Located in Excelsior, Minn., Twin Orchards Nursery is a family-owned wholesale grower and retail nursery that specializes in perennials and shrubs.

Jerod Fehrenbach, who owns and operates the nursery with Alan Brandhorst, discussed with Greenhouse Management the ownership’s decision to switch growing media and the effect that switch has had on the operation.

Greenhouse Management: What growing medium did you use before, and what are you using now?

Jerod Fehrenbach: We were using a lightweight mix [that] was 25 percent bark, 55 percent peat, with some perlite, starter fertilizer, wetting agent and vermiculite. It was a lightweight, fast-to-root sort of mix.  

Now we use Plaisted’s Greenhouse Mix, which is locally produced. They use locally produced peat, composted pine bark, yard compost and perlite along with a slow-release, five-to-six-month fertilizer.

Twin Orchards Nursery in Excelsior, Minn., switched to buying growing media locally to improve shipping speeds, rooting and water retention.
Photo: Karen E. Varga

GM: Why did you switch growing media?

JF: We had a lot of reasons to buy it from Plaisted’s. First, the lead time on the other mix could vary from six weeks to delivery all the way out to three months. This was for full semi’s too, not small shipments. The big national guy would always have a shortage of one of their ingredients every year, which lead to five to eight percent price increases annually. Plaisted’s pricing has been steady and fair all around. They are also flexible on packaging sizes for us.

A more important reason is that our plants simply do better in the Greenhouse Mix. They are faster to root and require significantly less water to maintain. Less water means far less labor and fewer foliar disease problems. We can now grow a few varieties that we struggled with before due to the lighter soil.

GM: When did you switch growing media?

JF: We phased it in over three years to be sure that it would be a good fit. Our first year with solely Plaisted’s was the 2016 season.  

GM: Is the new growing medium more conducive to the perennials you grow?

JF: Very much so. They root faster and require less watering. We cut our watering down on many varieties in half and in some cases more.  

GM: Is there anything else you would like to add about either your decision to switch growing media or its effect on your operations?

JF: We deal with Plaisted’s directly instead of having a middle man with the other mix who isn’t able to answer all of our questions without talking to the main office. He has been very receptive to minor tweaks as we use this product more and more.