Professor Scarecrow Plants & Nursery Crops

Types History Production Shipping Nutrition
Vocabulary Quiz


North Carolina Association of Nurserymen represent the plant and nursery growers in the state. There are over 2,000 different species of ornamental, fruit and turf plants produced in the state of North Carolina. Ornamental plants are those that are used for decoration and beauty. Fruit plants produce fruits or berries. Turf plants are plants that are used as yard coverings like grass. Every ornamental plant species or type used east of the Mississippi River can be grown in North Carolina. You can help celebrate national nursery day called Arbor Day by planting a tree or plant.

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There are many ornamental and fruit crops that are native to North Carolina. Many more have been brought to North Carolina from all over the world. Some plants were brought by the first settlers, others have been introduced over the years. The late Dr. J. C. Raulston of North Carolina State Univerity, was one of the most outstanding ornamental plant breeders and collectors of the 20th century. He introduced many plants both in our state and nationwide. As a rule, plants have been introduced in those regions where they grow best, such as rhododendron, mountain laurel, pieris and coniferous evergreens in the West. Hollies, magnolias, osmanthus grow best in the Piedmont and Coastal Plains.

Most nursery crops produced in North Carolina are used as ornamentals to beautify the world we live in. Smaller amounts of nursery stock is used in fruit production and forestry. Originally most nursery stock produced in the state were fruit trees and fruiting plants. There was a change from fruit plants to ornamental plants because North Carolina has changed from a rural to a urban economy. There are more and more larger cities growing up around North Carolina instead of countryside towns and farms. As this change has occured in the way people live, the nursery industry has changed from fruit and nut tree production toward ornamental plant production. Most of this change has occurred in the last fifty years.

Technology has changed the industry in many ways over the last 100 years. Prior to the development of the gas engine, all nursery stock was harvested and shipped bare-root due to weight considerations. Bare-root is when a plant and its roots are removed from the soil and sold this way. This limited the harvest and planting season to a few weeks in springtime.

The development of trucks allowed plants to be shipped balled and burlapped. This is when the plant has a bit of soil still around it and this has burlap wrapped around it to hold it in place. This extended the harvest season by 6 months or more, and allowed much larger plants to be harvested and shipped.

The development of mechanical harvesting equipment has greatly reduced the amount of labor required to handle plants. In addition, the development of plastic pots and soil-free growing media has allowed many nurseries to extend the harvest season to 12 months a year. These developments have also made many more plant varieties available on the market, such as plants which cannot be dug and shipped easily.

Another way technology has changed the industry is in the area of propagation. Propagation is when plants are reproduced and more plants are made. Traditionally, plants were grown from seeds and sometimes the parts of one plant were grafted or budded onto another. The development of synthetic (man-made) rooting hormones allowed many more species to be propagated by rooting cuttings. The most recent development in plant propagation is micropropagation or tissue culture. This is where plants are cloned or made to be identical to one another in a laboratory. This allows tens of thousands of plants to be propogated from a single parent plant in a short period of time.

The development of new varieties has given landscapers and homeowners a much larger selection of plants to choose from. The use of ornamental plants has increased both with the increase in population and by individuals using more lawn and garden products than ever before.

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Nursery crops are grown state wide. In 1995-96 there were state inspected nurseries in 99 out of 100 counties. There is not one county or region that produces more than another. The ability of individual plant varieties to withstand temperature and moisture extremes determine where in our state they are grown.

The growing season varies greatly. Some plants are grown in greenhouses year-round. The other extreme would be in the high mountains, where the season extends only from late May to early September.

There isn't an ideal climate that plants like. Each individual plant has its own particular climate, weather, and temperatures that it prefers. Many plants grown in North Carolina are not grown in soil at all. They are in containers filled with soil free growing media. The single most common factor in soils for nursery industry is drainage. Well drained soils are much easier to harvest plants from during the wet season.

Sometimes the weather may be less than ideal. Cold weather is a common problem for growers, especially when winter comes around. Container grown plants are often covered and/or placed in heated structures prior to the arrival of cold weather.

When growers start planting, they must decide how they want to handle the production. Production of nursery stock is handled in many different ways. Four general areas include propagation, bare-root production, balled and burlapped production and container production.

Plants may be propagated from seed by sowing the seed into rows, specially prepared seed beds, or containers filled with a soil-free growing mix. Another method of propagation involves taking cuttings from desirable plants and treating with a combination of mist, heat, shade or extended light until they produce a root system.

A third method popagation involves taking parts of desirable plants and grafting or budding them into roots from another plant. The most recent development in nursery plant propagation is micropagation. This process involves taking parts of desirable plants into a laboratory and treating them with special chemicals. These plant parts then begin to produce hundreds of tiny plants, which are then placed in containers to grow.

It takes anywhere from three months to three years from the time plants are propagated until they have developed a root system which will allow them to be moved. At this time they may either be sold, or transplanted into different field or container.

Bare-root plant production involves growing plants in rows or beds for one to three years. These plants are then harvested by removing the plants and roots from the soil. These plants may then be sold, planted in soil again or placed in containers to be grown into larger plants.

Balled and burlapped nursery production involves growing plants in soil until they reach the desired size, then digging them with a ball of soil around the roots. This ball is then wrapped security in burlap and rope. Balls of larger plants are dug mechanically and placed in wire baskets lined with burlap.

Container plant production involves growing plants in soil-free potting mix in plastic containers. The plants may be moved into progressively larger containers until they reach the desired size.

Every phase of nursery production involves specialized equipment and structures. These include but are not limited to: specialized lab equipment, propagation structures, tractors, tillage implements, sprayers, pruning equipment, many kinds of mechanical harvesting equipment, planters, transplanters, potting machines, cold frames, greenhouses, irrigation equipment. Pesticides also began to be used after their invention. Herbicides are used to control weeds, insecticides are used to control insects and fungicides are used to control plant diseases. Before mechanical equipment was used people had to do everything themselves or use animals.

Plants must be graded before they can be sold. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCD&CS) has officials who will come and grade the nursery stock. The NCD&CS have a plant industry division and a plant protection section that handles the grading. Each plant are looked at to make sure that they are found apperently free of harmful pests and diseases or their sale is not allowed.

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Once a plant is graded it is ready to be sold. All plants are sold alive. They are sold from the grower either bare-root, balled and burlapped or container grown. Each product is packaged differently depending on what type of plant it is.

The ultimate destination for ornamental plants in North Carolina is property owners. Most plants are used to decorate people's yards or businesses landscapes. A large percentage of North Carolina nursery products are shipped to Northern and Midwestern states. A small percentage is shipped all over the world.

When nursery stock is shipped it is done by truck or by airplanes. The plants must be protected from wind and temperature extremes during transport. Before trucks, plants were shipped bare-root by trains and horse-drawn wagons.

Once the plants are at your local nursery or store, they are set out to be bought. Plants are not required to carry a label so you must look at them to decide which ones you want. When you go to purchase plants it's easy to tell which ones are a good buy and which ones aren't. Plants are either alive or dead. If you see a plant that is all shriveled or brown, it is probably not a good choice to buy.

Plants are a great way to make your home look beautiful. North Carolina produces so many different types that it would be near impossible to find one you didn't like. The next time you see a gorgeous lawn, tree or plant remember that Goodness Grows In North Carolina!!!!

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1. ornamentals: a plant grown for beauty
2.burlap: a coarsely woven cloth
3. micropropagation: the process of reproducing identical plants in a laboratory
4.progressively: moving from one size to the next larger size not skipping sizes in between
Example: small->medium->large NOT small->large->medium
5. tillage : when land has been prepared for crops by plowing, harrowing and fertilizing
6. pruning: to cut off dead or living parts of a plant to improve its shape or growth
7. irrigation: to supply the plants water by ditches, pipes or streams

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