Growers’ media needs and success levels can vary depending on the time of year, crops grown, moisture requirements or location, which means the right media for the right application is essential to any grower who wants a crop to succeed.
Fafard #4M made by Conrad Fafard, Inc., is one growing mix that is working well for some of these applications. Some of the growers interviewed appreciate its textural consistency and water-retention capabilities. Phil Campbell of Campbell Road Nursery, Inc., Raleigh, N.C., sums up why she likes the product: “If you use it under normal conditions, it works very well.”
Fafard #4M is a fine-textured growing mix that does not contain perlite; it is formulated of fine-grade processed pine bark, sphagnum peat moss and medium-grade vermiculite. There are no insecticides, fungicides, plant growth regulators, herbicides or toxic substances included. If a grower chooses, the mix can be customized and combined with other products.
The media is pH adjusted with a 5.5-6.5 pH range after wetting. Fafard #4M contains a water-soluble starter nutrient charge; the starter nutrients are diluted and may be rapidly leached from the media, which is why the company recommends growers begin their fertility programs immediately after germination or transplanting.
This general-purpose mix can be used with flowering plants, cuttings, seeds, bedding plants, hanging baskets, foliage and interiorscapes. The bulk density of the mix is 12-15 lbs., and available sizes include 2.8 and 66 cu.ft.
Growers I interviewed use the mix in a variety of container sizes: 804s; 41⁄2-, 6- and 8-inch pots; and hanging baskets. The fine texture is designed for use in cell packs and smaller containers, where a coarser texture might not be appropriate.
The mix’s fine texture is designed to allow good wicking for sub-irrigation use and reduce channeling problems when used with drip tube irrigation. Overall, the growers interviewed were pleased with the way #4M worked with water. Elmer Whiting, president of WE Whiting and Son, Auburn, Maine, put it succinctly: “It holds water well.”
Campbell said she decided to start using the #4M about three years ago because of a positive recommendation from a peer. She uses the mix for all of her spring crops and likes how #4M wets and dries: “It wets up well, but it also dries out well. That’s what we’ve got to have,” she explained. “It seems to work well for our plants.”
Marty Brafford of Brafford Greenhouses, Concord, N.C., started using #4M growing mix about five or six years ago. One of the reasons he switched to #4M is because he feels it holds water better than some of the other mixes he has used. Because it holds water so well, “It’s a good mix for summer baskets and big pots and things like that,” said Brafford. He noted that #4M does not dry out like other media types, and he makes sure plants that will require a lot of water are placed in #4M. Conversely, when a plant does not require as much water retention, he switches to Fafard #4P growing mix.
Fafard uses a computer-controlled mixing system to blend the mix’s components uniformly to produce a consistent, predictable product, and the growers I interviewed have noticed.
Whiting is in his second year of using the #4M mix. He had been using a different brand of media for many years until he started having problems with its consistency. As he put it, “The quality control was getting really bad.”
That is why he switched to Fafard #4M: “The mix is very consistent,” he said. “Every bag is the same, and the product is growing very well in it. We can depend on each bag to be the same consistency. That’s what we like about the product.” He appreciates the texture of the mix and that he doesn’t find big sticks in it, a testimony to the product’s consistency.
In addition to liking the product, many of the growers I spoke with found Fafard easy to work with. “They’re very helpful. If we have any questions, we can call them, and they’ll take care of us,” explained Whiting.
When asked what advice he would give growers about Fafard #4M growing mix, Whiting said, “It’s a very good product to try out, and I feel that they [other growers] would be very satisfied with it.”