Over 20 years ago there was a worldwide move to grow vegetable seedlings in individual cells in greenhouses for transplanting out once they were of suitable age.

The reason for this move was twofold. Firstly, by germinating seeds indoors in a controlled growing environment growers could be sure of getting at least a 90 percent germination rate from the seed sown. This was a vast improvement over direct sowing out in the fields, where up to 5 times as much seed was required. Secondly, by planting individual transplants out in the field crop establishment was almost guaranteed, making the economics of cropping more reliable.

Hill Nurseries Ltd was established out of this need and set up to meet this commercial requirement. It has grown from being one of the pioneers in automated seedling production to sit where it is today - one of the largest container seedling nurseries in the country.

At the heart of the nursery is the concept of producing quality transplants. To do this it is necessary to move the seedlings through a series of different growing environments, as it is not possible to produce a top quality seedling from one environment only. Briefly these environments are as follows:

  • Seeding - where trays are filled, seeded, watered and benched.

  • Germination - seeded trays are put in special rooms for germination. Temperature and humidity and time controls are applied depending on the variety of seed.

  • Greenhouse - once germinated the product is moved into a protected greenhouse area. Light, warmth, water and feed are introduced.

  • Outside Protected - at the correct age of growth seedlings are moved to a cooler more open area, to begin the adjustment into normal weather patterns. Still protected overhead.

  • Outside Hardening - the last stage where plants are introduced to the natural environment and are hardened off awaiting despatch to the customer.

Hill Nurseries Ltd today produces around 30 million seedlings per year. These are grown mainly for commercial clients who are located all around New Zealand. Product is shipped daily in special transport pods directly from the nursery to the client. The nursery now grows a large number of different vegetable, native and tree products, mainly due to it's innovative approach to growing.

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