A Greener Pot

A Greener Pot

When Western Pulp Products introduced the nursery industry to biodegradable, molded fiber containers in the mid-1950s, headlines in the company’s trade ads heralded the news: “Now you can plant pot ‘n’ all!”

While this feature is still a strong selling point today, especially with the steam-rolling green movement in America, Western Pulp has since come out with a broad line of paraffin wax-permeated, extra-strength molded fiber pots that perform very well above ground, as well.

There are several advantages to using Western Pulp containers. For starters, because they stand up much better to the sun’s UV rays, they often outlast plastic pots, says Jim Lee, Western Pulp Products’ sales and marketing manager. The result is that waxed, molded fiber containers do not become brittle or break after a single year’s use.

Another reason Western containers are especially popular today is that they are made from 100 percent recycled newsprint and, to a lesser extent, heavier kraft paper trimmings, such as cardboard. The comparison to plastic pots is obvious: Western containers won’t lie around in landfills — or someone’s backyard — for eons after they’ve outlived their usefulness. Because they’re made almost entirely of cellulose, they decompose rapidly in the soil, and can even be used to make compost and mulches, or simply thrown out with landscape clippings. Compared to plastic, they also let plants breathe when used above ground.

One drawback to Western containers, especially during these times when almost everything is price driven, is that the smaller ones usually cost more than plastic pots.

“Western containers are not always more expensive than plastic containers,” Lee says. “Normally, as our containers get larger, their pricing becomes comparable to plastic pots, and in some cases, they are actually lower in price.” Where prices do contribute to higher plant prices, retail garden centers are finding, however, that there are lots of consumers who are willing to pay the added cost for a container that’s not only eco-friendly but will last longer and is easily disposed of.

Another disadvantage, one which has since been solved and even turned into a positive, is that because of their irregular surfaces, Western containers will not take a traditional sticky-back bar code. The company overcame that problem by coming up with a T-fastener and barcode tag that attaches quickly to their retail line of containers and can simply be snipped off after purchase.

The silver lining to this is that because Western containers do not accept ink, you won’t find any blaring, unremovable logos plastered all over them. “Like the Un-Cola years ago, we’re the Un-Branded container,” Lee says. “If you’re a garden center, do you really want every one of your container vendors with their merchandising and branding programs in there? It would look like a zoo.” 

Wide Variety

Western Pulp makes a broad range of molded fiber pots, starting with the small, 1.6-gallon patio planter all the way up to the monstrous 70.67-gallon container, which drew a lot of attention at the most recent OFA Short Course. Included in the company’s portfolio is the hanging basket line, which starts at a capacity of 1.84 gallons and goes up to the 5.99-gallon garden basket. All in all, there are close to 60 different configurations.

Lee says that for a time, Western Pulp struggled with a way to lower the cost of its containers to be more competitive with plastic. But that was soon abandoned.

“We came to the realization that we didn’t have to go there,” Lee says. “Molded fiber grew better quality plants,” and were worth every penny. 

The Standard Of Quality

Five years ago, Oregon’s largest greenhouse grower was potting its hanging baskets and patio planters in plastic mainly, with molded fiber pots making up only around 5 percent of the total. Today, more than 50 percent of the plants Hart’s Nursery propagates go out the door in fiber pots — Western Pulp fiber pots.

“It’s really leaning very hard that way as a major portion of our pots and baskets from this point forward,” says Doug Hart, third generation owner/general manager.

“I think that from a grower standpoint, the Western Pulp product is very grower friendly, kinder to the plant, it breathes, is insulated. There are a lot of advantages if it doesn’t dry out so fast. They are the pot to beat.”

Hart says the main reason he’s stepped up his use of fiber pots is that orders are pretty much retailer driven these days. “One of the reasons that I see a lot more in the future is because of my newer customers coming on board. This is their container of choice.” Hart says one of his major customers, which has always been a pulp fiber user, is planning on stepping up its original program to a green level. “What they thought was aesthetic and different before still is, but more importantly, it’s (going) green.” Even though other manufacturers are now offering fiber pots of one sort or another, Hart prefers Western Pulp.

“They’re still the standard of quality, still the number one player. In my opinion, it’s the original green program,” Hart says. “My slogan for them would be, ‘The only natural choice.'”

Hart believes over the next decade there will be a big change in the industry to alternative ways to market plants to consumers, especially newer generations with little time on their hands, “in a more green manner.”

This came home to him dramatically in 2006 when he displayed numerous plants at the Oregon State Fair, all “plastic-less. Everybody thought it was a great idea.”

He added, however, that large, price-driven chains will be slower to adopt the movement. “In the competitive market of mass merchants, that takes a real strong lead. You are going to pay probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 percent more for a 10-inch pulp than a 10-inch plastic pot.” 

Bauman’s Big On Molded Fiber

Grower/farm direct retailer Bauman Farms near Woodburn, Ore., has had great success with hanging baskets ever since it added them to its popular farm-grown produce line several years ago. The operation uses both plastic and Western Pulp containers, the latter for around 10 years, says Brian Bauman, retail sales manager at Bauman Farms.

“The (Western Pulp) 18-inch pulp basket is by far the number one big basket we sell to customers,” he says. “We sell around 1,500 of the 18-inch baskets (a year). The bigger (plastic) baskets are mostly for cities and businesses.” The 18-inch Garden Basket enables customers to have a really big, beautiful basket that doesn’t weigh over 100 pounds, Bauman says.

“The soil volume versus weight is a good ratio. They (hold) a good amount of soil volume but are not super heavy. They just work really well for us,” he says. Plants grown in Western hanging baskets are lighter, Bauman says, because the baskets are tapered at the bottom, and thus don’t require as much soil or water as a comparable-size plastic pot. “They hold just enough to keep the plant going.”

While Western Pulp’s biodegradable nature “is part of it” when it comes to their popularity, Bauman adds that customer awareness of what kind of basket they’re getting is not high because “you can’t see the basket when we sell it.” But feedback has been good.

“We’ve had very good response from our customers on how well the plants grow in the pulp, that they hold water fairly well and give them a nice big basket.” Bauman Farms buys only unwaxed Western Garden Baskets, which are designed to last a year.

The farm has very few if any hanging baskets unsold at the close of the season. Any stragglers are disposed of, whether they’re pulp or plastic. “Every pot would have to be disinfected if we were to use it again,” Bauman says. When such is the case, the Western pots are simply burned. 

Treat Roots Better

Ellen Egan, owner of grower/retailer Egan Gardens in Salem, Ore., has used the pulp products for many years. “We mostly use their hanging baskets and we also do our roses in the 10-inch pots,” she says. Two features of the Western hanging containers that Egan likes are the insulation from heat and the way plant roots cling to the rough, slightly porous sides.

“Plant roots can hook into the sides, so if the basket does dry down you don’t get that gap. When you go to water, it’ll soak up better.” Egan says she still must educate some shoppers that paraffin-treated molded fiber pots do not leak. “They hold up just fine for a whole season and longer if people want to re-use them.” Visit the Western Pulp Products Web site at www.westernpulp.com.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “A Greener Pot

  1. I have a question, we just bought some flowers with a hanging pulp pot, and we are worried that if we put water in it, it will just come apart like paper because of weight.

More From ...
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Local Garden Centers, Too

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

May 26, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come Up Short – Part 1

Ensuring your greenhouse has enough electricity to operate all the equipment that is installed takes planning and consideration of an operation's needs. Part one of two articles on greenhouse electrical systems covers choosing an electrician, meeting immediate and future needs and planning for back-up power.

Read More

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Loc…

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

May 26, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

Ensuring your greenhouse has enough electricity to operate all the equipment that is installed takes planning and consideration of an operation's needs. Part one of two articles on greenhouse electrical systems covers choosing an electrician, meeting immediate and future needs and planning for back-up power.

Read More

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New …

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Inn…

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strat…

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
r3bv2 disease

May 20, 2015

SAF And AmericanHort Ask Government To Take Ralstonia O…

The Society of American Florists (SAF) and AmericanHort want Ralstonia solanacearum, Race 3, Biovar 2 (R3Bv2) taken off a list of animal and plant diseases that the federal government has determined could be misused as terrorist weapons. SAF and AmericanHort submitted formal comments together on the horticulture industry’s science-backed position on the matter. According to Lin Schmale, SAF’s senior director of government relations, extensive research has proven R3Bv2 does not belong on the government’s list of animal and plant diseases that can be misused as terrorist weapons. Every two years, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requests a public review of the Select Agent list, asking for comments on whether plant or animal diseases should be taken off the current list or added to it. In the floral industry, R3Bv2 can have a devastating impact on geranium (pelargonium) crops, Schmale says, and both the potato and tomato industries also could be adversely affected by introduction […]

Read More
Amy Daniel with daughters

May 20, 2015

Fall Creek Farm & Nursery’s Amy Daniel Suppor…

Amy Daniel, marketing and brand manager at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, has a passion for marketing and branding that led her into the green industry early in her career, when she and a friend started their own agency, and she began helping her parents — then owners of a retail nursery — with marketing services. Daniel’s career in the field started in the 1980s, after she finished college with degrees in journalism and advertising. It wasn’t long before she began to feel frustrated with the status quo in the industry. She and a friend from college, agreeing there was a better way to do things, decided to start a business. “I guess now looking back, we were probably young and naive, but it all worked out really well,” Daniel says. “We started our own advertising agency/marketing and PR firm. I ran that for two decades. It was very successful.” […]

Read More
CCGGA-Scholarship-Winners

May 20, 2015

Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association Awards 201…

The Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association (CCGGA) is awarding 20 scholarships this year to high school and college students. CCGGA-member nurseries raised money for the scholarship fund and each donated a portion of the fundraising sales to the fund, which is open to students currently enrolled in college for the following year. The scholarship program is also available to students of employees who work at CCGGA-member nurseries One of the organization’s goals is to continue encouraging future generations to enter the horticulture field and to promote higher education within the families that work in the local nursery business. The 2015 CCGGA scholarship recipients are: Aloysia Shea – Nipomo High School Andrew McHaney – CSalinas High School Angel Flores – Righetti High School Beatriz Barajas – San Jose State University Carolanne Garibay – Monterey Peninsula College Cladia Lavina – Salinas High School Erica Marquez-Ibarra – San Jose State University Jorge Zarate […]

Read More
Tomato 'Think Pink' (Sakata Vegetables)

May 18, 2015

3 Questions To Ask Before Purchasing A Digital Food Saf…

If you're thinking about moving from a paper system to a digital system for food safety recordkeeping, asking yourself these three questions will help you decide what type of system you want and what is actually needed.

Read More
Two-spotted spider mites, adults and eggs

May 18, 2015

Beware Of Spider Mites In Bougainvillea And Mandevilla …

Greenhouse growers need to scout for spider mites on bougainvillea and mandevilla and use appropriate treatments that minimize pesticide resistance.

Read More

May 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Top 100 Growers…

Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers Survey revealed that our projections in the 2015 State Of The Industry report were correct: Growers, at least the large ones, are expanding. Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 List ranks the largest U.S. growers by total square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse space, although this year, we have also listed shade and field acreage, to give perspective on how large these operations are beyond the greenhouse. In total, the 2015 list represents 228,906,001 environmentally controlled square feet of U.S. production, a 5 percent increase over 2014. All told, 26 growers reported that their operation grew between 2014 and 2015. Several growers reduced their production over the past year, as well, and while some operations’ downsized numbers were significant, most were slight and probably typical of the give-and-take in the horticulture industry. Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Top 100 Growers Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, […]

Read More
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
Vegetables with knife

May 14, 2015

Keeping Your Fruits And Vegetables Safe: Best Practices…

Part three of the food safety series focuses on worker hygiene, visitor policies and other biosecurity measures to safeguard the greenhouse.

Read More
CrownBees_Blue-Orchard-Bee-Female_Artz

May 14, 2015

Pollinator Health 2015: What’s Next For Horticult…

The news on pollinators and neonicotinoids continues to fluctuate between good and bad. Research and outreach efforts backed by the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative help move the industry in a positive direction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

May 13, 2015

Don’t Let Labels Be A Limitation To Your Greenhou…

Whether you label yourself or your business as average, extraordinary or innovative, make sure that what you don’t do is let that label define who you are and what your business can become.

Read More
USDA Logo

May 13, 2015

New Report Shows College Graduates With Agriculture Deg…

A new report from the USDA shows high demand for recent college graduates with agriculture degrees, with an estimated 57,900  high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment fields in the U.S. According to an employment outlook report released by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually. “There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More