Going back to our roots

By Jess Brunette October 01, 2014 Lawn & Garden

Lawn & garden continues to do well as spring gets into swing, but there are some changes in the category that may shake things up a bit. Jess Brunette reports.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine, click the download button at the bottom of this page.

Continuing on from our lawn & garden feature in the September issue, NZ Hardware Journal sought out some more players in the category with interesting takes on their specific and sometimes niche areas of market.

For example, Acme SuppliesJonathan Skelton has seen strong sales for the company’s range of Felton pruning tools, particularly to Kiwifruit and grape growers who appreciate the range of options the Felton brand has to offer including electronic options.

“The market in general in viticulture is good and there’s more confidence in there and more investment there. And the electronic stuff is starting to take a higher level of interest for growers who want to reduce their costs and drive some efficiency in their pruning methods.”

The advent of new lithium polymer type battery technology has definitely begun to make electronic pruning options more feasible as an investment but what benefits do they really give considering that the initial capital outlay is still significantly more than hand pruning?

“It’s a matter of taking the physicality out of the job so therefore you’ve got mature or experienced pruners being able to prune for longer periods of time at a higher efficiency rate with less RSI and effort required than when doing it by hand,” Skelton explains.

“So for those experienced pruners that have the husbandry aspects down and the pruning techniques right they can utilise that crop understanding. And for instance you might get owner operators using them to prune themselves rather than get labourers in.”

So are the electronic models possibly replacing an employee in terms of productivity? “It’s hard to qualify but I would suggest that it’s about 20-30% more efficient to drive an electronic model through, so there’s a lower cost per time per plant that relates to the lower cost to prune.”

Does hand pruning still play a role then? “There will always be a place for hand pruning but the electronic models have become a good opportunity for growers to drive long term efficiencies in their block and that type of pruning is certainly a trend we are seeing in Europe.”

 

ADDED VALUE OUTLOOK IMPROVING?

Leaving the orchard and vineyards now and returning to the domestic outdoor sector, Kärcher’s Kere McBratney has also seen a lift in sales of waterblasters and accessories.

“The first half of 2014 saw strong growth in sales of waterblasters in particular as we recycled the drought conditions that hit the Waikato and lower North Island particularly hard in 2013,” he says.

McBratney is also happy to report that Kärcher has managed to reverse the price-driven “race to the bottom” that has been so prevalent with some categories in recent years.

“Our focus on ensuring that the correct machine and accessories to meet the consumers’ needs is sold, has been well supported by our retail partners and has driven a continuous increase in the average retail price of waterblaster and waterblaster accessory sales over the last three years,” he says.

“Ultimately this is a win win situation as the retailer increases their gross profit margin and the consumer ends up investing in the right machine, ensuring the best cleaning results and generally ensuring their investment will last longer.”

Keeping the market rolling in this direction is imperative for McBratney as he looks ahead.

“The key focus for Kärcher is ensuring that we continue to invest in product enhancement that offers clear benefits to the consumer, such as the non-corrosive pumps and the water-cooled long life induction motors that we offer on a number of our residential waterblasters.”

 

CHALLENGES AND SURPRISES

Moving away from tools now, the plant pesticide and fertiliser business continues to offer challenges and surprises to those players involved.

One company to report positive outcomes is E Products, whose newish EcoSMART range has done well. “It has definitely been up and it’s been a good 12 months trading,” says E Products’ Peter Graham.

“It’s our second year in the market and it’s obviously building some brand equity which is what you would expect. We’ve also got some good ranging out there which helps. Our ranging hasn’t increased much but the first season was a bit disrupted because some of the products we didn’t get in until the middle of the season.”

Talking about ongoing changes around pesticides and fertilisers here in New Zealand (see sidebar on page 42), Peter Graham is confident that the EcoSMART range is already in good stead.

“There are some changes happening next year in respect to the market but we are lucky in that most of our products will automatically comply. That’s to do with bee friendly stuff.

“Next year there will also be some restrictions on who can use some pesticides. So they are moving away from the DIY market and moving into more of a professional area where it has to be applied by licensed people.”

 

TOWARDS SAFER, BETTER OPTIONS

Oderings Garden Centre Director, Darryn Odering, is another to be keeping a close watch on these developments: “There are a few companies that are deleting a lot of those harmful chemicals and bringing on more enviro-friendly products if you like.

“So there are quite a lot of products which are dropping out this year and going to more enviro-friendly options and that is happening right now,” he explains.

As mentioned earlier the negative impacts of some pesticide ingredients on the bee population has been one of the main reasons for changes to the regulations but has the consumer also taken up the charge by purchasing products marketed as either “bee-friendly” or attractive to bees?

“The bee-friendly thing is definitely picking up though it’s still a small part of our business. There is definitely more awareness of it though I think a lot of that is media driven,” says Darryn Odering.

Slightly off at a tangent but interesting nonetheless, while bees may not have brought customers to his stores in droves, Odering has seen surprisingly good results with bird feeders, especially in Christchurch.

“This winter and last winter in particular feeding birds and putting some life back in your garden in winter has become quite big here in Christchurch and that includes feeders and the seeds that go into them,” he says.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE GREEN STUFF?

Other trends that Darryn Odering has seen over the last year has been an increase in sales of native plants, many of which are going into subdivisions as part of the city’s ongoing rebuild.

“I don’t really know the Auckland market but I can tell you that in Christchurch the rebuild has been very slow getting off the ground and it’s only in the last 6-9 months that we have noticed a definite increase in plant sales.

“And of those plant sales the majority of them tend to be native or similar type plants. So we are selling a lot of native plants and struggling to find a few of the varieties that we would normally stock that have sold through.”

Unlike the Auckland market it seems that colour is doing well alongside the native sales, with hardy natives forming the base of the garden with plant colour adding a splash of colour on top that can be changed as the seasons and trends change.

“Colour definitely seems to be on the way back in Christchurch. I talked to one of my store managers and she said we seem to be selling a lot more cottagey type garden plants going out and a lot more perennials as well.”

While business is clearly going well, does Darryn Odering is concerned about a potential lack of plant stock in Christchurch. “From what I can see down here I think there will be a shortage of larger grade specimen native plants particularly,” he says.

 

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GET GROWING IS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER!

Popular local programme Get Growing is returning to Kiwi TV screens on 17 October after an absence of several years. The half hour episodes will screen in prime time on Friday evenings at 7.30 pm as part of Choice TV’s dedicated home & garden viewing.

Top Shelf Productions’ Brian Holland and Juanita Edwards are extremely enthusiastic to be behind the return of the beloved series: “A local, relevant and right-on-season gardening show is something that’s been missing from New Zealand screens for a long time so we have worked really hard to make this happen and it’s something we are very passionate about,” says Edwards.

When creating the new series, Juanita Edwards explains that Top Shelf looked to create “a variety of segments within the series that will really appeal to a broad range of people.”

The new season will see landscape designer and writer Justin Newcombe mentor two young first-time male gardeners as they attempt to establish a flourishing front and back garden in an urban environment.

At the other end of the spectrum, garden guru Lynda Hallinan will provide expert tips for seasoned gardeners from her expansive lifestyle block and NZ Gardener editor Jo McCarroll will profile interesting community based stories and inspirational residential gardens from around the country.

Rounding out the show will be TV presenter Carly Flynn who brings the latest contemporary ideas and on-trend uses of plants for interior and exterior design inspiration

The original series ran for two seasons on Prime TV, following a group of emerging gardeners as they went through the process of establishing a flourishing garden from scratch. The series were then rerun on Choice TV where positive viewer responses prompted Top Shelf to revive the show.

“NZ Gardener were inundated with emails from people and it received fantastic ratings on Choice so it gave us a real sense that people really were passionate about seeing some local gardening content back on screen and that really inspired us to get the show back up and running again,” says Juanita Edwards.

The sponsors of the new season of Get Growing are, in alphabetical order: Gardena, Husqvarna, NGINZ, Palmers, Resene and Yates.

Yates’ Marketing Manager Fiona Arthur is excited to be part of the show’s return: “We have high aspirations for Get Growing! The format of the show is very practical as well as inspirational.

“We feel the show will drive category growth by helping to get Kiwis excited, motivated and inspired – whether you’ve been gardening for years or have just been considering “giving it a go” and needed some practical advice on where to start.”

 

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ARE OUR BEES STILL IN TROUBLE?

The short answer to this is yes. The introduction of the Varroa Mite, the long term use of certain pesticides and a lack of nectar-producing plants in New Zealand gardens has all contributed to the reduction of bee numbers in recent years.

Fortunately, beekeepers, gardeners, the Government and the lawn & garden industry are all working to diminish these concerns in one way or another.

Measures include the recent changes to regulations on pesticides coming from the Environmental Protection Authority (see sidebar) to a push from lawn & garden suppliers and retailers to marketing bee-friendly plant varieties and non-harmful pesticides and fertilisers.

As an estimated 80% of New Zealand crops are substantially pollinated by bees their survival is good for the whole industry so here are a few more tips to pass on to consumers and gardeners to get more bees in their backyard:

Roses – Most modern ornamentals such as hybrid roses no longer produce enough pollen and nectar for bees so the old fashioned heirloom and “cottagey” varietals are best for this.

Perennials/annuals – Bee-friendly options include: Alyssum Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, Basil, Borage, Catmint, Cosmos, Lambs’ Ears, Lavenders, Oreganos, Marigold, Sages, Salvias, Carrot, Heather, Rosemary and Thymes.

Trees and shrubs – Apple, maple, broom, citrus, cherry, cotoneaster, dogwood, fuchsia, hazel, hebe, pear and plum are all good options.

Water – Bees need a reliable supply of water so a small pond or water feature of some kind where bees can safely land is a good idea for keeping them around.

Chemical sprays – Even some organic sprays such as Pyrethrum can be harmful to bees so if you must spray try to do it in the evening when bees are back in their hives

Make a hive – There are plenty of resources to start bee hives in urban or rural environments, even lease options. Check the links below for more information on getting some hives in your neighbourhood.

http://nba.org.nz/

www.urbanbees.co.nz

www.epa.govt.nz

 

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THE CHANGING FACE OF PESTICIDES

Big changes are coming to the world of pesticides here in New Zealand following global trends with the recent announcement from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that as of 1 July 2015 pesticides that contain Organophosphates will be restricted from being sold or used for domestic use.

E ProductsHamish Williams was kind enough to provide some background on the reasoning behind the EPA’s decision.

“There have been two big driving forces: one is the toxicity to humans, particularly children; and the second is the harm to bees and the environment with the repercussions that has created for pollination and on crops,” he says.

A wide range of active ingredients have been considered and are currently being investigated by the EPA. As of now the following active ingredients and/or insecticides containing these active ingredients will no longer be able to be manufactured or imported: Benomyl, Carbofuran, Carbosulfan, Dichlofenthion, Ethion, Famphur, Isazofos, Omethoate, Phoxim and Pyrazophos.

Some active ingredients and/or insecticides have time-limited approvals and will cease to be approved including Diazinon on 1 July 2028; Fenamiphos, Methamidophos, Prothiofos and Terbufos on 1 July 2023; and Fenitrothion and Phorate on 1 July 2016.

While a range of other substances continue to be approved they are subject to additional controls that will come into effect from 1 July 2015. This includes Acephate, Carbaryl, Chlorpyrifos, Chlorpyrifos-methyl, Diazinon, Dichlorvos, Dimethoate, Fenamiphos, Fenitrothion, Maldison (Malathion), Methamidophos, Methomyl, Oxamyl, Phorate, Pirimicarb, Pirimiphos-methyl, Prothiofos, Terbufos.

The additional controls that could apply to these substances include:

Setting application parameters such as maximum application rates and frequencies.

Restricting the method of application such as prohibiting aerial application of some substances and restricting indoor application to automated methods.

A label statement to indicate that the substance is an OP or carbamate.

Label warnings of risks to bees.

Re-entry intervals.

Requiring users of OPCs to hold approved handler certification.

For more information and updates on the reassessment of these materials go to the EPA website.

www.epa.govt.nz

 

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spoga+gafa 2014

September’s international spoga+gafa garden trade fair in Cologne attracted more interest this year than last. In terms of exhibitors the event boasted a 10.7% increase with 2,012 exhibitors from 56 different countries. Visitor numbers were stable compared to previous years at 36,800 although there was a shift in the type of visitor with increasing numbers coming from North and South America and Oceania.

What’s more in its role as a communication platform spoga+gafa 2014 also scored more highly than last year: in terms of establishing new business contacts 42.5% of visitors were satisfied or very satisfied for example.

Adding to the weight of this information the survey found that approximately 73% of visitors were involved in procurement decisions and 47% were in a key role for decision making in their business, with management and procurement positons having the strongest presence at the event and the strongest rates of growth in attendance on the previous year.

The next spoga+gafa fair takes place from 30 August to 1 September 2015.

www.spogagafa.com 

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