Bord na Móna Horticulture has worked with commercial growers in Ireland, UK, Europe and the rest of the world for many years to develop and design growing media for all horticultural crop sectors.
Peat has formed the basis for container grown crops for over 50 years but now there is also considerable interest in alternative growing media such as bark products, green compost and coir.
Bord na Móna Horticulture is committed to the development of peat-reduced and peat-free growing media, and has undertaken much research and development in this area .
This sector includes the propagation of ornamentals, salads, vegetables and fruit crops from seed as well as ornamentals and fruit from cuttings. Since the 1980s many ornamental and vegetable crops are grown by large specialist growers in modular trays with each individual cell containing a small volume of peat. This requires a fine free flowing product as most of the tray filling processes are automated. pH and nutrient status can be adjusted to individual crop or grower requirements.
Some ornamentals, for example chrysanthemums, and salad crops, for example lettuce and celery, are still grown in blocks using a growing medium that has good adhesive properties to hold the block together during propagation and planting.
Ornamentals and soft fruit such as strawberries and raspberries that are grown from cuttings are often grown in large cells, plugs or pots. These often require specialist growing media which sometimes include propagation bark or perlite to give increased air capacity.
The bedding sector includes the raising of salad, vegetable, bedding and pot plants in packs, trays and small pots. Traditionally bedding plants were planted out in the soil but more recently there has been a big trend towards bedding plants being used in pots, tubs and containers for immediate impact in front of house, on patios and balconies. Bedding plants are also used in hanging baskets.
Traditionally medium nutrient growing media are used in this sector. Due to automation in terms of tray filling and transplanting equipment the growing media products are consistent and free flowing. Now growers have grown in size and have become more sophisticated, more specialised growing media have been developed in this area. Growing media for this sector now range from low nutrient mixes where the grower has complete control through liquid feeding right through to mixes with controlled release fertiliser where all the grower has to do is water carefully.
Traditionally this sector would use a medium nutrient pot plant growing media with a high air capacity suitable for the production of long term pot plants. An open structure in this growing medium means that it is particularly suited to both flood benches and overhead irrigation systems which are commonly found in large scale production of pot plants.
More recently due to the large scale mono-cropping of pot plants many crop specific media have been developed in this area. These include Poinsettia, Cyclamen, Pansy and Primrose specialised growing media.
Many of these crop specifics would be low nutrient and professional tailor liquid feeding according to their needs: alternatively growers use products containing controlled released fertilisers.
The nursery stock sector is most probably the largest crop sector in the horticultural sector in Ireland and incorporates the production of a wide range of containerised trees and shrubs grown in containers. High air capacity growing media provide suitable substrates for a wide range of crops and growing environments indoors and outdoors. Growing media with a range of pH values are available for ericaceous and standard nursery stock species.
Nursery stock is generally fed with a good quality controlled release fertiliser, which is available with several release periods and patterns.
Alternatively, nutrients can be supplied by liquid feeding.
Traditionally soft fruit was grown in the soil but due to adverse weather conditions, soil pest and diseases problems and the labour intensive nature of fruit picking container-raised soft fruit offers major advantages especially where such crops are grown under protection.
Table top strawberry production and pot grown raspberry, blueberry and blackberry are now popular. Strawberries can be raised either in specialised strawberry bags or in special strawberry mixes supplied for trough production. Strawberry bags are specially formulated with high air capacity for over wintering and are available with a range of planting, dripper and drainage holes. Raspberry and blackberry growing media mixes have a good open structure and low nutrient for early establishment. Blueberries require low pH and nutrient growing media.