'Must-have' Equipment

Features - Marketplace

Do you have a specific piece of equipment that your company just can’t operate without? Find out what equipment growers couldn’t live without during the spring production season.

April 23, 2010

Lisa CampbellLisa Campbell of Danville Gardens in Danville, Ill., says this spring she would hate to be without her custom-built soil mixer and her Bouldin & Lawson flat filler. The company produces its own growing media and having the mixer onsite provides a huge cost savings.
“It allows us to always have soil ready and the exact blend we prefer to grow in whenever we need it,” she said. The flat filler is also vital to the growing operation, which sits on 2½ acres. “It fills everything from plug trays to hanging baskets,” Campbell noted, adding that to fill everything by hand would be arduous and labor intensive. The company grows a variety of plant material including propagating cuttings, 4-inch containers, hanging baskets and gallon perennials. Campbell said they “dabbled some in shrubs,” but most of their tree and shrub stock is bought in.
Danville Gardens uses the tags that come with its Proven Winners plants, but for other products Campbell purchases basic picture tags from MasterTag. Danville is not using any type of “green” tags, but Campbell said she hopes the industry keeps moving in that direction. She said that the company has returned unused tags for recycling, but noted that it is not a huge factor right now.
For more: Danville Gardens, (217) 442-4944; www.danvillegardens.com

Scott McCabeScott McCabe of McCabe’s Greenhouse & Floral in Lawrenceburg, Ind., will rely heavily on his EZ Go Carts during the busy spring season.

The company grows annuals, perennials, vegetables and hanging baskets on 5 acres, so ways to move product between the greenhouses and the retail garden center areas are paramount. 
“Our production and retail operations are in the same place, but in different locations. Without the EZ Go Carts, we would have to hand-walk all of our product between the two sites,” he said. The carts provide an easy and efficient way to move plants, resulting in labor-, time- and cost-savings for the company.
McCabe’s has a hybrid tag program. Some of its tags are purchased from John Henry Co. while others are made in-house. McCabe’s sister Beth designs the in-house tags using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign software programs. A Xerox Phaser printer produces the tags. McCabe said the company prefers to use simple tags with basic plant information. Beth also designs and prints larger signs that are posted near plant displays.
For more: McCabe’s Greenhouse & Floral, (812) 537-4525; www.mccabesflowers.com

Todd Swift of Swift Greenhouses in Gilman, Iowa, said he could not do without his Baracoda barcode scanners this spring season. “The scanners are an integral part of our verification system,” Swift said. “It quickly ensures that the varieties are picked and shipped properly and completely.”
With both wholesale and retail garden greenhouse operations purchasing its products, accuracy and tracking are vital. The growing operation occupies 4 acres and produces over 1,300 different varieties of annuals, herbs and perennials, in both plugs and finished potted plants.
Swift Greenhouses mainly purchases its tags from John Henry and occasionally produces its own in-house tags using an Economy (SATO) thermal printer and labels. The company has helped to design the tags it purchases. The format is simple, full color, easy for the consumer to read and understand plant descriptions and uses, and affordable at about 8 cents per tag. This year, various symbols such as whether a plant works in a rock garden, attracts butterflies or is deer resistant, have been added to the front of each tag. The symbols are meant to inform consumers about the best way to use the plants.
Swift said that “it’s nice to use products that are made of recycled material or biodegradable when possible” but “green” is not the first consideration when looking for tags – practicality is.
For more: Swift Greenhouses, (641) 478-3217; www.swiftgreenhouses.com

Gary HartnettGary Hartnett of Skagit Gardens in Mount Vernon, Wash., said he could not live without his large display, standard 8-digit calculator. “With things as they are right now, you have to know numbers, yields, rates and costs,” Hartnett said.
He said anyone in business these days really has to keep their finger on the pulse of their operation which means keeping really good track of every number. Skagit is utilizing benchmarking strategies more than ever in an effort to know and use the numbers and keep the business successful. The company runs the Microsoft Navision ERP system in conjunction with the calculator, for scheduling, inventory management, purchasing and sales, distribution and accounting functions.
Skagit Gardens’ has two divisions, prefinished and retail ready, that produce bedding plants and perennial liners. Facilities include 600,000 square feet of indoor production space and 20 acres of outdoor growing area.

Skagit buys the majority of its tags from MasterTag and will produce its own black and white tags and labels for shortages or trial materials. The purchased tags are full color with Skagit’s logo along with plant information and a picture. The company also produces custom labels for its independent garden centers and landscaper customers. The company uses Taggit and Nice Label for the design and layout of in-house tags and labels, bar-coding, inventory tracking and pre-pricing tags and labels. The data is pulled from the Navision system and printed out on Economy (SATO) thermal printers. 
For more: Skagit Gardens, (800) 334-1719; www.skagitgardens.com