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Gardening

How we Grow 100,000 Spring Annuals

bright annual flowers

Spring is an exciting time at Cross Creek Nursery. Trees and shrubs begin to bloom in a dramatic display of color, perennials come back to life, and gardeners are eager to get growing. It’s especially exciting when we can finally offer annual flowers to our customers in mid-April, after the threat of frost has passed. Cross Creek grows tens of thousands of spring annuals each year at our Courthouse road property. Because we grow our own annuals, we can select unique varieties, offer lower prices, and share the absolute best care advice. We know ‘em because we grow ‘em!

Planning to grow spring annuals begins in early fall. Our head of production, Holly, explained the whole process: “we look at our sales report from last year and we try to grow 100% of that.” Our production team makes a master plan that takes into account how many annuals to grow, which varieties were popular the previous year, and the size of the growing pots. This year, “we’re growing 120,000 plants…and that’s just what’s planned.” The production team plans to grow 50,000 4” pots, 50,000 6” pots, and nearly 3000 hanging baskets. This year, the production team will also be growing huge ‘weekender’ hanging baskets. They’re expected to measure several feet wide and each pot has a built-in water reservoir for ease of care.

 After three years growing annuals for Cross Creek, Holly has it down to a science. 

She searches to find high quality seeds and plugs, which begin arriving in the first week of December through the end of March. Then, the hard work of cultivation can begin. A team of three people cares for the thousands of annuals we grow until they’re ready for sale. According to Holly, a typical week during the growing process looks like this:

“Mondays and Tuesdays, we do maintenance. Putting up or repairing irrigation, filling pots for the week, and spraying growth regulators. We’re pinching back what needs it and moving plants around. Usually on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, we focus on planting.”

Growing annuals on-site allows for flexibility during the growing season “because we can control the quantity, the quality, and we can push a crop along faster if we need it sooner or slow down a crop with a growth regulator.” Keeping a close eye on trends and weather and adjusting growth cycles to match demand results in less waste and ensures that we offer plants at their peak.

bright annual flowers

The most important date to remember for spring gardening is April 15th; that’s the average ‘last frost’ date in central Virginia that signals it’s safe to plant tender annuals. Around mid-April, we’ll begin bringing the first round of spring annuals down from our production greenhouses. Then, they’re on their way to their final destination: your garden. Our annuals travel far across the Richmond area to brighten garden beds, window boxes, and container gardens.

Holly’s best piece of advice for gardeners growing annuals? Keep fertilizing! She says “when they’re growing up top, they’re on a steady IV of fertilizer…if people want to get the most out of their plants, keep fertilizing.” We recommend applying an organic liquid bloom booster every two to three weeks for sustained blooms.

Annuals are excellent for attracting pollinators, offering a fresh floral scent, and providing vibrant color. While they’re still growing, it’s a great time to take a look at your garden and make plans for the upcoming growing season. Consider attending our upcoming class on amending soil or stop by to get advice from our staff on how to create the best growing conditions. By the time April arrives, you’ll be ready to plant our locally grown annuals in your own garden!

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