Guide for Producing Nursery Crops
Third Edition


Additional Reading


Additional Reading (Introduction)

Economic Impacts of the Green Industry in the United States Final Report to the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Committee. 2005. Charles R. Hall, Alan W. Hodges, John J. Haydu.


National Agricultural Statistics Service.  2004. USDA Nursery Crops 2003 Summary. U.S. Department of Agriculture, July 2004. Special Circular 6-2 (04)a.


Economic Contributions of the Green Industry in the United States in 2007-08. Alan W. Hodges, Charles R. Hall, and Marco A. Palma. HortTechnology. Production and Marketing Reports. October 2011 21(5).


U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture. 2007. 

Additional Reading (Irrigation)

Alexander, S. V. 1993. Pollution control and prevention at containerized nursery operations. Wat. Sci. Tech. 28(3-5):509-517.


Anon. 1981. Design Guide for Turf and Ornamental Irrigation Systems, Rain Bird Sprinkler Mfg. Corp. 145 N. Grand Ave. Glendora, California 91740.


Anon.  1996. Standards and specifications for turf and landscape irrigation systems. 3rd ed. Florida Irrigation Society, Inc., PO Box 1627, Goldenrod, Florida 32733.


Beeson, Jr. R. and J. Haydu. 1995. Cyclic irrigation in container-grown landscape plants improves plant growth and water conservation. Journal of Environ. Hort. 13(1): 6-11.


Beeson, R. C. and G. W. Knox. 1991. Analysis of efficiency of overhead irrigation in container production.  HortScience 26(7):848-850.


Bilderback, T. 2002. Water management is key to reducing nutrient runoff from container nurseries. HortTechnology 12:7-10.


Burger, D. W., J. S. Hartin, D. R. Hodel, T. A. Lukaszewski, S. A. Tjosvold, and S. A Wagner. 1987. Water use in California’s ornamental nurseries. California Agriculture 41(9-10):7-8.


Clemmens, A. J. 1991. Irrigation uniformity relationships for irrigation system management. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering 113:682-699.


Davis II, B.  1994.  Starting a container nursery.  Tennessee Nurserymen’s Association Short Course.


Drees, B. M., D. McWilliams, J. M. Sweeten, and D. C. Wilkerson. Water Management Guidelines for the Texas Greenhouse Industry. Texas Agricultural Extension Service 500-7-90.


Fare, D. C., C. H. Gilliam, and G. J. Keever. 1992. Monitoring irrigation at container nurseries. HortTechnology 2(1):75-78.


Fare, D.C., C.H. Gilliam, G.J. Keever, and J.W. Olive. 1994. Cyclic irrigation reduces container leachate nitrate-nitrogen concentration. HortScience 29(12):1514-1517.


Furuta, T. 1974. Environmental plant production and marketing, 1st ed. Cox Publishing Co., Arcadia, Calif.


Goldhamer, D. A. and R. L. Synder. 1989. Irrigation scheduling:  A guide for efficient on-farm water management.  University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication 21454.


Green, J. L. 1989. Special Report:  Practices to minimize contamination of groundwater and runoff water in greenhouse and nursery production of container-grown plants. Ornamentals Northwest 13(3):9-16.


Hanley, D. 1981. Recommendations for designing windbreaks. American Nurseryman 154(10): 12-13, 48, 50, 52, 54-57, 60-67.


Nakayama, F. S. and D. A. Bucks. 1991. Water quality in drip/trickle irrigation: A review. Irrigation Science 12:187-192.


Niemiera, A. X. 1994. Fertilizers:  Minimizing use and maximizing growth of container and field-grown plants, p. 105-115. In: C. Heuser and P. Heuser (eds.). Recycling and Resource Conservation a Reference Guide for Nursery and Landscape Industries. Pennsylvania Nurserymen’s Association, Inc., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


Regan, R. 1992. Improving overhead irrigation. American Nurseryman 176(9):45-51.


Regan, R. 1994. The basics of nursery irrigation systems. The Digger 38(6):22-25.


Ross, D. R. 1994. Reducing water use under nursery and landscape conditions, p 21-35. In: C. Heuser and P. Heuser (eds.). Recycling and Resource Conservation a Reference Guide for Nursery and Landscape Industries.  Pennsylvania Nurserymen’s Association, Inc., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


Seginer, I. 1971. Water losses during sprinkling. Transactions ASAE 14:656-659 and 664.


Smucker, B. 1985. Weston gains ground and calms the waters in its difficult terrain. American Nurseryman 163(1):77-78.


Whitcomb, C. E. 1988. Plant Production in Containers. Lacebark Publications. Stillwater, Oklahoma.


Warren, S. and T. Bilderback. 2002. Timing of low-pressure irrigation affects plant growth and water utilization efficiency. Journal of Environ. Hort. 20(3): 184-188.


Yeager, T. 2006. Florida Container Nursery BMP Guide. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Additional Reading (Irrigation Water Sources)

Austin, B.  1989. Brominization vs. chlorine. Proc. Inter. Plant Prop. Soc. 39:310-311.


Davidson, H., C. Peterson, R. Mecklenburg.  1994. Nursery Management. 3rd ed. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.


Welch, P. S. 1935. Limnology. 1st ed. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York.

Additional Reading (Water Quality)

Anonymous. 1999. Soil and plant analysis laboratory registry for the United States and Canada. 2nd ed. CRC Press, Inc. Boca Raton, Florida.


Ayers, R. S. and R. L. Branson. 1977. U.C. guidelines for interpretation of agricultural water quality. California Agriculture, May 1977, p. 25.


Ayers, R. S. and R. L. Branson. 1978. Irrigation water quality, p. 49-50. In: H.M. Reisenauer (ed.). Soil and plant-tissue testing in California. University of California Ext. Bull. 1879, Division of Agricultural Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.


Bunt, A. C. 1976. Modern potting composts. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, Pennsylvania.


Farnham, D. S., R. F. Hasek, and J. L. Paul.  1985. Water quality:  Its effects on ornamental plants. University of California Extension Leaflet 2995, Division of Agricultural Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.


Fitzpatrick, G. and T. Broschat. 1984. Removing irrigation water residues from ornamental plant foliage.  Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet OHC-13, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, Florida.


Ford, H. W. 1980. The present status of research on iron deposits in low volume irrigation systems. Lake Alfred AREC Research Report CS 75-3, Revised as HWF-100.


Gilbert, R. G. and H. W. Ford. 1986. Operational principles - emitter clogging, p. 142-163.  In: F. S. Nakayama and D. A. Bucks (Eds.). Trickle irrigation for crop production, design operation and management. Elsevier Science Publishers B. V., Amsterdam.


Hammer, D. A. (Ed.). 1989. Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment - municipal, industrial and agricultural.  Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, Michigan.


Hanlon, E. A., G. Kidder, and B. L. McNeal.  1990.  Soil, container media, and water testing.  Cooperative Extension Service Circular 817, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, Florida.


Hoadley, B. and D. Ingram.  1982.  Water quality and woody ornamental plant production.  Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet OHC-4, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, Florida.


Kah, G. 1992. Testing irrigation uniformity:  When full coverage isn’t enough. Landscape and Irrigation 16(7): 64-66.


Kidder, G. and E. A. Hanlon, Jr. 1985. Neutralizing excess bicarbonates from irrigation water.  Notes in Soil Science No. 18, February 1985, Soil Science Department.  Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Gainesville, Florida.


Knox, G. W. and T. H. Yeager. 1991. Irrigation water quality guidelines. The Woody Ornamentalist 16(1):1-4.


Knox, G. W. and T. H. Yeager. 1991. Alternative irrigation strategies. The Woody Ornamentalist 16(2):1-3.


Olson, R. K. (Ed.). 1993. Created and natural wetlands for controlling nonpoint source pollution. U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development and Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. C.K. Smoley, CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida.


Turbidity Research. 1996. Sediments Newsletter of the N.C. Sedimentation Control Commission. In: Toby Vinson (Ed.) Sediments 3:(2): p1-7.  

Additional Reading (Water Quality Websites)

Bailey, D., T. Bilderback and D. Bir. 1996. Water considerations for container production of plants. Hort. Info. Leaflet No. 557.


Bailey, D. and T. Bilderback. 1998. Alkalinity control for irrigation water used in nurseries and greenhouses.  Hort. Info. Leaflet No. 558.

Additional Reading (Pesticides)

Best Management Practices for Agrichemical Handling and Farm Equipment Maintenance, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection


Dean, T. W. and R. A. Bucklin. 1996. Building plans and management practices for a permanently sited pesticide storage facility in Florida (SM-57). Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Box 110011, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 32611.


Dean, T. W. and R. A. Bucklin. 1996. Building plans and management practices for a permanently sited agricultural pesticide mixing/loading facility (SM-58). Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Box 110011, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 32611.

Additional Reading (Nutrition)

Anon. 1999. Soil and plant analysis laboratory registry for the United States and Canada. 2nd ed. CRC Press, Inc. Boca Raton, Florida.


Beeson, R. C., Jr. 1995. The root of the problem. Four steps do determine proper substrate aeration. Ornamental Outlook 4(6): 12.


Bilderback, T. E. and W. C. Fonteno. 1987. Effects of container geometry and media physical properties on air and water volumes in containers. Journal Environ. Hort. 5:180-182.


Bilderback, T. E. 1996. Properties of container substrates. Proceedings of Container Substrate and Water Management. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Agent Training. January 3, 1996.


Ingram, D. L., R. W. Henley, and T. H. Yeager. 1990. Diagnostic and Monitoring Procedures for Nursery Crops. University of Florida Ext. Cir. 556.


Nelson, P. V. 1991. Greenhouse Operation and Management, 4th edition. Prentice Hall Career and Technology, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


Standards Australia. 1989. Australian Standard 3743 - Potting Mixes. Standards Association of Australia, Standards House, 80 Arthur St., North Sydney 2060, New South Wales.


Whipker, B. E., T. J. Cavins, and W. C. Fonteno. 2001. 1, 2, 3s of Pour-Thru. North Carolina State University.

Additional Reading (Field Production)

The American Standards for Nursery Stock. ANSI 60.1.  American Nursery and Landscape Association, 1200 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005.


Best Management Practices For Field Growing Nursery Stock. AG-511. pp 1-15. North Carolina State University

Box 7603, Raleigh, NC 27695-7603.


Bilderback, T. E., R. E. Bir and M. A. Powell. Pruning Field Grown Shade and Flowering Trees. Horticultural Information Leaflet No. 406.  North Carolina State University, Box 7603, Raleigh, NC 27695-7603.


California Fertilizer Association. Western Fertilizer Handbook, Horticulture Edition.  1990.  Interstate Publishers, Inc.  P.O. Box 50, Danville, IL 61834-0050.


Design Guide for Turf and Ornamental Irrigation Systems. 1981. Rain Bird Sprinkler Mfg. Corp, 145 N. Grand Ave. Glendora, CA 91740.


Garber, M. P., J. M. Ruter, and J. T. Midcap. Production and Marketing of Field Grown Trees in Georgia. Bulletin 1115, pp 1-18.  The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Services, Cooperative Extension Service. Athens, GA.


Managing Drought On Nursery Crops. 2007. North Carolina State University, Box 7603, Raleigh, NC 27695-7603.


The North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual. North Carolina State University. NCSU Publications Office, Box 7603, Raleigh, NC 27695-7603.


Safley, C.  2001. Got Cost Estimates? (What it Costs to Grow Field Grown Trees and Shrubs).  North Carolina State University, Department of Agriculture and  Resource Economics, pp. 32-34.


University of Florida. Weeds of Southern Turfgrass. University of Florida, Publication Distributions Center, IFAS Building 664, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611. [University Extension Services in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina also distribute this text.]


Uva, R., J. Neal, and J. DiTomaso. 1997. Weeds of the Northeast.  Cornell University Press. PO Box 6525, Ithaca, NY 14851-6525.


Water Considerations For Container Production of Plants. North Carolina State University. NCSU Horticulture Information Leaflet No. 557, pp 1-11.


Weed Control Suggestions for Christmas Trees, Woody Ornamentals, and Flowers; Bulletin AG 427.  North Carolina State University. Publications, NCSU, Box 7603, Raleigh, NC 27695-7603. 72 pp.

Web Pages


SNA Conference Proceedings 1991 – 2012 (2,872 titles comprised of 11,208 pages), available in Portable Document Format (PDF) for downloading and viewing or printing.



Agricultural Chemical Drift and Its Control. 1993.


Agricultural Chemicals Manual. 2013.


CDMS - Ag Chem Database (labels and MSDS info)


Chemical Injection Methods for Irrigation


Injection of Chemicals Into Irrigation Systems: Rates, Volumes, and Injection Periods


Pesticide Recordkeeping Manual and Form



Annual Maintenance and Evaluation of Overhead Irrigation Systems


A Simple Intermittent Spray System


Basic Irrigation Scheduling in Florida


Basic Irrigation Terminology


Causes and Prevention of Emitter Plugging In Microirrigation Systems


Collecting Water Samples at Container Nurseries


Container Media Nutrient Test Interpretation


Efficiencies of Irrigation Systems Used in Florida Nurseries


Estimating Crop Irrigation Requirements for Irrigation System Design and Consumptive Use Permitting


Evaporation Loss During Sprinkler Irrigation


Excavated Pond Construction in Florida


Field Evaluation of Container Nursery Irrigation Systems: Part 1: Measuring Operating Pressures in the Irrigation System 1


Field Evaluation of Container Nursery Irrigation Systems: Part 2: Measuring Application Rates


Fittings and Connections for Flexible Polyethylene Pipe Used in Microirrigation Systems


Flushing Procedures for Microirrigation Systems


Growth Media for Container Grown Ornamental Plants


Installation of Mist Propagation Equipment


Irrigation System Controllers


Irrigation System Selection for Container Nurseries


Irrigating With High Salinity Water


Measuring Pump Capacity for Irrigation System Design


Media Filters For Trickle Irrigation In Florida


Media Storage Problems

Nursery and Greenhouse Nutrient Management (U. of Maryland Cooperative Extension)


Neutralizing Excess Bicarbonates From Irrigation Water


Opinions on Plant Irrigation Requirements


Potential Impacts of Improper Irrigation System Design


Screen Filters in Trickle Irrigation Systems


Small Steps to Improving Your Irrigation System, Reducing Labor and Increasing Your Bottom Line


Soil Plant Water Relationships


Soil Water Samplers in Horticultural Nursery Use-Nutrient Extraction from Large Containers


Treating Irrigation Systems with Chlorine


Uniformity of Sprinkler and Microirrigation Systems for Nurseries


Using the Pour-Thru Procedure for Checking EC and pH for Nursery Crops

Valves in Irrigation Systems


Water Wells for Florida Irrigation Systems


Water Hammer In Irrigation Systems



Best Management Practices for Field Production of Nursery Stock


Container Conversion Chart


Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants


Integrated Pest Management in the Commercial Ornamental Nursery


Layout and Design Considerations for a Wholesale Container Nursery


Managing Pesticides for Ornamentals Production and Water Quality Protection


Nursery and Greenhouse Nutrient Management (from Maryland Cooperative Extension)


Nursery Budgets-What You Need to Know to Make the Right Decisions


Pot-In-Pot Systems Across the United States


Pruning Field Grown Shade and Flowering Trees


Selecting a Method for Sealing Ponds in Florida

Southeastern Universities and Links to Extension Publications


Alabama A&M University


Alabama A & M and Auburn University Cooperative Extension System (Alabama)


Tuskegee University (Alabama)


University of Arkansas


University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff


University of Florida


Florida A&M University


Fort Valley State University (Georgia)


University of Georgia


Kentucky State University


University of Kentucky


Louisiana State University


Southern University and A&M College (Louisiana)


University of Maryland


University of Maryland Eastern Shore


Alcorn State University (Mississippi)


Mississippi State University


Lincoln University (Missouri)


University of Missouri


North Carolina A&T State University


North Carolina State University


Langston University (Oklahoma)


Oklahoma State University


Clemson University (South Carolina)


South Carolina State University


Tennessee State University


University of Tennessee


Prairie View A&M University (Texas)


Texas A&M University


Virginia State University


Virginia Tech


West Virginia University


West Virginia State College



Absorption - a process in which one substance permeates another; a fluid (such as water) permeates or is dissolved by a liquid or solid through pores or membranes.


Acetic acid - a clear, colorless, pungent organic acid that may be found in container substrates that are stored in large piles with low air exchange. 


Acid - a substance that tends to give up protons (hydrogen ions) to some other substance or when dissolved in water.


Acidity - the property of being acidic; a substance is considered acidic if the pH is less than 7. 


Adsorption - the adhesion of gases, solutes, or liquids to the surfaces of solid bodies (such as substrates or soil) or liquids with which they are in contact.


Air space - the percentage of container volume occupied by air-filled large pores from which water drains following irrigation.


Alkalinity - concentration of bases often expressed as carbonate or bicarbonate equivalents. An alkaline substrate will have a pH greater than 7.


Anaerobic - living, active, or occurring in the absence of free oxygen.


Bicarbonate - salts of carbonic acid. These salts such as sodium, calcium, and magnesium (NaHCO3, CaCO3 and MgCO3), have an alkalizing effect.


Biological control - the use of living organisms to control crop pests.


BMP - the Best Management Practices include schedules of activities, prohibitions, maintenance procedures, and structural or other management practices found to be the most effective and practicable methods to prevent or reduce the discharge of pollutants to the air or waters of the United States. Best management practices also include operating procedures, and practices to control site runoff, spillage or leaks, sludge or waste disposal, or drainage from raw material storage.


Bulk density - the weight of dry substrate per unit volume of substrate (g/cc).


Cambium - tissue between xylem and phloem that is responsible for secondary growth in most vascular plants.


Carbonate - to impregnate with carbon dioxide or having high levels of carbon dioxide.


Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) - total of exchangeable cations (positively charged ions) that a substrate can adsorb. Some cations include ammonium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.


Collection structure (basin) - an enclosed body of water to collect irrigation runoff water or rainfall from storm events.


Constructed wetland - a shallow depressed area (with or without water) filled with selected vegetation (i.e. cattails) to serve as a biological filter for removing nutrients and chemicals.


Container area - area that a group of plants occupies during the production phase.  A typical, single area is 6-8 feet wide and 50-300 feet long.


Container capacity - the maximum volume of water that a substrate can retain following irrigation and drainage due to gravity and is a measure of the water reservoir of the container.


Controlled-release fertilizer - fertilizer in which nutrients are released over time. Release is controlled by physical or biological degradation, by the thickness of the coating (i.e. resin), or by the type of coating surrounding the mineral elements. 


Cyclic irrigation - irrigation practice where a plant’s daily water allotment is divided into a series of events with irrigation application and rest intervals throughout the day.


Deionization - a technique used to remove ions (charged particles) from irrigation water. Commercial systems are available that combine prefiltration, mixed-bed resins, activated carbon, and final filtration.


Denitrification - in the absence of oxygen, microorganisms use nitrate or other forms of oxidized nitrogen instead of oxygen during the respiration process.


Deposition infiltration - a term used to describe filtration of naturally deposited sediments or minerals.


Electrical conductivity (EC) - the measure of salt content of water based on the flow of electrical current. The higher the salt content, the greater the flow of electrical current. EC is measured in mmhos/cm or decisiemens/m.


Emitter - a device used to distribute water for irrigation that can discharge in droplets, small streams, or through mini-sprayers.


Evapotranspiration - the combination of water that is evaporated from container substrate or native soil and water that is transpired by plants as a part of their metabolic processes.


Half-life - the time required for a substance to degrade by one-half.


Hardness - a characteristic of water caused by the presence of various salts, e.g. calcium, magnesium, and iron. Hardness is often associated with the presence of bicarbonates and carbonates (alkalizing effect).


Hydrophobic - having a lack of affinity for water or may repel and not absorb water.


Hydrophyte - a plant that lives in water.


Leachate - the solution that drains from container substrate during and after irrigation and may contain nutrients and pesticides from the substrate solution.


Leaching fraction - the volume of leachate divided by the total volume of irrigation entering the container multiplied by 100. This fraction should be 10-15%.


Lime - a material containing carbonates, oxides, and/or hydroxides, and used to neutralize substrate acidity. A common form, dolomitic limestone, contains calcium and magnesium.


Microirrigation - an irrigation system that delivers small amounts of water through emitters (spray or drip) in which gallons of water per hour are applied rather than gallons of water per minute.


Mycelium - the vegetative part of a fungus, which consists of a mass of branching, threadlike hyphae.


Nematode - very small (microscopic) worms abundant in many native soils that can destroy plant roots.


Non-cyclic - a continuous cycle of irrigation where the entire daily amount is applied in one application.


Oxalic acid - a toxic colorless crystalline organic acid found in oxalis and other plants; used as a cleansing agent for bleaching and rust removal.


Pathogen - an agent that causes disease, especially a living microorganism such as a bacterium or fungus.


Perched water table - area of temporary saturation at the bottom of a container or area of temporary saturation in native soil saturated with water.


Percolation - the slow movement of water through a substrate or soil.


Permeability - the capacity of porous rock, sediment or soil to allow water movement through.


Pesticides - any form of chemical or substance used to control pests. Pesticides include fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides, etc.


pH - a logarithmic measurement, ranging from 0 to 14, of the acidity or alkalinity (concentration of hydrogen ions (H+)) of a solution which numerically equals 7 for neutral solutions, increasing with increasing alkalinity and decreasing with increasing acidity. A change of one unit is a tenfold change in hydrogen ion concentration.


Pheromones - naturally occurring chemicals secreted by insects or synthetically produced substances that can influence the behavior or often functioning as an attractant of the opposite sex.


Post-emergence - herbicides that can kill actively growing broadleaf or grassy-type weeds.


Pot-in-pot - a nursery production system in which a container is recessed in field soil and used as a holder for another container that contains the substrate.


Pour-through - a technique used to monitor container nutrient status.


Pre-emergence - herbicides applied to bare soil or container substrate that inhibit weed seeds from germinating.


Reverse osmosis - process where water is forced under pressure through a semipermeable membrane to remove salts or impurities that cannot traverse the membrane.


Rhizosphere - the soil zone that surrounds and is influenced by the roots of plants.


Riparian buffer - Strips of grass, shrubs and/or trees along the banks of rivers and streams that filter polluted runoff and provide a transition zone between water and human land use.


Runoff - the portion of rainfall or irrigation on an area that is discharged from the area. Runoff which is lost without entering the soil is called surface runoff and that which enters the soil is called ground water runoff or seepage flow.


Sedimentation - the process of particles that were held in suspension settling out of water.


Sodium Adsorption Ratio (SAR) - the cation concentrations of calcium and magnesium relative to sodium. Sodium is often responsible for salinity problems when linked to chloride (Cl) or sulfate (SO4). The following formula is used to calculate the adsorption ratio:


The cation concentrations are expressed as milliequivalents per liter as determined by a water analysis.

Soluble salts - see electrical conductivity.


Solution fertilizer - soluble nutrient carriers dissolved in water.


Subirrigation - a method used to apply irrigation to the bottom of container grown ornamentals or to the root zone of field crops which allows water to move from the bottom through the substrate or soil by capillary movement.


Substrate - organic and inorganic materials, often bark, peat, and sand, used as media components in a container to support the plant and contain the root system.


Suction lysimeter - an extraction tool used to obtain substrate solution for measurement of EC, pH and nutrient concentration.


Topographical - graphic representation or map of the relative positions and elevations surface features for a place or region.


Total porosity - the total volume of pore space in a substrate and is expressed as a percentage of the total substrate volume.


Turbidity - the suspended particulate matter ranging in size from colloidal to coarse dispersions in water.


Volatilization - to evaporate or cause to evaporate.


Water holding capacity - the ability of container substrate to retain water after drainage.

Appendix A



Laboratories registered with the Soil and Plant Analysis Council (Anon. 1999) are listed below. 




Soil Testing Laboratory

ALFA Agricultural Services & Research Building

961 S. Donahue Drive

Auburn University, AL 36849-5411

334.844.3958, FAX: 334.844.4001




Agricultural Diagnostic Laboratory

276-A Altheimer Dr.

University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, AR  72704

501.575.3911, FAX: 501.575.3896


Eastern Arkansas Soil Testing and Research Laboratory

P.O. Drawer 767

Hwy 1 South 3 miles

Marianna, AR 72360

870.295.2851, FAX: 870.295.2432




Agro Services International, Inc.

205 E. Michigan Ave.

Orange City, FL 32763

904.775.6601, FAX: 904.775.9890


Pioneer Laboratory

4100 Glades Road

Ft. Pierce, FL  34981

407.464.9300, FAX: 407.464.9308




Agricultural and Environmental Services


2400 College Station Road

Athens, GA  30607

706.542.5350, FAX: 706.369.5734


Micro-Macro International, Inc.

183 Paradise Blvd., Suite 108

Athens, GA  30607

706.548.4557, FAX: 706.548.4891

Waters Agricultural Laboratories, Inc.

P. O. Box 382

Camilla, GA  31730-0382

912.336.7216, FAX: 912.336.7967




Commonwealth Technologies, Inc.

2520 Regency Rd

Lexington, KY 40503

606.276.3506, FAX: 606.278.5665


University of Kentucky Soil Testing Laboratory

103 Regulatory Services Building

Lexington, KY  40546-0275

606.257.7355, FAX: 606.257.7351




LSU Agricultural Center Plant Analysis Laboratory

Agronomy Department

Louisiana State University

Baton Rouge, LA 70803

504.388.1305, FAX: 504. 388.1403




University of Missouri Soil and Plant Testing


23 Munford Hall

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO  65211

573.882.3250, FAX: 573.884.4288


North Carolina


NC Department of Agriculture

Agronomic Division

4300 Reedy Creek Rd.

Raleigh, NC  27607

919.733.2655, FAX: 919.733.2837




Soil, Water and Forage Analytical Laboratory

048 Agricultural Hall

Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, OK 74078

405.744.9572, FAX: 405.744.9575


South Carolina


Agricultural Service Laboratory

171 Old Cherry Rd

Clemson, SC 29634

864.656.2068, FAX: 864.656.2069



A&L Analytical Laboratories, Inc.

411 North Third Street

Memphis, TN  38105

901.527.2780, FAX: 901.526.1031




Texas Agricultural Extension Service Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory

345 Heep Center

College Station, TX 77843-2474

409.875.4816, FAX: 409.845.5958


Texas Plant & Soil Laboratory, Inc.

Route 7, Box 213-y

Edinburg, TX  78539

956.383.0739, FAX: 956.383.0730




Virginia Tech Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Laboratory

145 Smyth Hall

Blacksburg, VA  24061

540.231.6893, FAX: 540.231.9262


West Virginia


West Virginia University Soil Testing Laboratory

Division of Plant and Soil Science

P. O. Box 6108

Morgantown, WV 26504

304.293.6256, FAX: 304.293.2960

Appendix B


Substrate Physical Properties


Bulk Density

Bulk density is expressed as dry weight per volume of container (conversions are g·cm-3 x 62.43 = lbs/ft3 or lbs/ft3 x 0.02 = g·cm-3). To determine dry bulk density, contents of the container are dried until they no longer lose weight. This may be accomplished by placing container with substrate in an oven at 158 F for 48 hours.


Air Space and Water-Holding Capacity


Procedure conducted with same containers used in plant production

The following procedure, taken from Diagnostic and Monitoring Procedures for Nursery Crops  (D.L. Ingram, et al., 1990), can be used to determine substrate air space and total water holding capacity as a percentage of container volume.


Air space of a substrate is the total volume of pores filled with air after irrigation and drainage. The water-holding capacity is the percentage of the total volume of the substrate that is filled with water after irrigation and drainage. When a substrate is saturated and allowed to drain, air replaces the volume of water drained. Measuring the drainage water then gives a measurement of pore space or air space. Steps in the procedure for determining air space and water-holding capacity are given below. If a measurement of air space alone is desired, there is no need to determine the volume of water required to saturate the dry substrate in step 3.

  1. Measure the container volume. Secure tape on the container drainage holes and fill with water to within approximately 0.5 inch from the top. Mark this line. Carefully measure the volume of water by pouring it into a measuring cup. This volume of water is the container volume to be occupied by the substrate. An alternative way to determine container volume is to place a plastic bag in container and fill with water to desired volume.
  2.  Dry the container inside. Do not remove the tape. Fill the container with dry substrate to the “fill line,” marked in Step 1, using packing procedures as when potting a plant.
  3.  Using a measuring cup, slowly add water to the container and keep track of the volume of water used. Wet the dry substrate until it is saturated (a thin film of free water is present on the surface). Some dry substrates such as peat or pine bark are difficult to wet. If a wetting agent is used in production, then use a wetting agent at this time at the recommended rate. Add small amounts of water periodically as necessary to ensure complete saturation. The volume of water used to saturate the substrate is the total pore space of the substrate.
  4.  Loosen the tape on one drainage hole and discard water that drains from the substrate. This initial drainage helps settle the substrate, as occurs in production.
  5.  Cover the drainage hole and re-saturate the substrate with water. Adding water along only one side of the container will minimize air pockets.
  6.  Place the container in a pan or bucket large enough to collect all drainage water. Elevate the container above the pan for complete drainage. Remove the tape from the holes and collect the water drained during two hours.
  7.  Measure the volume of water drained from the container. Use the smallest units on the measuring cup (milliliters, ounces, or teaspoons).
  8.  Calculate the percent air space and water-holding capacity by the formulas below.
  9.  It is advisable to test three to five container/substrate samples at the same time and average the results.

% Air space = Volume of drained water (Step 7)

      x 100

                                    Container volume (Step 1)


% Total Water-holding capacity = Total pore space (Step 3) – Vol. drained water (Step 7)

x 100

                                                                                          Container volume (Step 1)

A plant cannot extract the total volume of water from the container substrate. Unavailable water is the portion of total water-holding capacity the plant is not able to take up.  The portion of water-holding capacity volume taken up by the plant is called available water.  The amount of available water in the container substrate can be determined by wetting thoroughly the substrate in a container with plant, so the substrate is holding all the water possible against the drainage force of gravity. Enclose container in plastic bag, weigh the container and plant. Let dry and weigh again just prior to plant beginning to wilt. The difference in wet and dry weight is water available to the plant or water taken up by the plant. Total water-holding capacity minus available water leaves unavailable water.


Procedure conducted with simulated containers

The following procedure adopted from the Australian Standard 3743 - Potting Mixes (Standards Australia, 1989) can be used to determine substrate air space and total water-holding capacity as a percentage of container volume. A plant cannot take up the total water-holding capacity volume as discussed above. 

  1. Glue a PVC cap to a length of 3-inch diameter PVC pipe so height of pipe and cap is equal to depth of substrate in container, then determine the total volume inside of assembly (cap and pipe).  Flatten the cap with appropriate tool so the assembly will stand upright.  Drill four 0.25-inch holes in the bottom of the cap, with one in the center.  Place a 3-inch diameter PVC coupling with 4.5-inch long pipe extension, loosely, on top of assembly and fill assembly and pipe extension with moist substrate.  Drop the assembly twice from three inches.  Refill after the second drop but do not pack.
  2. Place the assembly in water so that the top of the coupling is at the surface of the water.  Three hours later, remove from water, drain, and submerge for ten minutes; lift, drain, and submerge for ten minutes. Remove from water and remove coupling with pipe extension, cutting substrate horizontally at surface of pipe attached to cap. 
  3. Cover substrate with a cloth held in place with a rubber band.
  4. Submerge again, and after 30 minutes, lift the assembly with fingers covering the holes in the cap. Let excess water drain from your hands, then place the assembly above a pan for at least ten minutes to allow drainage.  Measure volume drained. 


5. Divide drainage volume by total volume of the assembly to calculate the percent aeration.


% Air Space  =  Volume of drained water (ML)

Assembly volume (ML)


6. Weigh wet substrate, dry in forced air oven at 221 F, and weigh again. The difference in wet and dry substrate    weight (grams), divided by total volume (milliliters) of assembly is the percent total water-holding capacity.


% Total Water-holding capacity = Wet weight – Dry weight (g)

Assembly volume (ml)


7. It is advisable to test three to five assembly/substrate samples at the same time and average the results.


Appendix C


Substrate Nutrition


Pour-through (PT) - Procedure for Sampling


This procedure is practical for containers with volumes of five gallons or less because larger containers are too heavy to lift. The PT enables rapid sample collection without removing substrate from individual containers or groups of small containers that form cavities in trays.


  1. Irrigate plants and allow time for drainage (two hours to overnight) and equilibrium of moisture and nutrients within the substrate. Uniform substrate moisture levels are critical to obtaining consistent results with time.
  2. After this equilibration period, the container must be elevated above a collection vessel so that leachate or extract is not contaminated with debris or salts on the perimeter of the container. The bottom or sides of the container or flat should not be wiped before collecting leachate.
  3. Using a circular motion, apply just enough distilled water or irrigation water to the substrate surface to yield 30-50 ml (1.0-2.0 oz) of leachate (liquid) from the container or flat. See Table 13for approximate volumes to apply.
  4. Filter the leachate samples before sending to a commercial laboratory.



Table 13. Approximate volume of water to apply to obtain 50 ml (2.0 oz.) of extract with PT.

Container size

Water to apply



4 to 6 inch container



6.5 azalea container



1 quart



1 gallon



3 gallons



5 gallons



Cavities or cells in flats



Containers should be at container capacity for about 30 minutes (for cavities or cells in flats and small containers) to 2 hours (for larger containers) before applying water. The volumes of water are estimates so actual amount may vary depending on crop, substrate, or environmental conditions. (Adapted from 1, 2, 3 of PourThru, Whipker et al. 2001).

Suction Lysimeter (SL) - Procedure for Sampling

This procedure enables rapid sample collection without removing substrate from large containers (greater than five-gallon) or physically moving containers. Lysimeters are about 24 inches long and two inches in diameter with a porous ceramic cup (0.5 bar air entry) on the end.

  1. A lysimeter is positioned about two inches from the container side and remains in place during crop production. To insert the lysimeter into the container substrate, a hole is made in the substrate slightly smaller than the lysimeter diameter so that the lysimeter fits snug within the substrate.
  2. One to two hours after irrigation, a vacuum pump is used to create a vacuum within the lysimeter tube. After about 15 minutes, the vacuum results in liquid extracted from the substrate collecting in the lysimeter tube.
  3. Remove the extract from the lysimeter using a syringe fitted with an extension tube. Once the extract is removed from the lysimeter, nutrient analyses can be conducted. Lysimeters (model 1900 L24) and accessories may be obtained from Soil Moisture Equipment Company, Santa Barbara, CA 03105 (

Saturated Substrate Extract (SSE) - Procedure for Sampling

  1. Using a soil sample probe or a pointed object such as a spatula, remove substrate from each of 5-20 containers representative of the crop or plants under consideration.
  2. The upper layer of substrate cores may be disturbed and should be discarded. Blend the cores together into one uniform sample.
  3. Save about 200 ml (0.5 pint) of the total sample for saturation.
  4. Slowly add distilled water while stirring until the substrate surface is shiny, but no free water moves across the surface when the beaker is tilted. For best equilibration, allow the saturated sample to sit for two to six hours.
  5. Extract the substrate solution by vacuum filtering the saturated substrate.

Field Soils - Procedure for Sampling

In order for the soil sample to be representative of the field or area under consideration, several small samples are collected throughout the field or area, carefully mixed, and a sub-sample of the mixture is sent to a laboratory.

  1. A digging implement is used to obtain a small amount of soil from 10-15 locations throughout the field or area under consideration. The soil is removed from the upper 6-8 inches and sampling locations are spaced throughout the field or area.
  2. Each small amount of soil is placed in a plastic bucket. Avoid including soil from any “problem” spots. Submit soil samples from problem spots as separate samples.
  3. After sampling, mix the soil in the bucket so that all the soil is well blended.
  4. Take about a one-pint sub-sample of the blended soil and place it on a shopping bag or newspaper to air dry. Return the remaining soil in the bucket to the field.
  5. When the soil is air dry, transfer the soil to a labeled paper bag and send to a laboratory.

Calculating the Amount of Nutrients Applied


Fertilizer Purchases

Records of the fertilizer purchased yearly were used to calculate the amount of fertilizer applied, assuming all the fertilizer purchased was applied.


Suppose a nursery bought 2500 lbs of 18-6-12 and the production area of this nursery is 9.0 acres. In 2500 lbs of 18-6-12 there are 450 lbs of nitrogen, which were distributed on 9.0 acres during the year, resulting in 50 lbs of nitrogen per acre.


Fertilizer Applications

The amount of fertilizer applied with each application is summed to obtain total applied or to account for all the fertilizer applied throughout the year. For example, a nursery made three fertilizer applications during the year (Table 14). The first application consisted of 1000 lbs of 19-6-12 applied to containers in a field of 2.0 acres.

The second application consisted of 1650 lbs of 14-14-14 applied to containers in a field of 2.5 acres. The third application consisted of 1000 lbs of 18-6-12 applied to containers in a field of 7.5 acres. Therefore, 600 lbs of nitrogen were applied to 12.0 acres, resulting in 50 lbs of nitrogen applied per acre.


Trade names, companies, and products are used for informational purposes and do not constitute endorsement or recommendation nor discrimination for similar products not mentioned.

Table 14.  Total amount of nitrogen from three applications.

Time of Application

Fertilizer Applied (lbs.)


Nitrogen applied (lbs)

Area (acres)