Although nurseries and greenhouses produce
plants that beautify and enhance our surroundings, the production process of such a myriad
of products can and does lead to a wide variety of environmental problems. Such problems
include the use of dangerous chemicals to control insects, disease and weeds, reliance on
and heavy use of scarce water resources and the run off of this water from the land and
At Dayton Nurseries, operations to make the nursery "green" have been in full
swing since 1999.
In 1999, the Daytons installed an additional water pump in order to collect rain
water, that would normally run off into nearby streams, into a one acre lake that it used
for irrigation of the plants. This rain water has increased the quality of the plant
material because of the water purity. The pump transports water from a lower pond and
stores it at a higher elevation . An added benefit of this lower pond and pump system is
that in addition to rain water it collects run off from irrigation of the plants that
enables the recycling of water that has some nutrients dissolved that would normally
pollute creeks and streams. This water "reuse" makes the nurserys reliance
on ground water supplies minimal at best.
Another way in which the nursery will recycle water and prevent run off into streams is
the use of ebb and flow benches in the greenhouses. The ebb and flow bench is a system in
which water floods the bench and pots of plants absorb water through the drainage holes in
the pots. Water goes up the potting mix by capillary action. When, after 18 minutes, the
plants have had enough water, the water drains out automatically and flows back to a 1500
gallon storage tank to be used again and again. The beauty of the system is less waste of
valuable ground water supplies and the prevention of water with dissolved nutrients
running off the land. Because of the considerable expense, the Daytons hope to have
all production areas in the greenhouse converted over to the ebb and flow system by spring
2006. And again, plant quality is enhanced by the more even watering and the leaves of the
plants remain dry which results in less disease and lessens the need for spraying
Herbicide use for weed control is a necessary evil at the nursery on our woody trees
and shrubs although a lot of hand weeding still does go on. Herbicides adhere to soil
particles that may be washed into streams and lakes. Also, much herbicide is wasted from
applying them with a hand-held spreader in that much of the chemical lands between the
pots and then is carried off by irrigation water or rain water.
Starting in 2003, Dayton Nurseries will conduct experiments in line with those
conducted by Ohio State University in which herbicides are mixed with mulch materials such
as penn mulch and then spread on the containers of plants. The herbicides when applied
this way dont "fall between the cracks". Weed control is much better as
shown in initial trials done by the university. Toxicity to plants is less and the over
all use of the product is less. Depending on the initial trials for 2002, the
Daytons hope to have a full herbicide program that makes environmental sense in
place by spring 2004.
Pesticides and fungicide use is mostly limited to those products that break down
quickly. These new generations of products in insecticides kills insects by making them
stop feeding, using hormones that prevent them from molting, and in some cases some
parasitic insects can destroy other harmful insects. Even bacteria is used called Bacillus
thunbergensis that disrupts the digestion process of leaf eating caterpillars.
Fungicides in general breakdown quickly. However, one of the safer effective fungicides
against black spot of roses and powdery mildew on many plants is "Remedy" that
is a salt, potassium bicarbonate combined with a spreader-sticker (wetting agent) that
actually prevents disease from entering the leaf because of an unfavorable ph on the leaf
surface but also pierces the cell walls of certain disease-causing fungal cells causing
them to dehydrate.
Maintaining water quality has been a battle especially with the recycled water as the
nutrients it carries has a tendency to create an algae bloom that is difficult to control.
In October 2002 Dayton Nurseries installed a compressor unit that injects air at the
bottom of the pond that creates more oxygen at the lower water level that will help to
keep irrigation at the bottom of the pond aerated to create conditions unfavorable for
algae growth. In addition to the air compressors, Daytons has introduced triploid
grass carp that are voracious algae eaters. Because of the extra set of chromosomes, these
fish, which would normally breed relentlessly and out compete other native species are in
fact sterile and will need to be replaced every 3-4 years as they age. With the algae
eating fish and oxygen injection, chemical control of algae should be unnecessary.
Finally, the story doesnt end here. Newer plans include less energy use in the
production of our products such as solar and wind power generation with an emphasis on
conservation. Dayton Nurseries aims to prove that sound environmental ways of conducting
business can be profitable as well. Stay "tuned" on whats coming next!