Conservation at Carlton
The practice of stewardship and sustainability are woven into the culture at Carlton Plants.
At Carlton, we've been undercutting for over 25 years. Throughout that time, our program has been expanded and refined. Numerous pieces of equipment have been developed to undercut trees and shrubs. Careful observations and evaluations have shown us how timing, blade depth and rootstocks all interact.
Undercutting benefits coarse rooted plants by stimulating a more compact, fibrous root system. Branching is also reduced and brings the head of the tree or shrub into proportion with the root system.
Undercutting also results in reduced freight costs, less dormant pruning, greater livability and stronger growth the first season. Many of our customers also find that the undercut root system conforms better to their containerized potting program.
Most of our undercut trees are listed separately in the catalog by variety. For more information or a complete list, just ask your sales representative. If you're interested in seeing the undercut vs. non-undercut trees growing in our fields, we would be happy to give you a tour the next time you visit.
Our cold storage warehouse facility totals five acres of refrigerated storage space. Our stock is counted and racked into cold storage as soon as it is graded. Certain varieties must be handled with extra care, such as packing roots with damp shredded paper to hold moisture.
Other varieties require a much dryer environment and are racked where they will get plenty of air circulation, and receive little to no hand watering. Some specialty ornamentals are very fragile and need to be handled with extreme care to avoid breakage. Every two weeks the coolers are monitored and treated to prevent molds or diseases. Temperatures are maintained at 36° and humidity is kept at 98%. This sophisticated humidification and cooling system makes us independent of weather changes in our area and allows our customers to receive their plant material when they are ready, even if that means the last week of May.
In 1987, we began starch testing our plants before harvesting to determine the amount of sugar-starch content in the root systems' cambium layers. By doing this, we can see whether or not a particular variety is dormant enough to be lifted. Visual defoliation has been the standard industry method for determining dormancy. However, in many cultivars visual defoliation can be deceiving and though they appear dormant, they may not be ready to dig. Harvesting too early can damage the plants or reduce transplant success. At Carlton, starch testing has become an integral part of our evaluation program to determine proper harvest time. To test, we remove a root cross section, apply iodiine solution, and observe the stained section under a microscope. Here, we can view the stored carbohydrates collected in the phloem, phloem rays and pith, and thus determine proper dormancy. Over the years, our customers have seen increased performance as a direct result of our starch testing. We know it makes a difference.