While initial experimentation using a peat-free growing media proved challenging, having switched to Levington Advance Sustain Boultons now feel confident to scale up production helping to differentiate its offering in a competitive marketplace.
Established before the First World War, Boultons is a well-established wholesale plant nursery based at Moddershall, near Stone in Staffordshire. Producing approximately 150,000 plants in 2 to 75litre pots, the company supplies the amenity landscaping market across the UK using its own transport network.
“Primarily we supply new build developments as well as nurseries and local businesses supplying garden designers, local authorities, land owners and private estates,” explains nursery manager Lee Melady. “Keen to find points of difference, to help us stand out from the competition, we started experimenting with peat-free growing media.”
“We soon encountered a number of significant production challenges, including the consistency of the original peat-free mix we were using, poor rooting and lack of vigour later in the season. As a result this year we’ve been trialing mixes from other suppliers, including ICL.”
Working closely with ICL technical area sales manager Dean Sandford, Lee trialed the new Levington Advance Sustain nursery stock mix.
“As with all growing media, the quality of the raw materials is a key factor in the overall consistency and performance,” explains Dean. “This carefully formulated nursery stock mix contains premium grade coir, ICL’s own Fibagro wood fibre and 0-8mm and 6-12mm pine barks.
“Having tested the water at the nursery we found the quality was having a major impact on the conductivity of the growing media. Employing our Angelaweb 2.0 precision nutrition software programme, we worked with Lee to devise a feeding programme to resolve these issues.”
The new Levington Advance Sustain range contains as standard ICL’s Start n Gro base feed and Micromax Premium granules to ensure a good trace element package. In addition, Lee opted to include Osmocote Exact Hi-End 8-9 month – the fourth generation controlled release product with slow release at the start and greater release later, when plants need it. With Exemptor excluded from use in peat-free mixes, ICL recommended incorporating Met 52 for vine weevil control.
“Depending on the specific needs of individual crops, Lee and his team fine-tune nutrition later in the season using Agroleaf Power foliar feed and Peters Excel water soluble fertilizers,” explains Dean.
Lee is delighted by the results. “Working with ICL this season plant quality has noticeably improved, in particular at rooting out of young plants and in overall late season plant vigour,” he says. “We now produce a proportion of our complete range of shrubs, trees and hedging plants peat free and we are seeing real progression in overall quality.”
Lee and his team trialed another company’s peat free mixes but found noticeable weight difference, due to the high loam content. This caused significant implications for manual handling, particularly when it came to larger pots.
“Moving forward we are looking to build a strong working relationship with a single supplier with a proven track record in growing media, plus the knowledge and expertise to call upon at a moments notice. I believe we have now found this. The Levington Advance Sustain product quality and ICL service have been first class. Deliveries are extremely efficient and the product is well packaged, labeled and arrives in excellent condition. Dean’s help and expertise have contributed massively to our decision to work with ICL.”
Boultons Nursery Manager Lee Melady - [email protected]