Sustainable ornamentals production is possible and becoming popular, more than 100 delegates were told at Howard Nurseries focus day last week.
Speakers included Great Dixter gardener Fergus Garrett, Melcourt technical director Catherine Dawson, Fargro biocontrol expert Neil Helyer and chair Neville Stein. They discussed options to improve the environmental credentials of production horticulture.
Garrett, who now oversees the East Sussex garden following the death of plantsman Christopher Lloyd in 2006, said he makes 20 tonnes of his own compost mix annually, using a peat base, Dixter's green waste and Melcourt chipped bark. He added that he uses as few chemicals, such as Round-Up, as possible.
Melcourt technical director Catherine Dawson revealed Melcourt will launch Sylvagrow, its first consumer bark compost, at Glee on 15-17 September.
Horticulture consultant Stein said: "We're the original green industry, but perhaps we need to take it one stage further and think about the resource we're using when producing crops."
Dawson was at a meeting of the Growing Media Task Force at Wisley last week, working on assessing environmental criteria of all growing media ingredients including energy inputs, water use, renewability, social/ethical input and habitat biodiversity.
Integrated pest management specialist Helyer outlined the usefulness of biopesticides and natural controls such as Naturalis, Met 52, DiPel, Carpo virusine, and Exosex auto-confusion-waiting.
Howard Nurseries uses a 22 per cent bark mix, but nursery manager Gavin Erith said he had experienced some overheating problems with it this summer. Howard's, which grows two million herbaceous perennials annually in 1,500 varieties on 60ha, is doubling its reservoir size and produces half its power from solar panels.
Eastgro trade show - Thirty-year run ends
David Howard said trade show Eastgro which had a 30-year run would not happen again after his nursery staged the annual show for the last time in 2011, because of a lack of support from some larger growers in the region.
He added business from designers was good and after Carol Klein featured the nursery propagating irises on Gardeners' World this spring they had 1,000 hits on the website in three hours.