Big Grower November 2019 - 4

allas Johnson Greenhouses operates more
than 80 acres of indoor production space in
Council Bluffs, Iowa. The grower produces
finished annuals, perennials and potted crops
for big box retailers Menards and Lowe's.
The operation is already MPS certified and is
always looking for ways to improve efficiencies
and become more sustainable. Two years ago,
owner Todd Johnson decided it was time to
evaluate its media usage.
At the time, the grower - like most growers -
was mixing its own potting media. According to
Head Grower Steve Garvey, they created a mix
using perlite, bark and Canadian peat. " And in
this new age of sustainability, perlite is not our
friend, " he says. " The cost of perlite kept going
up. It's a man-made product, plus there are
shipping regulations. "
It also took a toll on labor. " It made a huge
difference with the amount of sick days and
workers overall not wanting to work in the
potting shed. "
With sustainability and employee satisfaction
in mind, the operation transitioned its entire
finished production to HydraFiber media. " We
were one of the first ones to implement it full
scale, " says Garvey. " And we are now going into
year three. "
According to Garvey, the benefits were
presented almost immediately.
" The roots just explode. Once you get past
the first two weeks, you do notice a difference.
It makes what you put into the soil - the
fertilizer, the PGR, etc. - even more effective.
You don't have to worry about the chemistry
tying up nutrients. "
He says HydraFiber is unlike traditional
potting soil in that it does require the grower to
get more technical and test the soil. Growers do
have to be careful and mindful with the product.
" It's less water consuming, so you don't have
to water as much, " Garvey explains. " It holds
water longer, which isn't always a good thing
for a grower. You have to think of it differently. "
Another benefit to its water-holding capacity
was that with more control of moisture, they
were able to reduce their use of PGRs. " It's cut
down on our chemical usage. "
While the benefits were apparent, there
was still a learning curve to perfect the full
" We no longer needed to add as much starter
charge as with a traditional mix, " says Garvey.
" We did have to add a wetting agent, though. It
was hard to mix, and we didn't know that at first. "
Another challenge was filling the cells. " This
stuff is so light and fluffy that we couldn't fill
six-packs. So when we would run them through
the machine, it would only plant halfway full, "
he says. " We do 2 million flats of six-packs, and
if we can't fill them we'll have to run them
through twice. "
The solution was fairly easy, however, and
only required adjusting the machines. Garvey
says the transition was just as much a learning
experience for HydraFiber as it was for the
growing staff at Dallas Johnson. " They were
willing to listen to what we had to say, and there
was always open communication. It was new to
them, too, and they wanted us to be successful. "
Aside from the advantages in production, it
has also saved Dallas Johnson six figures in just
transportation costs! " We used to require 70 loads of
perlite, and we only need 20 loads of HydraFiber. "
While the switch to HydraFiber was a " trial by
fire " situation for the grower, Garvey says they
will never go back to traditional media. While
the product is used only in finished production
currently, they may even use it in propagation
in the future.
rowers are continually on a quest to find ways to
reduce costs and save time in the greenhouse.
The growers at Bell Nursery, with seven
production and distribution facilities in five different
states (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Ohio and
North Carolina) are always looking for ways to meet
these challenges. The company produces and ships
approximately 100 million plants a year to Home
Depot stores in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware, as
well as parts of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Indiana and Michigan.
Earlier this year, Bell's perennial farm in Monroe,
North Carolina, began trialing Dümmen Orange's
Basewell rooting technology.
Basewell is a new product form that is produced at
Dümmen Orange's offshore farms. It is a bare-root

Big Grower November 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Big Grower November 2019

Big Grower November 2019 - 1
Big Grower November 2019 - 2
Big Grower November 2019 - 3
Big Grower November 2019 - 4
Big Grower November 2019 - 5
Big Grower November 2019 - 6
Big Grower November 2019 - 7
Big Grower November 2019 - 8
Big Grower November 2019 - 9
Big Grower November 2019 - 10
Big Grower November 2019 - 11
Big Grower November 2019 - 12