While summer crops are still heading off the nursery after a generally good bedding season, it is time to plan ahead to autumn - the key crops being Pansies and Primulas (for autumn and spring sales) plus Cyclamen and Poinsettia.
Pouring over seed company and young plant producers catalogues − selecting tried and trusted varieties as well as perhaps some interesting new ones to give your offering an edge − is a highlight for most growers and marketing teams. Equally important, although perhaps not so exciting, are the practical decisions to be made regarding the pots, trays and containers, the growing media, the nutrition and plant protection programmes!
However, time spent wisely now will pay dividends helping optimise overall crop quality and the visual impact of your plants at point of sale.
Quality growing media is a highly technical and sophisticated material, as we are all being made aware of, especially when the raw materials can vary due to climatic conditions in various parts of the world. While it provides the necessary physical support, it also holds nutrients, water, and oxygen for roots to absorb. Quality and consistency is important - compromise and you risk problems with automated filling of pots and trays as well as subsequent uniformity and overall crop management and performance issues.
The ideal growing media blend for these autumn crops will vary and should be tailored accordingly. All benefit from a mix with an open structure, to aid root aeration, for strong healthy growth. However, for overwintered Pansies and Primulas the growing media mix should be overall slightly coarser than for those grown more quickly for autumn sale.
Requiring a more open mix, Cyclamen thrive with a 20% dilution of pine bark, while Poinsettia benefit from an even coarser mix of peat with the addition of course grade perlite.
Crop nutrition requirements vary geographically, from crop to crop and also by the level of convenience required. Sophisticated controlled release products deliver the correct nutrition when crops need it, while also simplifying production and saving labour.
When it comes to precision nutrition, it is important to take into account your water source following regular analysis. The hardness, or softness, has a greater impact on nutrient release than most growers realize. Quality water soluble fertilizers are now available that also solve these related pH issues.
ICL’s Levington Advance Solutions
To help growers, Levington Advance Solutions offers four mixes for key autumn crops − ensuring the perfect growing media mix. Each also contains the ideal Osmocote controlled release fertilizer, our Micromax trace element package and ICL’s wetting agent H2Gro to aid water management in challenging summer conditions as well as root development.
Another feature of the Poinsettia and Cyclamen mixes is Exemptor, to control key pests including whitefly, sciarid, aphid and vine weevil. In addition, growers can request Prestop - the biofungicide to control damping-off, root and base rot diseases – which can now be premixed in to these innovative mixes or added on your nursery.