A nursery is a place where plants are propagated and grown to usable size. There are retail nurseries which sell to the general public, wholesale nurseries which sell only to other nurseries and to commercial landscape gardeners, and private nurseries which supply the needs of institutions or private estates. Some retail and wholesale nurseries sell by mail.
Nurseries grow annuals, perennials, and woody plants (trees and shrubs). These have a variety of uses: decorative plants for flower gardening and landscaping, garden vegetable plants, and agricultural plants.
Nurseries often grow plants in a greenhouse, a building of glass or in plastic tunnels, designed to protect young plants from harsh weather (especially frost), while allowing access to light and ventilation. Modern greenhouses allow automated control of temperature, ventilation and light and semi-automated watering and feeding. Some also have fold-back roofs to allow "hardening-off" of plants without the need for manual transfer to outdoor beds.
Nurseries remain highly labour-intensive. Although some processes have been mechanised and automated, others have not. It remains highly unlikely that all plants treated in the same way at the same time will arrive at the same condition together, so plant care requires observation, judgement and manual dexterity; selection for sale requires comparison and judgement. A UK nurseryman has estimated that manpower accounts for 70% of his production costs.
Business is highly seasonal, concentrated in spring and autumn. There is no guarantee that there will be demand for the product - this will be affected by temperature, drought, cheaper foreign competition, fashion, etc. A nursery carries these risks and fluctuations.
Annuals are sold in trays (undivided containers with multiple plants), flats (trays with built-in cells), peat pots, or plastic pots. Perennials and woody plants are sold either in pots, bare-root or balled and burlaped and in a variety of sizes, from liners to mature trees.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Nursery: in horticulture, an establishment for the rearing of plants. Properly, a nursery exists for the rearing of any kind of plant, but in America the word is restricted to an establishment devoted to the growing of hardy, more particularly woody plants. This is because of the early and great development of orcharding and tree-planting and the relative infrequency at that time of glass structures and private estates employing gardeners.
In North America the nursery business, as we now know it, is practically an institution of the last century, although there were nurseries more than a century ago. Consult pages 1516-1518 for an historical sketch of the nursery business; also in Vol. Ill the biographies of nurserymen, as Barry, Berckmans, Brackett, Bush, Cole, Conard, Dartt, Douglas, Downer, Ellwanger, Garey, Heikes, Hogg, Hoopcs, Hovey, Kenrick, Kerr, Lewelling, Manning, Meehan, Moon, Munson, Parsons, Prince, Ragan, Reasoner, Rock, Roeding, Saul, Saunders, Shinn, Smith, Stark, Teas, Thomas, Wharton, Woolverton, and others.
As early as 1768, according to J. H. Hale, the New York Society for Promotion of Arts awarded Thomas Young a premium of £10 for the largest number of apple trees, the number being 27,123 But the large trading nursery developed simultaneously with the great orchard-planting industry which began in western New York and extended westward, and, since the Civil War, to the southward. The largest nursery center of North America, considering the number of persons engaged and the variety of stock grown, is western New York, with headquarters in Rochester. Nearly one-ninth of all the nurseries enumerated in 1890 were in New York state, and these establishments employed a capital of over $12,000,000. In 1909, New York still led m the value of nursery products. Very extensive nursery enterprises are now established in many other parts of the country, and it is probable that the center of the nursery business will move westward.
In America, nursery stock is grown on a broad or extensive rather than intensive scale. This is particularly true of fruit-trees. These trees are to be set in wide and open orchards, and the nursery practices are therefore very unlike those that obtain in Europe. In the latter country, for example, fruit-trees are trained in the nursery row to assume definite shapes. Some are trained for standards,—to grow to one straight, bare trunk. Others are trained for bush specimens, some for growing on walls and espaliers, some with round heads, some with conical heads, and the like. It is the pride of the American nurseryman, however, that his rows shall be perfectly even and uniform. Any break in this uniformity is considered to be a blemish. If every tree could be a duplicate of every other, his ideal would be attained. Ordinarily, fruit trees are trained to single stems, the top starting at 2 or 3 feet from the ground.
All fruit trees are budded or grafted. In early days, piece root-grafting the apple was a common practice in the eastern states; but it has gradually given way to budding and thereby a top is supplied with one whole strong root. In some places, however, root-grafting is still popular, partly because more than one tree may be made from an individual root, and partly because it allows the operator to use a long cion and to put the foster root far below the surface, thereby allowing the cion to send out its own roots and causing the tree to become own-rooted and to have a known hardiness.
In the use of whole roots, rather than pieces, there is apparently little or no difference in the orchard between the budded and grafted trees; but when grafting is performed on pieces of root, the results are likely to be unsatisfactory. Some varieties of apple, among which may be mentioned Grimes Golden, are not long- lived, being subject to collar-rot or other disabilities. To correct this fault, nurserymen double-work these weak varieties on the bodies of hardy long-lived, resistant trees such as Northern Spy and others.
There are many diseases and pests in the growing of all kinds of nursery stock, and these are now treated in official publications of government and experiment stations. The extent of these dangers has resulted in special laws and regulations to control the spread of pests and diseases. See Inspection, page 1647.
The most widespread and fundamental difficulty, however, is the inability to grow many crops of trees on the same land with good results. In fact, in the case of fruit-trees, it is usually considered that land which has been "treed" is therefore unfit for the growing of other fruit stock until it shall have rested in clover or other crops for a period of five years or more. Ornamental stock is often grown continuously on the same land with good results, even when the same species is grown. This is largely due to the fact that ornamental stock is sold by its size and not by its age, and therefore rapidity of growth is not so important as it is in the case of fruit-trees. It has been supposed that this necessity of rotation is due to the exhaustion of certain plant-food elements from the soil. It has been found by experiments, however, that such is not the case. The chief difficulty seems to be physical. Lands that are devoted to nursery stock for one crop, which is from two to five years, becomes void of humus, and the digging of the Block when the land is wet or unfit to be worked tends to impair the physical character of the soil. Experiments have shown that commercial fertilizers will not always reclaim lands which have been treed, whereas barn manures and green crops may go very far towards revitalizing them. As a result of inability to grow vigorous stock on treed land, a large part of the nursery stock of the country, particularly fruit trees, is grown on rented land. On the nurseryman's central grounds a variety of stock may be grown, chiefly ornamentals, but the larger part of the commercial fruit stock is farmed out to persons who are willing to rent their land for this purpose and who will give the requisite attention to the growing trees.
The industry has developed special tools without which nursery stock cannot be grown on a commercial scale. The simplest of these are budding- and grafting- knives of various kinds to meet the needs of different plants and the whims of users. There are also special hoes for planting and spades for digging, the latter with strongly reinforced handles and heavy blades of the best steel. Several tools in common use in subsoiling and cultivating are peculiar to nursery work. Still more specialized are the tree-diggers, requiring considerable power, drawn usually by four to eight teams, by traction engines, or by stationary engines at the end of the row which draw the digger by winding up a cable on a drum. Fall digging makes it necessary to strip the leaves of many trees, a task formerly performed by hand, but many growers now strip in a specially made machine after the trees are dug. Besides these, various devices are used in packing and boxing.
Nurserymen in the North almost universally dig tree-, bush- and vine-fruits, as well as many ornamentals, in autumn and store through the winter in frostproof houses of one kind or another. The best of these houses are built much as are cold-storage plants—in fact, some have facilities for refrigeration. By far the greater number of them, however, are storage cellars. The objects gained by winter storage are protection against mice and rabbits, prevention of injury through freezing and the wide fluctuations in temperature in northern winters, and greater convenience in making spring shipments. The most satisfactory results are secured when the stock is kept at a uniform temperature as near freezing as possible. Thus, at 28° to 34° F., above zero, very little ventilation is necessary, the trees dry out and shrivel but little, there is a minimum tendency to mildew, and packing material about the roots and spraying with water are usually not necessary. At lower temperatures, injury from freezing begins, and at higher ones the storage-house must be ventilated, the trees sprayed, their roots protected, and fungi do serious damage. Undoubtedly the storage of stock benefits the nurseryman more than the fruit-grower; for it is because of the drying out, more or less of which always takes place, or other injury in poorly managed storage, that trees so often come to the grower with barely the breath of life.
The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.