Daniel Suggitt (second left) is part of the farming family behind PlantGrow, a peat-free, chemical-free fertiliser and plant food for gardeners. Here the General Manager explains how their products are having more than a moment in the current climate
With COP26 having its very own Peatland Pavilion, and the UK ban on peat compost sales to gardeners just a few years away, the time is surely now for people to find peat-based alternatives for the garden.
And PlantGrow, based near Attleborough in Norfolk, is proud to be the first in the UK to produce an award-winning range of organic fertilisers from a renewable energy process.
General Manager Daniel Suggitt had been working in printing for the best part of 20 years when his brother Steve mentioned his ‘great idea’.
That idea was for a totally natural, sustainable, and chemical free fertiliser made out of plant tissue residue is produced from the process of anaerobic digestion, which digests locally grown crops, fruit and vegetables whilst creating electricity during the processing.
The digester residue, rich in natural fertilising elements and outstanding when applied on the fields, means chemical fertiliser is no longer needed on Steve and Sarah Suggitt’s farm near Attleborough.
And from that, bridging the gap between agriculture and horticulture, came PlantGrow, which has the approval of the Soil Association and is something of a UK first.
Daniel joined the family business at its inception, in 2016, although he admits: ‘It was a bit of a gamble to me. It was a great idea but I had no idea how it would go.
‘We were the first in the UK to do it and there were lots of boundaries and loopholes to get through.’
‘We do own the patent – it was signed off in 2020 and it took four years of prep and planning.’
PlantGrow has gathered a number of Champions in the the intervening years, in Norfolk and beyond. Daniel says: ‘Alan Gray of East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens was one of the very first people I took it to.’ Also, Mark Lane, the first BBC gardening presenter in a wheelchair, is a big supporter. In those early days, being able to share their product with well-known, experienced gardeners has been a huge help. Not only did they like the product, ‘they were really happy to give us feedback,’ says Daniel.
‘During the first two years we were introducing it to a lot of gardeners and garden centres – it started to gain momentum.’ These days, champions include Amy from @chicksandveg; Adam @viewfromthepottingbench; Brigitte Girling of @mossandstonefloraldesign); Derek from @fiveminutegardener; Emma from @ems_allotment_garden) and Cara from @makeitflourish.
With Ashley Day coming on board as Sales and Marketing Director in 2019, the website was relaunched at the start of 2020, which turned out to be very timely. ‘We did just before the Covid pandemic, and we added a few more products on there in January and February,’ says Daniel.
‘The Spring soon came, and everyone was at home. We sold all sorts of different products on the website and had a lot of callers asking about their garden problems.’ All of a sudden there was a renewed interest in growing fruit and veg. The team then made a decision: ‘We started to post blogs each month – just to support all those at home really. We gained a lot of new customers from that. It was designed to help those at home growing their own tomatoes, for example.’
As well as offering larger items such as bulk bags, PlantGrow was able to offer one-litre bottles of liquid fertiliser. ‘People were at home and garden centres were shut for a time – people were asking us for things and there was so much demand. It was lucky we changed the website. We couldn’t supply the garden centres, but we were busy on the website.’
The team was able to keep going through lockdown, as Daniel points out: ‘Our products are created from agriculture and agriculture didn’t stop.’
With peat compost sales to gardeners to be banned from 2024 – peat bogs are important to the planet as they act as carbon sinks – and a Peatland Pavilion at COP26 highlighting the importance of global peatlands for climate, people and the planet, peat-free alternatives are paramount.
‘It’s important for us to be peat free,’ says Daniel. ‘We get calls every week from gardeners looking for peat free compost. A lot of them are organic growers and general gardeners who don’t like using chemicals.’
Although he’s aware that ‘a lot of people are used to what they’ve been using for years,’ he adds: ‘There’s so much more awareness about peat-free, chemical-free, wildlife-friendly natural gardening. Our strapline is by nature for nature – it’s definitely the way it should be done.’
Does he practice what he preaches, in the garden? ‘I’m doing a lot more than I used to do,’ says Daniel. ‘I do like to improve soil health and I do like to do my own bit of growing my own fruit and veg: tomatoes, peas and strawberries, in containers. I quite enjoy it to be fair. When you grow tomatoes at home, the flavour is a lot better.
He adds: ‘I’ve definitely done a lot more since we have been at home more. One of the things I do share a passion for is growing things naturally.’
PlantGrow is up for another award. Daniel says: ‘We have just been shortlisted as a finalist in the Norfolk Business Awards once more. This time in a category for ‘Marketing Innovation’, after winning last year in ‘Breaking Boundaries’.
And he adds: ‘We are planning for a busy 2022 with greater interest from stores across the UK in our natural product range.’
Featured image: Ashley Day, Daniel Suggitt, Steve Suggitt and Chloe Suggitt of PlantGrow