Father and son Colin and Graeme Edwards − of Woodlark Nurseries, at Hersham in Surrey – are experienced seasonal plant growers producing a stunning array of quality pot plants, bedding, primroses, pansy/viola, perennials and potted bulbs.
The 10-acre site comprises 2 acres of glass, a further 5 acres of polytunnels and an outdoor cropping area dedicated to container grown Chrysanthemums production. This thriving nursery produces over 1.5 million seasonal plants in 9cm, 10cm and 1-2litre pots, plus 40,000 seasonal planted hanging pots and 50,000 Poinsettias.
“ICL is a ‘Rolls Royce’ company,” says Colin Edwards. “It’s been around a long time and has successfully evolved and changed while maintaining its high standards. The products and people it employs are simply better than the competition.”
While previously self-mixing growing media on site, in 2000 Woodlark switched to ProBales. Revolutionising the potting process by removing a bottleneck, Colin and his team rely on five bespoke Levington Advance Solution mixes. Each contains a carefully selected product from the extensive Osmocote range, tailored to different crop types - together with the wetting and water conservation agent H2Gro and Micromax trace elements.
“When I first started out in the 70’s I aspired to using Osmocote,” recalls Colin. “However, we were heavily reliant on liquid feeds and wholesaled value packs of bedding through London’s Covent Garden Market. We’d drive up to London on Sunday and Wednesday nights to take advantage of the big markets on Monday and Thursday mornings.
“As the business and product range evolved the nature of our market changed. Today we have a loyal garden centre customer base enabling us to use Osmocote. A product with European credentials, it offers precision nutrition and far greater specialisation to match the specific needs of different crops.
“We rely on Osmocote Exact Standard, the new dual coated Osmocote Exact Hi.End as well as Osmocote High K for crops such as Cyclamen and autumn bedding. Fifty years on and Osmocote is still very much at the top of its game.”
Keen to tailor nutrition as closely to each crop’s needs as possible, Colin and Graeme work closely with technical area sales manager, Jackie Hall, and AngelaWeb - ICL’s precision nutrition software tool.
“Angelaweb has taken the nutrition guesswork out with tricky crops,” says Graeme. “It’s also makes environmental sense - you apply what the crops need and are confident you’re not wasting fertilizer or money. We started by looking at issues with Solanum – one of our established pre-Christmas crops. A hungry crop, plants were often pale and losses were too high.”
Following the input of data from the nursery, including an analysis of the water source, Jackie Hall identified a lack of nutrients. Followed AngelaWeb recommendations she worked with Graeme to devise an improved precision nutrition programme.
“Applying AngelaWeb data, the issues with the Solanum crop have been resolved by lowering the rate of base fertilizer and upgrading to Osmocote Exact Hi.End 5-6month,” explains Jackie. “AngelaWeb also demonstrated that any supplementary feeding requirements would be better met with Peters soft water products with high calcium – Solanum is a crop with a high calcium demand.”
“Osmocote is reliable – it does what it says and is safe and consistent,” says Graeme. “For outdoor production, where you can’t feed if it is wet, a quality controlled release product is essential.
“We are seeing a general move towards container gardening – it’s a lifestyle trend as people want more time to pursue other interests. We’re seeing a steady increase in demand for our garden-ready products. Osmocote gives us the confidence to know our plants will perform well for the end user.
“Like other nurseries, we are constantly reviewing production costs to identify possible savings. When it comes to nutrition, any potential savings made by switching from Osmocote to a lesser product would simply not be worth the risk – all our growing media contains Osmocote.
“At the end of the day, with ICL you’re not just buying a product - you get a high quality service.”