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Organic and light: These are the trends for soils and substrates

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Among others, the focus of the new IVG Power Places Green at spoga+gafa 2018 lies on soils and substrates. The section was created based on the role model of the IVG Power Place Akku and Smart Gardening World info islands that were successfully introduced at the trade fair in 2017 and aim to satisfy the explicit needs of the trade visitors. In the run-up to the garden trade fair we spoke to Dr. Arne Hückstädt, Horticulture and Environment Expert at the German Industry Garden Association (Industrieverband Garten e.V. – IVG) about the current trends and developments in this section.

One theme that has been occupying the manufacturer and the consumer in the same way for years has been peat. There are in the meantime several products that are free of peat, but one can’t always do without the horticultural characteristics of the raw material. “Peat remains to be an important component in the production of substrates,” said Hückstädt. “However, since the resource is not finite, it is implemented as sparingly as possible today. In the case of most garden and balcony soils that are offered in retail trade outlets today the peat content has been reduced and they are enriched with regionally available raw materials instead – such as compost, wood fibres or bark humus. These peat substitute products are especially ecologically compatible and are kind to the climate.” Coconut fibre and coconut pulp also play an important role in the production, because they are light, stable, don’t decay as fast and improve the air and water capacity of the soil. Hückstädt: “The processing of the imported coconut products for the substrates mostly takes place in Europe, because the processing is much more eco-friendly and water-saving here than in other countries of origin.”

The German industry are the world leaders with regards to the development, production and sales of horticultural growing media and potting soils. It has further developed enormously over the past years: Today it is possible to produce individualised mixtures for the user thanks to the computer-controlled addition of source materials – indeed down to the very gramme. Thousands of formulas are found in the databases of the companies. In this way, the very different special soils that are becoming increasingly more popular with the end consumers, can be offered. “Many garden and balcony owners have started enjoying growing their own fruit and vegetables again over the past years,” explained Hückstädt. “Whether tomatoes, herbs or berries – the trade provides the right substrate for each plant. Some urban gardeners are even rediscovering raised-beds again. They promise a good harvest on a small surface and under certain circumstances a spot can even be found for them on the balcony or terrace. Hence, in the meantime the line-ups of many manufacturers include special raised-bed soils. Some of them also offer filling substrates, which hobby gardeners, who haven’t got enough material, can use to fill up the lower layers of the raised-bed garden.”


Photo: Neudorff

Of course, most consumers want the vegetables grown at home in their garden or on their balcony to be organic. The manufacturers are reacting to this trend by offering an ever-increasing selection of soils and substrates that are fertilised completely organically, for example using horn meal. “Furthermore, one also finds a whole row of soils that are labelled as being ‘vegan’. Here the addition of animal products is completely done away with and instead plant-based fertilisers are implemented,” explained Hückstädt. Cultivating one’s own organic vegetables directly in the sack is popular among certain urban gardeners. There are special offers to this end in the retail outlets, the sacks are simply cut open at the marked places before the plants are inserted.

Of course, none of the consumers want to heave heavy sacks full of substrate up to their balcony on the fourth floor. Even if one shops by bike rather than in the car, 60-litre sacks are very unpractical. “So today, almost all of the manufacturers of soils and substrates offer at least part of their line-ups in small packaging units from 15 up to a max. 30 litres or have developed mixtures that make the soil lighter. Practical carrying sacks with an integrated handle are now frequently offered to ensure their convenient transportation,” commented Hückstädt. “Because the same also applies for soils and substrates: Companies that want to be successful have to produce what goes down well with the consumer and adapt their offer, formulas and also packaging sizes to suit the lifestyles of the customers.”


The visitors of spoga+gafa can find out more on the current trends for soils and substrates at the IVG Power Places Green from 2 to 4 September 2018. Here they can also obtain extensive information on fertilisers, substitute materials, plants and plant protection. The theme islands will be located in Passage 4/5, in the heart of the trade fair.


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