Situated on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, wholesale perennial specialist Howard Nurseries operates from 150 acres with sustainability at the core of its operations. Pledging to reduce its carbon footprint by 5% year on year, Howard Nurseries has strong environmental credentials and has been awarded Gold Level Carbon Charterstatus. The company owns two reservoirs and is 100% self-sufficient for water for all container plant production. Operating practices such as installing LED lights, activated by motion sensors, saves 6.2 tonnes of CO2 per year while solar panels satisfy 50% of the site’s energy needs.
As container manager Gavin Erith explains; "We have a fully integrated approach to pest and disease management. We make sure cultural practices are always carried out, such as stock rotation in the field, tractor and hand hoeing of weeds, batch potting, never putting new stock next to old stock and always ensuring optimum hygiene." 95% of Howard’s stock is propagated on site from glasshouse propagation, open field and container production."In the fields we grow around one and a half million bare-rooted perennials and in the nursery, we produce approximately one million plants in nine centimetre containers, and we’re moving towards 400,000 plants in two litre containers,"he says."We spot spray when it’s required–we don’t apply more than we have to. We treat responsibly." "We use biologicals to combat vine weevil and aphids, which have been a problem for us in the past. The issue first cropped up 20 years ago, leading us to trial Exemptor® (Thiacloprid), which we incorporate into the growing media. This has proved 100% successful, vine weevil is no longer an issue." Vine weevil is one of the worst threats to our plants as it lives in the hedgerows surrounding the nursery. However, with Exemptor® incorporated once it treats against vine weevil for 12 months - we continue to see this efficacy. "
According to Gavin without Exemptor® he would be unable to grow a number of key lines that add to the profitability of the business. "We can’t use it in peat free compost, so all varieties susceptible to vine weevil must be produced in peat compost incorporated with Exemptor®. The list includes: Primulas, Ferns, Heucheras, Bergenias, Geraniums and Persicara, to name but a few."
Having worked at Howard Nurseries for 33 years, Gavin has seen a lot of industry change, not least the loss of countless actives. "It’s a constant challenge, and we have to use the tools we have to the best of our ability. Losing products to the market means we have to adapt - you have to change your practices and gain more knowledge all the time. "If we lost Exemptor® I don’t know where I’d turn. I think we would simply have to stop selling a quarter of our lines, which would have a big impact, because garden centres come to us as we have such a great variety of high quality stock and offer something different. Exemptor® helps us produce the wide variety of plants that we do and is a key element of our responsible approach to integrated pest management,"adds Gavin.