Nick Chenhall at Glee

Monday morning, my wife and I set off to Glee at the NEC. It’s a garden show with lots of products being promoted for the gardening trade.

We were lucky to be invited but felt a bit “out of place” with our huge visitor pass around our necks saying “Tomato Growing”, but after a few conversations with the reps. on different stands, felt a bit more at ease.

The first thing that caught my eye was the natural soil conditioning products such as friendly fungi and rock dust. If you don’t know what rock dust is, and I didn’t either, but here’s a video that explains its benefits.

I shall definitely give rock dust a spin next season and add it to the “organic tomato tips” section of the website – coming soon!

One of the highlights of the show for me was the AutoPot easy2grow system which is used by both professional and home gardeners. The beauty of this system is its water valve. It lets 20mm of water into a tray to water the pots, but allows the water is be used up before watering again.

This means that plants go through a wet/dry cycle, letting air back into the root zone before being watered again. This keeps roots and plants healthy – we all know the value of air in the soil!

However, the subject of watering can be confusing when it is regularly stated to “keep soil just moist”. This of course is impossible to do because as soon as it is watered it is not moist – it is wet!

Here’s a brief look around a greenhouse using the AutoPot system showing the great results from such small pots!

An issue with a wet/dry cycle is that peat is difficult to re-wet once it’s dry and some soils compact easily and won’t allow a good amount of air back in, as the water is used-up.

Grafted Tomato Plant
A Grafted Tomato Plant at the Suttons Stand

That’s why a good soil mix is important. Perlite is great added to peat and other soils and there are a number of alternatives to perlite such as coco or coir. These help keep the soil (substrate) aerated even when wet, giving roots lots of small air holes. Plants thrive when their root zone is highly aerated and I’m very surprised at the results of the autopot system, growing plants in just 8.5 ltr pots!

So my takeaways from this show are:

  • Re-mineralization of the soil with rock dust.
  • Root inoculation with friendly microbes (more next week).
  • The wet/dry cycle – we know about it but it’s having a method that works well that counts.
  • Improving soil aeration and optimizing grow bags, pots and containers.

There are many products that are used in the world of hydroponics that are ideal for the home-gardener too. Also, a lot can be learned from the way plants are watered and fed in hydroponics, and some of the methods applied to our soil growing too!

Here’s a link to a series of videos that you may find interesting:

Next week is the last newsletter of the season.

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