Perennials are a key crop in many greenhouse operations, and it’s important for growers to hone their growing best practices, understand the key trends and know which plants are best for their market and for their customers. Below, Emerald Coast Growers head grower and general manager Josiah Raymer offers his insight into perennial production, what trends growers should be keeping an eye on, how to identify the right perennials for different markets and more.
Greenhouse Management: What are some common mistakes growers make when growing perennials and how can growers identify them?
Josiah Raymer: Two things come to mind and they both revolve around getting to know your crop. First, scouting your crops regularly is critical to identifying any potential problems. Identifying problems at the first sign of an issue versus when it’s bad enough to be seen just walking by can be the difference between saving a crop or throwing it out. Second, get in the habit of doing quick field tests of the pH and [electrical conductivity] of your media. Spend the time and money to put together a field testing kit. Direct-stick EC probes are very easy to use and can quickly give you an idea of fertility levels of your crops. pH testing will let you know if you need to adjust the pH of your media, either by adjusting your water, leaching, adding lime or changing your fertilizer formulation.
GM: How can growers identify the perennials that are best for their growing environment/region? And are there any creative solutions they can utilize?
JR: Researching individual plants and comparing them to your environment is the best way to start. Then, you need to identify the capabilities of your facilities and how you can alter the growing conditions with shade, cooling, lighting, etc., and then determine if you can provide the proper conditions. Another thing to keep in mind is seasonal timing and the potential to grow crops out of season, as an example, growing cool-season northern crops in the Deep South during the winter that would otherwise not survive in the summer. That's a great way to have early spring availability for northern markets.
GM: What are some of the current trends in perennials that growers should be aware of?
JR: I continue to see lots of mixed containers popping up, everything from succulents to mixes of annuals and perennials — even perennials treated as annuals. Readymade mixed containers are a great product for customers who cannot make their own for one reason or another.
GM: What can Emerald Coast Growers offer its customers that other companies can’t?
JR: We put a lot of effort into having a solid availability of quality material and we take our reputation for reliability very seriously. We know what it’s like to be counting on a crop and it doesn’t come in. We spend a lot of time keeping our inventory up to date so when you order from us you can count on it showing up. Our goal is to be successful along with you, and that starts with us coming through for you. — Interviewed by Chris Manning