Cultural practices can vary from region to region, nursery to nursery and crop to crop. Nevertheless, what works for Mortellaro’s Nursery in Schertz, Texas, just may help you find success, too.

Dramm Portable PulsFOG

This unit was purchased so that we could more easily treat for insect and diseases during the winter when our houses were covered. It allows our spray applicator to treat a single house and move on to the next house in about 5 minutes. The unit has the ability to treat up to 100,000 square feet in 15 minutes. For the purpose of safety, we have cut a hole in opposite ends of the house and have a drop-down flap. The applicator opens the flap and inserts the fogger through the hole.

One half of the desired chemical is applied, and then the applicator goes to the other end of the house and repeats the process. The system is able to distribute the chemical up to 100 feet away, but we prefer to ensure heavy uniform coverage. We employ the K10 model.

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Brady Label Maker

We’ve found this tool to be perfect for outdoor labels on electrical panels, irrigation valves, emergency signs and equipment models or ID numbers. We have started making our own bilingual signs using the label machine and graphic signs that are only available in English. The machine is available from Grainger.

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The ideas and equipment we employ at Mortellaro’s Nursery are useful for our operation and should be useful for most other operations. Some of the equipment may need modification for use by other nurseries in order to fit within their cultural practices. As with all ideas that were used to create the equipment and methods in use at our operation, the main purpose of this is to stimulate thought on how our ideas can be applied to other operations.

Mortellaro’s is a wholesale grower of a wide variety of shrubs, trees, groundcovers, natives and seasonal color. We’ve been in business since 1956.

Vermeer S600TX

We have been using the Vermeer for a couple of years now and have purchased our second unit.

The primary purpose of the unit was to load 30-gallon and larger material into our trucks for delivery. Once the equipment was on site, we found many other uses for it. It is only able to load 45-gallon and smaller material into the back of a truck or trailer due to tipping point weights, but it is very useful in tight spaces when we are busy. It became very useful spacing large trees in the field since it needs less space to maneuver. We use it to pull and load 30-gallon and 45-gallon material out of the blocks and place on trailers for transport or loading into customers vehicles. The women who move pallets around prefer to use the Vermeer for the smaller size and complete visibility rather than be belted within a skid steer loader. It comes in many options, but we chose a narrow track and Kubota diesel engine.

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Upright Scissors Lift SL30

We purchased a used speed level lift about six years ago for the sole purpose of installing plastic on greenhouses. We have found numerous uses for the lift since then. It has been used to repair shade arbors, trim trees for clearance, repair semi trailers, install conduit and lights in buildings, and so on. This brand and style had the largest working deck, very stable off road capability, dual fuel capability for indoor use, and was strictly mechanical and hydraulic controlled rather than electronic or computer controlled. Maintenance and repair is similar to a skid steer, since the motor controls a hydraulic pump for all motion and lift. The company name has been changed to Snorkle; the type of lift to purchase for off-road use is a speed level lift.

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Vermeer Chipper BC606

In looking for a chipper, our main goal was to not have another engine to maintain. Our first chipper was a Befco, but it was not sufficient for our needs since it only went up to 10 cm (4-inch) diameter. We tried a Vermeer and after less than an hour, we purchased the unit. It handles up to 15 cm (6-inch) diameter trunks and is very easy to service. We mulch all tree limbs and large brush. The ground-up wood is used as mulch on our 30-gallon and larger containers.

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Club Car Carryall 272

We currently own about 15 Club Cars and have been very pleased with them. They all have aluminum frames, Ingersoll Rand gas engines, and either a flat bed or a bed with sides and a drop tailgate. We use the carts to pull small orders and place on the cart; we pull trailers for larger orders, transport of managers, employees and customers around the nursery.

The lifespan of the equipment is very good. The engines are only rated for 1,000 hours, but with a 100-hour maintenance cycle, we have stretched all the engines to 5,000 hours or more. The only repetitive repairs we have seen are brakes adjustments and some repairs about every 1,000 hours; also, most of the front suspensions at about 2,500 hours. These carts have about the same reliability as our Kubota tractors.

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Tree Boss

We purchased the Tree Boss and used it for several years. As we switched over to wooden and plastic tree boxes, the Tree Boss became more of a hindrance than a useful tool. We decided to combine the best features of the Tree Boss with a set of forks that worked well on boxes. The most difficult part was designing a way to lock the boxes onto the forks to be tilted. This problem was solved by custom designing a nylon strap with multiple loops for different size boxes. The forks are slid under the box and the strap is placed around the box. The hydraulic ram is then used to push the box against the strap and hold it in place. Using the “Super Forks,” we are able to lean trees on trailers as well as the Tree Boss did with pots and B&B.

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My Time Force Timeclock

We have three time clocks in use that are polled by modem. All of the time clocks are polled, and the data is imported directly into our payroll program. Timeforce is one of the few companies we found that would modify its software to match the parameters of the payroll program in use at no extra charge. Timeforce is the second company we have used in 12 years. When we replaced clocks and software about three years ago, we switched from a barcode badge that needed to be swiped to a magnetic badge that is swiped across the front of the clock.

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Bubco Sprayers

We use the Bubco tractor-mounted sprayers for our pot-in-pot operation. We have been using the equipment for approximately six years and have been more than satisfied with the quality of the equipment.

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On a nursery operation, there’s always a need to adapt – and equipment is no exception. At Mortellaro’s, we’ve found some creative ways to use or alter standard equipment to suit our needs. A few of these include the following.

Plumbing trailer

This was a used Air Force trailer for jet prep from which we removed all the hose reels, then labeled each compartment for different size fittings. We have Akro bins in each compartment to hold the different types of fittings and parts. There are two slide-out drawers that we use for a gas-powered water pump and toolbox.

Handy clean-up

No need to purchase specialized containers for everything: This is a pet food dispenser. We use it for kitty litter/floor dry absorbent for oil changes and chemical spills. It can also be used to hold nails in a B&B operation.

Storage for filters

To organize and store equipment filters, we use Akro bins from Grainger. Each bin has equipment identification and filter numbers, and the mechanic can grab the bin and carry the parts to the equipment he is maintaining. This system also makes reordering easy.

Cargo container storage

We have purchased used containers and put a roof over them; we then put lockable gates on each side for equipment storage. We have another with a side door installed into the unit for access and made this our chemical storage. The tractor drives under the roof for filling and mixing.

The equipment and ideas that work at one nursery, may not necessarily work at another nursery. Basic equipment will work from company to company, but highly modified or customized equipment may not. Each nursery has its own unique style of operation and some equipment may not fit that culture. I am not a proponent of changing something that works, but sometimes we have found it best to step back and take a serious look at our operations that we feel could use improvement. Any new equipment or new methods of operation may be useful – but if only they can be applied profitably.

Information in this article was presented at the 2010 meeting of the IPPS Southern Region at Raleigh, N.C.

James C. Harden Jr. is vice president of sales for Mortellaro’s Nursery Inc. in Schertz, Texas. He can be reached at