and fabrication is done in a shop built two years ago which was intended to be as efficient as possible and big enough to pull trailers through.
Three mechanics have their own stations. “We try to do everything in-house, just like the rest of the nursery,” Phillips said. “If we think we can build it for the same price, and make it better, we build it.”
It takes an efficient shop to keep all 312 pieces of equipment running: 55 Ford pickups, more than 60 tractors, 30 trailers, 100 wagons, all the forklifts and more. The mechanics are as meticulous in their work as the growers at Chesapeake Nurseries are in producing plants, Phillips said.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925