New mixes prove transformative for Liss Forest Nursery

3 mins

In 2015, when its local growing media supplier shut up shop, Liss Forest Nursery turned to ICL – a move that production manager Michala Graham says has proved transformative for its growing operations.   

Michala Graham, Liss Forest Nursery

Based in Greatham, near Petersfield in Hampshire, this busy 4ha nursery (which is spread across two sites), propagates and grows quality nursery stock supplying large garden centre groups and independents across the UK and Isle of Wight – including the RHS, Squires and Haskins.  

“We had relied on bespoke growing media mixes for over 20 years,” says Michala. “However, it wasn’t until we switched to ICL that our eyes were opened to what was actually possible. With a much greater portfolio of growing media materials, technologies and controlled release fertilisers, we set about exploring different options – working with the technical team to tailor mixes to the specific needs of our crops and cropping patterns.”

Caryopteris in peat free

Four bespoke mixes  

The upshot is that Liss Forest Nursery now relies on three peat-reduced and one peat-free mix.  The three 40% peat-reduced nursery stock mixes contain two peat fractions, together with Fibagro Advance Standard woodfibre and pine bark, to give a well-draining open mix. 

“I’ve been genuinely impressed with the technical expertise,” says Michala. “Employing Angelaweb 3.0, ICL’s web-based precision nutrition tool, we’ve been able to look at the nutrition needs of different crops and tailor the Osmocote 5 rates accordingly. This has taken in to account our water supply, what we’re growing and our sales windows.  The results have been empowering.”    

All four mixes contain Osmoform High N slow release starter fertiliser. “Containing pure N, the long chains break down slowly releasing over 8-10 weeks – depending on temperature, microbial activity and humidity,” explains ICL Technical Area Sales Manager – Andy Hodges. 

“The bulk of the nutrition in each mix is supplied by our new generation Osmocote 5 controlled release fertilizer – with a 12-14 month release pattern. Delivering super-efficient and effective nutrient release, Osmocote 5 has been developed to overcome specific nutritional challenges faced by growers using peat-reduced and peat-free growing media.   

“Products feature our unique nutrient matching release technology and have an improved Optimised Trace Element Availability (OTEA) system to match plants’ needs throughout the release programme; the result are improved plant colour, health and growth.” 

Liss Forest Nursery

Tailored rates to different crops  

To optimise crop quality and fertiliser efficiency, the Osmocote 5 rate varies in each mix.   

For liner production, sensitive and ericaceous stock, as well as less hungry crops such as Lavenders, Hebes and Cistus, the mix contains a rate of 3kg/m3.   

Bought in bare-root stock, such as Cornus, Forsythis and Syringa, is potted up in a mix containing Osmocote 5 at a rate of 4.5kg/m3.  While for vigorous hungry stock, such as Hydrangea and Mahonia, the rate has been increased to 5kg/m3.   

“Growing such a diverse range of hardy nursery stock, Osmocote 5 is proving invaluable,” says Michala. “It’s enabled us to accommodate production of bare root and young potted plants at different times of the year.  We’ve seen improvements in overall quality, as well as meeting sales windows.   

“We’re also seeing tangible benefits in our long and short-term hardy nursery stock.  By tailoring the Osmocote 5 rates to suit the needs of different crops and cropping cycles, we’ve significantly reduced supplementary feeding. Improving and simplifying the nutrition programme, it’s saving us time – improving labour efficiency and hence cost.”  

Lavender root development in peat free

Peat-free confidence 

Mindful of the fact peat is due to be phased out, Liss Forest Nursery has begun working with Andy trialling a peat-free mix of buffered coir, Fibagro Advance Standard and pine bark. To compensate for the higher N lock up and hydrophobicity of these materials, compared to peat, this mix contains higher rates of Osmoform as well as ICL’s water management H2Gro granules.  

Andy Hodges – ICL Technical Area Sales Manager for the south

“Our peat-free trials are proving really successful – giving us a great deal of confidence,” says Michala. “We are feeling very positive moving forward and plan to continue working closely with Andy to extend our peat-free trials in the future.  

“Overall, we’re very impressed with ICL.  Over the past seven years we’ve seen plenty of new product innovations – many ahead of market and environmental changes.”