What product solutions can growers and retailers look forward to at this year's Four Oaks Trade Show?

You can expect to hear much about the plastics debate at this year's Four Oaks Trade Show as a number of companies introduce alternatives to plastic plant pots and trays.

Jiffy Products: the new version of the traditional Jiffypot is suitable for use in retail settings - image: Jiffy Products
Jiffy Products: the new version of the traditional Jiffypot is suitable for use in retail settings - image: Jiffy Products

For starters, Jiffy Products has a new version of the traditional Jiffypot, suitable for use in retail settings.

The original Jiffypot, introduced more than 60 years ago, has proven itself with annual sales of more than 300 million worldwide. The new compostable Jiffy R2 keeps most of the original properties, using peat and wood pulp as the main ingredients, but differs in that it stays dry, even when exposed to water or humid substrate. According to the manufacturer, R2 maintains its rigid form and clean surface long enough to produce herbs, bedding or any other plant to be sold to the retail market in a 100% biodegradable container.

Growers should find that the new pot works with automatic dispensing and spacing equipment. The rigidity of the pot also makes packing easier while, benefiting the plant, the coarse inner surface prevents root spiralling. There is also no nitrogen binding.

In the retail setting, the Jiffypot R2 has a clean appearance with no growth of mould or fungus and is pleasant to touch. At planting, there is no need to remove the pot, so no transplant shock, and healthy plants can develop quickly. The R2 is available in more than 30 different sizes and designs.

EcoExpert - image: ©Digitale Studio

Modiform is also presenting alternatives to plastic. Its EcoExpert range is made from waste cardboard that originated from Forest Stewardship Council sources. Fibres from cardboard are longer than those from paper, so produce strong end products. The microscopic holes normally associated with moulded pulp products are blocked with a natural, biodegradable wax additive. The products can be recycled with all other cardboard through the usual system. The range includes five sizes of transport trays along with 12cm and 14cm pots that degrade completely within one year.

The company has also continued work on its Universal Bedding Pack. Taking the professional products award at Four Oaks in 2016, it is now available in four-, six-, nine- and 12-cell packs, all fitting 20 to a Danish shelf and all with improved label slots, stronger sides and carrier handle holes. A third new product on the Modiform stand is a click-system insert for the Eurokar.

Heralded as making Biopots an attractive, cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to plastic, the Skelly Tray shown by Plantopia is reusable, recyclable, allows pots to breathe and waters evenly while also providing efficient handling and transport. "We are very excited to introduce this product, especially since we have been working on the design for some years and its launch coincides with intense scrutiny regarding the overuse of single-use plastics," says director Kim Haley.

Designed to be used as shuttle trays, Skelly Trays hold 12 8.5cm pots, with six trays — a total of 72 pots — to a Danish trolley. The trays nest and de-nest fully loaded and are said to be ideal for automatic magazines, air benches or capillary matting as well as being great for pick-and-mix retail options.

"The Skelly Tray addresses ecology and the environment whilst illustrating that this can be done also in the interests of improved quality, production and handling efficiency — and cost effectively," adds Haley. "Biopots have always been an excellent product for growers, but the advent of the plastic pot made it uneconomic and inefficient. Our Skelly Tray puts an end to this monopoly and brings the Biopot into the modern world."

A time-saver for gardeners - image: Everflow: a time-saver for gardeners

Pests and diseases

Another hot topic is pests and diseases. Raising awareness of plant health issues and threats, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) is highlighting its "Don’t Risk It" campaign, which seeks to reduce
the risk of plant pests and diseases entering the UK. Plant health and seed inspectors are on hand to talk about the major threats.

Agralan is showing a pest spraying procedure from Birchmeier. With air-supported spraying technology, the new AS 1200 combines the benefits of conventional nozzle spraying with a controlled airstream similar to that of a mist blower. The AS 1200, made in Switzerland, is quiet and produces no exhaust gases. At its heart is an easy-to-use, portable blower with an electronic control system and an integrated spray nozzle. It is designed to work with Birchmeier Accu-Power sprayers. Power can be set to various levels, depending on application.

"With this new process, users can penetrate existing plants better. It also saves spray solution because more of it lands on the plants, it is better distributed and less of it is lost when spraying," says Agralan managing director Alan Frost.

Also on Agralan’s stand are the new Accu-Power pump station for mobile and stand-alone spraying, either indoors or out, as well as the Flox 10 and Iris 15 new-generation backpack sprayers.

A range of diseases comes under spotlight of Flowering Plants. The company is again showing equipment and technologies designed for efficient, healthy and reliable irrigation, and this year has information for growers looking for biological control of an increasing range of soil- and water-borne Oomycete diseases. News about biocontrol of black spot and mildews is also expected.

Watering is themed by British hose manufacturer Copely Developments. The company returns to Four Oaks this year to showcase products such as the premium Everflow hose that allows water to flow at normal pressure even when kinked, crushed or knotted — a time-saver for professional gardeners.

Also displayed is the Aquaflex ProFlow, suited to commercial growing, landscaping and professional gardening applications. This tough, all-terrain hose is described as having excellent ultraviolet resistance and water-flow performance in all climates, along with continuous flow when crushed or kinked.

Much technology is expected at this year’s show, especially heating and lighting. Hotbox International is unveiling a complete solution in the form of the Grow Trolley for germination and propagation, as well as to display plants.

The Grow Trolley comes as standard with adjustable shelves, each having a standard horticultural plastic tray. The Heatwave shelves have a polystyrene base. Above each shelf are two Philips LED Production Modules, controlled by a manual timer that can be set at 15-minute intervals. Additional options include an Ebb/Flood system and Heatwave bench heating to encourage propagation and growth. In use, a water tank is fitted to the bottom shelf and water from the tank is pumped to each shelf level, with a manual valve at shelf level allowing isolation if required.

With less than four months to go before Christmas, Four Oaks is a prime event to find high-quality Christmas trees direct from growers. Lincolnshire-based Fillingham Christmas Trees supplies garden centres, parish councils, farm shops, retail outlets, holiday parks, hotels and pubs. This year it attends Four Oaks with cut and pot-grown trees including the needle-retentive Nordmann, blue spruce, Omorkia and Fraser firs as well as, of course, the traditional Norway spruce.

A member of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, Fillingham cuts its trees as late as possible to meet customer requirements, maximise freshness and aid needle retention. Nationwide, flexible, palletised and time delivery are available.

Finally, Perennial, the only UK charity dedicated to helping those who work in the horticulture industry, can now help dependent children of horticulture professionals, should they need it. A Perennial Child Bursary can fund essential equipment for school use, extracurricular activities, uniforms and school trips, and provide help with school meals as well as meals during school holidays. 

Image: Bathgate

Peat Free Organic Approved Compost

Peat Free Organic Approved Compost displayed by Bathgate is endorsed by the Soil Association. Based on coir with heat-treated loam, it contains Remin Rock Dust for an extended release of minerals. In addition, Bathgate has incorporated Envii Foundation, composed of naturally occurring bacteria and fungi that stimulate growth, promote plant health and help in disease prevention. "We have also included seaweed extract that has been applied to natural zeolite particles to give it a longer-lasting and slow-release supply of nutrients," says Bathgate technical sales manager Andrew Peers. The base NPK fertiliser is a certified organic product. No recycled waste has been used. The compost is available in bulk and in bulk bags for commercial growers but has also been packaged in attractive 50-litre bags to appeal to the discerning customer.

Joy of Plants: Plant Finder 2

Joy of Plants director Terri Jones says: "A picture sells a thousand plants." The company helps UK top plant retailers sell more via easy-to-use information services. At Four Oaks, it is demonstrating the new Plant Finder 2. This adds a plant area to websites — photos, description and care details for 14,000-plus UK plants — providing a 24/7 shop window, making it a "go to" site for plant information and sourcing, and enabling online sales. The first user is Fakenham Garden Centre. At Four Oaks you can also find out how to add your own custom text to bed cards as you print them, enabling you to upsell other products, give details of plant sourcing or point out key features.

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