Page 1

Jan/Feb 2013 s Volume 31 s Number 1

Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association s Serving Colorado, New Mexico, & Wyoming

Start the Year Off Right

7 ProGreen EXPO 2013 Jan. 15-18, 2013

11 A Good Start Depends on the Right Soil Mix

14 Soil Mixes — the Foundation for Healthy Plants

22 Member Profile: Eagle Springs Organic


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Our Mission Professionals growing for a better tomorrow... your growing resource. Cover Photo Courtesy of MojoGro Inc., Larkspur, Colo.

In This Issue 3

Calendar & New Members


Classifieds & Advertisers


Board Message: Get a Good Start



Good Soil Mixes Are Foundations for Healthy Plants

18 CSU Update: Plant Select® 2013

ProGreen 2013: January 15-18

20 Financial Affairs: Know your Margin! 21 Safety Corner: Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

22 Member Profile: Eagle Springs Organic in Silt, Colo.


A Good Start Depends on the Right Soil Mix

Board Of Directors Dan Gerace, CGG, President Welby Gardens Company, Inc. 303.288.3398 Bill Kluth, Vice President Tagawa Greenhouse Enterprises, LLC 303.659.1260 x205 Jesse Eastman, CCNP, Secretary/Treasurer Fort Collins Nursery 970.482.1984

Stan Brown, CCNP Alameda Wholesale Nursery, Inc. 303.761.6131

Terry Shaw, CCNP Harding Nursery, Inc. 719.596.5712

Steve Carlson, CCNP Carlton Plants 303.530.7510

Dan Wise, CCNP Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery 970.484.1289 dan@ftcollinswholesale

Sarada Krishnan, Ph.D. Denver Botanic Gardens 720.865.3679 Monica Phelan, CCNP Phelan Gardens 719.574.8058 monicaphelan@phelan

Publishing Info Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 959 S. Kipling Pkwy., Ste 200 Lakewood, CO 80226 303.758.6672 or 888.758.6672 Fax: 303.758.6805 The LooseLeaf is produced by CNGA and Keystone Millbrook Printing Company 3540 West Jefferson Hwy Grand Ledge, MI 48837-9750 Fax: 517.627.4201


Lynn Payne, N.M. Chapter Senator Sunland Nursery Company 505.988.9626 Sharon R. Harris, Executive Director CNGA 303.758.6672 or 888.758.6672

Ex-Officio Members Jim Klett, Professor CSU Dept. of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture 970.491.7179

EDITORIAL Sharon R. Harris Executive Director Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 303.758.6672 The LooseLeaf feature writer and editor is Tanya Ishikawa of Buffalo Trails Multimedia Communications Visit for classified advertisements, plant publications, upcoming events, a member directory, and much more!


Sharon R. Harris

Tanya Ishikawa

Dr. Jim Klett

Merle Northrup

Amy Statkevicus

ADVERTISING INFO Bill Spilman Tel: 877.878.3260 Fax: 309.483.2371




ProGreen EXPO 2013 Tuesday-Friday, Jan. 15-18 Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Colo. Attend the ProGreen EXPO, one of the most highly rated educational and training offerings by CNGA, and get a wealth of information and professional training for you and your staff; ďŹ nd new products, services and suppliers at the trade show; and meet your fellow green industry professionals. Colorado CertiďŹ ed Nursery Professional (CCNP) Exam 4UESDAY *ANsAM PM ProGreen EXPO, Colorado Convention Center, Room 208, Denver, Colo. This half-day exam leads to the prestigious CCNP certiďŹ cation. It can be taken by anyone whether or not they have completed any of the four CCNP seminars. CertiďŹ ed Greenhouse Growers (CGG) Seminars Tuesday & Wednesday, Jan. 15 & 16 ProGreen EXPO, Colorado Convention Center, Room 301, Denver, Colo. The CertiďŹ ed Greenhouse Growers Program (CGG) is designed to encourage a more educated workforce with a basic level of proďŹ ciency. It also promotes high quality standards for those involved in the greenhouse industry. VIP Industry Breakfast 7EDNESDAY *ANsAM

Denver Athletic Club, Denver, Colo. Consider how you can take your enterprise to the next level as you hear Denver Botanic Gardens CEO, Brian Vogtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s insights in his program, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Choosing the Higher Ground: How to Step It Up and Reach New Levelsâ&#x20AC;?. Program fee: $35.

CNGA â&#x20AC;&#x153;Young Gunsâ&#x20AC;? Member Meeting 7EDNESDAY *ANsPM ProGreen EXPO, Colorado Convention Center, Room 401, Denver, Colo. We want to hear from our â&#x20AC;&#x153;Young Gunâ&#x20AC;? members of CNGA â&#x20AC;&#x201D; those of you 40 and under! Join us for a lively discussion with our â&#x20AC;&#x153;Young Gunâ&#x20AC;? Board Members where you can share the issues, trends, and happenings affecting you and the younger generation in the green industry. Connect with your peers and brainstorm ideas and solutions to better your business. CertiďŹ ed Greenhouse Growers (CGG) Exam 4HURSDAY *ANsAM PM ProGreen EXPO, Colorado Convention Center, Room 301, Denver, Colo. To sit for the exam, attendance is required at all of the preparatory seminars. Upon passage of the exam, the grower will receive a personalized certiďŹ cate, recognition at the CNGA Industry Celebration and a name badge. CNGA Industry Celebration 4HURSDAY *AN Embassy Suites Denver-Downtown Convention Center, Denver, Colo. A fun, relaxing happy hour (with drink prices in the $5 to $7 range!) will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by dinner and a brief program from 7 to 9 p.m. Attend just the happy hour, just the dinner, or both! This is a great time to catch up with peers, network, support the association, and honor industry leaders. CSU Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Day 7EDNESDAY &EBsAM PM CSU Lory Student Center Main Ballroom, Ft. Collins, Colo. The Colorado State University Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Career Fair features Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Day, where students can learn about internships, summer and full-time employment opportunities.This fair is typically attended by more than 100 employers from the public, private and nonproďŹ t sectors. For information, contact Beka Crocket in the College of Agricultural Sciences at 970.491.3721 or

new MEMBERS Great Outdoors Nursery 10408 2nd St. NW Albuquerque, N.M. 87114 Tel: 505.890.5311 Fax: 505.898.8342 Tish Resnik, owner Founded in 2007

Register for calendar events with CNGA unless otherwise noted. Photo Courtesy of Eagle Springs Organic

Tel: 303.758.6672 or 888.758.6672 SourceGas Energy Services 600 12th St., #2000 Golden, Colo. 80401 Tel: 303.243.3580 Founded in 1998


Fax: 303.758.6805 E-mail: CNGA is the host of calendar events unless otherwise noted. For more information, registration forms, and directions to programs, go to the Industry Professional site on and open the Calendar under the Events tab.

LooseLeaf January/February 2013

classified ADS For Sale Greenhouse/Nursery Property Former long-time home of Santa Fe Greenhouses at 2902 & 2904 Rufina Street, Santa Fe, N.M. 4.86 acres located mid-city and close to residential, commercial & retail activity. $6 per sq. ft. Property ready for new operator. Contact Leon A. Mellow, Grubb & Ellis/New Mexico at 505.989.3900 or leon.

For Sale by Owner Greenhouse Business Turnkey greenhouse facility in sunny Las Cruces, N.M. 56,000 sq. ft. gutter connect greenhouses with equipment, 11,000 sq. ft. building, 2.92 acres of land, and three wells with 16 acre feet water rights, 10,000-gallon storage tank, and connected to city water. Established market. Trained employees. Price: $650,000. Contact Lynn Payne at 505.988.9626 or

Help Wanted

advertisers American Clay Works & Supply Co. . . . 17 Baxter Wholesale Nursery, Inc.

....... 2

Britton Nursery, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 Carlton Plants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Circle D Farm Sales, Inc.

. . . . . . . . . . . 19

Clayton Tree Farm LLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Clifty View Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Daniels Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Professional Gardeners Gardening by Tess in Denver, Colo. is taking resumes for professional gardeners for the 2013 season. Please only apply if you can garden for eight-plus hours in the heat, five days a week, moving at a fast pace (multiple homes per day). Seasonal work from March through December. For details on requirements and how to apply, contact Tess at 303.550.4310 or Tess@

DWF Growers Supply . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

CNGA offers free posts of online classified ads to members, including items for sale or lease and job openings. For more information on the posting below and to see other current postings, visit the Industry Professional side of www. and click on Classifieds under the Resources tab.

Jayker Wholesale Nursery . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery . . . . . . . . 2 Harding Nursery, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Hash Tree Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

McKay Nursery Company . . . . . . . . . . . 10



Get a Good Start It’s that time of year! Do you have any resolutions? Personal resolutions seem to be forgotten before January is even over, and then the guilt sets in. Make some easy business resolutions that you can be proud of, and that will put money in your pocket.

By Dan Gerace CNGA Board President

I love old expressions and sayings and I plan on exploring the validity of a few in this article so bear with me. What about “it takes money to make money?” When sales are not what they once were, most everyone looks at every possible avenue to cut expenses. However, you cannot simply cut your production to save money; that only guarantees you have less to sell, reducing your income. Instead, make sure you re-calculate with new sales projections. You can get stuck in a bad cycle that might force you to have to cut more than you thought you would. We all scrutinize the price tag, but there is also the old adage “you get what you pay for.” Perhaps you remember a time in your business when you were sold something that was less expensive and it cost you more in the long run.

Many problems can occur with less expensive soils, young plants, seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Low tech seed can germinate sporadically; how much do empty plug cells cost you? Think about the additional soil, plastic, and space, or simply not meeting your numbers. What about the cost of young plants if they die or don’t make it in time for sales? You can save a few pennies per plant, but you will lose a few dollars because you had to dump it six weeks or six months later. “Pennies add up,” but in this case you may want to remember that being “penny wise and pound foolish” can hurt your bottom line a lot quicker. Less expensive fertilizers have higher rates of ammonium and urea so are more likely to burn roots and cause soft and stretchy growth. How much have you saved if you have to throw away an additional 5 percent of your crops? Do the math. Less expensive soil typically has an incorrect amount of air space, leading to poor rooting. This requires longer, warmer grow times and additional fungicides. What is the additional cost of another week in production, or growing 5 degrees hotter? There are calculations for both of those. Recently, I purchased a generic form of a tried and true growth retardant. The generic product claimed to be the same thing as the brand name, only 25 percent less money. I used it the same way and got a different result. Trust me, I would have gladly paid the extra money if I knew what was about to happen. If you plan on “going the distance,” cutting corners will leave you a bit short. Have you heard the one about the tree salesman and his nurseryman client? The salesman asked how much money the nurseryman had in a group of trees. He didn’t know, but after they talked about the cost of the trees, all the other inputs and what they were selling for, the nurseryman saw that he was losing money on every tree. Still, he said, “I’ll make it up on the volume.” Now, I do not have a great deal of business training but I think my third grader learned last week that each time you add up negative numbers the result was just a bigger negative number. “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” especially when you don’t know your costs. This industry is filled with great people – hard working and ethical, but “everybody needs a little help sometime.” Please, take advantage of your association. It is a new year; get off to a great start. Best of luck in the new season!


LooseLeaf January/February 2013

ProGreen EXPO2013 Tuesday-Friday, January 15-18, 2013 Colorado Convention Center 700 14th Street, Denver, Colo.

The ProGreen EXPO is the barometer for the green industry, where the speakers and exhibitors help attendees forecast what will be happening in the coming year. From the helpful seminars to the plentiful networking opportunities, this must-attend event sets the stage for successfully meeting the challenges and changes in the year ahead. The CNGA board and staff heard member feedback on ways to keep improving ProGreen and developed more in-depth, high-level classes geared toward an experienced audience as well as more innovative and inspiring topics. This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ProGreen schedule is full of seminars you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to miss. Photo Courtesy of Le Jardinet, Duvall, Wash.

ProGreen 2013 must-see speakers — also known as CNGA’s “heavy hitters” Marco Palma, Ph.D., is an associate professor and extension economist in the Agricultural Economics Department at Texas A&M University. Palma leads and coordinates extension educational programs and applied research in horticultural marketing by providing technical expertise and program development for industry audiences, such as producers, packers, and shippers in the wholesale and retail trade. He conducts applied research on consumer preferences and trends for horticultural products.

Sallie Burnett is the founder and president of Customer Insight Group, Inc. An expert in the field of relationship marketing, Burnett leads the way in the evolution of customer engagement and loyalty. In 2009, she was awarded Direct Marketer of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association. She is highly sought after to speak at national industry conferences and serve on panels. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Daniels College of Business.

CNGA Recommended Seminars — addressing member needs and feedback “Loyalty Marketing Workshop” by Sallie Burnett, Customer Insight Group, Inc., Lafayette, Colo. Learn how to plan, launch, overhaul, implement, and evaluate your own custom loyalty marketing program. Recognize and reward your best customers and gain a share of their wallets. In this workshop, you’ll discover skills, tools, and techniques to: dramatically reduce attrition, improve customer profitability, drive brand loyalty and differentiate you from competitors, engage high-value, profitable, loyal customers, foster brand advocacy, strengthen the brand connection, and create a sense of community.

“Got Containers? Get Customers!” by Karen Chapman, Le Jardinet, Duvall,Wash. You’ll acquire practical, easy and inexpensive ideas to drive customers to nurseries through container gardening. A PowerPoint and hands-on demonstration will show you how to achieve significant cross merchandising sales throughout the year and not just during the summer season.


“It Takes Teamwork to Make a Dream Work: Become a Legendary Leader and Take Your Organization to the Top!” by Fred Schafer, Fully Alive Performance Systems, Redding, Calif. Attaining a superior level of teamwork is within the reach of any organization when a few simple strategies and techniques are in place. To implement these strategies and techniques, however, requires a dedicated, passionate and skilled coach. Entrepreneur, award winning businessman, author, trainer and professional speaker Fred Schafer will “coach” you on how to significantly improve the teamwork, effectiveness and results in your organization in this high energy, humorous and inspirational session!

“Make Me Feel Important! – How to Move Beyond Expected Good Service to High Performance Hospitality!” by Fred Schafer, Fully Alive Performance Systems, Redding, Calif. In this side-splitting session, Schafer will share his methods for moving your people into becoming the enthusiastic “Mighty Forces of Your Message”. He has used these methods to lead several organizational turnarounds including one that reversed losses of more than $200,000 annually to increasing revenues by $1 million a year and becoming profitable. Get ready to watch your people and organization grow into a people pleasing powerhouse that enjoys greater prosperity in the future! LooseLeaf January/February 2013

CNGA “Young Guns” Member Meeting Start your Day off Right at the VIP Breakfast

CNGA wants to hear from our “Young Gun” members – those of you 40 and under! Join us for a lively discussion with our “Young Gun” Board Members on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. at the Colorado Convention Center, Room 401, where YOU can share the issues, trends, and happenings affecting you and the younger generation in the green industry. Connect with your peers and brainstorm ideas and solutions to better your business.

“Colorado Water Policy: Today and into the Future” by John Stulp, Special Water Policy Advisor to the Governor, Denver, Colo. Water is a complex issue anywhere, but takes on a whole new meaning in Colorado. Regardless of what your role is in the green industry – growing, retail, design, installation, or maintenance – increasing your water knowledge is beneficial. This session will provide understanding of the statewide water planning process, future drought responses, water conservation actions, and ways to meet the water needs of a growing population.

“Edible Spaces in Small Places” by Jodi Torpey,, Denver, Colo. Discover how you can help your customers learn to grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs in the smallest of growing spaces. This seminar taps into the grow local and foodie trends with creative options for growing fancy greens, heirloom tomatoes and exotic edibles on decks, patios and balconies, as well as conventional landscapes.

Another ProGreen event worth checking out is the VIP Industry Breakfast at the Denver Athletic Club on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 7:30 a.m. Guest speaker Brian Vogt has been a driving force in implementing innovative projects at the Denver Botanic Gardens. As CEO, Vogt led more than 30 construction projects and nearly $50 million worth of investments in the past three years, including the Mordecai Children’s Garden, the new parking complex, the Bonfils-Stanton Visitor Center and the Greenhouse Complex. Consider how you can take your enterprise to the next level as you hear Vogt’s insights in his presentation, “Choosing the Higher Ground: How to Step It Up and Reach New Levels”.

“Marketing Trends & Methodologies in Estimating Costs of Production for the Green Industry” by Marco Palma, Ph.D., Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas This presentation will take a look at the economic conditions for understanding the business cycle: why some firms are out of business, yet others seem to thrive through the recession. Palma will also highlight marketing trends and strategies for profitability in the green industry. The essentials of estimating the costs of production and pricing strategies will be reviewed.

Check Out CNGA’s New, Member-Friendly Website Be sure and stop by the Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association booth to see the changes CNGA has in store for 2013, including the launch of a new association website where members can stay better informed of industry news, access more up-to-date resources and engage with a more member-friendly site. The association will also be revealing an online, web-based version of the Green Pages Membership Directory & Buyer’s Guide. www.colorado


“Financing Energy Efficiency for Greenhouses and Highlights of the iCAST Net Zero Greenhouse Project” by Ravi Malhotra, iCAST, Lakewood, Colo.

Celebrate Industry Friends across the Street Don’t forget CNGA’s Industry Celebration during ProGreen on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 17. The Embassy Suites Denver-Downtown Convention Center will be the host location this year. Join a fun and relaxing happy hour (with drink prices in the $5 to $7 range!) from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by dinner and a brief program from 7 to 9 p.m. Feel free to attend just the happy hour, just the dinner, or both! The Industry Celebration is a great time to catch up with peers, network, support the association, and honor industry leaders – young and old.


In the Net Zero Greenhouse project funded by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, iCAST presented potential energy saving options to greenhouse owners around Colorado. In this presentation, Ravi Malhotra will discuss a turn-key process that offers energy assessments, financing, selecting and managing sub-contractors, and final reporting on energy savings. The benefits of implementing energy efficiency measures go beyond savings and offer improved production and enhanced value to greenhouse owners.

“Like” ProGreen & Win Prizes As you may have noticed over the past couple months, the ProGreen EXPO team has been ramping up their social media presence this year to make ProGreen 2013 even better! The campaign began on October 5th through ProGreen’s Facebook page with weekly prize giveaways, including Broncos tickets and gift cards to area businesses, to help grow the event’s following and spread the word about the EXPO. You still have a chance to win – “Like” ProGreen’s Facebook Page today!

LooseLeaf January/February 2013

Photo Courtesy of MojoGro Inc., Larkspur, Colo.

A Good Start Depends on the Right Soil Mix Last spring, Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery noticed much of its new crop of bare root shrubs was performing poorly with either no bud break or less vigorous growth than expected. Finding the culprit for the poor growth meant considering the many variables that go into producing plants. From weather and water to seedlings and soil, a science lab full of factors affect the health of plants. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on the way you look at it, the problem with the nursery’s plants was also seen by other growers, and was quickly identified and resolved. If not, the company could have faced decreased plant quality, dissatisfied customers and reduced profitability. www.colorado


mixed with local soils to prevent longterm consistency issues and poor plant growth. For companies without on-site testing equipment, Colorado State University operates a soil testing service in Fort Collins and supplies some garden centers and nurseries with soil sampling kits (see more information in the resources list in this article). Photo Courtesy of Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery

“We brought the issue to the attention of one of our bare root shrub suppliers, and he said he had experienced similar problems in the past due to high salinity,” said Dan Wise, Fort Collins Wholesale’s Sales Manager. “When we checked the electrical conductivity on the soil in these plants, we discovered an elevated salt content and immediately increased our irrigation to flush out the excess salts.”

“Communicate with your suppliers of premixed soil or soil ingredients regarding their chemical

In the past, the nursery had sent its soil mix to a California lab to analyze the nutrient levels, but the soil mix was modified after the lab analysis in early 2012. When addressing the problem with the shrubs, the nursery bought an electrical conductivity (EC) meter, costing about $200, to test its soilfertilizer mix in-house. It now plans to check every future load of mix and modify irrigation practices to leach out any excess salts. Little Valley Wholesale Nursery in Brighton, Colo. regularly checks its salt levels and also discovered higher than usual salinity in 2012.

“We have known for some time that the potting mix we buy has EC levels (salts) at or above the range at which we can grow a healthy and uniform crop,” said John Pinder, Little Valley’s General Manager. “We test the EC levels with a Hanna HI 9811-5 pH EC tester as we receive the soil mix. We test again after – Dan Wise, Fort Collins the first watering of a newly potted plant, and test again in Wholesale Nursery two weeks and as needed by observing the growth of the plants. To lower the EC levels we irrigate the potted plants to leach the salts from the mix. The amount of leaching required varies, so we leach and test and leach and test until salts are at a level that the plant is happy at.”

properties, and then test the

products for yourself.”

Wise suggested growers communicate with suppliers of premixed soil and soil ingredients regarding their products’ chemical properties to better understand what they are purchasing. Pinder added that sometimes it may be prudent for growers to look for new suppliers that may be able to better meet their needs. Both nurserymen agreed that no new regulation of soil ingredients and fertilizers is needed. Rather than having government agencies ensure soil nutritional quality, growers need to take responsibility for knowing what they are purchasing and using for growing plants.

Registration and Testing of Fertilizers The Colorado Department of Agriculture, Inspection and Consumer Services Division is the government office responsible for regulating fertilizers, soil conditioners and plant amendments sold in Colorado for agricultural and home use. Article 12 of Title 35 in the Colorado Revised Statutes, called the “Commercial Fertilizer, Soil Conditioner, and Plant Amendment Act”, provides requirements for companies supplying these materials in the state to ensure quality and safety standards. The Department of Agriculture can investigate suppliers suspected of misbranding products or otherwise operating below minimum standards. The department can also sample, inspect, and test commercial fertilizers, soil conditioners, plant amendments, and compost. The Colorado Fertilizer Law requires that fertilizers be effectively and properly labeled. They must have nutrient guarantees that can be verified in a lab. Packaged fertilizers must also have the name and address of the responsible party on their labels. Companies manufacturing or distributing fertilizers and soil amendments in Colorado are required to register their products with the Department of Agriculture annually. Each registration and renewal application must contain the company’s name and address, the product name, and a copy of the product label. Fertilizer applications must also include the product’s guaranteed Photo Courtesy of Humalfa, Ameria’s Organic Fertilizer Company

High salt levels are not a new problem and not just a local problem, Pinder noted. “High salts can happen for a number of reasons such as fertilizer, irrigation water, soil mix components, etc.” Both he and Wise recommend regular testing of soil mixes and additives when they are being purchased and after being


LooseLeaf January/February 2013

“Growers need to take responsibility for knowing what’s in the soil product they are purchasing.” – Dan Wise, Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery Photo Courtesy of CSU Extension Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory

analysis containing the minimum percentage of each guaranteed plant nutrient. Plant nutrient guarantees may include nitrogen (N), available phosphate (P2O5), soluble potash (K2O), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn). The sources from which the nutrients derive must also be included on the application or label. Soil conditioner active ingredients must be listed on the label. Growers can ask suppliers for proof of state registration to confirm whether they are meeting state requirements. The Department of Agriculture may be contacted for product registration information or about other fertilizer, soil conditioner, plant amendment or compost program questions. (See contact information in the resources list in this article.)

Product Testing by One Supplier Humalfa, a wholesale producer of organic fertilizer located in northeast Colorado in Iliff, is checked by the Department of Agriculture since its product is commercial compost, derived from manure from cows fed with 80 to 85 percent grain. While about 95 percent of its product goes to large farms, the company supplies a small amount to the horticultural industry and garden supply centers as well as golf courses. Farrel Crowder, a sixth-generation cattleman who bought Humalfa from his partner and co-founder last year, said registration with the state and STA (Seal of Testing Assurance) certification from the U.S. Composting Council are very important. He would be more than happy to send out his product’s five-page state analysis sheet to any customer so they can read all about the nutrients and its lack of unwanted substances. The company used to run lab analysis of the product four times a year, but with sales up to 150,000 tons in 2012, he said, “We’re running half a dozen lab tests every week. When we’re selling our product to farmers and organic food growers, they want to know what’s in it. Our tests check for salmanella and just about everything.” www.colorado

For Humalfa, high salt content has not been an issue. Crowder said the most important part of composting is ensuring a good, stable product. “Folks seem to have a lot of concern about salts. We’ve never had a salt issue, because after the composting process they are inert.”

Resources for Soil & Fertilizer Quality Issues Commercial composting and fertilizers regulations: for information about fertilizer, soil conditioner, plant amendment and compost minimum standards, registration information, and related matters, email Colorado Department of Agriculture Fertilizer Program Administrator Jonathan Handy at or call him at 303.867.9237 Colorado State University Extension Soil, Water and Plant Testing Laboratory: for information about soil lab services and a list of garden centers with sampling kits, go online to or contact Laboratory Director Jim Self at or 970.491.5061 U.S. Composting Council: for information about compost and related resources such as the field guide to compost use and recommended compost suppliers in Colorado, go online to http://composting, email or call 301.897.2715 Copies of Humalfa’s Colorado Department of Agriculture analysis sheet can be obtained by emailing Farrel Crowder at or calling him at 970.520.7715, and more information on the product is available at Additional Online Resources Available on the CNGA website: for more website links related to this topic, go online to and click on the Resources link.

Tell Us What You Know! The LooseLeaf would like to hear from our readers so we can share your ideas and comments with other CNGA members. Tell us how you have improved your soil mix recently. What were the problems you were having and what were the solutions? Please let us know by sending an email to or fax to 303.758.6805.


Photo Courtesy of Eagle Springs Organic

Good Soil Mixes Are Foundations for

Healthy Plants

Photo Courtesy of Premier Tech Horticulture

Just opened in 2010, Eagle Springs Organic is a toddler in the green industry, yet its staff whose experience goes back up to 15 years knows the importance of selecting the right growing medium. Like other professional growers, they know that soil can be a complex and critical component of plant production and may even reduce or increase labor needs. Eagle Springs uses three types of growing media for different areas and stages of production. In its propagation house, the certified organic vegetable farm in Silt on Colorado’s mountainous western slope uses Sun Gro’s organic mix #3 for germinating seeds. We picked it because it holds water and has a small fiber, said Greenhouse Manager and Head Grower Emily Schmidt. The same brand’s organic mix #1 is used for larger plants because it drains well and plants root easily in it, she said. The medium contains peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and starter nutrients, and the grower does not mix anything else with it. “In our greenhouses we grow in ground beds in a soil that we created. It contains a mix of different components including coir, compost, scoria, and native soil. One to two times a year, we add amendments which include rock phosphate, green sand, kelp meal, humates, and alfalfa meal,” Schmidt added. She noted that one reason for selecting Sun Gro was because it offered an organic option, which not all suppliers do. The grower needs to have an organic soil mix to gain organic certification. One drawback of the soil mix in the greenhouse is that it contains weed seeds due to the inclusion of native soil. The source is more inexpensive to obtain but can mean more maintenance costs to get rid of weeds. Still, Schmidt commented, “We are very happy with all of our growing media and have had very good success both with germination rates and transplanting. We feel that the plants are very strong, and we are happy with the produce that we harvest from those plants.” Arbor Valley Nursery in Brighton, Colo. is doing a growing trial with MojoGro potting soil as part of its soil mix. The wholesale grower of shrubs and trees is expanding its production of perennials and ornamental grasses grown in unheated hoop houses, and evaluating plant growth with MojoGro mixed in the soil. The double composted medium is created from cow manure, deciduous wood shavings, soil microbes, and a wetting agent that produces fungi and beneficial bacteria. It doesn’t use any peat or bark.

Arbor Valley’s Head Grower Peter Mendicino said when choosing growing media, he considers cost, local availability, drainage, water-holding capacity, C:N ratio, particle size, saturation point, SAR (sodium adsorption ratio), fertility, weight, salinity, pH, plant survivability, and ease of planting for the end user. Though his experience with the new compost-based mix is limited to two and a half months, Mendicino said plant health is around the same benchmark he hit using liquid feed and controlled release fertilizers. “In combination with a good fertility plan, MojoGro provided adequate nutrition and the plants liked it,” he explained. “From a rooting perspective they did well and plant hardiness was achieved.” Due to the product’s high density, Mendicino said it needs to be blended with other soil. He added that the blended soil mix had few weeds. South of Denver, half way to Colorado Springs in Larkspur, Dutch Heritage Gardens tested MojoGro on various crops over the past couple years and fully incorporated it into production in 2012. The greenhouse business produces bedding plants, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and combination patio planters for grocery stores, independent garden centers and other retailers to sell.

“Soil is the base for producing healthy plants, so we try to start with the best soil we can.” – Mitch McDonald, Botany Lane Greenhouse

“What we’re doing with MojoGro is commercially blending it with our peat-based media; 25 percent volume of MojoGro provides best results,” said Dutch Heritage’s Head Grower Marc Uecker. “Density is pretty high. It’s a heavier product, about 19 pounds a cubic foot. Potted plants weigh up to 10 percent more when shipping.”

Growing trials of Karl Forester grasses with different soil mixes. Photo Courtesy of Arbor Valley Nursery



The weight of the product is not a disadvantage for the grower because it has the right equipment to load, move and mix it. “We have an extra hopper not being used, so it doesn’t add any labor for us. If someone has the capacity in their soil mixing lines, it’s easy,” he noted. His company hasn’t seen any weeds come out of the product, which could be due to combining it with a weedless mixing medium and the product’s double composting that reaches temperatures where weed seeds can’t survive. “What we saw is plants rooted faster. We had healthier, stronger roots. We saw things get bigger and leaf out faster because the moisture was more constant, so plants didn’t run into moisture stress issue and wilting or die. When you speed up plant growth, you can lose structure. Stems can stretch or get floppy and tip over, but we did not see that,” Uecker said. The grower credits the natural soil nutrients and fungi found in the compost product for its success with plant growth. “If you can add at least 10 percent of a very good compost in your media, you will increase the biodiversity and create an environment for organisms that help rooting and growth. Peat is basically a sterile medium; there’s not a lot there. It works well for what it does, but there’s no biodiversity,” he said. Though a new product on the market, MojoGro has been developed over the past seven years and Uecker said its at a point where he is confident he can get a reliable, consistent supply for commercial production.


Botany Lane Greenhouse, a wholesale grower with facilities in Denver and to the north in Lafayette, Colo., used to create its own soil mix but switched to buying PRO-MIX. The product is from Premier Tech Horticulture, an 85-year-old producer and distributor of naturally nutrient-charged, peat moss-based growing media and soil amendments. Botany Lane’s Owner Mitch McDonald said Premier Tech Horticulture understands growers’ needs and provides mixes according to those needs, instead of trying to make one size fit all. “The mix that we have been using is peat moss, composted bark and perlite. The combination of these ingredients creates the right environment for us to produce high quality plants,” he said. The grower uses PRO-MIX®, a ready-made growing medium, as-is without mixing it with other soils. It is used “almost everywhere” at the greenhouses from its packs to large pots of annuals, perennials, herbs, and young plants. “If you mix your own, you can probably do it less expensively, but you have less consistency. For me, removing the variables of inconsistency is important so that the end result is we want to have the best quality plants we can possibly have,” McDonald said. “Our supplier makes sure the pH, salts and porosity of Pro-Mix® are correct, so I don’t have to worry about those things. Most growers cut corners and don’t have the technical people and knowledge to test, especially on a consistent basis,” he added. “It depends on what you can afford to do. Some

LooseLeaf January/February 2013

people think they can produce a soil mix cheaper and better using 100 percent mix from a supplier. But, labor fluctuates with demand and having a more labor-intensive process makes managing labor more difficult.” Botany Lane used to steam its soil mix to sterilize soil and avoid weeds. Using 100 percent of a professionally produced mix, McDonald expects to have no weeds and has been satisfied. John Frey of Taller LLC in Denver, who is a Premier Tech Horticulture Sales Rep, said the company has policies and procedures that its harvesters in Canada’s bogs are required to follow, and the company asks growers to unwrap soil paletts and hose off soil bags before bringing them into greenhouses to avoid the transportation of weed seeds from outside. Besides consistency, McDonald said a good soil should have a good mixture of porosity to allow good water drainage for optimal root growth and water retention so it doesn’t have to be watered constantly. He also looks for a soil mix that does not compact due to watering, making the pot look like it was not filled completely. “Growing a good plant is based on managing four different components: the soil, the plant, the water, and the sunlight. It requires a grower to manage those items. Soil is the base, so we try to start with the best soil we can,” he said.

Want to know more about soil? Attend ProGreen to hear nationally known soil scientist Bryant Scharenbroch, Ph.D. of the Morton Arboretum discuss organic soil amendments and soil quality in urban settings on Thursday, Jan. 17. Don’t miss his two sessions, “What’s New in Organic Soil Amendments for Urban Trees?” and “How Do We Assess and Monitor Urban Soil Quality?” and qualify for ISA CEUs. More information at

Tell Us What You Know! The LooseLeaf would like to hear from our readers so we can share your ideas and comments with other CNGA members. How do you determine what type of media to use for potting mix? Do you buy premixed media, or do you blend your own? Why?” Please let us know by sending an email to or fax to 303.758.6805.


Growers of Quality Specimen Conifers Selected Seed Sources of Pine, Fir & Spruce

877--875--8733 1199 Bear Creek Road Princeton, ID 83857

Fax: 208--875--0731 E--Mail: Web: www.colorado



Announcing Plant Select 2013 ®

Plant Select® is pleased to announce five new plants to be promoted in 2013 along with three recommendations in the new Plant Select® Petites program.

By James E. Klett, Professor and Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist, Colorado State University

Narbonne Blue Flax (Linum narbonense) is a long-lived Mediterranean form of blue flax. It blooms for months with deep sky blue flowers that are larger and more flaring. The nearly evergreen foliage makes it great for borders and wildflower gardens. It grows 15 to 18 inches in height and width and prefers full sun to partial shade in sandy to loam soils. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8.


Tennessee Purple Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) is a refreshing addition to summer borders. Beautiful purple-pink flowers bloom throughout the summer. It grows 18 to 24 inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide. This coneflower prefers full sun to partial shade and moderate to dry conditions in a sandy to clay loam soil. It is hardy to USDA zones 5 to 6.

on these plants

Curly Leaf Sea Kale (Crambe maritima) is a perennial potherb that forms clumps of wavy,

Find more

waxy blue foliage all summer long. In spring, clusters of white flowers grace the garden. It offers larger-scale, summer-long interest for dry gardens. It can grow to 24 inches wide and high in full sun in a moderate to dry sandy to clay loam soil. It is hardy to USDA zones 4 to 8. Turquoise Tails Blue Sedum (Sedum sediforme) is a compact Mediterranean native with turquoise-blue foliage and creamy-yellow flowers that rise above the mounds in midsummer. It grows 4 to 6 inches in height and 8 to 12 inches in width and prefers full sun and dry to xeric sandy, loam or clay soil. It is hardy to USDA zones 5 to 10. Chieftain Manzanita (Arctostaphylos x coloradoensis ‘Chieftain’) is a more vigorous manzanita than previous PlantSelect® selections. The oval leaves are dark green and persist into the winter. White flowers tinged with pink appear in late spring followed by red berries in early fall. The bark becomes exfoliating and cinnamon-red when it matures. It grows 18 to 36 inches tall and 5 to 8 feet wide. It will grow

and Plant Select® at www.plant

Crambe maritima


LooseLeaf January/February 2013

in full sun to partial shade but needs a well-drained loam or sandy soil and is xeric once established. It is hardy to USDA zones 5 to 8. Plant Select® Petites are well adapted, unusual plants of smaller stature that have not yet been readily available or known to gardeners. These plants are best suited for use in troughs, permanent containers and rock gardens. Three petite plants are recommended for 2013. Oxslip Primrose (Primula elatior) is more persistent and tolerates heat and drought better than its kin. Yellow flowers rise above pale green rosettes in spring. It grows 10 to 15 inches in height and width and prefers partial shade and a moderate to dry soil. It is hardy to USDA zones 4 to 8. Sandia Coralbells (Heuchera pulchella) is a miniature version of coralbells with a tiny evergreen tussock of ruffled leaves. The petite rose-pink bells emerge in late spring. It grows 3 to 8 inches tall and 6 to 10 inches wide. It prefers full sun to partial shade and tolerates dry shade in a loam or sandy soil. It is hardy to USDA zones 4 to 7.

Heuchera pulchella

Scott’s Clematis (Clematis scottii) forms a mound of blue-green foliage topped in late spring with large, blue flowers. Golden seed heads follow suit. It grows 8 to 15 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide and prefers full sun and a moderate to dry soil. It is hardy to USDA zones 4 to 7. Sedum sediforme




Know your Margin! If you’re like many business owners, you don’t find monitoring the numbers on your books very exciting. You would rather be digging in the dirt and planting something. It’s more satisfying to walk a field of plants or trees than to sit in the office and work on knowing which critical numbers affect business performance.

By Merle T. Northrop, CBI Flatirons Ventures Inc.

Welcome to Financial Affairs, a new column appearing in the LooseLeaf, where a panel of financial consultants provides tips and ideas with specific applications to the

bare-root plant stock to be grown to a marketable size in the spring. If the product doesn’t sell in the spring, two things likely happen, the holding costs increase and the obtainable sales price decreases. This table illustrates the escalating costs accruing during a season. This table suggests the longer a growing product is kept, the lower the margin, due to continuing maintenance costs to hold the product. And at the end of the day, the product may well be worth nothing! The question for the business owner is: Would it have been better to lower the price early in the season, planning to sell more products at a lower margin, or keep holding to the high price and maybe ending up throwing product in the compost pile?

However, being aware of how your business operation is measuring up by the numbers is essential. Among all the financial figures that you should be tracking regularly, the one number you must know, in my opinion, is your margin. Because your margin is where your business makes a profit, you need to pay attention to it so you can pay the rent and pay yourself a salary. Knowing your margins and keeping them within acceptable ranges are critical to your company’s success. The difference between the price at which you sell your product or service is what you should be focusing on. Your margin should include the incremental costs to obtain, produce and offer the product or service and can include labor, shipping, supplies and materials. To calculate your margin, take the true selling price of the item and subtract all the costs of getting it into a salable condition to determine the difference. Take that difference and divide it by the actual sales price to get your margin percentage.

In the retail environment, computing your margin is pretty simple. Calculate a few variables and you can determine the margin. There is a simplified method for retail to get a sales price called “Keystone Pricing” which means to simply double the cost of the product. This does not apply appropriately in growing or manufacturing situations! However, the concept is still the same whether applied to retail, manufacturing or growing. All industries have standard references for good margins, find out your industry margin ranges and then develop your own margins by setting your prices with a profitable difference from your costs. Remember: without a margin, you might not get paid!

Determining margin as a grower or manufacturer is more difficult than for a retailer. As a grower, it is preferable to build up to the sales price. Start with the product’s cost and maintenance costs to determine cost of goods, then apply a desired “margin devisor” to determine suggested sales price. As an example, a greenhouse buys

Based in Boulder, Colo., Merle T. Northrop, CBI, is a CNGA member specializing in business advisory for companies in the green industry. He can be reached at 303.440.6141 or

businesses of CNGA members. Check























expert advice on






improving your

Labor to maintain





Product Cost





Desired Gross Profit













out this column in each issue to find

bottom line.



MARGIN Asking Price


LooseLeaf January/February 2013


Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse From Pinnacol Assurance

Chronic pain is a condition that affects many people — including people injured on the job. Often known by their brand names such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Opana, opioids have become a common treatment option for chronic pain conditions. In the short term, opioids can ease the symptoms of acute pain, but it has become clear by the growing rates of overdose and addiction that the increase in their use can become dangerous — sometimes even deadly.

is working to develop training for all Colorado physicians. The training will focus on state and federal guidelines for safe prescribing practices and treatment strategies to improve physicians’ understanding of the opioid abuse epidemic in terms of the health risks and the costs associated with these drugs. The program was introduced at Pinnacol’s SelectNet conference on Sept. 28, 2012, and became available to all Colorado physicians in October.

Consider these alarming statistics: Unintentional drug-related deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the U.S. The rate of opioid prescribing has increased by 600 percent over the last 10 years and a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the nation’s emergency rooms are seeing more overdoses of OxyContin and Vicodin than heroin and cocaine combined. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that opioid abuse was the second most common reason for admission to substance abuse treatment programs, exceeded only by alcohol abuse. In addition to the tremendous toll opioid abuse has taken on the health and well-being of many people, the sharp increase in the rate of opioid use and addiction has also been a significant driver in the rising cost of medical claims.

Bonnie-Lyn Cahoon, Pinnacol’s Director of Medical Operations, describes Pinnacol’s efforts in the area of opioid abuse prevention this way: “It comes down to the safety of injured workers. We have an obligation to injured workers and to our policyholders to do what we can to help mitigate this huge problem.”

Like other workers’ compensation carriers, Pinnacol has been monitoring the opioid epidemic. Recently, Pinnacol made a decision to take a more proactive role in the fight to end opioid abuse. First, the company has set up an internal Opioid Physician Advisor program that focuses on supporting physicians in their decision-making when it comes to prescribing opioids. The goal of this program is to ensure that injured workers receive reasonable, necessary and related medical treatment to cure and relieve the effects of their injuries. The program is also designed to assist treating physicians with identifying potential problems that may arise when prescribing opioids.


Second, Pinnacol has made a two-year gift commitment of nearly $133,000 to the Colorado School of Public Health to help find new ways to fight the opioid epidemic. Together with an advisory panel of nationally recognized leaders in the field of safe opioid prescribing, Pinnacol www.colorado

Pinnacol’s mission has always been to protect its policyholders and their employees. By taking a leading role in educating physicians about the potential dangers of opioid abuse, the company is honoring this important commitment. If you have any questions about Pinnacol’s efforts to fight opioid abuse, please contact your Pinnacol marketing representative.

The sharp increase in the rate of opioid use and addiction has been a significant driver in the rising cost of medical claims.

Increase your


Advertise in the LooseLeaf and get your company and product information in front of your target audience. For information on advertising opportunities, contact*

Bill Spilman at 1.877.878.3260 or *Be sure to ask Bill about upcoming magazine themes and article topics, and how you can coordinate your ad timing to better reach prospective customers.



Eagle Springs Organic Expands Local Food Options What is the story behind the founding of Eagle Springs Organic?

Eagle Springs Organic 5454 County Rd 346 Silt, Colo. 81652 Tel: 970.876.2887 Fax: 970.876.1979 emily@eaglesprings www.eaglesprings

Eagle Springs Organic was started by Ken Sack, a former pharmacist who fell in love with the organic food movement. Ken wanted to provide healthy organic food for his family and had the idea to start his own farm. He found land on Colorado’s western slope and began creating a farm where he could produce nutritious, beautiful organic produce. Since starting Eagle Springs Organic three years ago, Ken has learned a tremendous amount about organic farming and livestock production, and the business has continued to grow.

Who are some of the other key employees? The greenhouse manager is Emily Schmidt, a Colorado State University graduate with more than 15 years of experience as a grower. She has grown bedding plants, cut flowers, trees and

shrubs, and most recently spent six years growing Colorado native plants before transitioning to organic produce. Eagle Springs has a group of really great growers. Sheila Ortega, who does all of the propagation, has 10 years of experience including growing organic herbs and native plants. Olga Sostenes, who does all of the tomato production, has been growing greenhouse tomatoes for more than 15 years. Heriberto Sostenes is the vegetable greenhouse grower, and does pest and disease management. He has five years of experience as a grower. In the packing room, Tessa Walls makes sure all produce gets washed and packaged for delivery to customers.

Please describe your product line. Eagle Springs Organic specializes in greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and greens. The company raises tilapia in six indoor tanks that are continuously circulating water to beds of greens that sit above the tanks. The company just added mushroom production. Eagle Springs also raises

Photos Courtesy of Eagle Springs Organic


LooseLeaf January/February 2013

three types of sheep, cattle, pigs, and goats on an 800-acre ranch on property adjoining the growing operation. In the coming months, it will begin operating a USDA poultry processing plant and slaughterhouse.

Why did you become a CNGA member? We are proud to be an agricultural and greenhouse business in Colorado and CNGA is a great resource for us.

“We are proud to be an agricultural and greenhouse

How do you benefit from participation in ProGreen?

business in

This will be the first year that we attend ProGreen. We would like to send our managers and growers. The best part of attending ProGreen is the seminars as well as getting the opportunity to network with other businesses.

Colorado.” – Ken Sack, CEO

What do you do to get a good start each year? “I think the most important thing we do to start the year off right is planning out the new year: what crops we are growing and how much of them. We like to have a vision for how the year will be and what we are working towards. We are very excited for the coming year because we are going to be starting production on some new crops like microgreens and mushrooms,” said CEO Ken Sack.



Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 959 S. Kipling Pky, #200 Lakewood, CO 80226

Introducing the latest member benefits from CNGA Celebrating Colorado Businesses Grown’ n Colorado is an iconic consumer friendly brand that makes identifying products grown or created in Colorado a cinch. Colorado consumers have spoken and they’re eager to support local businesses and goods. Help your business connect with your customers in a way that really matters to them. Inspired Landscapes Plant Something is a great way to inspire home gardeners to get into the yard and add beauty, value and even improve the health of their community. Plant Something is a highly supported national campaign available only through CNGA to our members.

To learn more about how to participate in both Grown’ n Colorado and Plant Something, visit

LooseLeaf Delivery Dates Changing Each year, CNGA gathers members on a Communications Committee to plan the topics, resources and updates for the next year’s magazines. For 2013, the committee decided the LooseLeaf could better meet members’ needs by being delivered on a new schedule, which will begin with the April-May issue. Due to the new schedule, the next LooseLeaf after this January-February will be delivered in late March. Starting with that issue, the bimonthly circulation of the magazine will move to April-May, June-July, August-September, Octoberst Septtember b October ctob t ber November, and December 2013-January 2014. Committee members agreed the new magazine delivery schedule will provide members ers with better timed information and resources to help with planning and being proactive as the industry and economy change.


LooseLeaf January/February 2013


Start the Year off Right, ProGreen Expo 2013, A Good Start Depends on the Right Soil Mix, Soil Mixes - the Foundation for Healthy Plants, Me...