Article by Geoffrey Njue, former SDSU Extension Specialty Crops Field Specialist.
Fall is the best time to start scheduling your bedding plant production. Start planning early for next year’s production. Scheduling bedding plants is essential for your greenhouse profitability because it helps minimize shrinkage (loss of profits due to unsalable plants). To avoid shrinkage plants should be timed to be ready when the market demands. Proper scheduling helps you to grow plants to marketable size at the right time of the year. It is also useful for time and labor management in your greenhouse, bench space allocation, increases crop quality, and helps you to meet customers’ needs by providing plants on time (not too early or too late). Poor scheduling cause growers to have plants that are not ready or are overgrown at the height of the selling season.
Timing production starts by deciding when you want the crop to be ready and then working backwards to determine the date of sowing or planting depending on the crop. There are many factors that can influence the finish timing of bedding plants in the greenhouse including size of plugs and liners, growing conditions, average daytime and night temperatures, photoperiod, use of plant growth regulators (PGRs), and finish container size. Determine the dates of delivery for plugs and liners. To compensate for backorders schedule seed shipments during the month of November or earlier.
For successful bedding plant scheduling you need a calendar with week numbers (production weeks listed). The first week of the year as defined by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the week that contains the first Thursday of the calendar year. You also need a plant production guide, a supplier catalogue or supplier website and pen and paper. Be accurate (don’t guess), write it down and stick to the schedule. Take time to make your schedule as exact as possible (down to the week is usually close enough for most crops). Schedule only the amount of time it will take to grow the crop. A spread sheet can help maintain records and keep things organized year after year. On the spread sheet record information for each variety. Keeping organized records of each year's crops will give you an idea of year-to-year trends and allow you to adjust production appropriately.