plant care

Tips and Tricks for Growing Cleaner Plants

Creating a phytosanitary plan doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor. There are many simple steps you can take to grow cleaner plants. Saunders Brothers has worked with many researchers and Extension agents to establish protocol to help prevent the introduction and spread of Boxwood Blight at their nurseries. Although this plan was designed with Boxwood Blight in mind, these practices will help growers produce cleaner, more successful plants.

Foot mats/baths:

Foot baths are located at every walkway leading to the Saunders Brothers office.

Foot baths are located at every walkway leading to the Saunders Brothers office.

One of the first and easiest steps to take is the inclusion of foot mats/baths for sterilizing shoes of anyone entering a growing area. These can be placed in greenhouses, worker common areas, and near offices. Having foot baths as a first line of defense minimizes the introduction of new pathogens to your growing area. Saunders Brothers uses foot mats at the entrance to all of their office and worker areas. Saunders Brothers uses Zerotol® 2.0, but a 10% bleach solution is also effective.

Disposable pant/boot covers:

Crews in the field nursery wear disposable suits when they are working on larger plants.

Crews in the field nursery wear disposable suits when they are working on larger plants.

Crews wear rubber boots that can be easily cleaned and disposable pants when moving between growing areas.

Crews wear rubber boots that can be easily cleaned and disposable pants when moving between growing areas.

An example of plastic pant and boot covers in the field.

An example of plastic pant and boot covers in the field.

Disposable pants and boots serve as a physical barrier between one’s clothing and the plants they are working in. If there are any spores or pests on the clothing, it is less likely they will migrate to the plants. Saunders Brothers employees wear disposable, plastic pant and boot covers while working in boxwood houses. Boxwood Blight spores can stick to tools and clothing moving from location to location, so instead of worrying about having fresh clothes, disposable pant/boot covers are the perfect solution.

This is also a great tool for landscapers that may visit many sites in a day. Instead of having to change or sterilize clothing, wearing disposable pant and boot covers greatly reduces disease or pest movement from site to site.

Sterilizing tools/equipment:

Pruning crews as Saunders clean their tools with alcohol between each house.

Pruning crews as Saunders clean their tools with alcohol between each house.

Even large equipment like digging machines are cleaned with sterilant between fields.

Even large equipment like digging machines are cleaned with sterilant between fields.

Sterilizing tools and equipment is an easy, practical step to take towards growing cleaner plants. It is a good practice to carry around a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol. Research shows that a 50% isopropyl alcohol solution is effective at killing most plant diseases. Alcohol spray can be used to clean any handheld tools such as pruners, shovels, or trimmers. Other options of sterilants are a 10% bleach solution or Lysol® spray. Many researchers also recommend hydrogen dioxide products such as Zerotol® 2.0. Make sure to always check labels before you use any products. Most of these products are very user-friendly and are labeled to clean tools, equipment, or even surfaces.

Dragging a hose through a bed of infected plants and then moving it through a healthy bed could spread diseases. Taking an extra minute to spray the hose down with a sterilant could avoid a bigger cleanup in the future.

Cleaning Stations/Sectioned growing areas:

Cleaning stations in the field nursery.

Cleaning stations in the field nursery.

Cleaning station in the container nursery.

Cleaning station in the container nursery.

This tip takes a bit more planning than some of the other suggestions, but might have the biggest pay off if you ever run into a disease or pest problem. Saunders Brothers has set up both their field and container nurseries in sections. In the container nursery, boxwood are grown in specific locations separated by roadways. In the field nursery, areas are sectioned based on geography. Each section has a cleaning station that all employees must visit at they enter and exit. Cleaning stations are stocked with:

  • Disposable pant/boot covers

  • Trashcan

  • Boot bath and brush

  • 70% Isopropyl alcohol spray/liquid hand sanitizer.

  • High pressure water hose (field)

Crews using a cleaning station to rinse off their shoes and equipment.

Crews using a cleaning station to rinse off their shoes and equipment.

Upon entering and exiting the area each employee must:

Entering:

  • wear rubber boots, easily washed boots, or disposable boot covers

  • step in boot bath/wash boots

  • put on disposable pant covers

Exiting:

  • remove and trash disposable pant covers or spray pants

  • step in boot bath/wash boots

  • wash hands/ use hand sanitizer

  • rinse off tools, then spray with alcohol

This is an example of the sectioned boxwood production areas are at the containers nursery at Saunders Brothers.

This is an example of the sectioned boxwood production areas are at the containers nursery at Saunders Brothers.

The perks of setting up these sectioned areas is that in the event of an infection, you can quarantine one area, and continue production from the other locations. Consequently, each time a person or a crew enters a new area, they are cleaning off any potential pests or diseases.

Establishing cleaner growing protocol doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Taking some steps early on in production can help set you and your plants up for success while combating common pests and diseases. Consider these tips and find what works for you.