Roots: The Hidden Value of Trees

The landscaper or landscape architects whom our business caters to rarely think about one of our best kept secrets “ROOTS”.

The value of our products is judged from the ground up and tagged for their symmetrical form-like a holly tree. Crape myrtles and birch are selected by symmetrical cane sizes and balanced heads but if you look a little deeper, the roots are our best kept secret; often or in most cases never given a thought.

Abby Farm starts off aligning themselves with a liner company that is capable of producing a high quality tree, in most cases with an air root pruning container ensuring us of a vigorous tree with a quality root system. It is our philosophy that this is important with most families of trees, while being somewhat less important in other types.
We still use vendors with slick sided pots knowing that the tree has only been in the pot for 9-11 months and is not over grown. Optimal tree spades provide a shallower root ball when we dig so we capture the feeder roots. We sell trees not dirt so a big cone of soil at the bottom point of a root ball is not doing anyone any good because seldom is a root all the way to the bottom.
More trees per truck benefit the purchaser by lowering shipping cost, along with making it easier to get our trees in to a court yard or around a swimming pool at your job site. The hardened off root system ensures a higher level of survivability and less warranty work for you. Knowing that you purchased a sustainable tree grown by experts that know how to provide the nutrient balance in the soil that will ensure the tree reestablishes faster in the landscape is Abby Farms hidden secret.
Think about it, there is more to a tree than what is above the ground “buy the total package”.

January 2016 Farm News

Sustainable horticulture

Sustainability can be measured in many ways.  Currently we discuss our ability to manipulate plants to make them undesirable to attacks from insects or diseases, but we seldom discuss some of the other benefits of sustainable horticulture.  As we all know, meteorologists measure drought index levels throughout the United States. The west (California) has been in a high or extreme drought for many years.  Farmers and states have been fighting over who owns the water.  Atlanta, Georgia was in extreme drought conditions 3 or 4 years ago.  RFD-TV weekly monitors crop conditions and projects bushels per acre in the central plains.  Some states are using recycled water that has been filtered and chlorinated and deemed safe to drink, sending it back into our homes.  Sustainable horticulture is the answer.

Sustainable horticulture saves water.  In fact, every year for the last 4, Abby Farms had reduced our water consumption.  It’s a fact that microbial rich soil with a higher root density rate requires less water for growth.  When you farm soils that have not been saturated with soluble salt fertilizer that kill the microbes, the soil digestive system functions at a higher capacity, thus reducing the need for water.  Organic matter turned into humus retains moisture.  Larger roots and more hair roots also retain moisture.

I met a tree farmer several years ago who was watering crape myrtles for four hours a day in July.  He told me that he could not get enough water on them to keep them from wilting causing the boss to drive by and yell at him.  The ground was flooded, there was standing water in the field and still the crapes were wilting.  What he did not realize was that the soluble salt /sodium level in his field resulting from extensive fertilizer applications killed all the microbes and his roots were basically sitting in a high salinity soil from using cheap fertilizer that had components such as potassium chloride or muriate of potash.  Potassium is a needed element that holds on to water but you should use the correct type.   Creating a stable environment for microbes to feed, live, grow and play is essential for a high-fueled soil.  Feed the microbes and save water.

November 2015 Farm News

So far this fall has been very busy here at the farm. Inventory is going fast as our customer base continues to grow; more and more customers are leaning on us to supply their entire job from the perennials to the trees and we are happy to be able to support them with this.

Now is the time when our field and container operations kick it into high gear as we prepare next years inventory. Our field crews are feverishly digging 400 trees a day to keep our above ground B&B inventory well stocked through this fall and fall 2016. Our early order program is off to a great start with our customers having already booked thousands of trees for their spring jobs. Please contact Doug Miller for more information on this program at

As soon as our digging crew clears the field our nutrient management team prepares the field for planting (see October 2015 newsletter for a detailed description of this process) and shortly after the planting crew diligently plants our next crop.

Our container crews are busy shifting up thousands of liners each week to meet the demand of our customers for 3 and 7gal shrubs. The target is to have 300,000 shrubs planted and ready for early summer sale to ensure we have continuous supply for our customers. We have also got a head start on our 15gal tree inventory and have potted 10,000 out of the 20,000 we have projected. The remaining 10,000 will be planted from bare root stock in March 2016.

Even though we have all this activity on the farm we are always eager to hear from you and take the time to help our customers, so please give us a call 301-782-9077 and talk with Doug Miller if you would like to come out and see our operation and get to know us better.

October Farm News

The fall/winter season is approaching fast, and we have had a great growing season at Abby Farms. The 13” of rain we received in early summer filled our ponds which ensured we had ample irrigation water for the growing season. We are currently at the beginning stage of a 30,000 tree digging season which will continue daily for the next several months. Our Nutrient management department is preparing the empty fields for their load of organic material prior to replanting. We are also starting the winterization process of plant material in the fields,(crape myrtles and hollies). Soil and tissue samples are analyzed, and we typically increase the potassium, silica, and copper levels heading into winter. This cocktail has worked very well for us over the past few hard winters. The container growers, are seeing a lot of movement as their areas are thinning down and the start of consolidation begins in preparation for the winter. Fall is always colorful at Abby Farms, give Doug Miller a call and ask for a farm tour. Spend some time with our growers and see how we are Pioneering Sustainable Horticulture.

abby farms fall preperation

Farm News September 2015

This past spring was filled with excitement as we broke new ground on our 6th Southern Maryland tree farm location. Dubbed as Bull Run III, the new property was planted with 12,000 new trees. This farm was planted with high hopes for the future of the company as well as confidence in the future of the market. Pictures can only go so far in capturing 30 acres, but please take a moment to check them out. The trees selected range from a variety of deciduous, eastern North American native trees to desirable cultivars from both native and introduced tree species. This is representative of the plant material diversification we find valuable here at Abby Farms. With more space available in Bull Run III, stay tuned for updates as more trees are sure to be coming.