For 37 years, we have been growing quality perennials in New Hampshire. Our plant collection is thoughtfully grown and cared for in small batches on our 22-acre Deerfield nursery. We offer a diverse lineup of New England native, woodland, and ornamental perennials. We invite you to explore our collections.
Please see below for more details on how we manage our resources, our pest and pathogen ethics, and more growing and production details.
We have two strong artesian wells and pump some water from the marsh.
The retention/irrigation ponds not only act as an excellent way to minimize our reliance on well water but also allow nutrients and sediments from the growing process to settle and not be directly discharged into the marsh. We also irrigate our newly potted plants on our potting line with a recycling water tunnel that captures and reuses water throughout the day with the same goal.
This is a big one, and we take it very seriously.
In general terms, our approach is to use every tool we have, not to use any chemical interventions in our pest/path program unless absolutely necessary. We are highly trained, regulated, and cautious professionals who weigh many considerations before taking action. When chemical intervention is necessary, we always start with the most targeted lightweight approach possible and go from there. We never have and will never blanket spray any areas of the nursery to create a “blank slate” and rarely use any chemical with an REI greater than 12hrs. We have also been neonicotinoid free for several years.
Weed control is a big job, especially in containers, and in a nursery our size, it’s not always easy. We approach it from many angles. First, we do not use pre-emergent herbicides in our growing mix or apply pre-emergent herbicides on our grounds. To start, we keep our potting mixes covered when we’re not potting. We inspect and clean all start material, plugs, and bare root. We diligently mow periphery areas to keep local weeds from seeding into our pots in the field, utilizing landscape fabric and or wood chips to cover problem areas in the nursery’s interior. Hard-to-control strips along nursery roads are treated seasonally with herbicides as needed. But what we do more than anything else is…weed. We spend countless hours with our weeding buckets carefully hand weed any crops that need it. (You can see this in one of our drone videos and group hand weeding.) It is a big job.
We have a robust IPM program that we have worked on for many years. The introduction, maintenance, and partnership with our “invisible workforce” starts in our propagation facility, carries through our early season cover growing houses, and is continued into the open field. I say, “invisible workforce,” but it is not uncommon to see one of our mini-VBNers buzzing around the nursery or snacking on the errant aphid.
The nursery has grown considerably over the past 35 years. As we continue to add area, our first goal, above adding production volume, is creating space for spacing. Starting with the addition of Penny’s Farm on the other side of Griffin Road, we began the practice of placing the plants out pre-spaced right from potting. This allows each plant to grow strong from the get-go with plenty of airflow and room. This reduces fungal pressures and gives plants the strength to independently ward off or withstand issues.
We have a rigorous cutback schedule to address plants becoming overgrown, crowded, and stressed. If a plant is struggling with a pest problem, we often decide to cut it back and let it “start over” rather than hit it with harsh chemical interventions.
So much of plant health depends on the right plant, in the right pot, at the right time. We have always grown plants that are zone appropriate for our area. We have a thoughtful approach to choosing the pot size for each plant based more on plant health than marketability, matching the right plant to the pot size that will optimize and encourage growth. We are very particular about the growing media we use. We tend to grow in high porosity and drainage mixes to limit the time a plant sits in its pot with wet feet. Our growers tend to water on the dry side. Too much water can invite all kinds of trouble when container growing. Once plants are potted, they are placed in the nursery in zones based on water, light, airflow, and sometimes even microclimate. We have been growing on site long enough to know that some plants like to grow in some spots better than others, just like in the garden. We are also mindful of when we pot each plant. Some plants can grow anytime; some don’t like a cool start, some prefer the greenhouse, some prefer the hot, some don’t establish well in the heat, some take a long time to beef up, some are quick, Some don’t like to be in a pot for too long, others don’t mind.
As you can see, much time and thought is put into “the process” of growing each of our plants. It has taken us years to get much of it right, and the work and joy of doing it better will never end. I am now famous for saying, “It’s complicated,” but also a lot of fun.
Recycling is something we have been doing for a long time; unfortunately, it seems like it’s getting more complicated rather than easier. We have been recycling all the pots, trays, and liners we produce in-house through our partnership with East Jordan Plastics for the past five years. We have a single-stream recycling container on site and recycle as much of our personal and business waste materials, bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard as possible. Starting in late summer, we will also pick up used containers at our customer locations. However, we have struggled to find a solution to recycling our greenhouse film. We reuse much of our production and overwinter wintering supply and have been outfitting our clear poly growing houses with roll-up sides so we can keep the poly on for several years before needing to replace it. We also give as much away to family, friends, and the community for their greenhouses, cold frames, construction projects, and skating rinks.
*We are constantly researching and talking with industry experts, looking for good, viable alternatives to using plastics at all. We have run trials with fiber, cow, and coir pots, and we are happy growing in them, but they were only durable in the short term. Since many of our plants need to be comfortable in their pots for long growing seasons or over the winter, durability is a limiting factor. Some exciting alternatives to plastic on the horizon may be suitable for us, but as it stands now, they are not economically feasible. We are hopeful that a solution will arise soon.
We generate a lot of compost! Aside from food waste, our propagation and production processes produce discarded potting media, mountains of cutbacks, and a handful of discarded plants that didn’t make it for one reason or another. All this material is collected in dump bins in the field, then periodically loaded into a truck, driven a mile and a half, and spread on a 40-acre field local farmers have been restoring for corn silage.
We strive to keep up to speed with what is current and what is on the horizon regarding invasive plants, insects, or others. We will not grow and sell a plant listed as invasive in any of the states we service. We continually monitor the plant stock we receive and our nursery grounds for signs of invasive organisms. Sometimes we see a good plant go, but it’s pretty fun to research and find a better-behaved plant to replace it.
Invasive worms have the ability to change native ecosystems, with the most studied adverse effects occurring in forested ecosystems. Typically invasive earthworms change the structure of forest soil, mixing the organic horizons with the underlying mineral material creating a substrate that is no longer suitable as a seed bed and germination medium for most understory plants. Click here to hear more about Van Berkum’s monitoring practices in our invasive worm fact sheet.
Energy consumption reduction is a vital and ongoing process. We are constantly evaluating our strategies to find ways to reduce our energy inputs. This process is not only savvy for us financially but is also the right thing to do environmentally.
From the basics to the big, we try to do everything possible to minimize the energy we consume to grow our plants. And little actions can add up. To start, we turn off lights; we don’t use, close doors to conserve heat, we turn off water when not in use. Next, we fix leaks, replace old light fixtures and bulbs, and winterize and re-winterize our offices, greenhouses, and cold frames. We continue to replace our old gas golf carts with new electric carts.
Ten years ago, we installed a heat retention curtain in our propagation greenhouses, reducing our fuel consumption in that building by 30%!
Most exciting, this fall, we are going solar! We’ll install a solar array in the heart of the nursery that will supply or offset most of the nursery’s electrical consumption—more details to come.
We stopped heating our overwinter house to a minimum temperature. Instead we have been covering the plants inside the house to maintain consistent pot temperatures, “Eliot Coleman Style.” This, over the years has conserved a ton of heating fuel and minimized maintenance headaches.