Presented by Fargro Fargro

Q&A: Creswick Nursery’s Ian Mills on their journey to using peat-free

As part of the England Peat Action Plan, the government has announced the intention to ban the sale of all peat-based compost in garden centres by 2024. This brings into even sharper focus the need for growers to look at peat alternatives. 

With this in mind, Fargro has set up a peat-free forum for people to share advice and experiences. Fargo’s goal is to make this forum a go-to resource for its customers who need advice on best practices and tips on growing quality plants and crops in new, environmentally-friendly ways. 

One of Fargo’s customers, Creswick Nursery, has been growing peat-free for more than ten years. Fargro’s growing media and fertiliser specialist, Sean Whitworth, spoke with owner and grower Ian Mills about their journey to using peat-free. 

When did you switch to peat-free and why? 

An opportunity presented itself in 2009 when we were asked to be part of a National Trust property bedding scheme. As a result of this bedding scheme, we started supplying products to National Trust retail sites. In 2019, we decided to switch our entire nursery to 100% peat-free growing. 

What issues have you experienced since switching to peat-free and how have things changed or improved? 

We trialled a number of different brands and our initial findings were that growing media with a lot of wood products was poor for rooting. We decided to go with the Jiffy peat-free mix and after working together with Sean and the team at Jiffy we have improved the product, increased volume and reduced weight on transport to help keep costs under control. 

Calcium and pH control are probably the two most difficult areas to resolve and can cause issues with certain crops if not managed correctly. 

How are you finding growing with peat-free growing media? 

Peat-free growing media takes more management time; the growing media is very free draining, so water management in hot weather needs careful attention. 

What is your method of growing in peat-free mixes? 

We tend to grow on the dry side, to which our growing media is ideally suited. We feed weekly with various ICL liquid feeds, or calcium nitrate, as and when necessary. 

What sort of fertiliser do you use? 

This growing media comes with a base fertiliser from Jiffy, which we then add to using our mixing line. It contains a combination of DCM fertilisers, Osmocote, DCM Vivosol and trace elements, depending on the crop being grown.

We know that peat-free growing media is more expensive than peat-based substrate – have you saved money in other areas? 

We have found we require far less growth control with peat-free growing media as we can hold crops much drier than traditional peat-based growing media. 

What are your top three tips for peat-free success? 

Start with good quality peat-free growing media, focus on the growing of the crop and don't forget the importance of proper water management and regularly adding fertiliser. 

About Creswick Nursery  

Creswick Nursery is a fourth-generation family business founded in 1907 by Luther Mills. The nursery consists of 12500 m2 of modern glass, 2500 m2 of modern polythene tunnel and extensive outside production areas, all on a ten-hectare site of bedding and pot plants. 

Creswick Nursery is at the forefront of growing in a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. Including the recent installation of a ground-source heat-pump heating system by Ebtech Energy for the nursery. They now produce all crops in peat-free growing media and use fully recyclable pots and containers supplied by Teku Poppleman. 

For more information on making the switch to peat-free, please contact Sean Whitworth on 07788929796 or email sean.whitworth@fargro.co.uk.


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