Levington has proved a good investment | Harringe Plants

Producing an impressive array of plants on a two-acre site near Ashford in Kent, independent producer/retailer Harringe Plants has switched to three bespoke peat-reduced Levington Advance mixes and reports several tangible benefits.  

3 mins

With glasshouse, polythene tunnels and outside beds, Dan Cornish (a partner in the business) and his team produce a diverse selection of bedding, alpines and perennials as well as a small range of shrubs.  While 10% is propagated from seed, 90% of plants are bought in as plugs with additional stock sourced locally.

“In the past we were 100% reliant on two peat based growing media mixes – one for bedding plus a perennial/alpine/shrub mix.  The supplier had never taken the time to talk to us about the nutritional component – I was aware the mixes contained controlled release fertiliser and we accepted that we needed to supplementary feed on a regular basis.”

In 2018 Dan began discussing his growing media needs in detail with ICL’s technical area sales manager Steve Chapman.

Having looked at the water supply, cropping programme and production methods, Steve recommended a trio of bespoke 20% peat-reduced Levington Advance mixes; spring and autumn mixes, plus a more open general mix for perennials, alpines and shrubs. All three mixes contain 20% Fibagro Advance.


Worth every penny

“We switched to Levington Advance and while the mixes cost slightly more – they are worth every penny” says Dan.  “When you analyse it, the difference is just a few pennies per pot.   However, we’ve seen improvements in product quality and savings in other areas – reduced labour and less reliance on growth regulators and supplementary feeds.

“We grow 3000 Cyclamen a year in 9cm, 10cm and 1litre pots. The first time we grew the crop in the new peat reduced autumn mix we saw real improvements in product quality – as a result the plants sold better.

“With our Autumn Pansy and Polyanthus crops, we no longer have to supplementary feed and the crops hold much better – our plants stay nice and compact.”

“The high N content of the previous mix had led to plant stretching,” explains Steve. “For this autumn mix, I recommended adding Osmocote Exact High K – with 5 to 6 months longevity.

“The Levington Advance spring mix contains Osmocote Bloom. This mini-granule is ideal for annuals growing in small pots and cells and, with an NPK ratio of 2:1:3, it promotes condensed growth. It has helped Dan improve the shelf life of his bedding plants – which is useful in these uncertain times.”

“Dan’s third mix – for perennials, alpines and shrubs – is designed to be a more open mix – incorporating two peat fractions, along with Fibagro Advance and pine bark.

“While the nursery collects some water on site, it is heavily reliant on mains water.  The water here in Ashford is hard – taking this into account – if Dan needs to occasionally supplementary feed he uses Universol Hard water products. These improve the water quality by taking out the bicarbonates.”


Embracing sustainability

While Dan admits to being a strong advocate for peat, in line with current Government targets he is keen to work with ICL to improve the sustainability of his growing media.

“Peat-reduced mixes look different,” he says. “However, it’s important to be open minded, the proof is in the pudding – how it performs.  At the end of the day customers buy according to plant quality – our plants are literally flying off the shelves.

“Three years on and I’m totally sold on Osmocote – you can’t beat it.  In the past our geranium crops were often leggy – however the Osmocote Exact High K keeps plants compact.  With the inclusion of Micromax in all our mixes we’ve eliminated trace element deficiencies.  It’s particularly noticeable with our primulas – they are deep green, there is no sign of iron deficiency.”


Making life easier

Levington Advance mixes are making life easier,” says Dan.  “On a nursery of this size you have to be able to turn your hand to a wide range of tasks – we don’t have an inhouse technical manager.  Steve’s technical knowledge is extremely helpful.

“There is no doubt that the mixes he has tailored to our crops and growing systems are saving time and reducing wastage – we’re no longer throwing out second grade plants.

“All-in-all switching to Levington Advance has proved to be a good investment. You’re not just getting a superior product, but knowledgeable and skilled backup, support and advice.  From a growing background, Steve really knows his stuff.  By producing better quality plants, with improved shelf-life and increased customer satisfaction, we are building strong customer loyalty – which is particularly important during these changing times.”