Want to get more production (and sales) from your operation this spring? We talked with Dennis Crum, Director of Growing Operations at Four Star, and learned several ways you can easily grow your sales this year.
Growers who can finish their first crop turns early or who move crops outdoors can maximize their growing seasons, along with potential profits.
It’s not too late to expand production beyond your current crops to capture more sales, and it can be done without many additional resources, says Dennis Crum. He highlights four ideas that growers can incorporate to minimize risk and maximize profits.
“Probably the easiest way to add a turn for smaller containers is to use Supernova® liners for the very first turn of the season,” says Crum. “These liners are treated for shorter crop times, better branching and consistent flowering. In fact, they can be in bloom in as early as four to five weeks, which allows growers to start second and third turns more quickly.”
Crum notes that some growers also use Supernova liners to ensure good flower coverage in early hanging baskets and uprights. Supernovas speed the growing process, but are only offered through Week 22 finish, he says.
If you haven’t started your season this year with Supernova liners, there are still ways to maximize your turns, Crum explains. “It all starts with selecting the right plants geared to finish best at different times – so there always is the ‘Wow’ factor at retail.”
“We continue to grow more and more crops outside,” he says. “We plant early crops, then start moving the second and third turn crops outside, depending on the weather.”
“We’re taking advantage of the outdoor growing space to accelerate our turns and produce retail-ready crops more than we ever did before,” says Crum. “Instead of building a new greenhouse just to add one turn of a crop, consider taking them outdoors, then bringing them back in to finish and ship.”
Depending on weather conditions and crop status, Four Star may have as much as one-half to three-fourths of a crop outdoors during a growing cycle, he noted.
“As an example, we’ll start a crop of Supertunia® hanging baskets inside for a few weeks. In the eight-week cycle, we will grow them inside for two to three weeks, move a percentage of them outside for four weeks, then move inside again to finish for the last two weeks before shipping. Based on the weather and sales, they may be grown to sell outdoors or brought back inside for a quick finish. This allows us to be more inventive with the way we use our indoor and outdoor production areas.”
Crum notes, “I tell growers to learn carefully about outdoor growing. We’ve developed growing guidelines based on our experiences, as well as recommendations for specific crops to grow outdoors at three different temperature ranges. You can learn by trial and error but you can only afford so many ‘Oops!’ moments, so please take advantage of our experience.”
Complete guidelines, temperature ranges and suggested genera are provided on Four Star’s website here. Crum and the Growing Team are also available to answer questions and provide guidance at 734-654-6420.
“Not all plants in the South should be ready by early March, or by late April in the North,” says Crum. “Who really wants a Fuchsia for Easter in Michigan? Or another example — a Lantana in Michigan for May 1st?”
Selecting the right mix of crops to grow for early vs. later finishes can make a huge difference in extending your sales, he notes. “Do your research. There are so many genetics available and it is a lot of work to learn the differences, but those differences matter. For instance, in typical early crops like Nemesia or Lobelia, some are heat tolerant, but you have to learn which ones are and which are not.”
Mixing early and late-finish crops is like mixing vinegar and oil, he notes. “For example, trying to grow something like Supertunia and Infinity® New Guinea Impatiens together means something will have to give – one will be too wet or dry, fed or underfed, high or low pH, etc.”
Not all genetics are the same either, he said. Some growers achieve that great “retail look” but the plants may not be bred to maximize garden performance. “What happens if the plant then dies? Will that customer come and buy again next year? This is where strong genetics and performance come into play.”
Learn more about growing specific crops in our culture guides here.
Growing crops that are suited for the season is an efficient way to use the greenhouse space. For instance, the Supertunia® varieties here are suited for the same shipping times
By planning for separate early and late-season crops, growers have many more options for production and sales, Crum says. “Later spring crops love the warmer weather, high light and longer days that are plentiful then. These plants like it warm and do better later in the season. Once you know what the plants need and want, you know how to use that to your advantage.”
See our entire list of season-extending early spring, full summer and fall-loving genera here or on pages 28-29 of the 2015 Plants & Programs Guide.
For more information on these topics, visit pwfourstar.com/growers or call 734-654-6420.