George County plant growers battle heat wave

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -  Water sprinklers are running nearly non-stop in George County this week. That area has one of the largest nursery industries in the country. And growers are doing what they can to help their plants survive the heat.

The irrigation system is working overtime at Coach's Cedar Creek Farms, saving precious buds and blooms from the sweltering heat.

"We're probably watering half again to twice as much this time of year, because it just takes it out of them. Sometimes we'll water twice a day," said Doug Byrd.

Byrd is primarily in the bedding plant business.  And though the heat wave is bad enough, it helps a bit that his business is in transition.

"We're in between seasons, so we're not in that big a bind as far as watering. We see the greenhouses partially empty. But some of our neighbors, with the ornamental azaleas and that kind of stuff, they're really pouring on the water," said Byrd.

They're pouring plenty at Rocky Creek Nursery. That container plant wholesaler is doing whatever it takes to keep plants from withering away.

"It's been kind of rough on us. Just a lot of extra watering. That's about all we've done. Having to water twice a day," said Jeffrey Croom at Rocky Creek Nursery.

"All the watering is automatic and we just set the timers to come on. The way it's set up is on blocks. And we water each block about an hour this time of year. It takes around seven hours to water the entire nursery," he explained.

Plants aren't the only thing enduring the triple digit heat.

"The employees mostly. Besides the plants, it's kind of rough on us. We're just drinking a lot of water and taking breaks, more than we normally would," said Croom.

Whether it's an early summer heat wave or a bitter cold snap in the dead of winter, plant growers understand the uncertainty of the weather is one of the risks of doing business.

"It's just part of it. We deal with it year round, whether it's cold, hot, cloudy, rainy. There's always something to fight and battle," said Byrd.

Some nurseries have adjusted their schedules to give workers a break from the heat.  Several are having employees start work earlier in the morning and then let them off by mid-afternoon.

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