Nurseries respond to demand for pesticide-free planting

By Avery Yale Kamila

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While national chain hardware stores are working to phase out certain classes of pesticides from their potted perennials and annuals, two Maine companies are moving more swiftly to supply pollinator-friendly plants.

In York, Eldredge Lumber & Hardware is building a second greenhouse in hopes of meeting more of the demand for pesticide-free flower, herb and vegetable seedlings. The hardware store introduced its own pollinator-friendly, pesticide-free plants last season, but didn’t have enough for all the customers who wanted to purchase such plants.

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response,” said John Bochert, the lawn and garden specialist at the company’s York store.

In 2013, Eldredge Lumber & Hardware began swapping out synthetic lawn pesticides and fertilizers for organic products in its lawn care department. As a result, sales in the department have risen 30 percent.

According to Christine Viscone, one of the owners at Highland Avenue Greenhouse in Scarborough, the nursery uses pesticide-free potting soil and relies on biological controls such as predatory insects and organic treatments to keep harmful insect infestations at bay. It’s a move the company took after Viscone’s children were born and an approach to growing that she calls “safer for everyone.”

Viscone notes that the nursery does buy some plants from conventional growers. Likewise, Bochert said the plants grown by Eldredge are clearly marked, but may share shelf space with plants grown in commercial nurseries that use conventional techniques.

Both Bochert and Viscone say they’ve been lobbying the larger conventional nursery suppliers to offer pesticide-free plants to meet customer demand.

“I’m willing to give customers numbers for the suppliers we use,” Bochert said, adding that gardeners should be pressuring conventional nurseries to move away from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Where to find pesticide-free annuals & perennials

Other sources include the local co-op, farmers markets, organic farms and sales hosted by libraries, garden clubs and community gardens. Always be sure to ask about the potting soil and the source of the plants.

NURSERIES

Edgewood Nurseries, Falmouth
Eldredge Lumber & Hardware, York
Fernwood Nurseries & Gardens, Montville
Highland Avenue Greenhouse, Scarborough
Penobscot Potting Shed, Penobscot
Plants Unlimited, Rockport

FARMS

Blessed Maine Herb Farm, Athens
Frinklepod Farm, Arundel
Green Spark Farm, Cape Elizabeth
Little River Flower Farm, Buxton
Snakeroot Organic Farm, Pittston
Tide Mill Organic Farm, Edmunds
Whitehill Farm, East Wilton

SEED COMPANIES

Fedco Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Wild Seed Project

NATIVE PLANT SUGGESTIONS BY SEASON

Reprinted from How to Create a Bee-Friendly Landscape by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension at bit.ly/1XgDsYa.

EARLY-SEASON

Trees: maples, apples, shadbush, willows, cherries, plums, native honeysuckles
Perennials: blueberries, bugloss, lungwort, pigsqueak, crocus, viola

MIDSEASON

Shrubs: spirea, rose, summersweet, rosebay rhododendron
Perennials: milkweed, purple coneflower, blazingstar, mint, oregano
Annuals: singleflowered marigold, borage, tickseed, blanketflower

LATE SEASON

Perennials: aster, bottle gentian, phlox, yellow and purple coneflowers, goldenrod
Annuals: cosmos, snapdragon

 

Native Pollinators

Some common flowering plants that are native to Maine and provide food for pollinators.