switches from to paper Michigan perennial grower goes to Elle Plugs
By Susan Martin
n the maturing perennial market, it is vital for companies to find their edge, increase their efficiency and deliver superior products to remain competitive. Walters Gardens Inc. in Zeeland, Mich., has embraced the new technology of Elle Plugs to help do that.
In the beginning â€Ś
Photos courtesy of Walters Gardens
Five years ago, a representative from Blackmore Co., the exclusive North American representative for Elle Plugs, visited Walters to introduce a state-of-the-art patented propagation system. Though Walters was not looking to replace its plastic pots at the time, growers did want to find a more efficient system for propagating some varieties by cuttings that were particularly challenging. Ensuing trials in
Crops grown in Elle Plugs are incredibly uniform and of better quality overall compared to those grown in plastic pots.
NMPRO â€˘ Nursery Management & Production
Elle Plugs for these varieties resulted in stands that were up to three times better. After seeing the positive results of these trials, the excitement over Elle Plugs caught on like wildfire. If the results were this good with the most challenging varieties, would other crops perform just as well in Elles? Would they be cost-efficient? Could the automation-ready Elle Plugs lead to an automated propagation system? Walters growers answered yes to all of these questions.
Trialing times Before making the switch from plastic pots and plugs to Elle Plugs, a number of important issues had to be resolved. Walters conducted extensive trials on plants and soils before making the switch. To begin, they selected a group of plants to propagate and grow in various sizes of Elle Plugs. The Elles were grown alongside plants in plastic pots for comparison. Walters growers were very pleased to find that in all cases the plants grown in Elles performed as well as or better than those in plastic pots. The most notable observation from the trials was that the Elle Plug perennials finished up to 60 percent faster than plants grown in plastic pots. Trial plants were followed through their normal production cycle to evaluate how the Elle Plugs would hold up long term after a dormancy and re-emergence in spring. As expected, they held their own all winter in the greenhouses and re-emerged just as well as plants in plastic pots in spring. Walters had trialed various thicknesses of Elle Plug paper, with the goal that the paper be thick enough to hold up in production but thin enough to degrade by the time the end consumer planted the finished product. In-depth discussions between employees from every department took place to decide which sizes of Elle Plugs should be offered. After examining all of the trial plants and data collected, they settled on two sizes that compared to the plastic pots customers had grown accustomed to receiving: 65mm (20 per tray)