The importance of good health is something I experienced first-hand in January last year, when I slipped a disc. Just as you have to work at keeping your plants healthy, you also have to pay attention to your own vitality to ensure a good “product”. A slipped disc can be a long and painful process and an operation is rare these days. The GP’s solution is to tell you to get as much exercise as possible. It should gradually get better, but the process can be a particularly painful one, as I have discovered.

Interestingly, my GP chose not to examine me but instead to treat me preventively by prescribing heavy-duty chemical painkillers. “If the pain gets worse, take more pills,” was his advice. It reminded me of how less than four years ago we were still routinely “calendar spraying” our bedding plants, as we called it, i.e. spraying a set dose every week, as a way of giving them “medicines”. For years we simply kept on spraying them according to a set regimen to protect them against pests and diseases. Looking back, I would say that for many years, Dutch greenhouse horticulture produced flowers and plants that looked great, but whether they were best for the consumer is another matter entirely.

How things have changed! In recent years we have seen a complete sea change, both in our company and in the ornamentals sector as a whole. We stopped using neonicotinoids some years ago, and last year we started growing all our plants organically or using integrated methods. Growers are constantly looking for ways of making their plants even more resilient by using soil improvers, so that they can reduce the amount of “medicines” they need to use.

My point is that society tends to react very emotionally to the use of “poisons” on plants, and yet no-one says a thing when people are stuffed full of medicines preventively, possibly making them addicted in the process. The medical sector still has a long way to go in this regard and can learn from the horticultural industry. You could even say that the average grower has probably become a better “greenhouse doctor” to their plants than the average GP is to their patients.

Dieter Baas
Bedding plant grower in the Netherlands