Public urged to beat the boredom of lockdown and get growing

Plants growing in PlantGrow's bio-fertiliser Picture: ARCHANT

Plants growing in PlantGrow's bio-fertiliser Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A farmer-owned business is encouraging members of the public to put their unexpected coronavirus confinement to good use by limbering up their green fingers.

Farmers Sarah and Steve Suggitt of Suggitt Farm Services and PlantGrow Picture: PLANTGROW

Farmers Sarah and Steve Suggitt of Suggitt Farm Services and PlantGrow Picture: PLANTGROW - Credit: Archant

The Suggitt family is launching an initiative called #Stayinyourgarden to show stuck-at-home families how they can get the most out of their gardens with a host of activities.

It will include insightful gardening content, home schooling advice, how to grow using live feeds, and social activities to keep people talking, and draws on their expertise as the makers of plant-based fertiliser products, made to their own recipe.

MORE – Members of public call farmers to offer help with harvestThe Suggitts – who grows maize, sugar beet and rye on fields across Norfolk and Suffolk – branched out into making fertiliser products from the crops they grow in 2016 with a new business called PlantGrow.

Husband and wife Steve and Sarah Suggitt had been running a successful agricultural contracting business called Suggitt Farm Services since 2003, starting out with muck spreading on farms near to their Attleborough base. Today it specialises in maize and grass forage harvesting, supply of feedstock for anaerobic digestion (AD) plants, muck handling and spreading, slurry handling and spreading and baling.

Daniel Suggitt, managing director of PlantGrow Picture: PLANTGROW

Daniel Suggitt, managing director of PlantGrow Picture: PLANTGROW - Credit: Archant

They brought in Steve’s brother, Daniel Suggitt, as managing director of the PlantGrow business.

Steve had investigated AD plants overseas to see what opportunities existed for crops.

The AD process breaks down organic material in the absence of oxygen to create biogas which is used to make electricity to go into the national grid.

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A bi-product of this is a nutrient-rich sludge called digestate, and Steve found this performed very well when applied to farmland. Each AD plant will produce different digestate depending on what is fed into it, but Steve decided to launch his unique formula as a range of products under the PlantGrow brand.

Bio-fertiliser, which is sold in bulk bags or in tubs, is a big seller for PlantGrow Picture: ARCH

Bio-fertiliser, which is sold in bulk bags or in tubs, is a big seller for PlantGrow Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

These include liquid and solid natural fertilisers and can be applied any time of the year and at different rates, explains Daniel. The added bonus, he says, is that the products are more beneficial for soils and the environment than artificial fertilisers. They are chemical-free and made using sustainable methods, with no animal or food waste used in the process, he explains.

“Our customer base is any gardener who wants grow healthy plants, organic gardeners and also any vegan gardeners – we have attracted several well-known gardeners,” says Daniel.

“Chemical products have dominated the industry for 50 years and we have proved greener alternatives are possible.”

The firm’s research data suggests that gardeners prefer natural and chemical free products – if given the choice.

Brothers Steve and Daniel Suggitt of PlantGrow out in one of their arable fields Picture: ARCHANT

Brothers Steve and Daniel Suggitt of PlantGrow out in one of their arable fields Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

“Everyone who sees our story likes it,” he says. “They learn about how our blend of plants can increase soil fertility and gain really good results.”

Their customers are based mainly in East Anglia, and include garden centres groups and plant centres, and they also sell directly to the public online.

“European distribution has been agreed and our first lorry of PlantGrow liquid has now been delivered to The Netherlands, following huge interest in plant-based products,” says Daniel.

The business is currently very busy providing bulk bags around the country during the period before the growing season.

Daniel Suggitt, managing director of PlantGrow Picture: PLANTGROW

Daniel Suggitt, managing director of PlantGrow Picture: PLANTGROW - Credit: Archant

The current lockdown means they are getting more orders online – but inevitably, orders to garden centres have dried up as a result of the crisis.

“During this very difficult period of isolation for many, we have decided to increase our efforts and in support of those stuck at home we want to demonstrate through social media and Facebook Live simple tutorials that anyone can do in their gardens,” says Daniel.

“Much of this will involve getting children outside and doing simple and fun things such as tomato and sunflower growing, plus other projects that can be very rewarding at this tough time.

“Many families will all be together and this project could break up the day and increase a little awareness as well on fruit, vegetables and some simple gardening techniques.”

Growing your own fruit and vegetables is already on the rise, year on year, and he hopes more will be encouraged to give it a try, he says.

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