Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Riverview Flower Farm Field Trip
Flower heaven. What gardener wouldn't find themselves bug-eyed at this lavish sight! Salivating is more like it.
Or maybe you prefer pink. Acres and acres of 1 gallon plants just waiting for eager gardeners to claim them and give them a good home this spring.
If you like orange and many gardeners must because an overwhelming number of purchasers make this Crossandra infundibuliformis 'Orange Marmalade' one of the top selling perennials for Florida gardens.
In 1982 Rick Brown and his brother Dave Brown founded Riverview Flower Farm. Rick is generous with his enthusiasm and information about plants and the industry in general. He is also a hearty encourager to every home gardener with any inclination toward creating their own gardens. His genuine passion is revealed by his desire to see common gardeners like me be successful in our endeavors.
You can also find him promoting Florida gardeners and bloggers through his Facebook page at Florida Friendly Plants and his blog by the same name Florida Friendly Plants. Anyone can join in discussions on a number of topics on his Facebook page once you click the LIKE button.
Rick hosted the Hillsborough County Master Gardeners for a tour of Riverview Flower Farm a couple of weeks ago. I'm one to be intrigued by the how's and why's of life. For me to see firsthand the process of how all those vigorous plants end up on the shelves for consumer purchase had my attention at the outset.
Breathe deeply. Can you smell the luscious, earthy scent of all that fresh dirt spinning its way into containers? Almost as pretty as the flowers themselves.
Riverview Flower Farm is always striving toward improved operational sustainability. The organic soil that fills these pots is alive with beneficial organisms that assist in growing a healthy root system before these plants reach your garden. You won't need as much salt-based fertilizers when you bring these plants home. Growing in rich organic matter means the microbes multiply and protect against disease and nematodes.
Plants not sold are returned and composted and mixed with other organics such as local yard and tree waste to supply 35% of the soil needs at Riverview Flower Farm.
It's time to spread some roots. The starts of tiny seedlings getting a larger pot for further growing room.
Just how do all those plants get watered and irrigated and fed and protected from the elements?
Frost cloth is used for freeze protection down to 20F in many of the growing zones. Closing off the heavens with this retractable 'roof' is used in other zones. These methods eliminate using warm ground water for heat.
An Integrated Pest Management program is practiced using spot fertilization, garlic oil extract, zone management, and the use of the lowest toxicity products available.
A drip irrigation system running for 10 minutes at a time with pots place under it (see pipe lines above) alternating left and right of the line to keep the drip line in position.
Capillary mats are used in other zones. Water soaks the pot from the mats evenly coming up through the roots. 6-8 ounces of water is applied as needed in the drip system. These methods save 95% of the water lost to evaporation of overhead systems.
Instead of using motorized tractors and trailers to move plants throughout the facilities a man-powered monorail system safely handles the transportation of plants from one growing area to another in an efficient manner.
And in a matter of weeks the final product is here. Healthy, lively, colorful plants on the conveyor belt being sorted and stacked onto shipping carts.
Riverview Flower Farm has 56 acres of production on 151 acres. They distribute to 144 Home Depot Stores from Tallahassee to Key West.
Speaking of generosity. We were each blessed with 6 of those 'Voltage Yellow' Osteospermum you see in the opening photo to take home with us.
And a tray of much-loved Sedum hybrid 'Florida Friendly Gold' was a parting gift as well. If I can just get the rest of the sod dug out I've been working on I know right where my new plants are going to be sited.
Thank you, Rick. And thank you Florida Friendly Farm for a wonderful morning full with plant talk and shared information.