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Gardeners get a peek inside Ripon wholesale nursery operation
Ofelia Escubedo carefully waters the colorful cyclamens inside one of the buildings at Fredriks Nursery. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

RIPON - A state-of-the-art vacuum-planting machine “injects” brussel sprout seeds into the 512 tiny squares of a rectangular box full of pre-mixed soil.

In another area of the Ripon nursery, hundreds of potted flowering kales look like a chain gang - connected to each other by crisscrossing straw-size black tubes hanging a few inches above the rows and rows of potted plants. It used to take two hours for one person to hand-water the entire lot. Not anymore. With the automatic watering system in place, “just a few minutes and it’s done,” explained Nelson Hernandez, one of the supervisors at Fredriks Nursery on South Austin Road just north of West Ripon Road.

“Watering is one of the most important jobs we have here,” he added.

But one of the least known things about Fredriks is that recycling is a big part of the business operation. Don’t throw away the containers after you’ve transplanted the plants you bought at the store, Hernandez said. Take them back to the retailer where you purchased the plants, or to Fredriks where they will be recycled.

“They don’t go in the landfill,” Hernanded pointed out.

Those are just a few of the many plant tidbits shared by Nelson with a group of Manteca Garden Club members who toured the family-owned wholesale horticulture facility started in 1986 by David Fredriks who is also the company president. The 20x20-foot greenhouse he launched 26 years ago is now a 25-acre spread surrounded by almond orchards farmed by his father, Glenn. The nursery, which is constantly developing plant varieties that are compatible with the valley’s weather, supplies scores of plant varieties to just as many retail outlets including such local businesses as Morris Nursery, Schemper’s in Ripon, and WestTurf. They used to supply Scenic Nursery in Modesto also until it closed a few years ago. Fredriks supplies “only independent retailers,” said Hernandez who has been with the company for 16 years. This is the only job he’s had since graduating from high school in Manteca, a smiling Hernandez told the garden club members.

“I never had another job. I’m happy here,” he said.

His father, though, has been with the company far longer than 16 years. Hilario, who admitted to helping his son get his foot in the door at the company, has been working at Fredriks for 22 years.