The Industry’s Goal – “Results Matter”
By James Quinn, Horticultural Alliance, Inc.
The landscape market begins with the nursery market and ends with the maintenance market. Indeed from the very first step of propagating, either collecting seed, or sticking pots or beds, the focus is on “lush and vibrant results”. The plants then move to a nursery production site and numerous individuals are watching the plants to make sure they grow according to a well-defined protocol to obtain a salable plant in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of cost. Plants for the landscape market can be in a nursery from a few weeks or months to several years, and the focus again is “lush and vibrant results”.
To a large degree the driving force for the industry is defined by the design of the landscape by the landscape architect who specifies the number and variety of plants and other instructions as to how the plants are to be incorporated into the landscape. This role is a significant one to the landscape architect who has taken dozens of other factors into the overall design project as Dastin Hillery, Senior Associate at AEDAS quoted in The ASLA house organ, “The Dirt”… “Landscape architecture is not just beautification; it’s about creating a space, creating the ambiance of a development, initiating lifestyle and it’s creating a new public realm and at the end of the day it’s also about creating a quality built environment.”
All nurserymen, landscape architects, landscape contractors, developers, and principals want their landscapes to exhibit “lush and vibrant results”.
Get the picture? Everyone from the propagators, to the nurserymen, to the professional landscape architect, to the end client, each has as part of their goal- a landscape that is “lush and vibrant”. Results do matter, and whatever it takes to achieve a “lush and vibrant result” must be understood, at least at a practical level, and followed to give the best to the client and boost repeat business.
From Start to Finish
Landscape plants from every nursery, in every country, on every day have one thing in common – because of the manner in which they are grown – none of them are natural. None of these plants have an immune system, or a root system sufficient for them to be “lush and vibrant”. They are nursery plants grown under intense management and now they are part of a landscape where all of the rules have changed. Instead of water every time they show a hint of stress, now they are lumped in with all the other plants and watering becomes a norm for all the plants. Unlike in the nursery, now pests and predators can attack at will because no one is watching as closely as in the nursery. Hence, the plant without the natural protectors, like fungus and bacteria, are hopelessly defenseless until these natural systems begin to evolve. This transition comes with organisms in the soil and can take months, even years, for this handshake to occur.
In the meantime, the plant shuts down to survive the best way it can. This is a picture of the traditional transition of plants in the landscape.
Plant & Soil Biology 101
In order for plants to associate with the organisms in the ground, the ground has to be alive with bacteria, fungus, insects, etc. The ground contains billions, even trillions, of live organisms in every shovelful. Soils are a living mutual ecosystem. Scientists tell us there are over 60,000 species of bacteria, 1.3 million species of invertebrates (insects, spiders, etc.), and over 140,000 species of vertebrates in the ground beneath our feet. Some are beneficial. Some are not. Some change from beneficial to predatory when environmental conditions change. The take away here is that the world beneath our feet is a thousand times more dynamic than the space above our feet and we have only recently given it a serious look. What we see above ground is to a large degree the result of what has been going on in the ground. Above ground we see less than half of what has been created by the plant through photosynthesis. The rest is in the ground.
When plant roots are planted in the ground they are introduced to a whole new world that is extremely complex and intertwined. All these organisms in the ground are doing one of three things, namely, they are eating someone, they are getting eaten by someone or they are hiding in a dormant state. Now this new food source (the roots) is placed at their disposal. These microbs are either going to attack the roots, or help it, depending on what the roots have to offer. Keeping in mind all energy comes from the sun (leafs, photosynthesis) the organisms in the ground will almost immediately begin to take food from the roots and provide valuable services to the roots in payment. As the bacteria and fungus begin to provide services to the plant, i.e., mining the ground for water, breaking down minerals and insoluble into soluble forms, fighting off organisms that want to attack the roots to cause it harm, then, the cycle begins and the plants and ground organisms become interdependent on each other for survival and relationship begins. That’s a simplified sketch of what is going on in the ground.
Ok. How about the biology/soils explanation in two paragraphs? Very basic, very informative, very true. So the take away here is that plants going into the ground need to quickly assimilate with the organisms in the ground to establish and become “lush and vibrant”. In practice, plants going into the ground today all behave in a similar manner – they naturally shut down to survive, often in dead soils, and are characterized as plants going through so called “transplant shock”. All plants experience this phenomenon to some degree, and can take weeks, months, even years for the plants to naturalize and take hold. During this period, the plants are at the mercy of many predator organisms that attack it because it is weak and the rules of Mother Nature prevail (the limping zebra). Once established hundreds of billions of live organisms will be there to defend and protect the plant. Until this handshake takes place the plants are pretty much on their own.
Today, all of this is changing at an ever increasing rate. There is a way to jump-start Mother Nature and introduce a host of organisms to the roots as soon as they go into the ground and plants transition in a much different way. Plants can then prosper in a matter of a few days, instead of weeks, or months. Instead of “harding-off” and becoming a target for predators; they would establish faster and “lush and vibrant” would become the norm. For two decades now there have been compounds to do exactly this and real professional landscape architects and serious business-minded landscape professionals have been using these unique soil amendments when planting to build repeat business and cut costs ever since.
Stop Working So Hard
So, we have to ask ourselves why industry hasn’t picked up on these compounds. When these compounds are based upon relationships which have existed and evolved beneath our feet for hundreds of millions of years, why it is everyone is not using these time-proven organisms to manage plant transition in the landscape. The need is certainly there. The results cannot be rationally challenged. Organisms in the ground are either eating or they are being eaten. They do not have an attitude. They do not take vacations. They won’t sue you, nor can they be sued. They are what they are and what they are is part of what can make plant transition quick and speedy, or the lack of them creates an environment that is not kind to your plants or your bottom line. So what’s the take away from all of this? The take away is that plants going into the ground can use some help to become established, and become “lush and vibrant”.
The Solutions Are At Hand
Compounds containing live beneficial organisms are available to boost the overall performance of all transplanted plant material. Their use reduces costs associated with getting landscape materials established, and will significantly boost customer satisfaction and repeat business. Their ingredients include organisms that have been evolving and getting better for over 4 billion years with bacteria, 465 million years with fungi, plants for over 400 million years, and farmers/applied researchers for hundreds of years. Isn’t it time the industry reaches out and employs a time-proven approach to bettering the industry with a “lush and vibrant” landscape experience. Employ the organisms in the ground to help get your landscape practice more successful and profitable. “Results Matter” and this should be your focus every day in 2018.