Guide for Producing Nursery Crops
Third Edition


Guide for Producing

Nursery Crops


Third Edition


Southern Nursery Association

PO Box 801454

Acworth, GA 30101

Tel: 678.809.9992

Fax: 678.809.9993




Guide for Producing Nursery Crops


The development and production of this guide was funded in part by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Non-point Source Management Program pursuant to Section 319 of the Federal Clean Water Act, and the USDA's Risk Management Association (RMA) in cooperation with the North Central IPM Center at the University of Illinois. All programs and services of the federal, state, and local agencies are available on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, handicap, or disability.


Mention of trade names and products is for information purposes only and constitutes neither an endorsement or recommendation nor discrimination for similar products not mentioned.


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, manual, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher.


Disclaimer of Warranty

Although this guide contains research-based information and the contributors and publisher have used their best efforts in preparing this publication, the publisher and contributors make no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the use of this information. Users of this guide maintain complete responsibility for the accuracy and appropriate application of this information for their intended purpose(s).


Limitation of Liability

In no event shall the publisher or contributors be held responsible or liable for any indirect, direct, incidental or consequential damages or loss of profits or any other commercial damage whatsoever resulting from or related to the use or misuse of this guide. Always follow label instructions and inquire with state regulatory personnel about permits and whether plants are invasive in your locale.


The publisher and contributors emphasize the importance of consulting experienced and qualified consultants, advisors, and other business professionals to assure the best results for producing container- and field-grown plants.



This publication is available in English and Spanish for viewing (compliments of USDA Risk Management Agency and the University of Illinois North Central IPM Center) on the SNA website ( A printed version is available by contacting the publisher.



Southern Nursery Association, Inc.

PO Box 801454

Acworth, GA 30101

Tel:          678.809.9992

Fax:         678.809.9993




The following Best Management Practices (BMPs) were developed as a guide for implementing proactive management practices that are necessary to produce plants with minimal environmental impact.  Some of the topics are addressed in detail while others lack research-based information needed for detail.  Additional information will be added in future updates.  Some BMPs may be very specific for your site or production practices while other BMPs may not be applicable to your situation.  Thus, a menu of BMPs is presented so that nursery operators can select and implement as many BMPs as possible.


Many people from universities, and nursery and allied industries have contributed to the development of these guidelines.  Input and comments of each contributor were very helpful in developing this guide and appreciated by the authors listed below.


Ted Bilderback, PhD

North Carolina State University

Department of Horticultural Science

Box 7522

Raleigh, NC 27695-7522



Cheryl Boyer, PhD

Kansas State University

Department of Horticulture

3601 Throckmorton

Manhattan, KS 66506



Matthew Chappell, PhD

The University of Georgia

Horticulture Department

211 Hoke Smith Building

Athens, GA 30602



Glenn Fain, PhD

Auburn University

109 Funchess Hall

Auburn University, AL 36849



Donna Fare, PhD


Nursery Crops Research Station

472 Cadillac Lane

McMinnville, TN 37110



Charles Gilliam, PhD

Auburn University

Department of Horticulture

101 Funchess Hall

Auburn University, AL 36849



Brian E. Jackson, PhD

North Carolina State University

Department of Horticultural Science

130 Kilgore Hall

Raleigh, NC 27695-7609



John Lea-Cox, PhD

University of Maryland

Department of Nat. Resc. Sci. & Lscp. Arch.

2120 Plant Sciences Building

College Park, MD 20742



Anthony V. LeBude, PhD

North Carolina State University

Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Ext. Ctr.

455 Research Drive

Mills River, NC 28759



Alex Niemiera, PhD

Virginia Tech

Department of Horticulture

401-A Saunders Hall

Blacksburg, VA 24061

tel 540.231.6723


Jim Owen, PhD

Virginia Tech

Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Ext. Ctr.

1444 Diamond Springs Road

Virginia Beach, VA  23455

Tel:   757.363.3904

Fax:  757.363.3950


John Ruter, PhD

University of Georgia

Department of Horticulture

221 Hoke Smith Building

Athens, GA 30602



Ken Tilt, PhD

Auburn University

Department of Horticulture

167 Funchess Hall

Auburn University, AL 36849

tel 334.844.5484


Stuart Warren, PhD

Kansas State University

Department of Horticulture

2021 Throckmorton

Manhattan, KS 66506



Sarah White, PhD

Clemson University

Department of Environmental Horticulture

E-143 Poole Agricultural Center

Clemson, SC 29634-0319



Ted Whitwell, PhD

Clemson University

College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences

101 Barre Hall

Clemson SC 29634



Robert Wright, PhD

Virginia Tech

Department of Horticulture

306-F Saunders Hall

Blacksburg, VA 24061



Tom Yeager, PhD

University of Florida, IFAS

Environmental Horticulture Department

2541 Fifield Hall, PO Box 110670

Gainesville, FL 32611-0670


Other individuals who made significant contributions to the development of this guide:


Win Dunwell, PhD

University of Kentucky

Research and Education Center

1205 Hopkinsville Street

Princeton, KY 42445

270.365.7541 x209


Frank Gouin

420 East Bay Front Road

Deale, MD 20751


Bryson James, PhD

Bry-J Farms and Services

2120 Red Road

McMinnville, TN 37110


Ron Kujawski

121 Hurlburt Rd.

Great Barrington, MA 01230


Adolph Laiche, Jr.

Mississippi State University

Southern Branch Experiment Station

Poplarville, MS 39470


Joe Neal

North Carolina State University

Department of Horticulture

262 Kilgore Hall Box 7609

Raleigh, NC 27695


Allen Owings

Louisiana State University

PO Box 25100

Baton Rouge, LA 70894

Craig Regelbrugge

American Nursery & Landscape Association

1000 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC 20005


Mary Ann Rose


135 Winter Road

Delaware, OH 43015


David Ross

University of Maryland

1426 AnSc Ag. Eng. Building

College Park, MD 20742


Chris Strarbuck

University of Missouri

1-87 Agriculture Building

Columbia, MS 65211


Mickey Taylor

Clemson University Institute of

Environmental Toxicology

509 Westinghouse Dr.  PO Box 709

Pendleton, SC 29670


Marc Teffeau

American Nursery & Landscape Association

1000 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC 20005


Carl Whitcomb, PhD

Lacebark, Inc.

PO Box 2383

Stillwater, OK 74076

As a regional association, the Southern Nursery Association works with the state associations across 16 states.  Each state nursery association has been supportive of the development of these BMPs on behalf of the industry in their state. The state nursery associations are listed below.

Alabama Nursery & Landscape Association

PO Box 9

Auburn, AL  36831-0009

tel 334.502.7777, fax 334.502.7711


Arkansas Green Industry Association

PO Box 21715

Little Rock, AR 72221-1715

tel 501.225.0029, fax 501.224.0988


Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association

1533 Park Center Drive

Orlando, FL  32835-5705

tel 407.295.7994, fax 407.295.1619


Georgia Green Industry Association

PO Box 369

Epworth, GA  30541-0369

tel 706.632.0100, fax 706.632.0300


Kentucky Nursery & Landscape Association

216 Pendleton Lane

Frankfort, KY 40601

tel 502.695.0106, fax 502.695.8455


Louisiana Nursery & Landscape Association

444 Fox Trot Drive

Mansfield LA   71052

tel/fax 318-872-4677


Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association

PO Box 726

Brooklandville, MD  21022

tel 410.823.8684, fax 410.296.8288


Mississippi Landscape & Nursery Association

PO Box 4190

Brandon, MS  39047

tel 662.919.8111, fax 662.919.3388


Missouri Landscape & Nursery Association

PO Box 81

Bowling Green, MO 63334

tel 636.542.1234


North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association

968 Trinity Road

Raleigh, NC 27607

tel 919.816.9119, fax 919.816.9118


Oklahoma Nursery & Landscape Association

400 North Portland

Oklahoma City, OK  73107

tel 405.945.6737


South Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association

4661 Crystal Drive

Columbia, SC 29206

tel 803.743.4284, fax 803.787.2919


Tennessee Nursery & Landscape Association

P. O. Box 57

McMinnville, TN  37110-0057

tel 931.473.3951, fax 931.473.5883


Texas Nursery & Landscape Association

7730 South IH 35

Austin, TX  78745-6698

tel 512.280.5182, fax 512.280.3012

Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association

383 Coal Hollow Road

Christiansburg, VA  24073

tel 540.382.0943, fax 540.382.2716


West Virginia Nurserymen & Landscape Association

PO Box 20284

Charleston, WV 25362

tel 304.553.1234

Appreciation is extended to the following Federal and State Agencies and industry organizations for their input:


Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM)

Cooperative Extension Service (CES)

Environmental Protection Agency Region IV (EPA IV)

Environmental Resource Management Research Group

Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)

Florida Office of Agricultural Water Policy (OAWP)

Horticultural Research Institute (HRI)

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

Water Management Districts (WMD)




                           Nursery Site Selection

                                    Location of Nursery Site Within Geographic Area

                                    Considerations for a Specific Site



                            Irrigation System Design

                                    Overhead Irrigation System Design

                                    Microirrigation System Design

                                    Subirrigation System Design

                            Irrigation System Management

                                     Methods of Application

                                     Irrigation Application Amount

                                     Time of Irrigation Application

                            Irrigation Water Sources

                            Irrigation Water Quality

                                     Sampling Irrigation Water

                                    Irrigation Water Quality Guidelines

                                    Management Strategies for Irrigation Water Problems

                                    Management Strategies for Water Conservation

                            Runoff Water Management

                                    Critical Area Stabilization

                                    Temporary Vegetation-Seeding

                                    Permanent Vegetative Establishment

                                    Establishment of Vegetation


                                    Erosion Control Blankets and Netting

                                    Ground Covers

                                    Vegetative Zones/Buffer Zones

                                    Grass Waterways

                                    Constructed Wetlands

                                    Management of Stormwater

                            Collection Structures

                                     Volume of Water Collection

                                    Lined vs. Nonlined

                            Managing Pesticide Runoff

                                     Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

                                    Pesticide Applications

                            Equipment Operation and Maintenance for Pesticide Management



                                    Mixing, Loading, and Rinsing

                                    Other Pesticide Considerations



                            Container Substrates

                            Container Substrate Physical Properties

                                    Air Space and Water-holding Capacity Measurements

                                    Handling Pine Bark Inventories

                                    Container Substrate Chemical Characteristics

                            Pre-Plant Fertilizer Applications

                                    Dolomitic Limestone



                            Post-Plant Fertilizer Applications

                            Controlled-Release Fertilizer (CRF)

                            Fertilizer in Irrigation Water

                            Supplemental Fertilization

                            Record of Fertilizer Application

                            Monitor Container Substrate Nutrient Status

                                     How Often to Monitor

                           Substrate Monitoring Considerations

                            Substrate Sampling Methods for Nutrient Extraction

                            The Pour-through (PT) and Suction Lysimeter (SL) for Monitoring Nutrients

                            in Container Substrates

                                    General Considerations

                                    Small Containers

                                    Large Containers

                            Interpretation of Substrate Extract Measurements

                                     Electrical Conductivity


                            Fertilizer Storage Considerations

                                    Granular and Solution

                            Foliar Analyses

                                     Tissue Sampling Considerations

                                     Taking Samples

                                    Interpretation of Tissue Analyses



                            Overview of the Water and Nutrient Management Planning Process

                            Factors to Consider

                                    Site Evaluation

                                      Collection Structures

                                       Vegetative Zones

                                    Irrigation Management

                                       Plant Water Requirements

                                    Irrigation Systems


                                       Substrate Selection and Management

                                    Plant Nutrient Requirements

                                       Fertilizer Type and Rate

                                       Plant Nutrient Requirements and Application

                                       Monitoring Substrate Nutrients

                                       Record of Fertilizer Application

                            Developing a Nutrient Management Plan



                            Site Selection

                            Site Development and Layout

                            Soil Amendments, Cover Crops, and Vegetative Zones

                                   Soil Amendments

                                    Cover Crops

                                    Vegetative Zones

                            Planting and Planting Density


                            Soil Fertility

                                    Dry Granular Fertilizer Application

                                    Soil Auger Controlled Release Fertilizer Application (Drill and Fill)

                                    Liquid (Solution) Fertilizer Application via Microirrigation (Fertigation)

                            Pest Management Planning

                                    Weed and Ground Cover Management Planning

                                    Weed Scouting

                                    Between-Row Vegetation Management

                                    In-Row Vegetation Management


                            Nutrients & Water


                            Construction & Establishment