If you’re considering moving to peat-reduced or peat-free growing media, here are some practical tips that could help you make the transition a success.
1. Define what you need from your growing media
You will need to consider a range of factors, including the following:
- The nursery facilities you use, e.g. production beds, irrigation system, etc.
- Which crops you produce
- The container sizes used for the range of plants produced
- The duration of production
2. Speak to your growing-media manufacturer
Find out what responsibly sourced raw materials are available that can meet your demands. The final blends of these materials will need to meet the physical and chemical requirements of your crops.
3. Start your own small-scale trials
Trial potential growing-media blends on a number of different plant species. This will give you a first-hand feel for the way they perform.
4. Build up your knowledge from trials
As you identify potential blends, start to increase the scale of the trials. Repeat them over a number of seasons.
5. Measure plant performance
You will need to assess plant performance and compare results with your current peat-based growing media. Quantifiable measurements could include:
- Root and shoot growth
- Production timings
- Final quality
- Wastage levels
6. Adjust cultural inputs
New blends may have specific requirements, so you may need to adjust your cultural inputs. Consider whether the plants need any extra nutrients during production, how often they need to be irrigated and how much water needs to be applied, for example.
Settings on machinery, like container filling equipment or transplanting lines, may need to be changed too.
7. Look at your costs
Consider the cost implications of moving to new blends. As well as direct cost changes, there may be indirect benefits or costs to changing your growing media. These could be:
- Additional fertiliser costs
- Changes in production times
- Reductions in moss/liverwort/weed development on the growing-media surface
- Improved grade out of plants
8. Agree your product specifications with your manufacturer
Once you are happy with your blends, you need to agree the product specifications with your growing-media manufacturer for future reference.
9. Talk to your customers throughout
Importantly, check that the growing media adopted and final plant product meet your customers’ requirements.
10. Analyse your crops regularly
Analyse and assess your growing media and nutrient content regularly to optimise crop performance during commercial production.
We've recently released a podcast covering the transition to responsibly sourced growing media. Give it a listen below!