Zach loves plants. “Plants are my passion, but what I like most are the people I meet and relationships you build over the years in this business. We have a diverse workforce and I enjoy working with all these different people with a common interest of being outside and growing plants. And when those fields are in bloom, it’s hard to deny how cool of an industry we’re in,” comments Zach.
Bailey Greenhouse and Nursery has locations throughout Minnesota, plus Oregon and Illinois. The main areas of focus are greenhouses, bare root fields, ornamental shrubs and container-grown plants. Zach explains, “We have 2,000 acres of bare root fields south of Hastings. One of the things that interested us in EarthScout is that we don’t have a lot of data for the mineral soils in our bare root fields. It’s important we get a better idea of what’s going on in the soil because the bare root fields are where we grow our most profitable plants.”
Last winter, one of their greenhouses had some significant losses in roses. Zach is now using EarthScout to monitor soil moisture and especially electro-conductivity (EC). “We want the roses to shut down when they’re covered and keeping an eye on EC can help us determine that. It’s amazing to see the EC in real time easily on your phone instead of going through the hassle of doing tests. Having consistent measurement is a big thing for us,” said Zach.
They also have two EarthScout units in containers and one for the potted trees. Plus, two in their bare root field. Zach has people trained in each area to work with the EarthScout units. “Having stand-alone units you can move quickly is great. We can move them and set them up in a matter of minutes. I like having all that technology in one small package,” remarks Zach.
The nursery ships plants mainly to mid-western and eastern markets, but their Endless Summer hydrangeas with beautiful blue blooms and lush foliage are in demand around the world. The EarthScout units are helping build data that can bring more consistency to production. Hydrangeas require a lot of attention, keeping them the proper size and making sure the pH stays low to get the right color bloom is critical. Zach points out, “If you don’t do anything, they stay pink, and we want them to be at least dark-purple or blue.”
Zach is excited about next year, “We’re looking forward to getting more creative where we set them up next year. Now that we’re building data, we can work with more predictive modeling. We’re dialed-in on insects already and hope to do some disease modeling. Of course, profitability is why we’re in business, and with EarthScout, we can grow more profitably, but also make sure the plants people receive from us stay healthy and thrive.”