CAN: Business is blooming at local garden centers

The May long weekend is the traditional beginning of the garden season. Residents of this area are fortunate to shop for plant material locally and to buy directly from several local growers. Family-owned growers/retailers include Steyn’s Garden Centre on Yonge Street south of Bradford, Bradford Greenhouses two locations (Bradford and Barrie), Ferragine Greenhouses on Simcoe Street, and Lakeview Gardens in Lefroy. 

The garden center specializes in hanging baskets, potted flowers, herbs, and annuals and vegetables. They do not carry trees, shrubs, rose bushes, or vines primarily because they don’t have space. Perennials are brought in. 

In the 28,000 square feet of greenhouse operation, they grow about 5,000 hanging baskets, 45,000 in pots, and 10,000 flats of vegetables and annuals, with 48 plants per flat. Because it’s been such an early busy season, Rob said, they would normally have a quarter more crop than they do now. 

Lakeview Gardens began as a wholesale company. It continues to be a wholesaler but is moving toward growing its retail business. To that end, it has done improvements in the past five years including adding a greenhouse and a shade cover. 

Life begins in the oldest greenhouse on the property, built in the 1800s. Plants are moved elsewhere in the five-greenhouse facility as they reach different growth stages. Everything is grown in soil, which benefits the taste and size compared to hydroponics. Rob added, “We are really big on biological control. We are introducing bugs onto our plants to take care of pests. Every hanging basket has got a little sachet in it so consumers don’t have to worry about white-flies, spider mites, or aphids.” 

Pests can build resistance to chemicals. Every week, new bugs are introduced to the plants, and bees are released in the greenhouse to pollinate. “We have been doing this for many years, and it has actually increased production.”

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