By John Fitzsimmons
Advances in tools and processes don’t always have to be as radical as reinventing the wheel. Sometimes just building a better mousetrap serves us well. In our production nurseries the plastic pot is ubiquitous, but some simple smart thinking, especially in the detail, is also delivering benefits.
Keeping our potted plants growing and healthy means managing key inputs including water, nutrients, light, and growing media. One common challenge to this process is the weed, or weeds, that we don’t want in our potted stock.
New South Wales conifer grower Lawrence Ransen of Spruced, who specialises in Christmas trees, faced this problem when it was exacerbated by labour shortages and the de-registration of some key herbicides. The result was a new business arm – DeeWeed – and PotHead™, a solution now gaining in momentum after several years of design, production engineering development, and field trials.
The PotHeadTM consists of a concave plastic lid, applied in two overlapping parts that fit snugly to the rim of the pot, preventing light from reaching the growing media surface.
While the concept prevents light entering to support weed establishment, it permits aeration via air vents and allows the entry of irrigation water (both overhead and drip) to the growing media. Another resulting benefit is some additional water saving from reduced evaporation plus some condensation.
DeeWeed say the PotHeadTM has also shown the ability to moderate temperatures of the growing media and to reduce the displacement of growing media in heavy rain, hail or wind.
A secure clip-on system affords wind resistance and prevents loss by not being blowing off.
PotHeadTM is made in Australia from recycled plastic, is fully recyclable, and UV stabilised to ensure product longevity to match that of the plastic pots.
Unlike single-use weed control, PotHeadTM can be easily washed/sterilised and re-used.
PotHeadTM is currently available to suit 140mm, 200mm and 300mm plastic pots, with a 250mm version expected to be in production later in 2023.
Real-world trials through the development and early introduction period have been most positive, according to Lawrence.
Much development time has gone into fine tuning the design and producing the production tooling, a process through which Lawrence readily acknowledges the input and support of Garden City Plastics’ specialist toolmakers. GCP now markets PotHeadTM as a complement to its range of pots.
So while DeeWeed and GCP have been working at the ‘top end’, GCP has continued to develop the ‘bottom end’ with the introduction of a new P480SL Slimline pot requiring two litres less growing medium per unit. The reduced volume does not compromise plant growth and still ships five to a pallet.
So, from top to bottom there are still improvements being made to the humble production pot, while a new recycling program from GCP helps to ‘close the loop’ to the benefit of the environment.
Main photo: The system allows ingress of irrigation water to growing media and includes a clip system to prevent wind dislodgement and loss (Image: DeeWeed)