For the last several days, Oregon has been experiencing a barrage of wind and rain. For the nursery grower, heavy springtime rain often is considered a blessing. More moisture from the sky means reduced irrigation costs and more gorgeous-looking plants.
For the retail garden center, a rainy spring is normally considered a curse. When the sun isn’t out, only the more dedicated consumers will brave the wind and rain to go plant shopping. However, the rain actually may be bad for growers, too. I was on the phone today with Bob Maudlin, a plant broker with Eason Horticultural Resources Inc. in Kentucky who sources West Coast material mostly on behalf of midwestern buyers (roughly St. Louis to Pittsburgh). We started with small talk about the weather and he mentioned something I hadn’t considered before – that wetter plants and wetter soil weigh more in the truck. As a result, a single truck may accommodate only 80 percent of the normal capacity if the plants with soil or medium are saturated with water, particularly in the case of B&B material.
To illustrate the point, Maudlin mentioned that a shipper he knows weighed a truckload of wet plants at their West Coast origin, then weighed them again at their East Coast destination (with a full tank of gas both times the truck was weighed). With none of the plants removed, the load weighed 1,500 pounds less at the destination point. The weight difference was entirely due to water loss and evaporation due to the journey. When you can ship 20 percent fewer plants in a load for the same shipping dollar, then you know the rainfall is costing you money, at least when it comes to the shipping. (Photo by Lisa Norwood.)