“Summertime, and the living is easy.” If you like classic songs, you’ll recognize that lyric. But when you’re running a greenhouse or nursery container operation, “easy” might not be the word you choose. Summer can amplify water-related inefficiencies that sap your plants and profits, but issues like poor wet out, channeling, and excess dry out aren’t limited to hot summer days.
In any type of container operation, your growing media is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success. As Fred Hulme, our Technical Services Director for Turf and Ornamentals, points out, high-quality media starts your plants out with an optimal root environment. One that’s capable of providing the ideal balance of water-holding capacity, aeration, and drainage your crop needs to succeed.
But even with that optimal starting point, hiccups in the production process can disrupt that root zone environment and threaten critical water-air balance. High temperatures, low rainfall, or heavy rain events can intensify your woes. And that’s before the plants ever head to your wholesale customers and their landscape projects or retail lots.
Adding high-quality wetting agents to your media can make the difference—for you and your customers. Hulme tells us some reports show that improving water management with a quality surfactant can cut more than 20% off a grower’s total water usage.
On top of that, a quality surfactant can help prevent waste of fertilizers, pesticides and PGRs lost to over-leaching. Plus, it can alleviate wilt stress and reduce shrinkage for your garden center customers once your product hits their retail lots.
Real-world problems meet real-world results
Temperatures in Colorado Springs, Colorado, vary significantly through the year, but one thing stays constant: It’s dry. But that doesn’t stop wholesale perennial grower Britton Nursery from selling a quarter-million 1-gallon perennials every year. Owner Kirby Thompson credits their soil mix as one of the “signature secret sauces” fueling their success.
Blended on site from a mix of local wood products, peat moss, and local horticultural perlite, the relatively heavy mix wins praise. “Our product has a very, very positive reputation in the area for thriving in the containers for much longer than other greenhouse grown perennials,” Thompson says.
But even with premium growing media, the Colorado Front Range climate takes its toll. “We started experimenting with our soil mix a few years ago, because we were noticing some deficiencies in its rewetting capacity if the pot totally dried out,” Thompson shares, comparing the problem to a hockey puck shedding water.
Looking for answers, he talked with ICL territory manager Tim Brubaker, local distributors, and local growers about the benefits of wetting agents. That’s when Brubaker suggested H2Pro Greenhouse and Nursery. Britton has been integrating H2Pro into its soil at the time of mixing ever since.
“Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve noticed a pretty substantial—if not drastic—difference in the handling of water when the plant dries out,” Thompson says. “It just has a greater absorption rate and absorbs more quickly, too, so we’ve made that a standard operation, and we’ve noticed pretty beneficial results.”
At AJ&E Container Tree Farm in O’Fallon, Missouri, owner Tim Ruesch grows about 70,000 trees on 180 acres just outside St. Louis. He’s been using H2Pro for his pot-in-pot container trees for about three years now.
“We were having trouble with plant material drying out and water being consistent throughout the pot,” Ruesch shares. “Then Tim Brubaker came out and suggested H2Pro.” On Brubaker’s recommendation, AJ&E began incorporating H2Pro wetting agents into their soilless mix.
“The trees responded, and we’ve had great results. We use less water, and we’ve had no phytophthera,” Ruesch says. “It’s a good product. It conserves the water and disperses it through the container, so you get good penetration throughout the whole pot rather than water just running through.”
How H2Pro can help your operation
To understand the benefits that H2Pro can bring your operation, it helps to understand how surfactant products like this work—and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand. The molecules in wetting agents contain water loving heads and media loving tails. The tails attach to the organic components in your media while the heads hold plant-available water in the root zone.
As those molecules break down over time, wetting agents lose effectiveness. If you’ve ever used them, you’ve probably experienced this yourself. What started out perfect at blending time, starts changing. Your mix gets harder to wet, penetration gets spotty, and pots hold less water or have drainage problems.
While this creates headaches for you as a grower, the pain doesn’t stop there. It filters down to your customers (especially when that new garden center employee forgets to water). Lost plants mean lost profits—and lost customers in the long run.
Fortunately, as Fred Hulme says, “Longevity is where H2Pro really shines.” You see, we formulate H2Pro with chains of molecules that vary in length—short, medium and long. Longer chains last longer, but that’s not all. As H2Pro’s long and medium chain molecules break down, they reattach to your growing media and keep on working, just like short chain molecules.
While ordinary surfactants commonly offer two to three months of effectiveness, H2Pro facilitates penetrating, long-lasting hydration up to 12 months—and that’s through multiple wet-dry cycles. Plus, H2Pro’s flexibility lets you customize application rates to meet the needs of your media and your production cycles.
There’s a lot more, but these are a few of the things H2Pro can do for you:
- optimize or restore the water-holding capacity in soilless media
- optimize moisture penetration and distribution in the root zone
- reduce necessary frequency and duration of irrigation cycles
- reduce or eliminate dry spots or perched water in containers
- prevent production and post-production wilting
- delay onset of permanent wilting in the retail environment
Water inefficiencies can be a problem anytime, but summer steps up the struggle, whether you’re growing container perennials, pot-in-pot trees or something else. H2Pro gives you the flexibility to choose liquid or granular formulas that can be applied from soil blending right up through shipping. You can even mist fresh cuttings. Plus, it retains performance through months of storage.
If you’re not using surfactants, talk with your ICL territory manager about how quality wettings agents might help your operation. If you are, let them show you how H2Pro can improve on your results. At ICL, we understand the challenges that you face every day in your growing operation. Let's work together to grow the best crop possible.