Let’s Grow
Steer Clear of ‘Row Run’ Nursery Trees

By Steve Boehme

Being around trees, planting trees, doctoring trees, pruning and managing trees, we sometimes feel like a foster parent. We look at lots of trees and after a while we can read a trees’ history.

Like children, trees need love and attention or they can go wrong. Sometimes wrong trees can be fixed and sometimes it’s just too late; they will have problems in later life.

In the nursery industry there is actually a written quality standard or specification used to grade trees for certain qualities. Professional arborists and tree managers use these standards to compare trees in the nursery.

Homeowners usually don’t know how to judge trees so they often spend their money on inferior quality plants. Retailers that sell trees by price know this and that’s why they often sell “row run” trees.

“Row run” means the grower sold the trees by the row, rather than selecting only good quality or matching trees. It’s much faster to start digging at one end of the row and harvest every tree instead of selecting individual trees to harvest.

Since the row includes substandard and defective trees the average the price of the row is lower, since the nursery is selling its “culls” instead of having to discard them. This lowers the unit price. Then it is up to the consumer to pick through and find the good trees in the batch.

This is how discount stores can advertise nursery stock cheap. Many consumers don’t know what to look for in a tree and respond to the low price. For the well-informed gardener it’s an opportunity to “skim the cream” and leave the culls for the next person.

There are ways to tell a good tree from a bad tree, and techniques to correct minor defects before they become major ones.

Examples include bark-included crotches, girdling roots, improper pruning, borer infestations, double leaders, truncated leaders, bad grafts and a host of other problems.

Gorgeous specimen trees rarely happen by accident, and good quality doesn’t usually come cheap.

Unless you’re an expert, dealing with a reputable professional is the most likely way to get your money’s worth.

Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.